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means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."
Then, with his usual humility and selfabasement, he acknowledges his need of still increasing supplies of spiritual blessings; "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
If the Apostle, than whom perhaps no saint was ever more holy, thus confessed his shortcomings; if he regarded his attainments as nothing, when compared with what remained to be attained; if all his hopes of heaven were reposed upon the finished work of his beloved Saviour; how humble, how dependant ought we to be, who stand at so great a distance from this honoured servant of Christ!
Yet, how encouraging is the view of his character and experience. He, who converted Saul of Tarsus, can now change the heart of the hardest sinner. Let none then despair of mercy, who feel a longing desire after salvation.
"Let not conscience make you linger
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel your need of him;
This he gives you; 'Tis his Spirit's rising beam.”
The offence of the cross has not yet ceased, nor ever will, so long as pride bears its sway in our hearts. We cannot part with the fond conceit which we naturally have of our own works. If Christ must be our justifier, we hope, at least, to have some share in the meritorious act of justifying. We cannot brook the thought of being wholly indebted to another.
Owing to this proud attachment to our supposed goodness, much error exists in the Christian world. The great doctrine of justification by faith only, cannot, therefore, be too clearly and scripturally stated. How many, even in this our day, darken counsel by words without knowledge. They are blind guides, groping, as in the dark, amid the full blaze of Gospel light. With all humility of mind, and earnest prayer, we should seek for light to discover the Truth, and for a heart to embrace it when discovered.
Let us then consider in what way a sinner is justified in the sight of God, that we may rightly apprehend and thankfully embrace, through the Spirit, this inestimable blessing.
1. We are justified meritoriously, through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who became obedient unto the Law for man; and who, while we were yet sinners, died for us, that being justified by his blood, we might be saved from wrath through him.
2. We are justified instrumentally, by faith only, which is the gift of God, the hand that receives the blessed Jesus, and puts him on with all
his saving merits, as the robe of righteousness, the garment of salvation.
3. We are justified declaratively by good works, which are the fruits of faith, and evidence our union to Jesus Christ as living branches in the true vine.
Every blessing flows from the throne of mercy through Jesus Christ, who is the only medium of communication between earth and heaven; while all our services ascend with acceptance, only as they are covered with his infinite merits, and washed from their pollution through his precious blood.
Jesus is the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS: he is made unto us righteousness; and we are made the righteousness of God in him. Hence God can be just, and yet the justifier of all who believe in Jesus. The way of access is now opened. In Christ, we have boldness, and access with confidence, to the Father of mercies; and obtain, through faith in his blood, a right and title to the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Thus we are made complete in Him, and the kingdom of heaven is opened to all believers.
It must however never be forgotten, that there is nothing meritorious in faith. It is a grace, wrought in the heart of the sinner, through the power of the Holy Ghost, whereby he apprehends Christ, and is made an heir of God, through him.
We have nothing whereof to glory, being "justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus."
The language of our heart must ever be: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."
As faith is the gift of God, and the root of holiness, so works which do not spring from faith, cannot be acceptable to God; because, without faith it is impossible to please him.
By nature, our hearts yield nothing but evil fruit, and this evil produce continues, till we are united to Christ by faith. When grafted, by the Spirit, into Jesus the living vine, we receive a new nature, and bring forth new fruit, in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.
This good fruit manifests itself by holy obedience to the will of God; it is declarative of our interest in the righteousness of Christ through faith, and prepares us for the enjoyment of heaven.
From this scriptural view of a sinner's acceptance with God, it is evident, that we cannot be justified without faith; and yet, we must not look to it, as that which justifies us. Our eye must be fixed on the righteousness of Christ only. When our acts of faith are the strongest, we must not rely upon them, as yielding any merit, or as recommending us to God. Our language must then be: I have believed in Christ, and God has justified me; but I will not believe, that God has pardoned me for my faith; I know that I must trust in Christ, if I am accepted of my Judge: therefore I will banish for ever, all thoughts of my being pleasing to God, for the sake of my act of believing.
Whoever steers this course will provide for
his present comfort, and future safety; for it is only men's ignorance of themselves, of the Law, and of the essential righteousness of God, that puts them upon trusting in any thing they can do for their justification before God, and hinders them from submitting to the righteousness of Christ.
Faith resigns up the soul to the mercies of God, and the infinite merits of Christ, and has no confidence in the flesh: it brings the sinner to look on all things as nothing, and not fit to be joined to Christ, who is the only foundation for his reliance: and then his care is, how to be found in the righteousness of Christ, and to place the crown of glory on the head of his Redeemer.
This was the experience of St. Paul, who counted all things but loss for Christ, desiring only that he might be found in Him.
If the doctrine of justification by faith were therefore rightly apprehended, as set forth by the great Apostle under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, it would prevent that unscriptural mixture of faith and works, as the ground of our acceptance with God, which destroys its nature, tarnishes its glory, and endangers our salvation.
"O how unlike the complex works of man, Heav'n's easy, artless, unencumber'd plan! It stands like the cerulean arch we see,
Majestic in its own simplicity.
Inscrib'd above the portal from afar
Legible only by the light they give,
Stand the soul-quick'ning words-BELIEVE AND LIVE. Too many shock'd at what should charm them most, Despise the plain direction and are lost."