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should ever pay, because the obedience of millions of years could make no satisfaction for one single transgression against the infinitely perfect law of God. One transgression having infinite demerit in it, would weigh down the scale infinitely, and therefore eternally; unless some infinitely perfect obedience, which no finite creature can pay, be put into the opposite scale.
Upon this state of the case it appears, that righteousness signifies the most strict and unerring justice in our dealings with God. The law of God, which is his revealed will, and the rule of our obedience, is holy as God is holy, yea, perfectly, infinitely holy. It cannot behold the least iniquity, any more than God can behold it, and therefore it cuts the sinner off from all right and title to legal righteousness for the very first offence, puts him under the curse, and subjects him to all its pains and penalties: and upon whom the law pronounces its curses, God the righteous Judge will pour down the vials of his wrath. Upon the unrighteous he will rain snares, fire, and brimstone, storm, and tempest, this shall be their portion to drink for ever and ever.
Are you then, my brethren, in the number of the righteous, or of the unrighteous ? Is it not of infinite consequence to know what state you are in? For cer. tainly if it should appear that you are unrighteous, you would not act so contrary to your own interest, as to choose to be subject to the curses of God's holy law, and to suffer the threatened punishment, if there be a way left to escape. Do you see then, how necessary it is we should enquire, whether we have acted righteously with God or not. To the infallible word therefore, and to the testimony, let us repair. The oracles of truth inform us, that after God had finished his six days work, he looked down from heaven, and be hold, all things were good. There was no disorder in the natural world, and no evil in the spiritual world. But he is soon after represented looking down from heaven upon the children of men, and behold all things
“ And God saw that the wickedness of “ man was great in the earth, and that every imagina« tion of the thoughts of his heart was only evil conti“nually,” (Gen. vi. 5.) Whence was the origin of this universal evil? Mankind had gone out of the way of righteousness, they had broken the law, and had made themselves altogether corrupt, and were become abominable, there was none of them righteous, no, not
What! Not one righteous man left upon earth ? No.-God declares by the mouth of his holy prophet, that there was not one. They had all sinned, and come short of the glory of God. They were by nature children of his wrath through one man's disobedience ; and they were ten times more the children of wrath by actual guilt, and being sinners against God's law, both by nature and by life, he hath shut them all up under sin, in a state of condemnation, reserving them to the judgment of the great day.
This is our condition, We are all unrighteous: And we are without strength to attain any righteousness of our own: because we are poor broken debtors, who have nothing to pay. One offence attaints our blood, and renders us incapable of doing any act, that will be deemed good and valid in the court of heaven, for this irreversible decree stands against us in the divine records“ The unrighteous shall not inherit the king66 dom of God.”
From hence arises a question, the most important and interesting that can engage a sinner's attention, upon which
every person concerned about his eternaí welfare, would reason in this manner, “ I acknowledge “ the law of God to be holy and good, but I have “ broken it, and have robbed God of his glory, and “ the law of its honour. ' I am unrighteous. As such, “ heaven is shut against me, and will be shut for ever, “ unless I can be made righteous. But how or by 66 what means can this be done? God's law is immuta“ble. His truth that threatened to punish transgresas sion is inflexible. His justice is infinite, and must have
“ satisfaction for the broken law-yea, full and perfect “ satisfaction, suitable to the infinite purity and holi
ness of the divine nature. But alas! what satisfac“tion can I make it? Nay, what satisfaction could all “ the holy angels and the highest order of beings, if “ they would lay down their lives for me, make to “ that justice, which is infinite, and to which I am an “ infinite debtor. Nothing can save me, but some di~ vine and infinite righteousness wrought out for me, “ and in my stead, and God alone can work out such “a righteousness; but how can I hope that he will, “ since he is the very person, whom I have offended
sin ?" In this manner, every person concerned about eternity would reason. When he is convinced of his own unrighteousness, he will look out for some means to be made righteous, and he will soon find that there are no human means. Righteousness grows not upon this earth. It fled to heaven, when all the world was brought in guilty before God. And it cannot return to earth, until all the offended attributes of God be satisfied. But what created being can make a satisfaction equal to the offence ? All hope, humanly speaking; is cut off: for no finite creature can do an infinite action. Oh! what glad tidings then does the prophet here bring to a guilty world. He sees the heavens from above dropping down righteousness, and the earth opening and receiving it. The blessing is so unmerited, so inestimable, that one would be tempted to askHow God could be so gracious ? How can he exercise such mercy consistent with his other perfections ? How can he suffer the guilty to be accounted righteous, until the demands of law and justice be fully satisfied ? But where is the satisfaction equal to their infinite demands ? and until such a satisfaction be made, how can his allpure holiness look
upon the impure sinner, or how can his inflexible truth, which threatened punishment, remit it? Glory be to his free grace, which hath found out a righteousness for us, against which law and justice
cannot make the least exception, and which hath preserved the glory of all his attributes inviolate, and that is the righteousness of the God-man Christ Jesus.
We are taught by the Christian verity, that in the divine essence there are three persons of equal glory and majesty, none is before or after other, none is greater or less than another. Between these divine Persons the covenant of grace was ordered in all things and sure; and from this covenant the co-equal and coeternal Three took the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Son is a name of office, descriptive of the wonderful humiliation of the Messiah, who took our nature, and was made a Son for our salvation-God and man being united in one Christ, as much as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man. The God-man undertakes in our nature to pay perfect satisfaction to his Father's justice. Accordingly he paid the law an infinitely perfect obedience. And he thereby magnified it, and made it more honourable than the obedience of all created beings could have done. Then he suffered what was due to our breach of the law, and paid the death which we deserved. And justice demonstrated, that it had no more demands upon him, when it released him from the prison of the grave. And by this obedience and these sufferings he wrought out an infinitely perfect righteousness, which being imputed to the unrighteous, and laid hold of by the hand of faith, renders them perfectly righteous at the bar of justice.
This is the righteousness of God to which every sinner must submit, if he be ever discharged from condemnation. He must receive it from God as his free gift-without the least merit or deserving. And he must trust wholly to it, never presuming to add any thing of his own to it, as a condition of justification. These are hard lessons to the pride of our corrupt hearts. Indeed it is the hardest lesson of grace to humble us so far, that we can give up the merit of all our fancied good works, and take the righteousness of God as a free gift. As if God's righteousness was not
perfect enough, we are always thinking to add something of our own to it. Our fallen nature is ever tempting us to this absurdity, and the holy Spirit has not offered us a more forcible argument throughout the scripture, than the striking image in the text. Our guilty souls are compared to the dry withered ground, which has been long deprived of the fruitful rain and dew of heaven. When they were laying parched and burnt up with drought, it pleased God to command the heavens to distil the refreshing drops of dew, and the clouds to pour down their genial and enlivening showers, which the earth opening its mouth thankfully received. Now the righteousness of Christ is bé stowed, as these sweet influences of heaven, are, freely -The earth has no hand, no merit in bringing down the dew or the rain, nor have we any in bringing down. the righteousness of Christ. And the fruits,
which the rain and dew enable the earth to bring forth, are produced by their prolific virtue, animated with the genial warmth of the sun : for the earth is entirely passive and inactive, and only acts as it is acted upon. In like manner every good gift and grace is from above ; they are the fruits of righteousness, which could never have grown
barren hearts, unless Christ had sent his Spirit from on high to plant and to water them with the continual dew of his blessing. When he with-holds his influence, they inimediately wither and die. When he rains and shines upon them, then they flourish. This is the beautiful illustration in the text. Let the heavens drop down the righteousness of Christ from above, like the dew, and let the skies pour it down, like fruitful showers upon a thirsty ground “ Let the earth open, let man open his heart, and then " they shall bring forth salvation;" they, i. e. the righteousness which is from above, poured down upon and received into man's heart, shall therein take root, and shall enable it to bring forth fruit abundantly, even present and eternal salvation. Salvation is not of man. It belongeth unto the Lord. It is one of the infinitely