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in the “righteousness which is of the law,” prove equally the wisdom of submitting to the “righteousness which is of God by faith.” This were easy to be shown with regard to each of the preceding considerations. But, to waive this, the wisdom of the first step hereto, the disclaiming our own righteousness, plainly appears from hence, that it is acting according to truth, to the real nature of things. For, what is it more, than to acknowledge with our heart as well as lips, the true state wherein we are ? to acknowledge, that we bring with us into the world a corrupt, sinful nature; more corrupt, indeed, than we can easily conceive, or find words to exprers ? that hereby we are prone to all that is evil, and averse from all that is good ; that we are full of pride, self-will, unruly passions, foolish desires, vile and inordinate affections; lovers of the world, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God ? that our lives have been no better than our hearts, but many ways ungodly and unholy; insomuch that our actual sins, both in word and deed, have been as the stars of heaven for multitude; that, on all these accounts, we are displeasing to Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and deserve nothing from him but indignation and wrath and death, the due wages of sin ? that we cannot, by any of our righteousness, (for indeed we have none at all,) nor by any of our works, (for they are as the tree upon which they grow,) appease the wrath of God, or avert the punishment we have justly deserved; yea, that, if left to ourselves, we shall only wax worse and worse, sink deeper and deeper into sin, offend God more and more, both with our evil works, and with the evil tempers of our carnal mind, till we fill up the measure of our iniquities, and bring upon ourselves swift destruction ? And is not this the very state wherein by nature we are? To acknowledge this, then, both with our heart and lips, that is, to disclaim our own righteousness, “ the righteousness which is of the law,” is to act according to the real nature of things, and, consequently, is an instance of true wisdom.
7. The wisdom of submitting to the righteousness of faith," appears farther, from this consideration, that it is the righteous ness of God : I mean here, it is that method of reconciliation with God which hath been chosen and established by God himself, not only as he is the God of wisdom, but as he is the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, and of every creature which he hath made. Now, as it is not meet for man to say unto God,
“What doest thou ?”.
as none, who is not utterly void of understanding, will contend with One that is mightier than he, with Him whose kingdom ruleth over all; so it is true wisdom, it is a mark of sound understanding, to acquiesce in whatever he hath chosen ; to say in this, as in all things, “It is the Lord : Let him do what seemeth him good."
8. It may be farther considered, that it was of mere grace, of free love, of undeserved mercy, that God hath vouchsafed to sinful man any way
of reconciliation with himself, that we were not cut away from his hand, and utterly blotted out of his remembrance. Therefore, whatever method he is pleased to appoint, of his tender mercy, of his unmerited goodness, whereby his enemies, who have so deeply revolted from him, so long and obstinately rebelled against him, may still find favour in his sight, it is doubtless our wisdom to accept it with all thankfulness.
9. To mention but one consideration more. It is wisdom to aim at the best end by the best means. Now the best end which any creature can pursue is, happiness in God. And the best end a fallen creature can pursue is, the recovery of the favour and image of God. But the best, indeed the only means under heaven given to a man, whereby he may regain the favour of God, which is better than life itself, or the image of God, which is the true life of the soul, is the submitting to the “righteousness which is of faith,” the believing in the only-begotten Son of God.
III. 1. Whosoever therefore thou art, who desirest to be forgiven and reconciled to the favour of God, do not say in thy heart, “I must first do this; I must first conquer every sin ; break off every evil word and work, and do all good to all men ; or, I must first go to church, receive the Lord's Supper, hear more sermons, and say more prayers.” Alas, my brother ! Thou art clean gone out of the way. Thou art still “ ignorant of the righteousness of God," and art “seeking to establish thy own righteousness," as the ground of thy reconciliation. Knowest thou not, that thou canst do nothing but sin, till thou art reconciled to God? Wherefore, then, dost thou say, “I must do this and this first, and then I shall believe?” Nay, but first believe! Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Propitiation for thy sins. Let this good foundation first be laid, and then thou shalt do all things well.
2. Neither say in thy heart, “ I cannot be accepted yet,
because I am not good enough." Who is good enough,—who ever was,—to merit acceptance at God's hands ? Was ever any child of Adam good enough for this? or will any till the consummation of all things? And as for thee, thou art not good at all: There dwelleth in thee no good thing. And thou never wilt be, till thou believe in Jesus. Rather thou wilt find thyself worse and worse. But is there any need of being worse, in order to be accepted? Art thou not bad enough already? Indeed thou art, and that God knoweth. And thou thyself canst not deny it. Then delay not. All things are now ready. “ Arise, and wash away thy sins.” The fountain is open. Now is the time to wash thee white in the blood of the Lamb. Now he shall “ purge” thee as “with hyssop," and thou shalt “ be clean:" He shall“ wash” thee, and thou shalt “ be whiter than snow.”
6 But I am not contrite enough: I am not sensible enough of my sins." I know it. I would to God thou wert more sensible of them, more contrite a thousand fold than thou art. But do not stay for this. It may be, God will make thee so, not before thou believest, but by believing. It may be, thou wilt not weep much till thou lovest much because thou hast had much forgiven. In the mean time, look unto Jesus. Behold, how he loveth thee! What could he have done more for thee which he hath not done?
3. Do not say,
O Lamb of God, was ever pain,
Was ever love like tbine ?
Look steadily upon him, till he looks on thee, and breaks thy hard heart. Then shall thy “head" be “ waters,” and thy “ eyes fountains of tears."
4. Nor yet do thou say, “ I must do something more before I come to Christ." I grant, supposing thy Lord should delay his coming, it were meet and right to wait for his appearing, in doing, so far as thou hast power, whatsoever he hath commanded thee. But there is no necessity for making such a supposition. How knowest thou that he will delay? Perhaps he will appear, as the dayspring from on high, before the morning light. O do not set him a time! Expect him every hour. Now he is nigh! Even at the door!
5. And to what end wouldest thou wait for more sincerity, before thy sins are blotted out? To make thee more worthy of the grace of God? Alas, thou art still“ establishing thy own righteousness.” He will have mercy, not because thou art worthy of it, but because his compassions fail tiot; not because thou art righteous, but because Jesus Christ hath atoned for thy sins.
Again, if there be anything good in sincerity, why dost thou expect it before thou hast faith?—seeing faith itself is the only root of whatever is really good and holy.
Above all, how long wilt thou forget, that whatsoever thou doest, or whatsoever thou hast, before thy sins are forgiven thee, it avails nothing with God toward the procuring of thy forgiveness ? yea, and that it must all be cast behind thy back, trampled under foot, made no account of, or thou wilt never find favour in God's sight; because, until then, thou canst not ask it, as a mere sinner, guilty, lost, undone, having nothing to plead, nothing to offer to God, but only the merits of his wellbeloved Son, “ who loved thee, and gave himself for thee !"
6. To conclude. Whosoever thou art, O man, who hast the sentence of death in thyself, who feelest thyself a condemned sinner, and hast the wrath of God abiding on thee : Unto thee saith the Lord, not,“ Do this,”-perfectly obey all my commands, “ and live;" but, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." The word of faith is nigh unto thee:” Now, at this instant, in the present moment, and in thy present state, sinner as thou art, just as thou art, believe the gospel; and “ I will be merciful unto thy unrighteousness, and thy iniquities will I remember no more.”
THE WAY TO THE KINGDOM.
“ The kingdom of God is at hand: Repent ye, and believe
the gospel." Mark i. 15.
THESE words naturally lead us to consider, First, the nature of true religion, here termed by our Lord, “ the kingdom of
God,” which, saith he, “is at hand;" and, Secondly, the way thereto, which he points out in those words, “ Repent ye, and believe the gospel."
I. 1. We are, First, to consider the nature of true religion, here termed by our Lord, “ the kingdom of God.” The same expression the great Apostle uses in his Epistle to the Romans, where he likewise explains his Lord's words, saying, “ The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. xiv. 17.)
2 “ The kingdom of God," or true religion, “is not meat and drink.” It is well known, that not only the unconverted Jews, but great numbers of those who had received the faith of Christ, were, notwithstanding, “ zealous of the law,” (Acts xxi. 20,) even the ceremonial law of Moses. Whatsoever, therefore, they found written therein, either concerning meat and drink offerings, or the distinction between clean and unclean meats, they not only observed themselves, but vehemently pressed the same, even on those “ among the Gentiles” (or Heathens) “who were turned to God;" yea, to such a degree, that some of them taught, wheresoever they came among them, “Except ye be circumcised, and keep the law,” (the whole ritual law,)“ ye cannot be saved.” (Acts xv. 1, 24.)
3. In opposition to these, the Apostle declares, both here and in many other places, that true religion does not consist in meat and drink, or in any ritual observances; nor, indeed, in any outward thing whatever ; in anything exterior to the heart; the whole substance thereof lying in “ righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
4. Not in any outward thing ; such as forms, or ceremonies, even of the most excellent kind. Supposing these to be ever so decent and significant, ever so expressive of inward things: Supposing them ever so helpful, not only to the vulgar, whose thought reaches little farther than their sight; but even to men of understanding, men of stronger capacities, as doubtless they may sometimes be: Yea, supposing them, as in the case of the Jews, to be appointed by God himself; yet even during the period of time wherein that appointment remains in force, true religion does not principally consist therein; nay, strictly speaking, not at all. How much more must this hold concerning such rites and forms as are only of human appointment! The religion of Christ rises infinitely higher, and lies immensely