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solation. Yes, disconsolate soul, though you have no righteousness, nor any recommendation, yet the wisdom of God has appointed a way, and the infinite riches of sovereign grace have provided effectual means, for your full discharge before the great tribunal, and for attaining that honour and joy which are commensurate to your utmost wishes, which exceed your highest conceptions, and shall render you happy to all eternity. Is my reader oppressed with guilt, and harassed with fears of deserved ruin? wearied with going about to establish his own righteousness,' and sensible that he is possessed of no worth, nor of any thing which might be a means of recommending him to the Redeemer ? remember, distressed fellow-mortal, that no such recommendation is needful. Nothing is required at your hand for any such purpose. Come and take freely,' is the language of Jesus. He has all that you want, however impoverished, and He gives all with the most liberal hand. Grace reigns, and let that be your encouragement when you think about acceptance with Christ, and of your justification in him before the Almighty.
If my reader, notwithstanding all that has been said, should yet think it prudent and safe to depend on his own obedience, let me remind him, before I dismiss the subject, of the absolute purity and infinite holiness, the transcendent majesty and awful glories of that God with whom he has to do, and before whom he must soon appear. Consider, vain, presumptuous mortal! that with the sovereign Judge is 'terrible majesty,' that He is of purer eyes than to look upon evil, and cannot behold iniquity; will by no means clear the guilty, and is a consuming fire.' His righteous judgment is, that they who commit sin are worthy of death; and therefore his law denounces an awful curse on every offender. *-Remember that he, whose supreme prerogative it is to justify, is a jealous God; jealous of his honour as a righteous governor, and de
* Job xxxvii. 22. Hab. i. 13. Exod. xxxiv. 7. Heb. xii. 29. Rom. i. 32. Gal. iii. 10. N 3
termined to support the rights of his throne; and so terrible in his indignation, that when once his wrath is kindled, it will utterly consume every refuge of lies, 'and burn to the lowest hell.'-So awfully majestic is Jehovah, that' before him the everlasting mountains quake, the pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof.' As his condescending smile irradiates the countenance of angels, and crowns them with unutterable bliss; so his righteous frown is nothing less than absolute destruction. So divine his purity,and so dazzling his glory,that he looketh to the moon and it shineth not, and the stars are not pure in his sight.' In his presence the flaming seraphim, those most exalted of mere creatures, veil their faces, and cover their feet,' in token of profound humiliation, while they cry, in loud responsive strains, Holy Holy! Holy! is the Lord of Hosts! How, then,' to use the language of Bildad in Job; how, then,' can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean' before his Maker, that is born of a woman?'* When He, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, whose peculiar province it is to search the human heart, and explore its latent evils; when he shall sift your conduct, and mark your offences, 'laying judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet,' you will not be able to answer him one of a thousand:' and to what refuge will you then flee? Trusting in your own duties, you slight the great atonement; you despise the revealed righteousness, and Christ shall profit you nothing.-You may talk in lofty strains about man's moral excellence, and the dignity of human nature; the worth of personal obedience, and the efficacy of penitential tears; you may declaim aloud about the necessity of good works, and reject with disdain the doctrine of imputed righteousness, while your conscience is unimpressed with a sight of the divine purity, and a sense of the divine presence. But when you come to consider
*Neh. i. 5. Job xxvi. 11. xxv. 5. Isa. vi. 2, 3. Job xxv. 4.
yourself as before the Most High, and that the important question is, ' How shall I be just before the Most Holy?'-when you form your ideas of the God of heaven, not from the character you have drawn of him in your own imagination, but agreeable to that which is given in the inspired volume, then your pretensions to personal worthiness must subside, and your mouth must be stopped; or, if not entirely silent, you must exclaim with the men of Bethshemesh, when Jehovah's hand was heavy upon them, 'Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?'* Then if the atonement be not presented for your relief, you will be ready to add, Who shall dwell with devouring fire? who shall dwell with everlasting burnings?'+
The Holy Spirit, speaking in the scriptures, directs us to conceive of justification as before God, and in his sight; intimating that when our final acceptance is the subject of our inquiry, we should look upon ourselves as in the immediate presence of Him who will soon ascend the great white throne to pass the irreversible sentence; that we should consider on what ground we shall be able to stand, when heaven and earth shall flee away from the face of the eternal Judge, and no place shall be found for them.'§ Yes, reader, if you would not deceive yourself in a matter of the last importance, if you would come to a satisfactory persuasion in what righteousness you may venture to trust, you should consider yourself as at the bar of God, and as having a cause depending which is pregnant with your everlasting fate-a cause which must inevitably issue either in your eternal happiness or infinite misery. You should anticipate, in your own meditations, that great decisive day, and then ask your own conscience 'On what shall I then depend? or, what shall I dare to plead, when my astonished eyes behold my Judge?' And remember, that it would be superlative folly for you to
*1 Sam, vi. 20.
Psal. cxliii. 2. Rom. iii. 20.
+ Isa. xxxiii. 14.
rely on any obedience now, or to dispute for it as necessary to justification, of which your own conscience cannot approve, as a plea which will then be admitted as valid.
Consider yet further the ingenuous acknowledgments and deep confessions which the greatest saints and holiest men that ever lived, have made of their impurity and sinfulness, when their acceptance with that sublime Being, who is 'glorious in holiness,' came under consideration. - Job was an eminent saint; he had not his equal on earth, according to the testimony of God himself. But though he could vindicate his cause before his fellow-creatures, and maintain his exemplary conduct against the accusations of his censorious friends, yet when the Almighty addressed him, and when he considered himself as standing before the divine tribunal, he says not a word about his inherent rectitude or pious performances; but,in language of the deepest self-abasement, he cries out, Behold I am vile! I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.' Yea he declares,' If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me: If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Though I were perfect' in my own apprehension,' yet,' before him that is infinitely holy, I would be so far from pleading my own extraordinary attainments, that I would not know my soul;' yea, I would despise my life,' with all its most shining accomplishments. For 'if I wash myself with snow-water, and make my hands ever so clean, yet shalt Thou,' O righteous and eternal Judge, 'plunge me in the ditch-manifest me, notwithstanding all my endeavours to obtain purity and find acceptance, to be a polluted creature and a guilty criminal-so abominably filthy and highly criminal, that my own clothes,' were they sensible of my pollution and guilt,' would abhor me. For he,' to whom I am accountable, is not a man as I am, ' but a Being of such discernment, that the minutest fault cannot escape his notice; and so perfectly holy, that the least spot of defilement is infinitely abhorrent
in his sight. It is, therefore, absolutely impossible 'that I should answer him,' plead my cause, and gain acceptance on the foundation of my own obedience; or that we should, on any such footing, come together in judgment,' without inevitable ruin to my person and all my immortal interests.* David, that man after God's own heart, made it his earnest request that God would not enter into judgment with him," according to the tenor of his own obedience, being well aware that neither he nor any man living could be justified in any such way. To rebuke the pride of self-righteous confidence, with emotions of holy reveence and sacred awe, he asks, 'If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand,' who can be acquitted?+ Isaiah also, though an eminent prophet, and a distinguished servant of God, when he beheld Jehovah's glory, and heard the seraphim proclaim his holiness, cried out, 'Woe is me! for I am undone! because I am a man of unclean lips.'‡ Nor was his consternation removed, or his conscience relieved, till pardon, through the atonement, was applied to him in a figure. §
Now, is it prudent, or can it be safe, for you to trust in your own imperfect duties, when persons of such eminent characters and exalted piety made such acknowledgments, and had such views of themselves and their own attainments? If their personal obedience would not bear the divine scrutiny, what a wretched figure must yours make before the heartsearching God! If Jehovah' charge his angels with folly,' and if the heavens be not pure in his sight, what then is man, who drinketh iniquity like water, that he should' pretend to be clean? or the son of man, that he should' presume to be righteous ?' For between human obedience and angelic holiness there is no more comparison than between a clod of
*Job xl. 4. and xlii. 6. and ix. 20, 21. 30, 31, 32.