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a degree of purity in our thoughts, words, and actions, which, through the corruption of our nature, we cannot render unto them; and, as they will not tolerate the slightest deviation from the path of holiness, they proceed to condemn all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, upon whose consciences they fasten a charge of guilt, and
persons to everlasting wrath. Hence, the conclusion of St. Paul is irresistible : “ Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God; for by the law is the knowledge of sino.
6. Some have unwarrantably imagined, that the Gospel dispensation has introduced a sort of new remedial law, milder in its demands, and accepting a sincere though imperfect obedience, as the condition of eternal happiness. The Scripture does not once allude to any such provision; but, on the contrary, informs us, that so far is the Gospel “from making void the law," or relaxing its obligations, that its awful sanctions are thereby rendered more firm and unalterable. Our Saviour confirms this sentiment: “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets ; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” To secure the honour of the moral law, and to shew his high displeasure against those who wantonly infringe its precepts, or encourage others to do the same, he adds,“ Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but, whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven"."
Rom. ii. 20. * ib. iii. 31. Mat. 17-21.
7. Where then can we find a justifying righteousness fully adequate to the demands of the law of God ? for, without such a righteousness, we must remain eternally under its awful curse; as no law can justify, unless it be completely obeyed.
Blessed for ever be God! he has provided the means of our justification, which are such as reflect the highest lustre on his perfections. In the choice of the method by which he saves us from deserved wrath, “ he has magnified his name and his mercy above all things.” The perfect obedience, the bitter sufferings, and accursed death, of our Divine substitute, Jesus Christ, furnish such a righteousness as God can accept, and guilty man may safely plead. The glorious work which the Son of God completed, when he bowed his head and gave up the ghost, and rose again from the dead, is the grand requisite for our justification before the heavenly tribunal "u. This it is alone to which the eternal God has respect, when he pronounces a sinner righteous, and acquits him in judgment. : The righteous obedience of Christ is described by the Prophets and the Apostles as a vicarious work, undertaken for the benefit and the salvation of others. Hence he is expressly called,“ The Lord our Righteousness".” We are said to be made righteous by hisobedience **; and to be “ justified by his blood *** Thus the dreadful sufferings of the holy Jesus, the spotless integrity of his life, and his exact conformity to every precept of the law for man, which, for the supreme excellency of it, " is called the righteousness of God,” include in them that complete satisfaction required by the law, which, being fully accepted by God, and imputed to a penitent sinner, 20. Rom.iv. 25. * Jer. xxiii. 6.
ss Rom. v.
are the cause and the sole ground of his discharge. This, without any addition whatever, is that work of righteousness, for the sake of which he is pronounced just, and adjudged to inherit eternal life. The merit arising from Christ's sacrifice, and the obedience of our surety, are placed to the sinner's account, as fully, and as much to his advantage, as if he had suffered the curse of the broken law in his own person, or obeyed its high demands.
Now, with this obedience of Christ unto death, which magnifies and honours the law, God declares himself well pleased"; and, with a strict reference to it, when dispensing salvation to a contrite soul, he exclaims, “ Deliver him from going down to the pit! I have found a ransom?."
In this consecrated way, Abrahain, the Father of the Faithful, was justified, when “he believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness a. St. Paul also gloried in this method of justification by Christ; and solemnly deprecates the thought of ever confiding either in his own works, or in any other person but the Son of God, for complete salvation and happiness:~"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world b." - That bright host which surrounds the throne of God, unaniinously ascribes its endless felicity to the redemption of Christ :-“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father ; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen." Nor has there been, since the Fall, any other way Y Isa. xlii. 21. 7 Job xxxiii. 24. a Rom. iv. 3. to Gal. vi. 14. • Rev. i. 5, 6.
by which a sinner can find acceptance with God, but through the death of Jesus the Mediator. “Neither is there salvation in any other ; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved d.”
" Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins ; and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which
ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." Through the same medium we, however vile and unworthy, may have access to God, and secure his favour, if, deploring our guilt, we turn unto him with full purpose of heart. Seek, then, ye who are inquiring what you must do to be saved, to obtain
justification freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus'; who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption ; that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
8. We are interested in the righteousness of Christ, and appropriate its important benefits by imputation. The merit of what he has done and suffered, is reckoned or placed to the account of a contrite sinner, and becomes his own, and avails with God for his salvation, as much as if he had personally obeyed the law. Abraham was justified in this manner. But in this respect he had no exclusive privilege; for it is said by St. Paul," that it was not written for his sake alone, that faith was imputed to him for righteousness; but for us also, whether Jews or Gentiles, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” “For they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abrahami."
• Acts iv. 12.
ib. xiii. 38, 39.
i Rom. iji. 24.
Faith is the instrument by which we apprehend and take possession of the merits of Christ's death, for justification unto life. Hence “the righteousness of God (provided for our acceptance) is said to be by faith in Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believek.” Faith is that hand which receives and applies the gift of righteousness when offered, discovers to the mind of a sinner the suitableness of Christ's mediatorial undertaking, and invests him with the advantages resulting therefrom. It is for this reason that faith is so highly extolled in the Scriptures : we are said, to be "justified,” “ to walk with God," and“overcome the world by faith.” Until faith enlightens our minds, we have no proper sense of our guilt and misery and wants ; nor are we disposed to apply to Christ for salvation, or to trust in his meritorious sacrifice for pardon and everlasting life. Earnestly beseech the Father of mercies to bestow this divine gift upon you, that you may believe on the Son of God, who is become “the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him!.”
9. Ye who are yet without justification, reflect on the awful situation in which you are placed. The law of God, which has been so often dishonoured by your sins, holds you accursed, and passes sentence of condemnation upon you". You have despised the authority of God, and cherished a spirit of enmity against him: your conscience tells you that you have not loved his Gospel ; and that you have felt no concern whether he was pleased or offended, so that you could but gratify your impetuous lusts, and obtain your wicked purposes. You have incurred the wrath of God, which is ready to fall upon you. And will you continue insensible of
your danger, or be * Rom. ii, 22. " Heb. y. 9. " Gal. iii. 10.