Second. The righteousness by which we stand just before God from the curse is called, 'The righteousness of the Lord—the righteousness of God—the righteousness of Jesus Christ,' &c. (Phil 3:6-9); and that by way of opposition to the righteousness of God's own holy law—'That I might be found in him, not having on my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.' Now, by this opposition, as by what was said before, the truth is made exceeding clear; for by these words, 'not having my own righteousness,' are not only excluded what qualifications we suppose to be in us, but the righteousness through which we stand just in the sight of God by them is limited and confined to a person absolutely distinct. Distinct, I say, as to his person and performances, who here is called God and Jesus Christ; as he saith also in the prophet Isaiah, 'In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory' (Isa 45:25). In the Lord, not in the law; in the Lord, not in themselves. 'And their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.' Of me, not of themselves; of me, not of the law (54:17). And again; 'Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength' (45:24). Now, as I have already said, all this is to be understood of the righteousness that was fulfilled by acts and works of obedience, which the person of the Son of God accomplished in the days of his flesh in the world; by that man, I say, 'The Lord our righteousness' (Jer 23:5). Christ, indeed, is naturally and essentially righteousness; but as he is simply such, so he justifieth no man; for then he need not to bear our sins in his flesh, and become obedient in all points of the law for us; but the righteousness by which we stand just before God is righteousness consisting of works and deeds, of the doings and sufferings, of such a person who also is essentially righteousness. And hence, as before I have hinted, we are said to be justified by the obedience and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the doings and sufferings of the Son of God. And hence, again, it is that he first is called King of righteousness; that is, a King of righteousness as God-man, which of necessity supposeth his personal performances; and after that, 'King of peace' (Heb 7:1-3). For what he is naturally and eternally in his Godhead, he is not to us, but himself; but what he is actively and by works, he is not to himself, but to us; so, then, he is neither King of righteousness nor of peace to us, as he is only the eternal Son of the Father, without his being considered as our priest and undertaker. He hath 'obtained,' by works of righteousness, 'eternal redemption for us' (Heb 9:12). So then, the righteousness by which we stand just before God is a righteousness inherent only in Christ, because a righteousness performed by him alone.
Now, that righteousness by which we stand just before God must be a righteousness consisting of personal performances; the reason is, because persons had sinned; this the nature of justice requireth, that 'since by man came death, by man' should come 'also the resurrection from the dead' (1 Cor 15:21). The angels, therefore, for this very reason, abide under the chains of everlasting darkness, because he 'took not hold on them' (Heb 2:16,17); that is, by fulfilling righteousness for them in their nature. That is a blessed word, to you. 'To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.' To YOU, not to angels; to you is born a Saviour (Luke 2:11).
Third. It is yet further evident that the righteousness by which we stand just before God from the curse, is a righteousness inherent, not in us, but Christ; because it is a righteousness besides, and without the law itself. Now take away the law, and you take away the rule of righteousness. Again; take away the rule, and the act as to us must cease. 'But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets' (Rom 3:21). So then, by such a righteousness we are justified as is not within the power of the law to command of us.
Quest. But what law is that which hath not power to command our obedience in the point of our justification with God?
Answ. The moral law, or that called the ten commandments. Therefore we are neither commanded to love God, or our neighbour, as the means or part of our justifying righteousness; nay, he that shall attempt to do these things to be delivered from the curse thereby, by the scripture is holden accursed of God. 'As many as are of the works,' or duties, 'of the law, are under the curse,' &c. (Gal 3:10). Because we are justified not by that of the law, but by the righteousness of God without the law; that is, without its commanding of us, without our obedience to it—'Freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood' (Rom 3:24,25). This is the righteousness of God without the law; that is, without any of our obedience to the law. Wherefore the righteousness by which we stand just, in the sight of God, cannot be inherent in us, but in Christ the King thereof.
Fourth. This is further made apparent, by the capacity that God will consider that soul in, to whom he imputeth justifying righteousness; and that is, 'as one that worketh not,' as one that stands ungodly in the judgment of the law (Rom 4:4,5). But this I have handled before, and therefore shall pass it here.
Fifth. To conclude. If any works of ours could justify us before God, they would be works after faith received; but it is evident that these do not; therefore the righteousness that justifies us from the curse before God is a righteousness inherent only in Christ.
That works after faith do not justify us from the curse, in the sight of God, is evident—
1. Because no works of the saints can be justified by the moral law, considering it as the law of works for life (Gal 3:10). For this must stand a truth for ever—Whatsoever justifieth us must be justified by the moral law, for that is it that pronounceth the curse; unless, then, that curse be taken away by the work, the work cannot justify us before God (Rom 3:21). But the curse cannot be taken away but by a righteousness that is first approved of by that law that so curseth; for if that shall yet complain for want of a full satisfaction, the penalty remaineth. This is evident to reason, and confirmed by the authority of God's Word, as hath been already proved; because the law, once broken, pronounceth death, expecteth death, and executeth the same on him that will stand to the judgment of the law; but no work of a believer is capable of answering this demand of the law; therefore none of his works can justify him before God; for the law, that notwithstanding, complaineth.
2. No works of faith can justify us from the curse before God, because of the want of perfection that is in the greatest faith in us. Now, if faith be not perfect, the work cannot be perfect; I mean with that perfection as to please Divine justice. Consider the person, one that hath to do with God immediately by himself. Now, that faith is not capable of this kind of perfection, it is evident, because when men here know most, they know but in part. Now he that knows but in part, can do but in part; and he that doth but in part, hath a part wanting in the judgment of the justice of God. So then, when thou hast done all thou canst, thou hast done but part of thy duty, and so art short of justification from the curse by what thou hast done (1 Cor 8:2, 13:12).
3. Besides, it looks too like a monster that the works of faith should justify us before God; because then faith is turned, as it were, with its neck behind it. Faith, in its own nature and natural course, respecteth the mercy of God through the Mediator, Jesus Christ; and as such, its virtue and excellency is to expect justification by grace through him; but by this doctrine faith is turned round about, and now makes a life out of what itself hath done; but, methinks, faith should be as noble as its fruits, that being the first, and they but the fruits of that.
Besides, seeing the work is only good because it floweth from faith (for faith purifieth the heart), therefore faith is it that justifies all its works (Acts 15:9). If, then, we be justified by either, it is by faith, and not by his works; unless we will say there is more virtue in the less than in the greater. Now, what is faith but a believing, a trusting, or relying act of the soul? What, then, must it rely upon or trust in? Not in itself; that is, without Scripture; not in its works, they are inferior to itself; besides, this is the way to make even the works of faith the mediator between God and the soul, and so by them thrust Christ out of doors; therefore it must trust in Christ; and if so, then no man can be justified from the curse, before God, by the works that flow from faith.
4. To put all out of doubt; the saint, when he hath done what he can to bring forth good works by faith, yet he dares not show these works before God but as they pass through the Mediator Christ, but as they are washed in the blood of the Lamb. And therefore Peter saith, those sacrifices of ours that are truly spiritual are only then accepted of God, when offered up by Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). And therefore it is said again, that the prayers of the saints, which are the fruits of faith, come up before the throne of God through the angel's hand; that is, through the hand of Christ, through his golden censer, perfumed with his incense, made acceptable by his intercession (Rev 8:3,4). It is said in the Book of Revelation, that it is granted to the bride, the Lamb's wife, that she should be 'arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; which white linen is the righteousness of saints.' This fine linen, in my judgment, is the works of godly men, their works that sprang from faith. But how came they clean? How came they white? Not simply because they were the works of faith. But mark, they 'washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' And 'therefore they stand before the throne of God' (Rev 7:14,15). Yea, therefore it is that their good works stand there too.
I conclude, then, 'our persons are justified while we are sinners in ourselves.' Our works, even the works of faith, are no otherwise accepted but as they come through Jesus Christ, even through his intercession and blood. So then, Christ doth justify both our person and works, not by way of approbation, as we stand in ourselves or works before God, but by presenting of us to his Father by himself, washing what we are and have from guilt in his blood, and clothing us with his own performances. This is the cause of our acceptance with God, and that our works are not cast forth of his presence.
USE FIRST.—Is justifying righteousness to be found in the person of Christ only? Then this should admonish us to take heed of seeking it in ourselves; that is, of working righteousness, thereby to appease the justice of God, lest by so doing we affront and blaspheme the righteousness of Christ. He that shall go about to establish his own righteousness, he, as yet, doth defiance to that which is of God, of God's appointing, of God's providing; and that only wherewith the justice of the law must be well pleased. Wherefore take heed, I say, of doing such a thing, lest it provoke the eyes of the Lord's glory—'When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it' (Eze 33:13). Mark, though he be righteous, yea, though he have a promise of life, yet he shall die. But why? Because he sinned against the Lord by trusting to his own righteousness, therefore he must die for it. There are some things that will preserve a man from splitting upon this rock. As,
First. Get good acquaintance with the covenant of grace, and of the persons concerned in the conditions of that covenant. The conditions of that covenant are, that a righteousness shall be brought into the world that shall please the justice of God, and answer and so remove the curse of the law. Now he that doth perform this condition is Christ; therefore the covenant is not immediately with man, but with him that will be the Mediator betwixt God and man: 'As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners,' speaking of Christ (Zech 9:11). So then, Christ, the Man Christ, is he who was to bring in these conditions; to wit, everlasting righteousness. And hence it is that God hath said, Christ shall be the covenant of the people—that is, he shall be our conditions to Godward (Dan 9:23,24). He, therefore, is all our righteousness as to the point of our justification before God; he is the covenant of the people, as well as the light of the Gentiles; for as no man can see but in the light of his Spirit, so no man can stand but in and by him; he is the covenant of the people, the conditions and qualifications of the people (Isa 52:6). So that to Godward Christ is all in all, and no man anything at all. He hath made with me an everlasting covenant; with me, as I stand in my head, Christ, who, because he hath brought in everlasting righteousness, therefore hath removed the curse of the law; wherefore he adds, this covenant 'is ordered in all things, and sure,' because all points that concern me, as to redemption from the curse, are taken away by Christ, as before is discoursed (2 Sam 23:5). Look, then, upon Christ as the man, the mediator, undertaker, and accomplisher of that righteousness in himself, wherein thou must stand just before God; and that he is the covenant or conditions of the people to Godward, always having in himself the righteousness that the law is well pleased with, and always presenting himself before God as our only righteousness.
Second. That this truth may be the more heartily inquired into by thee, consider thine own perfections; I say, study how polluted thou art, even from the heart throughout. No man hath a high esteem of the Lord Jesus that is a stranger to his own sore. Christ's church is an hospital of sick, wounded, and afflicted people; even as when he was in the world, the afflicted and distressed set the highest price upon Jesus Christ. Why? They were sick, and he was the Physician; but the whole had no need of him. And just thus it is now: Christ is offered to the world to be the righteousness and life of sinners, but no man will regard him save he that seeth his own pollution; he that seeth he cannot answer the demands of the law, he that sees himself from top to toe polluted, and that therefore his service cannot be clean as to justify him from the curse before God—he is the man that must needs die in despair and be damned, or must trust in Jesus Christ for life.
Further, This rule I would have all receive that come to Jesus Christ for life and salvation—
1. Not to stick at the acknowledgment of sin, but to make that of it which the law makes of it: 'Acknowledge thine iniquity,' saith the Lord (Jer 3:13). This is a hard pinch, I know what I say, for a man to fall down under the sense of sins by acknowledging them to be what the Lord saith they are; to acknowledge them, I say, in their own defiling and polluting nature; to acknowledge them in their unreasonable and aggravating circumstances; to acknowledge them in their God-offending and soul-destroying nature, especially when the conscience is burdened with the guilt of them. Yet this is duty: 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive' (1 John 1:9). Yea, to this is annexed the promise, 'He that confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy.' This made David, as it were, lay claim to the mercy of God—'Wash me thoroughly,' said he, 'from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin; for I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me.' Though, then, thou art to blush and be ashamed when thou rememberest thy sins and iniquities, yet do not hide them—'He that covereth his sins shall not prosper.' Do not lessen them; do not speak of them before God after a mincing way—'Acknowledge thine iniquities, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree; and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord' (Jer 3:13).
2. If we would come to Christ aright, we must only acknowledge our sins; we must ONLY acknowledge them, and there stop; stop, I say, from attempting to do aught to present us good before God, but only to receive the mercy offered. 'Only acknowledge thine iniquities.' Men are subject to two extremes, either to confess sins notionally and by the halves; or else, together with the confession of them, to labour to do some holy work, thereby to ease their burdened consciences, and beget faith in the mercy of God (Hosea 5:15). Now both these are dangerous, and very ungodly—dangerous, because the wound is healed falsely; and ungodly, because the command is transgressed: 'Only acknowledge thy sin,' and there stand, as David, 'till thy guilt is taken away.' Joshua stood before the angel, from top to toe in filthy garments, till the Lord put other clothes upon him (Zech 3:3-5). In the matter of thy justification thou must know nothing, see nothing, hear nothing, but thine own sins and Christ's righteousness—'Only acknowledge thine iniquities.' Now the Saviour and the soul comes rightly together; the Saviour to do his work, which is to spread his skirt over the sinner; and the sinner to receive, by believing this blessed imputed righteousness. And hence the church, when she came to God, lieth down in her shame, and her confusion covereth her; and so lieth till pardon comes (Jer 3:25).
USE SECOND.—I come now to the second use—Have faith in Christ.
But what are we to understand by faith?
Answ. Faith importeth as much as to say, Receive, embrace, accept of, or trust in, the benefit offered. All which are, by holy men of God, words used on purpose to show that the mercy of God, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, are not to be had by doing, or by the law; but by receiving, embracing, accepting, or trusting to the mercy of God through Christ: 'We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they' (Acts 15:11; John 1:12; 2 Cor 4:1, 11:4; Col 2:6; Heb 11:13; 1 Tim 1:15; Eph 1:12-13). Thus you see what the gospel is, and what faith doth do in the salvation of the soul. Now, that faith might be helped in this work, for great are they that oppose it, therefore the Scriptures, the Word of truth, hath presented us with the invitation in most plain and suitable sentences: as, 'That Christ came into the world to save sinners—Christ died for our sins—Christ gave himself for our sins—Christ bare our sins in his body on the tree—and that God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you.' Further, as the invitations are plain and easy, so the threatenings to the opposers are sore and astonishing: 'He that believeth not shall be damned—Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, God gave them up to strong delusions, that they all might be damned' (Mark 16:16; 2 Thess 2:10-12).
Object. But faith is said to be an act of obedience.
Answ. And well it may, for it is the most submitting act that a man can do; it throweth out all our righteousness; it makes the soul poor in itself; it liveth upon God and Christ, as the almsman doth upon his lord; it consenteth to the gospel that it is true; it giveth God and Christ the glory of their mercy and merit; it loveth God for his mercy, and Jesus Christ for his service; whatever good it doth, it still crieth, Hereby am I not justified, but he that justifieth me is the Lord. Well, but is there in truth such a thing as the obedience of faith? Then let Christians labour to understand it, and distinguish it aright, and to separate it from the law and all man's righteousness; and remember that it is a receiving of mercy, an embracing of forgiveness, an accepting of the righteousness of Christ, and a trusting to these for life. Remember, again, that it putteth the soul upon coming to Christ as a sinner, and to receive forgiveness as a sinner, as such. We now treat of justification.
But a little to insert at large a few more of the excellencies of it, and so draw towards a conclusion. The more thou believest for remission of sins, the more of the light of the glorious gospel of Christ thou receivest into thy soul—'For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith' (Rom 1:17). That is, according to the degree of faith. Little faith seeth but little but great faith seeth much; and therefore he saith again, that by faith we have 'access into the grace of God' (Rom 5:2). The reason is,
1. Because faith, having laid hold upon Christ, hath found him 'in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' (Col 2:3). In him therefore it finds and sees those heights and depths of gospel mysteries that are nowhere else to be found; nay, let a man be destitute of faith, and it is not possible he should once think of some of them.
2. By this means the Holy Spirit is plentifully received (Gal 3:1-3). Now the Spirit of God is a spirit of wisdom and revelation; but yet so as in the knowledge of Christ; otherwise the Spirit will show to man not any mighty thing, its great delight being to open Christ and to reveal him unto faith (Eph 1:17). Faith indeed can see him, for that is the eye of the soul; and the Spirit alone can reveal him, that being the searcher of the deep things of God; by these therefore the mysteries of heaven are revealed and received. And hence it is that the mystery of the gospel is called the 'mystery of faith,' or the mystery with which faith only hath to do (1 Tim 3:9).
Wouldst thou, then, know the greatest things of God? Accustom thyself to the obedience of faith, live upon thy justifying righteousness, and never think that to live always on Christ for justification is a low and beggarly thing, and as it were a staying at the foundation; for let me tell you, depart from a sense of the meritorious means of your justification with God, and you will quickly grow light, and frothy, and vain. Besides, you will always be subject to errors and delusions; for this is not to hold the head from or through which nourishment is administered (Col 2:19). Further, no man that buildeth forsakes the good foundation; that is the ground of his encouragement to work, for upon that is laid the stress of all; and without it nothing that is framed can be supported, but must inevitably fall to the ground.
Again; why not live upon Christ alway? and especially as he standeth the mediator between God, and the soul, defending thee with the merit of his blood, and covering thee with his infinite righteousness from the wrath of God and curse of the law. Can there be any greater comfort ministered to thee than to know thy person stands just before God? Just and justified from all things that would otherwise swallow thee up? Is peace with God and assurance of heaven of so little respect with thee that thou slightest the very foundation thereof, even faith in the blood and righteousness of Christ? and are notions and whimsies of such credit with thee that thou must leave the foundation to follow them? But again; what mystery is desirable to be known that is not to be found in Jesus Christ, as Priest, Prophet, or King of saints? In him are hid all the treasures of them, and he alone hath the key of David to open them (Col 2:1,2; Rev 3:7). Paul was so taken with Jesus Christ, and the knowledge of this, that he was crucified for us, that he desired, nay, determined not to know any thing else among the Corinthians, that itched after other wisdom (1 Cor 2:2).
Object. But I see not that in Christ now, that I have seen in him in former days. Besides, I find the Spirit lead me forth to study other things.
Answ. To the first part of this objection I would answer several things.—The cause why thou seest not that in Christ now, which thou hast seen in him in former days, is not in Christ, but in thy faith; he is the same, as fresh, and as good, and as full of blessedness, as when thou didst most rejoice in him (Heb 1:11,12). And why not now, as well as formerly? God is never weary of being delighted with Jesus Christ; his blood is always precious with God; his merits being those in which justice hath everlasting rest, why shouldst thou wander or go about to change thy way? (Prov 8:30; Jer 2:36). Sin is the same as ever, and so is the curse of the law. The devil is as busy as ever; and beware of the law in thy members. Return, therefore, to thy rest, O soul! for he is thy life, and the length of thy days. Guilt is to be taken off now, as it was years ago; and whether thou seest it or no, thou sinnest in all thy works. How, then, canst thou stand clear from guilt in thy soul who neglectest to act faith in the blood of the Lamb? There thou must wash thy robes, and there thou must make them white (Rev 7:14,15). I conclude, then, thou art a polluted, surfeited, corrupted, hardened creature, whosoever thou art, that thus objectest.
But I find, sayest thou, as if the Spirit led me forth to study other matters.
Answ.—First. What other matters? What matters besides, above, or beyond the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, and of our acceptance with God through him? What spirit, or doctrine, or wisdom soever it be that centres not in, that cometh not from, and that terminates not within, the bonds of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is not worthy the study of the sons of God; neither is it food for the faith of Jesus Christ, for that is the flesh of Christ, and that is eternal life (John 6:5). Whither will you go? Beware of the spirit of Antichrist; for 'many false spirits are gone out into the world.' I told you before, that the Spirit of God is 'the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ,' and that without and besides the Lord Jesus it discovereth nothing (Eph 1:17). It is sent to testify of him; it is sent to bring his words to our remembrance; it is sent to take of his things and show them unto us (John 14,15,16). Wherefore, never call that the Spirit of Jesus which leads you away from the blood and righteousness of Christ; that is but the spirit of delusion and of the devil, whose teachings end in perdition and destruction. Tempt not Christ as they of old did. But how did they tempt him? Why, in loathing the manna, which was the type of his flesh and blood, which we are to eat of by believing. I say, tempt him not, lest you be destroyed by the serpents, by the gnawing guilt of sin; for, take away Christ, and sin remains, and there is no more sacrifice for sin: if so, thou wilt be destroyed by the destroyer (Num 21:5-7; 1 Cor 10:10). But again—
Second. Living by faith begets in the heart a son-like boldness and confidence to God-ward in all our gospel duties, under all our weaknesses, and under all our temptations. It is a blessed thing to be privileged with a holy boldness and confidence God-ward, that he is on our side, that he taketh part with us and that he will plead our cause 'with them that rise up against us' (2 Cor 2:14, 4:17,18; Gal 2:20). But this boldness faith helpeth us to do, and also manageth in our heart. This is that which made Paul always triumph and rejoice in God and the Lord Jesus (Phil 3:3; Rom 5:11). He lived the life of faith; for faith sets a man in the favour of God by Christ, and makes a man see that what befals him in this life, it shall, through the wisdom and mercy of God, not only prove for his forwarding to heaven, but to augment his glory when he comes there. This man now stands on high, he lives, he is rid of slavish fears and carking cares, and in all his straits he hath a God to go to! Thus David, when all things looked awry upon him, 'encouraged himself in the Lord his God' (1 Sam 30:6). Daniel also believed in his God, and knew that all his trouble, losses, and crosses, would be abundantly made up in his God (Dan 6:23). And David said, 'I had fainted unless I had believed' (Psa 27:13). Believing, therefore, is a great preservative against all such impediments, and makes us confident in our God, and with boldness to come into his presence, claiming privilege in what he is and hath (Jonah 3:4,5). For by faith, I say, he seeth his acceptance through the Beloved, and himself interested in the mercy of God, and riches of Christ, and glory in the world to come (Heb 10:22,23; Eph 1:4-7). This man can look upon all the dangers in hell and earth without paleness of countenance; he shall meditate terror with comfort, 'because he beholds the King in his beauty' (Isa 33:17,18). Again—
Third. Living by faith makes a man exercise patience and quietness under all his afflictions; for faith shows him that his best part is safe, that his soul is in God's special care and protection, purged from sin in the blood of Christ. Faith also shows him that after a little while he shall be in the full enjoyment of that which now he believes is coming: 'We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith' (Gal 5:5). Wherefore, upon this ground it is that James exhorteth the saints to whom he wrote, to patience, because they knew the harvest would in due time come (James 5:7-11). Faith lodgeth the soul with Christ: 'I know,' saith Paul, 'on whom I have believed,' and to whom I have committed my soul, 'and am persuaded,' I believe it, 'that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day'; therefore it were no shame to him to wear a chain for his name and sake (2 Tim 1:12). O! it is a blessed thing to see, I say, by the faith of the Lord Jesus, that we are embarked in the same ship with him; this will help us greatly 'both to hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord' (Psa 46:1-6; Lam 3:26). Further—
Fourth. I might add, that living by faith is the way to receive fresh strength from heaven, thereby to manage thine every day's work with life and vigour; yea, every look by faith upon Jesus Christ, as thine, doth this great work. It is said, when Paul saw the brethren that came to meet him, 'he thanked God, and took courage' (Acts 28:15). O! how much more, then, shall the Christian be blessed with fresh strength and courage even at the beholding of Christ; whom 'beholding as in a glass,' we 'are changed,' even by beholding of him by faith in the word, 'into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord' (2 Cor 3:18). But to be brief.
Fifth. Make conscience of the duty of believing, and be as afraid of falling short here as in any other command of God. 'This is his commandment, that you believe' (1 John 3:23). Believe, therefore, in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is the will of God, that you believe. Believe, therefore, to the saving of the soul (John 6:46). Unbelief is a fine-spun thread, not so easily discerned as grosser sins; and therefore that is truly 'The sin that doth so easily beset us' (Heb 12:1). The light of nature will show those sins that are against the law of nature; but the law of faith is a command beyond what flesh or nature teacheth; therefore to live by faith is so much the harder work; yet it must be done, otherwise thine other duties profit thee nothing. For if a man give way to unbelief, though he be most frequent in all other duties besides, so often as he worshippeth God in these, he yet saith, God is a liar in the other, even because he hath not believed: 'He that believeth not God, hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son' (1 John 5:10,11). So then, when thou givest way to unbelief; when thou dost not venture the salvation of thy soul upon the justifying life that is in Christ—that is, in his blood, &c.,—at once, thou givest the lie to the whole testament of God; yea, thou tramplest upon the promise of grace, and countest this precious blood an unholy and unworthy thing (Heb 10:29). Now how, thou doing thus, the Lord should accept of thy other duties, of prayer, alms, thanksgiving, self-denial, or any other, will be hard for thee to prove. In the meantime remember, that faith pleaseth God; and that without faith it is impossible to please him. Remember also, that for this cause it was that the offering of Cain was not accepted: 'By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain'; for by faith Abel first justified the promise of the Messias, by whom a conquest should be obtained over the devil, and all the combination of hell against us: then he honoured Christ by believing that he was able to save him; and in token that he believed these things indeed, he presented the Lord with the firstlings of his flock, as a remembrance before God that he believed in his Christ (Heb 11:4). And therefore it is said, 'By faith he offered'; by which means the offering was accepted of God; for no man's offering can be accepted with God but his that stands righteous before him first. But unbelief holdeth men under their guilt, because they have not believed in Christ, and by that means put on his righteousness. Again; he that believeth not, hath made invalid—what in him lies—the promise of God and merits of Christ, of whom the Father hath spoken so worthily; therefore what duties or acts of obedience soever he performeth, God by no means can be pleased with him.
By this, therefore, you see the miserable state of the people that have not faith—'Whatever they do, they sin'; if they break the law, they sin; if they endeavour to keep it, they sin. They sin, I say, upon a double account: first, because they do it but imperfectly; and, secondly, because they yet stay upon that, resisting that which is perfect, even that which God hath appointed. It mattereth not, as to justification from the curse, therefore; men wanting faith, whether they be civil or profane, they are such as stand accursed of the law, because they have not believed, and because they have given the lie to the truth, and to the God of truth. Let all men, therefore, that would please God make conscience of believing; on pain, I say, of displeasing him; on pain of being, with Cain, rejected, and on pain of being damned in hell. 'He that believeth not shall be damned' (Mark 16:16). Faith is the very quintessence of all gospel obedience, it being that which must go before other duties, and that which also must accompany whatever I do in the worship of God, if it be accepted of him. Here you may see a reason why the force and power of hell is so bent against believing. Satan hateth all the parts of our Christian obedience, but the best and chiefest most. And hence the apostle saith to the Thessalonians, that he sent to know their faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted them, and so his labour had been in vain (1 Thess 3:5). Indeed, where faith is wanting, or hath been destroyed, all the labour is in vain, nothing can profit any man, neither as to peace with God, nor the acceptance of any religious duty; and this, I say, Satan knows, which makes him so bend his force against us.
There are three things in the act of believing which make this grace displeasing to the wicked one—
1. Faith discovereth the truth of things to the soul; the truth of things as they are, whether they be things that are of this world, or of that which is to come; the things and pleasures above, and also those beneath. Faith discovereth to the soul the blessedness, and goodness, and durableness of the one; the vanity, foolishness, and transitoriness of the other. Faith giveth credit to all things that are written in the law and in the prophets (Acts 24:14), both as to the being, nature, and attributes of God; the blessed undertaking of the Lord Jesus Christ; the glory of heaven and torments of hell; the sweetness of the promise and terror of the threatenings and curses of the Word; by which means Satan is greatly frustrated in his assaults when he tempteth either to love this world or slight that which is to come, for he can do no great matter in these things to any but those who want the faith. 'In vain is the snare laid in the sight of any bird' (Prov 1:17); therefore he must first blind, and hold blind, the minds of men, 'that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them,' else he can do no harm to the soul (2 Cor 4:4). Now, faith is the eye of the godly man, and that sees the truth of things, whatever Satan suggests, either about the glory of this world, the sweetness of sin, the uncertainty of another world, or the like (1 John 5:4,5; Heb. 11:27).
2. Faith wraps the soul up in the bundle of life with God; it encloseth it in the righteousness of Jesus, and presents it so perfect in that, that whatever he can do, with all his cunning, cannot render the soul spotted or wrinkled before the justice of the law; yea, though the man, as to his own person and acts, be full of sin from top to toe, Jesus Christ covereth all; faith sees it, and holds the soul in the godly sense and comfort of it. The man, therefore, standing here, stands shrouded under that goodly robe that makes him glisten in the eye of justice. Yea, all the answer that Satan can get from God against such a soul is, that he 'doth not see iniquity in Jacob, nor behold perverseness in Israel'; for here 'Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the Lord of hosts, though,' as to their own persons, 'their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel' (Num 23:21-23; Jer 51:5; Rom 6:14; Deut 33:12). Thus, therefore, the soul believing, is hid from all the power of the enemy, and dwells safely under the dominion of grace.
3. Faith keeps the soul from giving credit to any of his insinuations; for whatever Satan saith, either about the acceptance of my person or performances, so long as I believe that both are accepted of God for Christ's sake, he suggesteth to the wind; wherefore faith doth the same against the devil that unbelief doth to God. Doth unbelief count God a liar? Faith counts the devil a liar. Doth unbelief hold the soul from the mercy of God? Faith holds the soul from the malice of the devil. Doth unbelief quench thy graces? Faith kindleth them even into a flame. Doth unbelief fill the soul full of sorrow? Faith fills it full of the joy of the Holy Ghost. In a word, doth unbelief bind down thy sins upon thee? Why, faith in Jesus Christ releaseth thee of them all.
4. As faith keeps the soul from giving credit to the insinuations of Satan, so, when he makes his assaults, it over-masters him, and makes him retreat; 'Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.—Whom resist steadfast in the faith' (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9). Believe, as I have already said, that God loveth you, that the blood of Christ was shed for you, that your person is presented complete before him, through the righteousness of Christ, and Satan must give place; thy crediting of the gospel makes him fly before thee; but thou must do it steadfast in the faith; every waverer giveth him advantage. And, indeed, this is the reason that the godly are so foiled with his assaults, they do not resist him steadfast in the faith; they often stagger through unbelief. Now, at every stagger he recovereth lost ground again, and giveth battle another time. Besides, by this and the other stagger he taketh heart to attempt by other means, and so doubleth the affliction with manifold temptations. This is, I say, for want of being steadfast. 'Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked' (Eph 6:16). To quench them, though they come from him as kindled with the very fire of hell. None knows, save him that feels it, how burning hot the fiery darts of Satan are; and how, when darted, they kindle upon our flesh and unbelief; neither can any know the power and worth of faith to quench them but he that hath it, and hath power to act it.
5. Lastly, if justifying righteousness be alone to be found in the person of Jesus Christ, then this shows us the sad condition of two sorts of men—1. Of those that hang in doubt betwixt Christ and the law. 2. Of those that do professedly make denial of the sufficiency of this most blessed righteousness.
First. The first sort, though they may seek life, yet, thus continuing, are never like to find it. Wherefore? Because they seek it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law. Indeed, they will not be merit-mongers; they will not wholly trust to the law; they will partly venture on Christ, and partly trust to the law. Well, but therefore they shall be damned, because they trust to Christ but in part, and in part, as it were, to the works of the law; for such sinners make Christ but a Saviour in part—why, then, should he be their Saviour in whole? No; because they halt between Christ and the law, therefore they shall fall between Christ and the law; yea, because they will trust to their works in part, they shall be but almost saved by Christ. Let not that man think that he shall obtain any thing from the Lord. What man? Why, he that doubteth or wavereth in his mind about the truth of the mercy of God in Christ. Therefore the exhortation is, 'But let him ask in faith.—For he that wavereth,' or, that halteth between the law and Christ for life, 'is like a wave of the sea, driven of the wind and tossed' (James 1:6). In conclusion, he resteth nowhere—'a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways' (v 8). This man, therefore, must miscarry; he must not see the good land that flows with milk and honey; no, let him not have a thought of life in his heart; let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
This was the case of many in the primitive times, for whose sake this caution was written; for the devout and religious Jew and proselyte, when they fell away from the word of the gospel, they did not fall to those gross and abominable pollutions in which the open profane, like sows and swine, do wallow, but they fell from the grace of God to the law; or, at least, did rest betwixt them both, doubting of the sufficiency of either; and thus, being fearful, they distrust; wherefore, being found at length unbelieving, they are reputed of God abominable, as murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, idolators, and liars, and so must have their portion in the lake, with them, that burns with fire and brimstone (Rev 21:8). The reason is, because where Christ is rejected sin remaineth, and so the wrath of God for sin. Neither will he be a Saviour in part; he must be all thy salvation, or none. 'Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord' (James 1:7; John 3:36). Not any thing. There is no promise for him, no pardon for him, no heaven for him, no salvation for him, no escaping of his fire! What condition is this man in? Yet he is a religious man, for he prays; he is a seeking man, a desiring man, for he prays; but he halts between two, he leaneth to his righteousness, and committeth iniquity. He is afraid to venture all upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Let not that man think of receiving any thing from the Lord!
Yet the words suggest that he is apt to think he shall receive something, because God is merciful, because his promise is great; but this expectation is by this word cut off, and this sinner is cast away. Let not that man think, let him forbear to think, of having anything at the hand of God. The Israelites thought to go up to the land the day after they had despised it. Agag thought the bitterness of death was past even that day in which he was hewn to pieces. Rechab and Baanah his brother thought to have received reward of David that day they were hanged over the pool in Hebron. Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord' (Num 14:40-45; 1 Sam 15:32,33; 2 Sam 4:12).
Second. As for those that do professedly make denial of the sufficiency of this most blessed righteousness, the whole book is conviction to them, and shall assuredly, if it comes to their hands, rise up in judgment against them. They have rejected the wisdom and mercy of God; they have rejected the means of their salvation; they have trampled upon the blood of the Son of God; wherefore judgment waiteth for them, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
[A word to neglecters of Christ.]
To conclude. One word also to you that are neglecters of Jesus Christ: 'How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?' Here then, we may see how we ought to judge of all such persons as neglect the Lord Jesus, under what guise, name, or notion soever they be. We ought, I say, to judge of such, that they are at present in a state of condemnation; of condemnation, 'because they have not believed in the only-begotten Son of God' (John 3:18). It is true, there is no man more at ease in his mind, with such ease as it is, than the man that hath not closed with the Lord Jesus, but is shut up in unbelief. O! but that is the man that stands convict before God, and that is bound over to the great assize; that is the man whose sins are still his own, and upon whom the wrath of God abideth (v 36); for the ease and peace of such, though it keep them far from fear, is but like to that of the secure thief, that is ignorant that the constable standeth at the door; the first sight of an officer makes his peace to give up the ghost (1 John 5:12). Ah, how many thousands that can now glory that they never were troubled for sin against God; I say, how many be there that God will trouble worse than he troubled cursed Achan, because their peace, though false, and of the devil, was rather chosen by them than peace by Jesus Christ, than 'peace with God by the blood of his cross' (Col 1:20). Awake, careless sinners, awake! and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. Content not yourselves either with sin or righteousness, if you be destitute of Jesus Christ, but cry, cry, O cry to God for light to see your condition by; for light in the Word of God, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed (Eph 5:14). Cry, therefore, for light to see this righteousness by; it is a righteousness of Christ's finishing, of God's accepting, and that which alone can save the soul from the stroke of eternal justice! (Rom 1:17).
There are six things that on man's part are the cause he receiveth not the gospel of Christ, and so life by him—1. They see not their state by nature, how polluted they are with original sin (Eph 2:2). 2. They see not the justice of God against sin; they know not him that hath said, 'Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense' (Heb 10:30). 3. They cannot see the beauty of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:4). 4. Unbelief being mighty in them, they dare not venture their souls with Jesus Christ. They dare not trust to his righteousness, and to that only (Rev 21:8). For, 5. Their carnal reason also sets itself against the word of faith, and cannot stoop to the grace of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 2:14). 6. They love to have honour one of another, they love to be commended for their own vain-glorious righteousness; and the fools think that because they are commended of men, they shall be commended of God also: 'How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?' (John 5:44). This last thing—to wit, desire of vain-glory, is the bane of thousands; it is the legalist's bane, it is the civilian's bane, it is the formalist's bane, yea, which yet is stranger, it is the bane of the vicious and debauched also; for though there be a generation that, to one's thinking, have not regard to righteousness, yet watch them narrowly, and they have their times of doing something that looks like good, and though possibly it be but seldom, yet this wretch counteth that, for the sake of that, God accepteth him, and counteth his, glorious righteousness. I might add a seventh cause, which is, want of serious meditation upon eternal judgment, and what shall follow. This consideration, did it take a deep place in the heart, would doubtless produce these workings of spirit after Jesus Christ for justification that now are wanting in the most of men. This made Felix, yea, it makes the devils, tremble; and would, I say, couldst thou deeply meditate, make thee start and turn thy wanton thoughts into heavy sighs after God's mercy in Jesus Christ, lest thou also come into their place of torment.
Before I conclude this use, I would lay down a few motives, if so be thou mayest be prevailed with to look after thine own everlasting state.
1. Consider, God hath put man above all the creatures in this visible world, into a state of abiding for ever; they cannot be annihilated, they shall never again be turned into nothing, but must live with God or the devil for ever and ever. And though the scripture saith, 'Man hath not pre-eminence over a beast in his death,' yet the beast hath pre-eminence above many men, for he shall not rise again to come into judgment as man must, nor receive that dismal sentence for sin and transgression as man shall; this, therefore, is worthy to be considered with seriousness of all that have souls to be saved or damned—'They must one day come to judgment,' there to stand before that Judge of all the earth whose eyes are like a flame of fire, from the sight of which thou canst not hide one of thy words, or thoughts, or actions, because thou wantest the righteousness of God. The fire of his justice shall burn up all thy rags of righteousness wherewith by the law thou hast clothed thyself, and will leave thee nothing but a soul full of sin to bemoan, and eternal burnings to grapple with. O the burnings that will then beset sinners on every side, and that will eat their flesh and torment their spirit with far more terror than if they were stricken with scorpions! And observe it, the torment will there be higher than other where there is the guilt of neglecting Jesus Christ, he being indeed the Saviour, and him that was sent on purpose to deliver men from the wrath to come.
2. Consider, once past grace, and ever past grace. When the door is shut against thee, it will open no more, and then repentings, desires, wishings, and wouldings, come all too late (Luke 13). Good may be done to others, but to thee, none; and this shall be because, even because thou hast withstood the time of thy visitation, and not received grace when offered: 'My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him' (Luke 19:41-43; Hosea 9:17). Cain was driven out from the presence of God, for aught I know, some hundreds of years before his death; Ishmael was cast away after seventeen years of age; Esau lived thirty or forty years after he had sold his birthright. O! many, very many are in this condition! for though God be gracious, yet he will not be slighted nor abused always; there are plenty of sinners in the world—if one will not, another will. Christ was soon repulsed by and sent away from the country of the Gadarenes; but on the other side of the sea there were many ready with joy to receive him (Luke 8:37,40). So, when the Jews contradicted and blasphemed, 'the Gentiles gladly received the word' (Acts 13:46-48). Look to it, sinner, here is life and death set before thee; life, if it be not too late to receive it; but if it be, it is not too late for death to swallow thee up. And tell me, will it not be dreadful to be carried from under the gospel to the damned, there to lie in endless torment, because thou wouldst not be delivered therefrom? Will it be comfort to thee to see the Saviour turn Judge? to see him that wept and died for the sin of the world now ease his mind on Christ-abhorring sinners by rendering to them the just judgment of God? For all their abominable filthiness, had they closed with Christ, they had been shrouded from the justice of the law, and should not have come into condemnation. 'But had been passed from death to life'; but they would not take shelter there; they would venture to meet the justice of God in its fury, wherefore now it shall swallow them up for ever and ever. And let me ask further, is not he a madman who, being loaded with combustible matter, will run headlong into the fire upon a bravado? or that, being guilty of felony or murder, will desperately run himself into the hand of the officer, as if the law, the judge, the sentence, execution, were but a jest, or a thing to be played withal? And yet thus mad are poor, wretched, miserable sinners, who, flying from Christ as if he were a viper, they are overcome, and cast off for ever by the just judgment of the law. But ah! how poorly will these be able to plead the virtues of the law to which they have cleaved, when God shall answer them, 'Whom dost thou pass in beauty? go down, and be thou laid with the uncircumcised' (Eze 32:19). Go down to hell, and there be laid with those that refused the grace of God.
Sinners, take my advice, with which I shall conclude this use—Call often to remembrance that thou hast a precious soul within thee; that thou art in the way to thine end, at which thy precious soul will be in special concerned, it being then time to delay no longer, the time of reward being come. I say again, bring thy end home; put thyself in thy thoughts into the last day thou must live in this world, seriously arguing thus—How if this day were my last? How if I never see the sun rise more? How if the first voice that rings to-morrow morning in my heavy ears be, 'Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment?' Or how, if the next sight I see with mine eyes be the Lord in the clouds, with all his angels, raining floods of fire and brimstone upon the world? Am I in a case to be thus near mine end? to hear this trump of God? or to see this great appearance of this great God, and the Lord Jesus Christ? Will my profession, or the faith I think I have, carry me through all the trials of God's tribunal? Cannot his eyes, which are as a flame of fire, see in my words, thoughts, and actions enough to make me culpable of the wrath of God? O how serious should sinners be in this work of remembering things to come, of laying to their heart the greatness and terror of that notable day of God Almighty, and in examining themselves, how it is like to go with their souls when they shall stand before the Judge indeed! To this end, God make this word effectual. Amen.
1. These are most important distinctions, upon which depends a right understanding of this doctrine. God sees the soul either in Christ or in sin. He may see apparently good works arising from the foulest motives. Uriah doubtless thought himself highly honoured as a confidential messenger of great king David; God saw the murder and adultery in David's heart. He was justified in the sight of man for the very act that condemned him in the sight of God; and for which he was sorely punished in this world, although saved by the blood of atonement.—Ed.
2. Let not a scoffer say, 'See how Christians cast away the law of God!' They are under the law to Christ; bound by the most sacred obligations to obey all its requirements; not to merit pardon, but to prove, to the comfort of their souls, that they have received pardon, and are living under a sense of the unmerited grace of God in Christ.—Ed.
3. This is a clear statement of a most important truth. The sins of believers were laid upon Christ, or imputed to him, and he bore them away, but was undefiled. His righteousness covers us, and we are justified, but it is still HIS. Not unto us, but unto his name, be all the glory.—Ed.
4. By 'common,' is here meant that Christ is the federal head of all his saints; they have an equal or common right equally to participate in his merits.—Ed.
5. How full of consolation is this voice from the tomb! Lowth's translation is very striking—'Thy dead shall live, my deceased; they SHALL arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of the dawn! But the earth shall cast forth, as an abortion, thy deceased tyrants.' Antichrist shall 'cease from troubling,' and be only seen afar off in torments.—Ed.
6. Christ (amazing love!) 'was made a curse for us,' and thereby redeemed us from the curse of the law. He subjected himself to the law in active as well as passive obedience, and his obedience even to death was for our justification.—Mason.
7. Those whom God justifies, he also glorifies; and because Christ lives, blessed be God! we shall live also. Nevertheless, the strongest believer has as much need to come to Christ every day for fresh strength, as if he had never believed before; and if he were to depend on his own faithfulness, and not on the faithfulness of the Son of God, he would soon desert the Lord Jesus Christ.—Mason.
8. The symbol of regeneration, or water baptism. Although the regenerate believer feels an assurance that he forms part of Christ's mystical body, and is saved by grace, and loves God because God first loved him, this does not prevent, but approves, his following the example of his Redeemer, in a symbolical or water baptism. Thus he publicly puts on Christ; he is buried with him in baptism, and rises to newness of life. Colossians 2:12, 13.—Ed.
9. Believer, if thou art rejoicing in this great and finished salvation, never forget that thine only evidence is—sorrow for thy sins, which caused the shedding of this precious blood, and a love of holiness. If sin be deplored, not only art thou redeemed from its curse, but also delivered from its power. The grace that justifies quickens us to good works, that we may walk therein.—Ed.
10. Because it is tainted by sin.—Ed.
11. The best righteousness that can be produced by fallen man is impressively designated by Isaiah, 'A bed shorter than a man can stretch himself on, and a covering narrower than he can wrap himself in.'—Ed.
12. The way of salvation by works was blasted by the curse upon Adam's sin, so that it cannot work life in us, or holiness, but only death.—Ed.
13. To divert or turn aside from an intended course; not to divert or amuse.—Ed.
14. Bunyan, in his Creation Spiritualized, or Exposition on Genesis, has shown that the fig-leaf aprons are a type of man's attempt to cover his sins by his own good works, which soon fade, become dung, or are burned up. But the righteousness that God provides endureth for ever. See vol. i., p. 440.—Ed.
15. The marginal notes to the Bible are exceedingly valuable, especially to the unlearned. There we find that Jedidiah means 'beloved of the Lord.'—Ed.
16. The birth of a babe is a period of excitement. Parents should hope that the new comer is a Jedidiah. On such occasions, it is a delightful service when the father, mother, and family specially attend public worship, to bless God for his mercies, and to beseech grace that they may train up the child for heaven. Such is the practice among the Baptists. But even in this, watchfulness is requisite, lest it degenerate into mere parade.—Ed.
17. The non-imputation of sin, and the imputation of Christ's righteousness, always go together. David knew this; while he describes the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin, he, at the same time, describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth Christ's righteousness.—Mason.
18. However excellent the conduct of Zaccheus, still he was a sinner, and under the curse. His curiosity leads him to climb a tree to see Jesus, and most unexpectedly salvation is brought to one who sought it not. Christ called, and he instantly obeyed. O may our hearts be so inclined to receive the invitations of his gospel!.—Ed.
19. We are all, by nature and practice, in a spiritual sense, robbers, idolaters, and murderers. God make us to know and feel it! We may adopt the language of the poet, and say—
'Sinful soul, what hast thou done? Murder'd God's eternal Son!'—Mason.
20. Works justify us from such accusations of men as will deny us to have justification by faith—not as being our righteousness, or conditions of our having Christ's righteousness, or as qualifying us for it.—Mason.
21. Every edition of Bunyan's works calls this a 'void of words,' and gives a false reference to Hebrews 12:14.—Ed.
22. The law condemns all sinners, and strikes them dead as with a thunderbolt; adjudging them to shame and misery, instead of glory and happiness. None can fulfil its strict terms, neither Jew nor Gentile. There is no hope, if free grace restore them not. Romans 3:20, 2:6-29; 8:7.—Mason.
23. Hagar, by which is meant the law or covenant of works. This is said to gender unto bondage, because it makes them bondmen who look to be saved and justified thereby. It is called the 'ministration of death' (2 Cor 3:6). Whereas the gospel and new covenant is a dispensation of liberty and life.—Mason.
24. We will hold and extol this faith which doubteth not of God, nor of the Divine promises, nor of the forgiveness of sins through Christ; that we may dwell sure and safe in this our object Christ, and may keep still before our eyes the passion and blood of the Mediator and all his benefits.—Luther on Galatians 3:11.
25. Multitudes of professors set up their rest in outward duties, and repose a carnal confidence in ordinances, without endeavouring after any lively communion with Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, in the exercise of faith and love.—Mason.
26. Conscience, if resisted, is little case, whether rightly or wrongly informed. By little ease, is meant a prison not large enough either to lie down or stand upright in, with spikes in the walls; places of torment well known in former times of persecution for conscience sake.—Ed.
27. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. We must either, as lost sinners, fall into the arms of Divine mercy, and receive pardon as a free gift through the merits of the Saviour, or we must perish. It is a solemn, searching consideration.—Ed.
28. Difficult at any time, and impossible without Divine power; but most difficult when all the faculties of the soul become harrowed by a 'certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation' (Heb 10:27).—Ed.
29. If we seek salvation by works, such as sincere obedience or Christian perfection, we thereby bring ourselves under the law, and become debtors to fulfil all its requirements, though we intended to engage ourselves to fulfil it only in part (Gal 5:3). Let this be seriously considered.—Mason.
30. These 'foolish men' were a sect which sprung up in Bunyan's time, and soon became extinct. They believed that the sufferings of Christ, to his death on Calvary, were only typical of what he suffers in the body of every believer. This was as contrary to the express declaration of Holy Writ, 'He was ONCE offered' (Heb 9:28), as is the absurd notion of the Papists in the mass, or continual sacrifice of Christ. What impious mortal dares pretend to offer up Christ to his Father.—Ed.
31. As the carnal Adam, having lost his original righteousness, imparts a corrupt nature to all his descendants; so the spiritual Adam, Christ Jesus, by his obedience unto death, conveys spiritual life to us; believers are made 'the righteousness of God in him.'—Mason.
32. 'Neck' is from hniga, to bend or incline. In Bunyan's time, these ancient words were well understood by the peasantry. To have the neck turned, so as to bend the back of the head towards the back of the body, would be as absurd as for faith to look to its own works for justification. This would indeed be bowing backward, instead of bending before, and looking to Jesus and his finished work for justification.—Ed.
33. Modern editors have altered this to 'imperfections,' but Bunyan would have us look to the most perfect of our works, and see how polluted they are.—Ed.
34. Faith looks at things which be not, as though they were. Sense judges from what it sees and feels, faith from what God says; sense looks inward to self, faith looks outward to Christ and his fullness.—Mason.
35. How strangely does the world mistake the source of good works! The common and fatal error is, that if salvation is all of faith, then good works will fail; whereas faith is the prolific fountain, yea, the only source of really good works and holy obedience.—Ed.
36. How universal to fallen nature is that soul-destroying heresy—the attempt to justify ourselves partly by our own good works, and to make up the deficiency by the merits of the Saviour! Ye might as well attempt to serve God and mammon, as to unite our impure works with those of the pure and holy Jesus. We must, as perishing sinners, fall into the arms of Divine mercy, and receive pardon as a free gift, wholly through the merits of the Saviour, or we must for ever perish. It is an awful consideration.—Ed.
37. 'The civilian'; one who is versed in law and government. See Imperial Dictionary.—Ed.
38. When the pilgrims Christian and Hopeful had wandered in By-path Meadow, one that walked before them said that the way led to the celestial gate. 'He therefore that went before, Vain-confidence by name, not seeing the way before him, fell into a deep pit, which was on purpose there made by Giant Despair to catch vain-glorious fools withal, and was dashed in pieces with his fall.' Beware, O legalist, civilian, or formalist!—Ed.
39. How deplorably and inexcusably they will perish, who perish by their own willful unbelief under the gospel! It will be dreadful indeed to be driven, as it were, from the very gate of heaven to the lowermost and hottest hell. Lord, send forth thy light, truth, and power, that sinners may be saved and comforted by coming unto thee for life and peace!—Mason.
40. This is a striking and soul-searching appeal. O that the Holy Spirit may 'search me and try me, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting,' before we go hence into the eternal state!—Ed.
SAVED BY GRACE;
A DISCOURSE OF THE GRACE OF GOD:
I. WHAT IT IS TO BE SAVED. II. WHAT IT IS TO BE SAVED BY GRACE. III. WHO THEY AEE THAT ABE SAVED BY GRACE. IV. HOW IT APPEARS THAT THEY ARE SAVED BY GRACE. V. WHAT SHOULD BE THE REASON THAT GOD SHOULD CHOOSE TO SAVE SINNERS BY GRACE RATHER THAN BY ANY OTHER MEANS.
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.
THIS admirable Treatise upon the most important of all subjects, that of the soul's salvation, was first published in a pocket volume, in the year 1675. This has become very rare, but it is inserted in every edition of the author's collected works. Our copy is reprinted from the first edition published after the author's decease, in a small folio volume of his works, 1691. Although it is somewhat encumbered with subdivisions, it is plain, practical, and written in Bunyan's strong and energetic style; calculated to excite the deepest attention, and to fix the mind upon those solemn realities which alone can unite earth with heaven.
Ho extensive is the meaning of that little sentance, 'Saved by Grace!' It includes in it redemption from the curse of sin, which oppresses the poor sinner with the fears of everlasting burnings; while it elevates the body, soul, and spirit, to an eternal and an exceeding weight of glory—to the possession of infinite treasures, inconceivable, and that never fade away.
Bunyan, in opening and deeply investigating this subject, shows his master hand in every page. It was a subject which, from his first conviction of sin, while playing a gat at cat on a Sunday, ahd excited his feelings to an intense degree, absorbing all the powers of his soul. It was eminently to him the one thing needful—the sum and substance of human habbiness. He felt that it included the preservation and re-structure of the body—raised from filth and vileness—from sickness, pain, and disease—from death and the grave—to be perfected in immortality like the Saviour's glorious body. That included in this salvation, is the death ofdeath, and the swallowing up of the grave, to be no more seen for ever. The soul will be perfect, and, re-united with the body, be filled 'with bliss and glory, as much as ever it can hold;' all jars and discord between sould and body will be finished; and the perfect man be clothed with righteousness; in a word, be like Christ and with him. All this is the work of grace, performed by the ever-blessed Trinity.
In displaying the feelings and experience of the inquiring, alarmed, quickened sinner, we are instructed by a continual illustration of the Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. He manifests profound knowledge of the devices of Satan—the workings of unbelief—the difficulties thrown by the wicked one in the way of the sinner, to prevent his approach to Christ. He fastens conviction upon conviction—gives blow upon blow to human pride; proving that there can be found nothing in our fallen nature to recommend the sinner to God—all is of grace—from the foundation to the top-stone of a sinner's salvation. And above all, he clearly shows that salvation by grace is the most sin-killing doctrine in the world, as well as the most consoling tidings that can be brought to a sin-sick soul. 'O, when a God of grace is upon a throne of grace, and a poor sinner stands by and begs for grace, and that in the name of a gracious Christ, in and by the help of the Spirit of grace, can it be otherwise but that such a sinner must obtain mercy and grace to help in time of need? O, then, COME BOLDLY!' p. 360.
But I must not detain the reader from entering upon this solemn subject; only for a moment, while I quote another passage conceived in all the ardour of Bunyan's feelings:—'O Son of God! grace was in all thy tears—grace came out where the. whip smote thee, where the thorns pricked thee, where the nails and spear pierced thee! O blessed Son of God! Here is grace indeed!' Unsearchable riches of grace! Grace to make angels wonder, grace to make sinners happy, grace to astonish devils! And what will become of them that trample under foot this Son of God?'
Reader, may this searching, comforting, reviving subject be blessed to our well-grounded consolation!
TO THE READER.
In this little book thou art presented with a discourse of the GRACE of God, and of salvation by that grace. In which discourse, thou shalt find how each Person in the Godhead doth his part in the salvation of the sinner. I. The Father putteth forth his grace, thus. II. The Son putteth forth his grace, thus. III. And the Spirit putteth forth his grace, thus. Which things thou shalt find here particularly handled.
Thou shalt also find, in this small treatise, the way of God with the sinner, as to his CONVERSATION, 1 and the way of the sinner with God in the same; where[in] the grace of God, and the wickedness of the sinner, do greatly show themselves.
If thou findest me short in things, impute that [to] my love to brevity. If thou findest me besides the truth in aught, impute that to mine infirmity. But if thou findest anything here that serveth to thy furtherance and joy of faith, impute that to the mercy of God bestowed on thee and me.
Thine to serve thee with that little I have,
SAVED BY GRACE.
"BY GRACE YE ARE SAVED."—EPHESIANS 2:5.
In the first chapter, from the fourth to the twelfth verse, the apostle is treating of the doctrine of election, both with respect to the act itself, the end, and means conducing thereto. The act, he tells us, was God's free choice of some (verse 4,5,11). The end was God's glory in their salvation (verse 6,14). The means conducing to that end was Jesus Christ himself—"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (verse 7). This done, he treateth of the subjection of the Ephesians to the faith, as it was held forth to them in the Word of the truth of the gospel, as also of their being sealed by the Holy Spirit of God unto the day of redemption (verse 12-14). Moreover, he telleth them how he gave thanks to God for them, making mention of them in his prayers, even that he would make them see "what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead," &c. (verse 15-20).
And lest the Ephesians, at the hearing of these their so many privileges, should forget how little they deserved them, he tells them that in time past they were dead in trespasses and sins, and that then they walked in them "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph 2:2,3).
Having thus called them back to the remembrance of themselves—to wit, what they were in their state of unregeneracy, he proceedeth to show them that their first quickening was by the resurrection of Christ their Head, in whom they before were chosen, and that by him they were already set down in heavenly places, (verse 5,6); inserting, by the way, the true cause of all this blessedness, with what else should be by us enjoyed in another world; and that is, the love and grace of God: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ [by grace ye are saved]." These last words seen to be the apostle's conclusion rightly drawn from the premises; as who should say, If you Ephesians were indeed dead in trespasses and sins; if indeed you were by nature the children of wrath, even as others, then you deserve no more than others. 2
Again, if God hath chosen you, if God hath justified and saved you by his Christ, and left others as good as you by nature to perish in their sins, then the true cause of this your blessed condition is, the free grace of God. But just thus it is, therefore by grace ye are saved; therefore all the good which you enjoy more than others, it is of mere goodwill.
"BY GRACE YE ARE SAVED."
The method that I shall choose to discourse upon these words shall be this—I will propound certain questions upon the words, and direct particular answers to them; in which answers I hope I shall answer also, somewhat at least, the expectation of the godly and conscientious reader, and so shall draw towards a conclusion.
THE QUESTIONS ARE—
I. What is it to be saved? II. What is it to be saved by grace? III. Who are they that are saved by grace? IV. How it appears that they that are saved, are saved by grace? V. What might be the reasons which prevailed with God to save us by grace, rather than by any other means?
Now the reason why I propound these five questions upon the words, it is, because the words themselves admit them; the first three are grounded upon the several phrases in the text, and the two last are to make way for demonstration of the whole.
QUEST. I.—WHAT IS IT TO BE SAVED?
This question supposeth that there is such a thing as damnation due to man for sin; for to save supposeth the person to be saved to be at present in a sad condition; saving, to him that is not lost, signifies nothing, neither is it anything in itself. "To save, to redeem, to deliver," are in the general terms equivalent, and they do all of them suppose us to be in a state of thraldom and misery; therefore this word "saved," in the sense that the apostle here doth use it, is a word of great worth, forasmuch as the miseries from which we are saved is the misery of all most dreadful.
The miseries from which they that shall be saved shall by their salvation be delivered, are dreadful; they are no less than sin, the curse of God, and flames of hell for ever. What more abominable than sin? What more insupportable than the dreadful wrath of an angry God? And what more fearful than the bottomless pit of hell? I say, what more fearful than to be tormented there for ever with the devil and his angels? Now, to "save," according to my text, is to deliver the sinner from these, with all things else that attend them. And although sinners may think that it is no hard matter to answer this question, yet I must tell you there is no man, that can feelingly know what it is to be saved, that knoweth not experimentally something of the dread of these three things, as is evident, because all others do even by their practice count it a thing of no great concern, when yet it is of all other of the highest concern among men; "For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matt 16:26).
But, I say, if this word "saved" concludeth our deliverance from sin, how can he tell what it is to be saved that hath not in his conscience groaned under the burden of sin? yea, it is impossible else that he should ever cry out with all his heart, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"—that is, do to be saved (Acts 2:37). The man that hath no sores or aches cannot know the virtue of the salve; I mean, not know it from his own experience, and therefore cannot prize, nor have that esteem of it, as he that hath received cure thereby. Clap a plaster to a well place, and that maketh not its virtue to appear; neither can he to whose flesh it is so applied, by that application understand its worth. Sinners, you, I mean, that are not wounded with guilt, and oppressed with the burden of sin, you cannot—I will say it again—you cannot know, in this senseless condition of yours, what it is to be saved.
Again; this word "saved," as I said, concludeth deliverance from the wrath of God. How, then, can he tell what it is to be saved that hath not felt the burden of the wrath of God? He—he that is astonished with, and that trembleth at, the wrath of God—he knows best what it is to be saved (Acts 16:29).
Further, this word "saved," it concludeth deliverance from death and hell. How, then, can he tell what it is to be saved that never was sensible of the sorrows of the one, nor distressed with the pains of the other? The Psalmist says, "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord"—(mark, then), "then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul,"—then, in my distress. When he knew what it was to be saved, then he called, because, I say, then he knew what it was to be saved (Psa 18:4,5; 116:3,4). I say, this is the man, and this only, that knows what it is to be saved. And this is evident, as is manifest by the little regard that the rest have to saving, or the little dread they have of damnation. Where is he that seeks and groans for salvation? I say, where is he that hath taken his flight for salvation, because of the dread of the wrath to come? "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matt 3:7). Alas! do not the most set light by salvation?—as for sin, how do they love it, embrace it, please themselves with it, hide it still within their mouth, and keep it close under their tongue. Besides, for the wrath of God, they feel it not, they fly not from it; and for hell, it is become a doubt to many if there be any, and a mock to those whose doubt is resolved by atheism.
But to come to the question—What is it to be saved? To be saved may either respect salvation in the whole of it, or salvation in the parts of it, or both. I think this text respecteth both—to wit, salvation completing, and salvation completed; for "to save" is a work of many steps; or, to be as plain as possible, "to save" is a work that hath its beginning before the world began, and shall not be completed before it is ended.
First, then, we may be said to be saved in the purpose of God before the world began. The apostle saith that "he saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim 1:9). This is the beginning of salvation, and according to this beginning all things concur and fall out in conclusion—"He hath saved us according to his eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus." God in thus saving may be said to save us by determining to make those means effectual for the blessed completing of our salvation; and hence we are said "to be chosen in Christ to salvation." And again, that he hath in that choice given us that grace that shall complete our salvation. Yea, the text is very full, "He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:3,4).
Second. As we may be said to be saved in the purpose of God before the foundation of the world, so we may be said to be saved before we are converted, or called to Christ. And hence "saved" is put before "called"; "he hath saved us, and called us"; he saith not, he hath called us, and saved us; but he puts saving before calling (2 Tim 1:9). So again, we are said to be "preserved in Christ and called"; he saith not, called and preserved (Jude 1). And therefore God saith again, "I will pardon them whom I reserve"—that is, as Paul expounds it, those whom I have "elected and kept," and this part of salvation is accomplished through the forbearance of God (Jer 50:20; Rom 11:4,5). God beareth with is own elect, for Christ's sake, all the time of their unregeneracy, until the time comes which he hath appointed for their conversion. The sins that we stood guilty of before conversion, had the judgment due to them been executed upon us, we had not now been in the world to partake of a heavenly calling. But the judgment due to them hath been by the patience of God prevented, and we saved all the time of our ungodly and unconverted state, from that death, and those many hells, that for our sins we deserved at the hands of God.
And here lies the reason that long life is granted to the elect before conversion, and that all the sins they commit and all the judgments they deserve, cannot drive them out of the world before conversion. Manasseh, you know, was a great sinner, and for the trespass which he committed he was driven from his own land, and carried to Babylon; but kill him they could not, though his sins had deserved death ten thousand times. But what was the reason? Why, he was not yet called; God had chosen him in Christ, and laid up in him a stock of grace, which must be given to Manasseh before he dies; therefore Manasseh must be convinced, converted, and saved. That legion of devils that was in the possessed, with all the sins which he had committed in the time of his unregeneracy, could not take away his life before his conversion (Mark 5). How many times was that poor creature, as we may easily conjecture, assaulted for his life by the devils that were in him, yet could they not kill him, yea, though his dwelling was near the sea-side, and the devils had power to drive him too, yet could they not drive him further than the mountains that were by the sea-side; yea, they could help him often to break his chains and fetters, and could also make him as mad as a bedlam, 3 they could also prevail with him to separate from men, and cut himself with stones, but kill him they could not, drown him they could not; he was saved to be called; he was, notwithstanding all this, preserved in Christ, and called. As it is said of the young lad in the gospel, he was by the devil cast oft into the fire, and oft into the water, to destroy him, but it could not be; even so hath he served others, but they must be "saved to be called" (Mark 9:22). How many deaths have some been delivered from and saved out of before conversion! Some have fallen into rivers, some into wells, some into the sea, some into the hands of men; yea, they have been justly arraigned and condemned, as the thief upon the cross, but must not die before they have been converted. They were preserved in Christ, and called.
Called Christian, how many times have thy sins laid thee upon a sick-bed, and, to thine and others' thinking, at the very mouth of the grave? yet God said concerning thee, Let him live, for he is not yet converted. Behold, therefore, that the elect are saved before they are called. 4 "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins," hath preserved us in Christ, and called us (Eph 2:4,5).
Now this "saving" of us arises from six causes. 1. God hath chosen us unto salvation, and therefore will not frustrate his own purposes (1 Thess 5:9). 2. God hath given us to Christ; and his gift, as well as his calling, is without repentance (Rom 11:29; John 6:37). 3. Christ hath purchased us with his blood (Rom 5:8,9). 4. They are, by God, counted in Christ before they are converted (Eph 1:3,4). 5. They are ordained before conversion to eternal life; yea, to be called, to be justified, to be glorified, and therefore all this must come upon them (Rom 8:29,30). 6. For all this, he hath also appointed them their portion and measure of grace, and that before the world began; therefore, that they may partake of all these privileges, they are saved and called, preserved in Christ, and called.
Third. To be saved is to be brought to, and helped to lay hold on, Jesus Christ by faith. And this is called saving by grace through faith. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8).
1. They must be brought unto Christ, yea, drawn unto him; for "no man," saith Christ, "can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). Men, even the elect, have too many infirmities to come to Christ without help from heaven; inviting will not do. "As they called them, so they went from them," therefore he "drew them with cords" (Hosea 11:2,4).
2. As they must be brought to, so they must be helped to lay hold on Christ by faith; for as coming to Christ, so faith, is not in our own power; therefore we are said to be raised up with him "through the faith of the operation of God." And again, we are said to believe, "according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead" (Col 2:12; Eph 1:19,20). Now we are said to be saved by faith, because by faith we lay hold of, venture upon, and put on Jesus Christ for life. For life, I say, because God having made him the Saviour, hath given him life to communicate to sinners, and the life that he communicates to them is the merit of his flesh and blood, which whoso eateth and drinketh by faith, hath eternal life, because that flesh and blood hath merit in it sufficient to obtain the favour of God. Yea, it hath done so [since] that day it was offered through the eternal Spirit a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour to him; wherefore God imputeth the righteousness of Christ to him that believeth in him, by which righteousness he is personally justified, and saved from that just judgment of the law that was due unto him (John 5:26, 6:53-58; Eph 4:32; 5:2; Rom 4:23-25).
"Saved by faith." For although salvation beginneth in God's purpose, and comes to us through Christ's righteousness, yet is not faith exempted from having a hand in saving of us. Not that it meriteth aught, but is given by God to those which he saveth, that thereby they may embrace and put on that Christ by whose righteousness they must be saved. Wherefore this faith is that which here distinguisheth them that shall be saved from them that shall be damned. Hence it is said, "He that believeth not, shall be damned"; and hence again it is that the believers are called "the children, the heirs, and the blessed with faithful Abraham;" that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe (Gal 3:6-9,26; Rom 4:13,14).
And here let Christians warily distinguish betwixt the meritorious and the instrumental cause of their justification. Christ, with what he hath done and suffered, is the meritorious cause of our justification; therefore he is said to be made to us of God, "wisdom and righteousness;" and we are said to be "justified by his blood, and saved from wrath through him," for it was his life and blood that were the price of our redemption (1 Cor 1:30; Rom 5:9,10). "Redeemed," says Peter, "not with corruptible things, as silver and gold," alluding to the redemption of money under the law, "but with the precious blood of Christ." Thou art, therefore, as I have said, to make Christ Jesus the object of thy faith for justification; for by his righteousness thy sins must be covered from the sight of the justice of the law. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "For he shall save his people from their sins" (Acts 16:31; Matt 1:21).
Fourth. To be saved is to be preserved in the faith to the end. "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matt 24:13). Not that perseverance is an accident in Christianity, or a thing performed by human industry; they that are saved "are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation" (1 Peter 1:3-6).
But perseverance is absolutely necessary to the complete saving of the soul, because he that falleth short of the state that they that are saved are possessed of, as saved, cannot arrive to that saved state. He that goeth to sea with a purpose to arrive at Spain, cannot arrive there if he be drowned by the way; wherefore perseverance is absolutely necessary to the saving of the soul, and therefore it is included in the complete saving of us—"Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end" (Isa 45:17). Perseverance is here made absolutely necessary to the complete saving of the soul.
But, as I said, this part of salvation dependeth not upon human power, but upon him that hath begun a good work in us (Phil 1:6). This part, therefore, of our salvation is great, and calleth for no less than the power of God for our help to perform it, as will be easily granted by all those that consider—