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is mercy with him. Bring then all thy sins to the pardoning God, and they shall vanish away as a cloud. If thou wert not ungodly, there would be no room for him to justify thee as ungodly. But now draw near, in full assurance of faith. He speaketh and it is done. “ Fear not, only believe ; for even the just God justifieth all that believe in Jesus."
II. 1. These things considered, it would be easy to show, as I proposed to do in the second place, the folly of trusting in the "righteousness which is of the law," and the wisdom of“ submitting to the righteousness which is of faith."
The folly of those who still trust in the "righteousness which is of the law," the terms of which are, Do this and live, may abundantly appear from hence: They set out wrong : their very first step is a fundamental mistake: for, before they can ever think of claiming any blessing, on the terms of this covenant, they must suppose themselves to be in his state, with whom this covenant was made. But how vain a supposition is this; since it was made with Adam in a state of innocence! How weak, therefore, must that whole building be, which stands on such a foundation ! And how foolish are they who thus build on the sand! who seem never to have considered, that the covenant of works was not given to man, when he was “ dead in trespasses and sins,” but when he was alive to God, when he knew no sin, but was holy as God is holy: who forget, that it was never designed for the recovery of the favour and life of God once lost, but only for the continuance and increase thereof, till it should be complete in life everlasting.
2. Neither do they consider, who are thus“ seeking to establish their own righteousness, which is of the law,” what' manner of obedience or righteousness that is which the law indispensably requires. It must be perfect and entire in every point, or it answers not the demand of the saw. But which of you is able to perform such obedience ? Or, consequently, to live thereby? Who among you fulfils every jot and titule, even of the outward commandments of God ? Doing nothing, great or small, which God forbids ? Leaving nothing undone which he enjoins ? Speaking no idle word? Having your conversation always “ meet to minister grace to the hearers ?” And," whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, doing all to the glory of God ?" And how much less are you able to fulfil all the inward commandments of God! Those which require, that every temper and motion of your soul should be holiness unto the Lord! Are you able to "love God with all your heart ?" To love all mankind as your own soul ? To "pray without ceasing ? In every thing to give thanks ?" To have God always before you ? And to keep every affection, desire, and thought, in obedience to his law ?
3. You should farther consider, that the righteousness of the law requires, not only the obeying every command of God, negative and positive, internal and external, but likewise in the perfect degree. In every instance whatever, the voice of the law is, Thou shalt serve the Lord thy God with all thy strength. It allows no abatement of any kind: it excuses no defect: it condemns every coming short of the full measure of obedience, and immediately pronounces a curse on the offender : it regards only the invariable rules of justice, and saith “I know not to show mercy."
4. Who then can appear before such a Judge, who is “extreme to mark what is done amiss ?" How weak are they who desire to be
tried at the bar, where “no flesh living can be justified ?”-none of the offspring of Adam. For, suppose we did now keep every commandment with all our strength; yet one single breach, which ever was, utterly destroys our whole claim to life. If we have ever offended in any one point, this righteousness is at an end. For the law condemns all who do not perform uninterrupted as well as perfect obedience. So
hat, according to the sentence of this, for him who hath once sinned, in any degree, " there remaineth only a fearful looking for of fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” of God.
5. Is it not then the very foolishness of folly, for fallen man to seek life by this righteousness ? For man, who was "shapen in wickedness, and in sin did his mother conceive him ?" Man who is, by nature, a)! " earthly, sensual, devilish;" altogether “corrupt and abominable ;' in whom, till he find grace, “ dwelleth no good thing ;” nay, who cannot of himself think one good thought; who is indeed all sin, a mere lump of ungodliness, and who commits sin in every breath he draws; whose actual transgressions, in word and deed, are more in number than the hairs of his head? What stupidity, what senselessness must it be for such an unclean, guilty, helpless worm as this, to dream of seeking acceptance by" his own righteousness," of living by the righteousness which is of the law.!
6. Now, whatsoever considerations prove the folly of trusting 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 con ceive, or find words to express ? That hereby we are prone to all tha is evil, and averse from all that is good ; that we are full of pride, selfwill, 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; insomnuch, 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 righteousness 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 Jove, 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 unme rited 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 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 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 shal wash thee, and thou “shalt be whiter than snow."
3. Do not say, “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?
“ O Lamb of God, was ever pain,
Was ever love like thine !"
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 day-spring from on high, before the morning light. Oh do not set him a time! Expect him every hour. Now he is nigh! Even at the door!
5 And to what end wouldst 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 not; not because thou art righteous, but because Jesus Christ hath atoned for thy sins.
Again, if there be any thing 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 dost, or whatsoever thou hast, before thy sins are forgiven thee, it avails nothing with God, towards 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 well beloved Son, who loved thee, and gave himself for thee.
6. To conclude. Whosoever thou art, oh 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 on 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.'
SERMON VII.-The Way to the Kingdom.
“ The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe tho gospel,” Mark i, 15
Acts xv, 1,
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 IIoly 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,"
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 any thing 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 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 deeper, than all
these. These are good in their place; just so far as they are in fact subservient to true religion. And it were superstition to object against them, while they are applied only as occasional helps to human weakness. But let no man carry them farther. Let no man dream that they have any intrinsic worth ; or that religion cannot subsist without them. This were to make them an abomination to the Lord.
5. The nature of religion is so far from consisting in these, in forms of worship, or rites and ceremonies, that it does not properly consist in any outward actions, of what kind soever. It is true, a man cannot