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obedience, certainly all thought of that is vain ; it would not cancel past offences, and the wages of every sin of my life is death : death, which may not be remitted, which must be endured ; while also every day and hour I am sinning afresh, and adding to the number of my provocations and the load of my guilt. I cannot therefore make God satisfaction by better obedience. No, nor would my endurance of ten millions of years' imprisonment in hell retrieve the disgrace my sins have brought upon him. The wrath to come is eternal, because injured Majesty can never be satisfied by any measure of punishment laid upon sinners. There is then utterly no hope in myself; but I have heard of Jesus ; I know him to be the Son of God; I am satisfied his business in the world was to save sinners; I am assured that, infinite God as he is, he took up our nature ; in that nature, he put all possible and more than conceivable honour upon the law by his obedience unto it; and by his death made such a satisfaction to God's justice as ten thousand times ten thousand hells could not equal. Him God has accepted in his atonement for sinners; for I see him for his obedience unto death exalted to glory and immortality, as the representative of believing sinners. I hear, in consideration of that death, the most blessed promises issued out from the court of heaven, and recorded in that book which shall outlive the world. God himself has told me, that all that believe in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Yea, he has commanded me, upon the peril of my soul, to believe on the name of his only-begotten Son. Since then God will have it so, and will get himself glory by freely justifying the ungodly, I have humbly taken him at his word, and do put in my claim to his pardon and acceptance in consideration of the obedience and death of Jesus. Hither am I come for refuge, and here do I rest my soul upon the Redeemer's righteousness. Confessing my sins, I lay my hand upon his head, and ask the offered mercy, and proclaim this to be all my salvation ; while in the sight of all my guilt, in the prospect of death, and judgment, and hell, I joyfully take up my word, and say, I believe in Jesus. Let others seek salvation and rest their hope where they will, I believe in Jesus." Here
you find is a plain renunciation of all self-righteousness,
and as plain and full acceptance of the righteousness of Jesus. And, in truth, what an absurdity is it, to declare a belief in Jesus for pardon and acceptance with God, when we are cleaving, either in whole or in part, unto a pretended righteousness of our own ? You cannot but observe, that to accept Christ's righteousness is to disclaim our own, as utterly insufficient; and when we say, I believe in Jesus, what do we other than publish our relinquishing all hope from the one, and our placing all hope in the other; since it is so evident that the point before us is a matter of Christian faith, and that, as persons saved by grace, we do hereby acknowledge our consent to such salvation ? Yet, after all, this is sooner said than done. There are many things standing in the way of our saying, in sincerity of heart, I believe in Jesus as my Deliverer from the curse of the law due to me and threatened against me for my sins. Wherefore we shall do well seriously to inquire into this business. I would ask therefore two very plain questions.
1.- Are we all truly made sensible that we have no righteousness of our own ? By righteousness is meant a conformity with the law of God in heart and life. Whoever can produce this conformity with the law of God is certainly righteous; has a righteousness of his own upon which he may safely stand, and has no manner of need of the righteousness of Jesus the Saviour. But then you must take notice, this must be a perfect conformity of heart and life, and that at all times, for the law speaks but one language, and admits of no abatements. Should there be outward perfect conformity, yet, if the inward be wanting, that could not avail ; yea, and though there should be outward and inward both, yet, if it were not always so, we could not pretend any right, as sinless. Upon this state of the case, every man without exception is ready to own, “ I am not come up to this ; we are all sinners.” Even they who do not see their hearts, and the ocean of iniquity that is there, cannot help owning that in word and deed they have many times sinned ; and they who do know their hearts will be as ready to own that matters have been a great deal worse with them. Now you would be apt to think, when people talk at this rate, they do very readily disclaim all self-righteousness, and lean on nothing within themselves. But, in truth, it is no such matter; we have many a shift under all
this acknowledgment of guilt to make ourselves easy. We have the art of making small account of sins, and great account of duties; putting out the eye of conviction by the many good things we seemingly do, and teaching our consciences to say, they are not such mighty matters in which we are to blame. We have a strange dexterity in finding out excuses, and so letting the thing pass as if it were nothing ; “ It is true I was very angry, but they provoked me, and the like.” We have a trick of forgetfulness ; commit sin, and, in a day or two, all is as if we had never done amiss. We are very ready at comparisons; “O I would not do as such-an-one does for the world ! What will the world come to? What! have people lost all shame ?” We are ready to put one thing against another, as the saying is ; “ True, I have done so and so, but then, in other things, no one can say any harm of me; for I am sure no one can say whore, thief, or drunkard." There is no end of those inventions which pride will be suggesting to patch up a sort of righteousness, upon which people will sleep as quietly as if the law had laid no charge against them, or as if they were secured under the righteousness of Christ. Now, brethren, are none of you upon this footing ? Are none of you thinking pretty well of yourselves upon the whole, and for one thing and another hoping that you are in a tolerable case, although you have not seriously seen your
lost condition as sinners, nor come to Jesus to save you from the wrath that is to come ? This is no uncommon case, it is most certain ; and if it were the case of none of us, we should not lead the cold, selfish, lukewarm, indifferent lives that too many
do. 2.—But if we are really sensible that we have no righteousness of our own, are we not going about to seek one as well as we can ? It is a common language, I know, upon sick beds, “O, if I recover, I will never do as I have done.” And, without question, what some do in sickness others practise in health, to wit, stifle convictions by resolutions.
Then, again, you may be apt to think in yourself, “ Well, for my part, I have done with pleasures and company-keeping ; it is not with me now as it was formerly; I have done with the world ; I read my Bible, and keep my church, and say my
prayers. Surely things are altered with me much for the better."
Or you may go about to set up your own righteousness this way,
“ Come, I will be charitable, I will give to the poor,” thinking to make amends for your sins by your liberality. Or this way again, “O, if I could but forsake and get the better of such a thing, if it were not for such a particular sin that I so often fall into ! That must be forsaken, and then all will be right.” Devices of this kind are very natural to the pride of man, and which, I doubt not, every person here present has found his heart busily employed in at one time or other. But, in the mean time, they are but so many tricks to heal up
the wounds of a gnawing conscience, to stop true conviction of sin, and to keep us from Christ, without whom we perish. Can any purpose, or even practice of reformation, with never so many good things performed by us, make up for old sins, that is (for nothing less will do), make them in truth to be none? If not, if they are still our sins, are not we still chargeable with them ? Who should, but ourselves ? And has not God said, The wages of sin is death? How then shall that sentence be annulled ? There are two capital objections to this scheme which we are considering. The one is, that a perfect conformity to God's law now, could I attain it, would make no satisfaction for past iniquities ; for, in that case, I should only do my present duty, and consequently leave the debt of old sins just where it was, absolutely undischarged. The other, that I do not in fact now conform to God's law, no, nor ever shall, according to the strict spirituality of it ; so that, in reality, the longer I live, the more I enlarge my debt, and the obligation to punishment. But, notwithstanding this, many still, who have not a righteousness of their own, will be for getting one as well as they can, vainly hoping to stand in it before God.
Now, in either of these cases, you must needs see there can be no real belief in Jesus Christ for pardon and acceptance with God. If either we conceit we have a righteousness of our own, or are seeking to get one, we are quite out of God's way, of justifying the ungodly by the righteousness of Jesus. And, I beseech you, let us consider ; we say, we believe in Jesus : but do we so, when we trust in ourselves ? Is it possible I should make both my own righteousness and that of Jesus my foundation at once ? The truth is, we do not go closely to the bottom with ourselves to see the truth of our case, we have and can have no legal righteousness. That God knows, and therefore in mercy has provided one for us in Jesus. But, if you doubt this, state the matter fairly before your own conscience. Have you ever answered, or can you now answer, the demands of the law ? If you say, no ; (and that you must say, if you know but never so little of God's law and of your own heart ;) then it is plain to your conscience that you are destitute of the laws of righteousness, and are a sinner. And thereupon the question is, how will you get God's favour?
What! by your own righteousness, when you say you have and can have none ? or by the righteousness of Jesus, which God has provided for you? God's favour is what
But then, since you are a sinner, you have no right to it, and must be thankful to take it in God's own way; otherwise you will go without it, and your sins, guilt, and punishment, rest on your own head. It is the thought of that should alarm you. O think of it with all soberness. You have sinned, and Death standeth at the door. How great a death ! and how eternal ! O think of your sins, and think of your sentence, and think how you can possibly escape, if you neglect so great salvation !