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in the article of justification. Every man must see the absurdity of pleading the worth of partial and defective duties in order to answer the demands of a law that enjoins perfect and perpetual obedience. Nay, there never was, in fact, any period or situation in which the works of the first parent of mankind could deserve recompense. For, having received all from God, he could display no excellence, nor communicate any favour, which was not derived from divine bounty. Far from increasing the glory or happiness of his Maker, he could only promote his own felicity and dignity, by exerting his powers in the service of him who gave them.'
Besides, if we hope to obtain compensation in a way of merit, our services must not be a debt previously due to him from whom the compensation is expected. But this is not the case with angels, much less with rebellious man, respecting the insulted Sovereign of heaven. We owe him ten thousand talents, and are absolutely insolvent: or, to use the language of scripture, We have nothing to pay.
The law of God, which is holy, and just, and good; which was adapted to promote our own happiness and his glory, we have violated in a thousand instances. Nor is this all: sin has not only introduced disorder and misery into the moral world, but it has so far debased human nature, as to render us incapable, without foreign aid, of yielding that obedience which it is at all times, and in all circumstances, our duty to perform. This incapacity, however, which is purely moral, can by no means be pleaded in extenuation or excuse. Men 'love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.' All obedience or disobedience is properly, or at least primarily, in no part but the will; so that though other faculties of the soul in regeneration are sanctified, and thereby made conformable to the will of God, yet obedience and disobedience are formally acts of the will, and according to its qualities, a man is said to be obedient to God or disobedient. If therefore we have lost all inclination to obey the great Legislator of heaven and of earth, he has not lost his right to command universal and perpetual obedi
ence. His law, which is the standard of perfection, and the rule of duty to moral agents, cannot, on that account, dispense with partial observance: nay, could we henceforth comply with all its requirements, we should do nothing more than our duty. Instead, therefore, of attempting to palliate the guilt of remissness, we ought to cry with the trembling jailor, What shall I do to be saved? or in the more pertinent language of the publican, God be merciful to me, a sinner!
That good works cannot be profitable to God, nor serviceable to man, in the important affair of justification, is a truth that extends to men of every description. The real christian, who is renewed in the spirit of his mind, and enabled to act on principles very different from men in a state of nature, can claim no exception: nay, it will be the language of his heart, My goodness, O Lord, extendeth not unto thee. Morality, in this case, can have nothing meritorious in it; it being,' says a celebrated writer, but wisdom, prudence, or good economy, which, like health,
beauty, or riches, are rather obligations conferred upon us by God, than merits in us towards him for though we may be justly punished for injuring ourselves, we can claim no reward for self preservation; as suicide deserves punishment and infamy, but a man deserves no reward or honours for not being guilty of it.'
'Can a man be profitable to God, as he who is wise may be profitable to himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? or is it any gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect? If thou be righteous, what givest thou him, or what receiveth he of thine hands? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man-Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things; to whom be glory for ever-What hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?' Instead, therefore, of attempting to claim the blessedness of heaven
on the ground of personal worthiness, it would be acting more in character for a sinful wretch to cry, 'Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further-Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.'
Another reason why good works cannot be meritorious, is the vast disparity between them and the salvation they are supposed to merit. 'A natural work can give no title to a supernatural reward.' There must be a just proportion between the work and the wages: if the wages exceed the work, they are so far gratuitous-favours to which we have no claim, and of course not merited. But can the best services of a creature, depraved beyond description, be brought into comparison with the debt he owes to his Maker, or with that consummate happiness which in its duration is eternal? No; it is impossible. The greatest human virtue,' says Dr. Johnson, 'bears no pro