Page images
PDF
EPUB

hím not; and will therefore be apt to say to you, if you will not believe me you may make trial. Your physician tells you a disease is growing upon you, that in a short time will prove incurable and mortal, but if you presently use the means he shall prescribe, it is capable of an easy remedy: how would you yourself have your belief of your physician judged of in this case ? Would you expect to be believed, if you should say, you do not at all distrust your physician's integrity and judgment, but yet you resolve not to follow his direction; unless you would have us believe too, that you are weary of your life, and would fain be rid of it? There is no riddle or mystery in this. How ridiculous would men make themselves, if in matters of common concernment they should daily practice directly contrary to their professed belief? How few would believe them serious, or in their wits? But however, call this believing, or what you will, we contend not about the name; the belief of such a thing can no further do you good, you can be nothing the better for it, further than as it engages you to take a course suitable and consequent to such a belief. To believe that there is a hell, and run into it; that unrighteousness persisted in will damn you, and yet will live in it! To what purpose is it, to make your boasts of this faith? But since you are willing to call this believing; all the foregoing reasoning is to engage you to consider what you believe. Do you believe that unrighteousness will be the death of your soul; will eternally separate you from God, and the presence of his glory ? and when you have reasoned the matter with yourself, you find it to be certainly so: should not such a thing be more deeply pondered? The bare proposal of an evident truth commands present assent; but if I further bend my mind to reason out the same thing to myself, I am occasioned to take notice of the grounds, dependencies, the habitudes of it, what it rests upon, and whither it tends, and thence more discern its importance, and of what moment it is, than I should have done, if upon frst view I had assented only, and dismissed it my thoughts. And yet is it possible, you should think this to be true, and not think it a most important truth? Is it a small matter in your account, whether you shall be blesssed or miserable for ever? whether you be saved or perish eternally? Or is it considered by you, according as the weight of the matter requires, that as you are found righteous or unrighteous, so will it everlastingly fare with you?

You may possibly say, you already conclude yourself righteous therefore no further employ your thoughts about it. But methinks, you should hardly be able however to put such a thing out of your thoughts; while as yet the final determination is not given in the case. If a man have a question yet pending, concerning his life or estate; though his business be never so elear, he will hardly forget it, the trial not being yet past. And

though in this matter, you have no reason to suspect error or corruption in your Judge, (through which many honest causes may miscarry in a human judicature) yet have you no reason to suspect yourself? If the Holy Spirit hath assured you, he hath not stupified you; but as you have then the less to fear, you have the more of love and joy. Therefore you will not thence mind such a concernment the less, but with the more delight; and therefore also, most probably, with the more frequency and intension. What a pleasure will it be to review evidences, and say, Lo! here are the mediums by which I make out my title to the eternal inheritance. Such and such characters give me the confidence to number myself among God's righteous ones. And do you lead that heavenly raised life ? do you live in those sweet and ravishing comforts of the Holy Ghost, that may bespeak you one whom he hath sealed up to the day of redemption? If you pretend not to any such certainty, but rely upon your own judgment of your case; are you sure you are neither mistaken in the notion of the righteousness required, nor in the application of it to your own soul? Possibly, you may think yourself, because in

your ordinary dealing you wrong no man (yourself being judge,) a very righteous person. But evident it is, when the Scripture uses this term as descriptive of God's own people, ard to distinguish between them that shall be saved and perish, it takes it in that comprehensive sense before explained. And however, it requires at least much more of thee, under other expressions, as thou canst hardly be so ignorant but to know. And do but use thy reason here a little, and demand of thyself; is he to be accounted a righteous person, that thinks it fit to avoid wronging a man, but makes no conscience at all of wronging God ? More particularly : Is it righteous, to live all thy days in a willing ignorance of the Author of thy being, never once to inquire, Where is God my Maker? Job. 35. 10. Is it righteous to forget him days without number, not to have him from day to day in all thy thoughts ? Is it righteous to estrange thyself from Him, and live as without Him in the world, while thou livest, movest and hast thy being in Him; not to glorify Him in whose hands thy breath is ? to be a lover of pleasure more than God ? a worshipper, in thy very soul, of the creature more than the Creator! Is it righteous to harden thy heart against his fear and love? to live under his power, and never reverence it; his goodness and never acknowledge it? to affront bis authority, to belie his truth, abuse his mercy, impose upon his patience, defy his justice; to exalt thy own interest against his ; the trifling petite interest of a silly worm, against the great allcomprehending interest of the common Lord of all the world? to cross his will, to do thy own ? to please thyself, to the displeasing of Him whence hadst thou thy measures of justice, if this be just ?

Again, is it righteous to deny the Lord that bought thee, to neglect that great salvation which He is the author of? And whereas He came to bless thee in turning thee from thine iniquities, wilfully to remain still in an accursed servitude to sin ? when He was made manifest to destroy the works of the devil, still to yield thyself a captive at his will ? whereas He died that thou mightest not any longer live to thyself, but to Him that died for thee, and rose again ; and that He might redeem thee from thy vain conversation, and that thou art so expressly told, that such as still lead sensual lives, mind earthly things, have not their conversation in heaven, are enemies to the cross of Christ. Is it no unrighteousness, that in these respects thy whole life should be nothing else but a constant contradiction to the very design of his dying ? a perpetual hostility, a very tilting at his cross? Is there no unrighteousness in thy obstinate infidelity, that wickedly denies belief to his glorious truths, acceptance of his gracious offers, subjection to his holy laws ? Nounrighteousness in thy obstinate, remorseless impenitency ? thy heart that connot repent? that melts not, while a crucified Jesus, amidst his agonies and dying pangs, cries to thee from the cross, O sinner, enough, thy hard heart breaks mine! yield at last, and turn to God. Is it righteous, to live as no way under law to Christ ? to persist in actual rebellion against his just government, which he died, and revived, aud rose again, to establish over the living and the dead? yea, and that while thou pretendest thyself a christian? In a word: Is it righteous to tread under foot the Son of God, to vilify his blood, and despise his Spirit; Is this the righteousness that thou talkest of ? Are these thy qualifications for the everlasting blessedness? If thou say, thou confessest thou art in thyself, in these several respects, altogether unrighteous: but thou hopest the righteousness of Christ will be sufficient to answer for all ; no doubt Christ's righteousness is abundantly available to all the ends for which it was intended by the Father and Him; but it shall never answer all the ends that a foolish wicked heart will fondly imagine to itself.

In short, it serves to excuse thy non-performance of, and stands instead of thy perfect sinless obedience to, the law of works; but it serves not instead of thy performance of what is required of thee, as the condition of the gospel-covenant. That is, It shall never supply the room of faith, repentance, regeneration, holiness, the loving of Christ above all, and God in Him; so as to render these unnecessary, or salvation possible without them. There is not one iota, or tiltle in the Bible, that so much as intimates an unregenerate person, an unbeliever, an impenitent or unholy person, shall be saved by Christ's righteousness; but enough to the contrary, every one knows that hath the least acquaintance with the Scriptures. Vain man! what, is Christ divided and divided against Himself;

Christ without, against Christ within! His sufferings on the cross and foregoing obedience, against his Spirit and government in the soul ? Did Christ die to take away the necessity of our being christians ? And must his death serve not to destroy sin out of the world, but Christianity? Who hath taught thee so wickedly to misunderstand the design of Christ's dying? And when the Scripture so plainly tells thee, that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. John. 3. 16. And that he became the author of eternal salvation to them that obey Him; (Heb. 5. 9.) yea, and that He will come in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know and obey Him not. What should induce thee to think thou mayest be saved by Him, whether thou believest and obeyest or not? No, if ever thou think to see God, and be happy in Him, thou must have a righteousness in thee resembling his; the very product, the thing wrought in the work of regeneration. If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doth righteousness is born of him. Whereupon follows the description of the blessedness of such righteous ones, in the beginning of the next chapter,—They are sons—they shall be like, &c. So that in a word, without some sight of God here, there is no seeing Him hereafter; without some likeness to Him now, none hereafter. And such as are destitute of that heartconformity to the gospel, wherein the evangelical righteousness stands, are so far from it, that we may say to them as our Saviour to the Jews, Ye have neither heard his voice, nor seen his shape, (John. 5. 37.) that is, you have never had a right notion, or any the least true glimpse of him ; your hearts are wholly destitute of all divine impressions whatsoever.

8. We may further infer, from this qualification of the subject of blessedness, that righteousness is no vain thing. That is not in vain, that ends so well, and hath so happy an issue at last. Scripture tells us, that the labor of the righteous tendeth to lise: (Prov. 10. 16.) and that we may understand it of their labor as they are righteous, we are more plainly told, that righteousness tendeth to life ; (ch. 11. 19.) and that to them that sow righteousness shall be a sure reward. (ver. 18.) that the righteous shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matt. 13. 43.) the righteous into eternal life. Ch. 25. 46. And we here see that righteousness ends in the blessed sight of God's glorious face, in being satisfied with the divine like

Foolish sinners are justly upbraided that they spend their labor for that which satisfies not; (Isa. 55. 2.) take much pains to no purpose; such are all the works, of sin, toilsome, fruitless; what fruit had ye of those things (namely, which ye wrought when you were free from righteousness) whereof ye are now ashamed; for the end of those things is death. But

ness.

(it follows) being now made free from sin, and become servants to God (which is paraphased above by servants to righteousness) ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. Rom. 6. 20-22. The fruit is a continual increase of holiness, a growing more and more like God; till at last everlasting life, satisfaction with his likeness, do crown and consummate all.

You have now what to answer to the atheist's profane query, What profit is it to serve God? to what purpose to lead so strict and precise a life? You may now see to what purpose it is; and whereunto godliness (which righteousness here includes) is profitable as having, besides what it entitles to here, the promise of that life which is to come. There needs no more to discover any thing not to be vain (inasmuch as nothing can be said to be so, but in reference to an end, as being good for nothing) than the eviction of these two things :—that it aims at a truly worthy and valuable end; and-that its tendency thereto is direct and certain. In the present case, both these are obvious enough at the first view. For as to the former of them : all the world will agree, without disputing the matter, that the last end of man (that is, which he ultimately propounds to himself) is his best good: and that he can design no further good to himself than satisfaction; nothing after or beyond that: and what can afford it, if the vision and participation of the divine glory do not? As to the latter: besides all that assurance given by Scripture-constitution to the righteous man, concerning his future reward, let the consciences be consulted of the most besotted sinners, in any lucid interval, and they will give their suffrage (Balaam, that so earnestly followed the reward of unrighteousness, not excepted,) that the way of righteousness is that only likely way to happiness; and would therefore desire to die, at least the righteous man's death, and that their latter end should be like his. So is wisdom (I might call it righteousness too; the wicked man is the Scripture fool, and the righteous the wise man) justified not by her children only, but by her enemies also. And sure, it is meet that she should be more openly justified by her children, and that they learn to silence and repress those mis-giving thoughts; Surely I have washed my hands in vain, &c. Psal. 73. 13. And be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as they know their labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Cor. 15. 58.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »