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excite to strict and universal obedience, and the utmost possible eminency of holiness, as any scheme that can be devised, and indeed unspeakably more.
I come now to the
V. And last thing proposed, which is, to consider the <importance of this doctrine.”
I know there are many who make as though this controversy was of no great importance; that it is chiefly a matter of nice speculation, depending on certain subtile distinctions, which many that make use of them do not understand themselves; and that the difference is not of such consequence as to be worth being zealous about; and that more hurt is done by raising disputes about it than good.
Indeed I am far from thinking that it is of absolute necessity persons should understand, and be agreed upon, all the distinctions needful particularly to explain and defend this doctrine against all cavils and objections. Yet all Christians should strive after an increase of knowledge ; and none should content themselves without some clear and distinct understand. ing in this point. But we should believe in the general, according to the clear and abundant revelations of God's word, that it is none of our own excellency, virtue, or righteousness, that is the ground of our being received from a state of condemnation into a state of acceptance in God's sight, but only Jesus Christ, and his righteousness, and worthiness, received by faith. This I think to be of great importance, at least in application to ourselves; and that for the following
1. The scripture treats of this doctrine, as a doctrine of very great importance. That there is a certain doctrine of justification by faith, in opposition to justification by the works of the law, which the apostle Paul insists upon as of the greatest importance, none will deny ; because there is nothing in the Bible more apparent. The apostle, under the infallible conduct of the Spirit of God, thought it worth his most strenuous and zealous disputing about and defending. He speaks of the contrary doctrine as fatal and ruinous to the souls of men, in the latter end of the 9th chapter of Romans, and beginning of the 10th. He speaks of it as subversive of the gospel of Christ, and calls it another gospel, and says concerning it, if any one, “thongh an angel from heaven, preach it, let him be accursed;" Gal. i. 6-9. compared with the following part of the epistle. Certainly we must allow the apostles to be good judges of the importance and tondency of doctrines; at least the Holy Ghost in them. And doubtless we are safe, and in no danger of harshness and censoriousness, if we only follow him, and keep close to his express teachings, in what we believe and say of the hurtful and pernicious tendency of any error.
Why are we to blame, for saying what the Bible has taught us to say, or for believing what the Holy Ghost has taught us to tbat end that we might believe it?
2. The adverse scheme lays another foundation of man's salvation than God hath laid. I do not now speak of that ineffectual redemption that they suppose to be universal, and what all mankind are equally the subjects of; but, I say, it lays entirely another foundation of man's actual, discriminating salvation, or that salvation wherein true Christians differ from wicked men.
suppose the foundation of this to be Christ's worthiness and righteousness : on the contrary, that scheme supposes it to be men's own virtue; even so, that this is the ground of a saving interest in Christ itself. It takes away Christ out of the place of the bottom stone, and puts in men's own virtue in the room of him: So that Christ himself in the affair of distinguishing actual salvation, is laid upon this foundation. And the foundation being so different, I leave it to every one to judge whether the difference between the two schemes consists only in punctilios of small consequence. The foundation being contrary, makes the whole schene exceeding diverse and opposite; the one is a gospel scheme, the other a legal one.
3. It is in this doctrine that the most essential difference lies between the covenant of grace and the first covenant. The adverse scheme of justification supposes that we are justified by our works, in the very same sense wherein man was to have been justified by his works under the first covenant. By that covenant our first parents were not to have had eternal life given them for any proper merit in their obedience; because their perfect obedience was a debt that they owed God. Nor was it to be bestowed for any proportion between the dignity of their obedience, and the value of the reward; but only it was to be bestowed from a regard to a moral fitness in the virtue of their obedience, to the reward of God's favour; and a title to eternal life was to be given them, as a testimony of God's pleasedness with their works, or his regard to the inherent beauty of their virtue. And so it is the very same way that those in the adverse schenie suppose that we are received into God's special favour now, and to those saving benefits that are the testimonies of it. I am sensible the divines of that side entirely disclaim the Popish doctrine of merit; and are free to speak of our utter unworthiness, and the great imperfection of all our services. But after all, it is our virtue, imperfect as it is, that recommends men to God, by wbich good men come to have a saving interest in Christ, and God's favour, rather than others; and these things are bestowed in testimony of God's respect to their goodness. So that whether they will allow the term
merit or no, yet they hold, that we are accepted by our own merit, in the same sense, though not in the same degree, as under the first covenant.
But the great and most distinguishing difference between that covenant and the covenant of grace is, that by the covenant of grace we are not thus justified by our own works, but only by faith in Jesus Christ. It is on this account chiefly that the new covenant deserves the name of a covenant of grace, as is evident by Rom. iv. 16. 6 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace.” And chap. iii. 20, 24. “ Therefore, by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight;"-"Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” And chap. xi. 6. “And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace: But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” Gal. v. 4. “ Whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.” And therefore the apostle, in the same epistle to the Galatians, speaking of the doctrine of justification by works as another gospel, adds, “ wbich is not another," chap. i. verse 6, 7. It is no gospel at all; it is law. It is no covenant of grace, but of works; not an evangelical, but a legal doctrine. Certainly that doctrine wherein consists the greatest and most essential difference between the covenant of grace and the first covenant, must be a doctrine of great importance. That doctrine of the gospel by which above all others it is worthy of the name of gospel, is doubtless a very important doctrine of the gospel.
4. This is the main thing for which fallen men stood in need of divine revelation, to teach us how we who have sinned may come to be again accepted of God; or, which is the same thing, how the sinner may be justified. Something beyond the light of nature is necessary to salvation chiefly on this account. Mere natural reason afforded no means by which we could come to the knowledge of this, it depending on the sovereign pleasure of the Being that we had offended by sin. This seems to be the great drift of that revelation which God has given, and of all those mysteries it reveals, all those greai doctrines that are peculiarly doctrines of revelation, and above the light of nature. It seems to have been very much on this account, that it was requisite the doctrine of the Trinity itself should be revealed to us; that by a discovery of the concern of the several divine persons in the great affair of our salvation, we might the better understand and see how all our dependence in this affair is on God, and our sufficiency all in bim, and not in ourselves; that he is all in all in this business, agreeable to 1 Cor. i. 29–31. “ That no flesh should glory in his presence, But of him are ye 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.” What is the gospel, but only the glad tidings of a new way of acceptance with God unto life, a way wherein sinners may come to be free from the guilt of sin, and obtain a title to eternal life? And if, when this way is revealed, it is rejected, and another of man's devising be put in the room of it, without doubt, it must be an error of great importance, and the apostle might well say it was another gospel.
5. The contrary scheme of justification derogates much from the honour of God and the Mediator. I have already shewn how it diminishes the glory of the Mediator, in ascribing that to man's virtue and goodness, which belongs alone to his worthiness and righteousness. By the apostle's sense of the matter it renders Christ needless. Gal. v. A. “ Christ is become of no effect to you, whosoever of you are justified by the law." If that scheme of justification be followed in its consequences, it utterly overthrows the glory of all the great things that have been contrived, and done, and suffered in the work of redemption. Gal. ii. 21. “ If righteousness come by the law, Christ is dead in vain.” It has also been already shewn how it diminishes the glory of divine grace, (which is the attribute God hath especially set himself to glorify in the work of redemption ;) and so that it greatly diminishes the obligation to gratitude in the sinner that is saved. Yea, in the sense of the apostle, it makes void the distinguishing grace of the gospel. Gal. v. 4. “ Whosoever of you are justified by the law, are fallen from grace.” It diminishes the glory of the grace of God and the Redeemer, and proportionably magnifies man. It makes the goodness and excellency of fallen man to be something, which I have shewn are nothing. I have also already shewn, that it is contrary to the truth of God in the threatening of his holy law, to justify the sinner for his virtue. And whether it were contrary to God's truth or no, it is a scheme of things very unworthy of God. It supposes that God, when about to lift up a poor forlorn malefactor condemned to eternal misery for sinning against his majesty, and to make him unspeakably and eternally happy by bestowing his Son and himself upon him, as it were, sets all this to sale, for the price of his virtue and excellency. I know that those whom we oppose acknowledge, that the price is very disproportionate to the benefit bestowed; and say, that God's grace is wonderfully manifested in accepting so little virtue, and bestowing so glorious a reward for such imperfect righteousness. But seeing we are such infinitely sinful and abominable creatures in God's sight, and by our infinite guilt have brought
ourselves into such wretched and deplorable circumstances-and all our righteousnesses are nothing, and ten thousand times worse than nothing, if God looks upon them as they are in themselves—is it not immensely more worthy of the infinite majesty and glory of God, to deliver and make happy such wretched vagabonds and captives, without any money or price of theirs, or any manner of expectation of excellency or virtue in them, in any wise to recommend them? Will it not betray a foolish exalting opinion of ourselves, and a mean one of God, to have a thought of offering any thing of ours, to recommend us to the favour of being brought from wallowing, like filtby swine, in the mire of our sins, and from the enmity and misery of devils in the lowest bell, to the state of God's dear children, in the everlasting arms of his love in heavenly glory; or to imagine that it is the constitution of God, that we should bring our filthy rags, and offer them to him as the price of this ?
6. The opposite scheme does most directly tend to lead men to trust in their own righteousness for justification, which is a thing fatal to the soul. This is what men are of themselves exceeding prone to do, (and that though they are never so much taught the contrary,) through the partial and high thoughts they have of themselves, and their exceeding dulness of apprehending any such mystery as our being accepted for the righteousness of another. But this scheme directly teaches men to trust in their own righteousness for justification; in that it teaches them that this is indeed what they must be justified by, being the way of justification which God himself has appointed. So that if a man had naturally no disposition to trust in his own righteousness, yet if he embraced this scheme, and acted consistently, it would lead him to it. But that trusting in our own righteousness, is a thing fatal to the soul, is what the scripture plainly teaches us. It tells us, that it will cause that Christ shall profit us nothing, and be of no effect to us, Gal. v. 2–4. For though the apostle speaks there particularly of circumcision, yet it is not merely being circumcised,
, but trusting in circumcision as a righteousness, that the apostle has respect to. He could not mean, that merely being circumcised would render Christ of no profit or effect to a person ; for we read that he himself, for certain reasons, took Timothy and circumcised him, Acts xvi. 3. And the same is evident by the context, and by the rest of the epistle. And the apostle speaks of trusting in their own righteousness as fatal to the Jews, Rom. ix. 31, 32. “But Israel, wbich followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it, not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law: for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone.' Together with chap. x. verse 3. “For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to