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government of the world; but that he would not do so on the account of his own duties and obedience. But if so be these duties and obedience did answer in any sense or way, what is required of us as a righteousness unto justification, there was no reason why he should deprecate a trial by them, or upon them. But whereas the Holy Ghost doth so positively affirm, that no man living shall be justified in the sight of God,' by or upon his own works or obedience; it is, I confess, marvellous unto me, that some should so interpret the apostle James, as if he affirmed the express contrary: namely, that we are justified in the sight of God by our own works, whereas indeed he says no such thing. This, therefore, is an eternal rule of truth, by, or upon his own obedience, no man living can be justified in the sight of God. It will be said, that if God enter into judgment with any on their own obedience by and according to the law, then indeed none can be justified before him. But God judging according to the gospel, and the terms of the new covenant, men may be justified upon their own duties, works, and obedience. Ans. 1. The negative assertion is general and unlimited; that no man living shall' (on his own works or obedience) 'be justified' in the sight of God. And to limit it unto this or that way of judging, is not to distinguish but to contradict the Holy Ghost. 2. The judgment intended is only with respect unto justification, as is plain in the words. But there is no judgment on our works or obedience, with respect unto righteousness and justification, but by the proper rule and measure of them, which is the law. If they will not endure the trial by the law, they will endure no trial as unto righteousness and justification in the sight of God. 3. The prayer and plea of the psalmist on this supposition, are to this purpose; O Lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant, by or according unto the law; but enter into judgment with me, on my own works and obedience according to the rule of the gospel; for which he gives this reason, 'because in thy sight shall no man living be justified;' which how remote it is from his intention need not be declared. 4. The judgment of God unto justification according to the gospel, doth not proceed on our works of obedience, but upon the righteousness of Christ, and our interest therein by faith, as is too evident to be modestly
denied. Notwithstanding this exception, therefore hence we argue.
If the most holy of the servants of God, in and after a course of sincere fruitful obedience, testified unto by God himself, and witnessed in their own consciences, that is, whilst they have the greatest evidences of their own sincerity, and that indeed they are the servants of God, do renounce all thoughts of such a righteousness thereby, as whereon in any sense they may be justified before God; then there is no such righteousness in any, but it is the righteousness of Christ alone imputed unto us whereon we are so justified. But that so they do, and ought all of them so to do, because of the general rule here laid down, that in the sight of God no man living shall be justified, is plainly affirmed in this testimony.
I no way doubt but that many learned men, after all their pleas for an interest of personal righteousness and works in our justification before God, do as unto their own practice betake themselves unto this method of the psalmist, and cry as the prophet Daniel doth in the name of the church; 'we do not present our supplications before thee for our own righteousness, but for thy great mercies;' chap. ix. 18. And therefore Job (as we have formerly observed), after a long and earnest defence of his own faith, integrity, and personal righteousness, wherein he justified himself against the charge of Satan and men, being called to plead his cause in the sight of God, and declare on what grounds he expected to be justified before him, renounceth all his former pleas, and betakes himself unto the same with the psalmist, chap. xl. 4. xlii. 6.
It is true in particular cases, and as unto some special end in the providence of God, a man may plead his own integrity and obedience before God himself. So did Hezekiah when he prayed for the sparing of his life, Isa. xxxviii. 3. Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.' This, I say, may be done with respect unto temporal deliverance, or any other particular end wherein the glory of God is concerned. So was it greatly in sparing the life of Hezekiah at that time. For whereas he had with great zeal and industry reformed
religion and restored the true worship of God, the cutting him off in the midst of his days,' would have occasioned the idolatrous multitude to have reflected on him as one dying under a token of divine displeasure. But none ever made this plea before God, for the absolute justification of their persons. So Nehemiah, in that great contest which he had about the worship of God, and the service of his house, pleads the remembrance of it before God, in his justification against his adversaries, but resolves his own personal acceptance with God into pardoning mercy, and spare me according unto the multitude of thy mercies;' chap. xiii. 22.
Another testimony we have unto the same purpose, in the prophet Isaiah, speaking in the name of the church, chap. lxiv. 6. We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.' It is true the prophet doth in this place make a deep confession of the sins of the people. But yet withal he joins himself with them, and asserts the especial interest of those concerning whom he speaks by adoption; that God was their Father, and they his people, chap. lxiii. 16. lxiv. 8, 9. And the righteousnesses of all that are the children of God are of the same kind, however they may differ in degrees, and some of them may be more righteous than others. But it is all of it described to be such, as that we cannot I think justly, expect justification in the sight of God, upon the account of it. But whereas the consideration of the nature of our inherent righteousness belongs unto the second way of the confirmation of our present argument, I shall not farther here insist on this testimony.
Many others also unto the same purpose, I shall wholly omit; namely, all those wherein the saints of God, or the church, in an humble acknowledgment and confession of their own sins, do betake themselves unto the mercy and grace of God alone, as dispensed through the mediation and blood of Christ; and all those wherein God promiseth to pardon and blot out our iniquities for his own sake, for his name's sake; to bless the people not for any good that was in them, nor for their righteousness, nor for their works, the consideration whereof he excludes from having any influence into any actings of his grace towards them; and all those wherein God expresseth his delight in them alone, and his
approbation of them who hope in his mercy, trust in his name, betaking themselves unto him as their only refuge, pronouncing them accursed who trust in any thing else, or glory in themselves; such as contain singular promises unto them that betake themselves unto God, as fatherless, hopeless, and lost in themselves.
There is none of the testimonies which are multiplied unto this purpose, but they sufficiently prove, that the best of God's saints, have not a righteousness of their own, whereon they can in any sense be justified before God. For they do all of them in the places referred unto, renounce any such righteousness of their own, all that is in them, all that they have done or can do, and betake themselves unto grace and mercy alone. And whereas, as we have before proved, God, in the justification of any doth exercise grace towards them with respect unto a righteousness, whereon he declares them righteous and accepted before him, they do all of them respect a righteousness which is not inherent in us, but imputed to us.
Herein lies the substance of all that we inquire into, in this matter of justification. All other disputes about qualifications, conditions, causes, ävεv v ok, any kind of interest for our own works and obedience in our justification before God, are but the speculations of men at ease. The conscience of a convinced sinner, who presents himself in the presence of God, finds all practically reduced unto this one point, namely, whether he will trust unto his own personal inherent righteousness, or in a full renunciation of it, betake himself unto the grace of God, and the righteousness of Christ alone. In other things he is not concerned. And let men phrase his own righteousness unto him as they please, let them pretend it meritorious, or only evangelical, not legal, only an accomplishment of the condition of the new covenant, a cause without which he cannot be justified, it will not be easy to frame his mind unto any confidence in it, as unto justification before God; so as not to deceive him in the issue.
The second part of the present argument is taken from the nature of the thing itself, or the consideration of this personal inherent righteousness of our own, what it is and wherein it doth consist, and of what use it may be in our justification. And unto this purpose it may be observed,
1.That we grant an inherent righteousness in all that do believe, as hath been before declared. For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;' Eph. v. 9. Being made free from sin, we become the servants of righteousness;' Rom. vi. 18. And our duty it is to follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, meekness;' 1 Tim. ii. 22. And although righteousness be mostly taken for an especial grace, or duty, distinct from other graces and duties, yet we acknowledge that it may be taken for the whole of our obedience before God; and the word is so used in the Scripture, where our own righteousness is opposed unto the righteousness of God. And it is either habitual or actual. There is an habitual righteousness inherent in believers, as they have put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;' Eph. iv. 24. As they are the workmanship of God created in Jesus Christ unto good works;' chap. ii. 8. And there is an actual righteousness, consisting in those good works whereunto we are so created, or the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of God by Jesus Christ. And concerning this righteousness it may be observed; 1. That men are said in the Scripture, to be just or righteous by it, but no one is said to be justified by it before God. 2. That it is not ascribed unto, or found in any, but those that are actually justified in order of nature antecedent thereunto.
This being the constant doctrine of all the reformed churches and divines, it is an open calumny whereby the contrary is ascribed unto them, or any of those who believe the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto our justification before God. So Bellarmine affirms that no Protestant writers acknowledge an inherent righteousness, but only Bucer and Chemnitius, when there is no one of them, by whom either the thing itself, or the necessity of it is denied. But some excuse may be made for him, from the manner whereby they expressed themselves, wherein they always carefully distinguished between inherent holiness, and that righteousness whereby we are justified. But we are now told by one, that if we should affirm it a hundred times he could scarce believe us. This is somewhat severe; for although he speaks but to one, yet the charge falls equally upon all who maintain that imputation of the righ