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paratively short, yet for this the infinite dignity of his person was a full compensation. When we consider that it was the Son of God, and the Lord of glory, who bled and died under every cirumstance of infamy and pain all the dreadful monuments of divine justice inflicted on the sons of violence and rebellion in past ages, and transmitted to posterity in the most authentic records-all the misery that awaits the disobedient and licentious world, and is denounced in the book of God, cannot raise our ideas of the vindictive justice of the great Sovereign so high as a remembrance of the bitter though transitory sufferings of the divine Jesus.
The excellencies of this righteousness appear from the characters it bears in holy writ. To signify its unspotted purity, it is called 'fine linen, clean and white.' To denote its completeness, it is called a robe. To hold forth its exquisite beauty, richness, and glory, it is called a clothing of wrought gold, and raiment of needle-work; and to point out its unequalled excellency, it is called the best robe. It is better than the robe of innocence with which our first parents were clothed before the fall-yea, better than the righteousness of angels in glory. For theirs is but the obedience of mere creatures, dependent beings. But this (which is the highest epithet language can give) is the righteousness of God. Its nature and properties are such, that the Lord himself seems to glory in it, frequently calling it his righteousness.*
Again: It is an everlasting righteousness.+ It is a robe the beauty of which will never be tarnished, a garment that will never decay, and clothing that will never wear out. When millions of ages shall have run their ample round, it will continue the same that it was the first day it came into use; and when millions more are elapsed, there will be no alteration. The continuance of its efficacy, beauty, and glory,
* Rev. xix. 8.
Isa. Ixi. 10.
Psal. xlv. 13, 14. Luke xv. 22. 2 Cor. v. 21. Rom. x. 3. Jer. xxiii. 6. Isa. xlvi. 13. and·li. 5, 6. 8. lvi. 1.
will be lasting as the light of the new Jerusalem, unfading as the eternal inheritance.
Further: It is a righteousness already performed. It is not something now to be wrought by the operations of the Spirit of Christ in us. No; it was completed, thoroughly completed, when the divine Redeemer cried, 'It is finished!' and gave up the ghost. But here many persons fall into a fatal mistake. Ready they are to imagine that sinners are accepted of God in virtue of a righteousness wrought in them, and performed by them, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit; which assistance, they suppose, was purchased for them by the death of Christ for that purpose. But so long as this is the case, they never can experience what it is to be in a justified state. Besides, when the blessed Jesus died, he did not do something to assist our weak but willing endeavours to save ourselves; he did not lay in a provision of grace, or purchase the Spirit for us, by which the defects of enfeebled nature might be supplied, and we rendered capable of performing the condition of our justification. But at that awful and ever-memorable period when he bowed his head and expired, he, by himself alone, perfectly finished that righteousness which is the proper condition and grand requisite of our justification. That the Spirit of grace and truth, as given to any, is a fruit, a precious fruit, of the death, resurrection, and glorification of Christ, is freely acknowledged; but that he died to purchase the Spirit, to work in us any part of that righteousness on account of which we are accepted of God, must be denied. For the principal work of the Spirit in the economy of grace, Jesus himself bearing witness, is to testify of him, and reveal his glory to the conscience. He shall testify of me-he shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.'* Nor does the Spirit of truth act as a sanctifier, till, in the order of nature, we are perfectly
* John xv. 26. and xvi. 14. 1 Cor. ii. 12,
justified; and when justified, he effects our sanctification by that very truth which reveals the obedience of Christ as a finished work. To think otherwise is according to the Popish scheme, which confounds justification and sanctification together; but is very far from being the doctrine of the apostles, and also contrary to the sentiments of our first reformers, and all their genuine successors, both at home and abroad.
But notwithstanding what has been said concerning the matchless excellence of the Redeemer's righteousness, the reader whose mind is enlightened to behold the defects attending his own best performances, and whose conscience is affected with a sense of deserved wrath, will, peradventure, be ready to say, As to the glorious nature and superlative excellence of this obedience, there is no dispute. But is it free for the sinner? Is it not rather designed for those who are someway qualified for it by a set of holy principles, and a series of pious actions-such as are distinguished from the altogether worthless and vile? Is there any possibility for a miserable sinner, an obnoxious wretch, one whose transgressions are great, and corruptions strong, to partake of it, and be made happy by it? and if there be, which is the way? To these solicitous and interesting inquiries, the oracles of God furnish us with a copious and substantial answer. They inform us that there is another excellency attending it, which has a particular respect to the manner of its communication, and therefore ought by no means to be overlooked. Blessed be God! the unerring word warrants me to assert that his righteousness is absolutely free. It was wrought for the sinner, it was designed for the sinner, and is freely bestowed on the vilest of sinners. It is not matter of bargain, or the subject of sale; it is not proposed on I know not what conditions, as the performing some arduous course of duties, or the attaining some notable qualifications; but is a free gift.* Grace, as a sovereign, is exalted to confer it; and Rom. v. 15, 16, 17.
grace, we know, deals only with the unworthy. As a gift, it is imparted; as a gift, therefore, it must be received; and as for an absolutely free gift, the possessor of it ought to be thankful. From these considerations, we may with confidence affirm that the mere sinner, the obnoxious creature, he who feels himself in a perishing condition, and is conscious that he deserves no favour, has the strongest encouragement given him to rely on it as sufficient for his justification, and free for his use. Yes, disconsolate sinner, you have no reason to hesitate whether you have a right to receive it, and call it your own. Believing the testimony which God has given of his Son, you receive it, and enjoy the comforts arising from it; Heaven proclaims your welcome to Christ, and eternal faithfulness ensures success to all who believe in him.
Once more: By a figure of speech common in the scripture, this righteousness is represented as speaking. Doubtless, then, so noble a righteousness must have a charming language. Let us attend to the purport of it. It is considered by Paul as standing in direct opposition to that description which Moses gives of the righteousness of the law; and thus it addresses the anxious inquirer, 'Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down from above;' as if he had not appeared in human nature to perform a righteousness for the justification of sinners. Nor does it bid thee inquire, 'Who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead;' as if he had not perfectly paid the debt for which, as a Surety, he became responsible, and received, in his resurrection, from the hand of his Father, an acquittance in full for himself and his people. But what saith it, what then is its language? The word of the gospel which reveals this righteousness, is nigh thee, sinful and wretched as thou art even so near as to be in thy mouth to proclaim its excellence, and in thy heart to enjoy its comforts-that is, the word, the doctrine of faith which we preach. And it further informs us,
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus' as dying an accursed death for thy redemption, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,' as a divine testimony that the atonement made was accepted, and for thy justification, thou shalt be saved' from eternal misery, and exalted to the joys of heaven.*
Here we have the language of this divine righteousness described both negatively and positively. Negatively: We are not commanded by it to do some arduous work in order to obtain acceptance, nor are we required to do anything at all for that purpose. For believing in Christ, which is here mentioned, is, in the business of justification, opposed to works and doings of every kind. The faith here designed is to be considered as the receiving of Christ and his righteousness, or as a dependence on him alone for salvation. Believing the gospel report, we receive the atonement, we enjoy the comfort, and have the earnest of future glory.
But as the awakened sinner is ever disposed to imagine that he must do some great thing in order to obtain the pardon of sin, and peace for his conscience, therefore the language of this righteousness is also described positively. Here it declares that the obedience by which alone there is favour with God and an hope of happiness, is already performed, and that the anxious inquirer is not left to a dubious peradventure how he may come at it; for it is brought near him in the word of grace, with a free welcome to rely on it, and use it as his own, to the everlasting honour of its divine Author.
Before we take leave of this instructive text, we may observe, by a comparison of what the apostle says about the righteousness of faith, with what Moses says concerning the righteousness of the law, that whoever thinks of doing any good work as the condition of life, is ignorant of that obedience which
* Rom. x. 5-9.
Rom. iv. 5. 16. Gal. iii. 12, 13.