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Christ had obeyed and suffered, died and risen again, to work out that perfect righteousness, through the merits of which, imputed unto the sinner by faith, God the Father will now accept him, and receive him as just and righteous into his love and into his heaven. From whence it follows, by direct consequence, that until he be thus accepted he can do no good works, which comes to be considered under the
Third head, viz. that Jesus Christ is the foundation of all holy obedience. Man in his natural state cannot perform any holy obedience. He wants both will and power, until his person be accepted through Jesus Christ and united to him by true and lively faith.. The doctrine of our church upon this point is very clear and full. In the 13th article, entitled, “ ©£ . 66 works before justification,” she teaches that-“Works “ done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration
of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God; forasmuch as 6 they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither da “ they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the 66 school authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea 6 rather for that they are not done as God hath willed 66 and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but 66. they have the nature of sin.” Our works are not acceptable, until we have the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit to render our persons accepted. Nay the very best works we can do, if they be not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, have certainly in them the nature of sin. “We doubt 6. not but they have the nature of sin,” is a very strong expression : but our pious reformers could not soften it. They had left the bishop of Rome upon account of the doctrine of merit, which the Papists hold, and it is the most dangerous of all: their tenets : for hereby they go about to establish their own righteousness, not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God. All the reformers joined, in asserting justification by faith only, knowing that Christ was the end of the law for righteousness to every one that be
lieveth. It is impossible to be more clear and express against the merit of works, than the compilers of our articles and homilies are; they seem to have been guided in their opinion by two principal reasons, both taken from scripture, the first respecting God, the second ourselves
It is impossible to do any good works well pleasing to God, until we are accepted in Christ, because our whole nature is sinful-in it dwelleth no good thing, and without the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, no good thing can ever dwell. The scripture declares us to be by nature children of wrath. We became objects of God's wrath, when, by the original offence, mankind transgressed his holy, just, and good law. Then his holiness, justice, and goodness became concerned to inflict the threatened punishment, which they did inflict, and to which every son of Adam is subject, until he be accepted through Jesus Christ. In this fallen state he is like an attainted rebel, who cannot do any action that is deemed good and valid in law, until his attainder be reversed, and he be restored in blood. This is our very case in spirituals. What can we do, that will be deemed good and valid in the court of heaven, while we are under a state of forfeiture, our persons are guilty, and our whole nature (as our church expresses it) deserves God's wrath and damnation ?
And we are still more incapable of doing any acceptable works, if we consider the state we are in by actual transgression. We are under sentence of condemnation for the first offence: for the law is of so pure and spiritual a nature as to reach to the inmost thoughts of the heart. It requires truth in the inward parts, and expects perfect obedience there, as well as in the words and actions. The stile of it is, “Do this, and thou • shalt live.” It promises life, but to them only, who never err from its commandments. One single failing cuts us off from the promised life, and puts us under the curse : for it is written, “ Cursed is every man
66 who continueth not in all things written in the book 6 of the law to do them.” Now the same law, which has brought him in guilty before God cannot acquit him afterwards; because he is already a convict, is sentenced, and under the curse, and he can think of no method of escaping the deserved punishment, but to pay an unerring obedience for the future. Supposing he could do this, yet it would be making no satisfaction; because after one transgression by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified. It is an adjudged case, that partial obedience can make no atonement to the law, which required perfect obedience: the equity of this proceeding we acknowledge in our own laws. If a criminal, found guilty of murder, was to allege in his defence, that he had broken no other law of the land, that he was not a thief, nor an adulterer, &c. would this plea be allowed in court? Would he be acquitted of the murder, because it was not attended with robbery? No. The judge would observe to him, that he came there to be tried for a murder, and that he was found guilty by the law, and as such must be condemned : for he that said, Thou shalt not steal, said also, Thou shalt do no murder. Now if thou commit no robbery, yet if thou kill, thou art a transgressor of the law: for whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all, and is under guilt and condemnation, as if he had offended against the whole law. The law of God is pure and spiritual, and allows of no deviation from it. If it gives life, it must have perfect unerring obedience : where this is wanting in one instance, it cannot take partial obedience as any atonement for disobedience: from whence it follows, that men under the guilt of original and actual sin cannot, with respect to God, perform any holy obedience. And
With respect to ourselves, there is another reason, which being taken from a matter of fact, should carry with it full conviction. Our fallen nature is so entirely depraved, that it has neither will nor power to perform
any holy obedience. The old man of sin, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, can do nothing but sin. And until he be put off and crucified with all his affections and lusts, we cannot put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness : for we are not only ccrrupt, but also under the bondage of corruption : not only sinners, but also slaves to sin, sold under sin, and led captive to commit it by the devil at his will. Sin has such an absolute dominion, that although it exercises the most cruel tyranny, yet men have no desire to shake off its yoke. Sin wears away their bodies in its service, and yet they are pleased with their own destruction, and sin on. Whenever the tyrant commands Do this, the natural man doeth it, though it be at the peril of his life. When sin puts him upon a course of uncleanness, which he knows will bring the infirmities of old age upon him before he has come to manhood, or a course of intemperance, which must end in painful and acute distempers, the poor slave submits. And must not sin reign in his mortal body, since he thus obeys it in the lusts thereof? Must it not have absolute deminion over him, since he thus yields his members instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, and yields them, even to work out his own destruction ? And when he sees this destruction before his eyes, yet he has no desire to avoid it; we have neither will nor power to deliver ourselves from sin's dominion: because when we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly. The soul was enslaved, and without strength to recover its liberty as well as the body. Which of its faculties are free and able to cast off the tyranny of sin ? Can this good desire arise first in the imagination ? It cannot. The imaginations of the heart of the natural man are evil, and only evil, and that continually. Can it arise in the understanding? It cannot ; for it is in darkness. When the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any that did understand, and seek after God, he found none, no not
o do evil, they
THE SURE FOUNDATION. one-they were wise enough to do evil, but to do good they had no knowledge; neither had they a will to choose it: for the natural man follows the will of the flesh, which is always contrary to the will of God, and with the heart and affections he serves the law of sin.
Thus the dominion of sin is universal. It commands all the faculties of soul and body, which serve it with a willing and uninterrupted obedience; and from what has been said with respect to God, and with respect to ourselves, it is evident that the natural man is utterly unable to perform any holy obedience. This is the plain doctrine of scripture, and it is confirmed by our church in her 10th article, which declares, that “ the “ condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that “ he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natur“ al strength and good works to faith and calling upon 6 God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, “ pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of “ God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a 6s good will, and working with us, when we have that “ good will.” Both the good will, and the power to work with it come from Christ; and the manner in which he bestows both upon us is thus described in scripture. God the Father accepts us as righteous through the merits of Jesus Christ, whereby we are justified; upon which we are united to Christ through faith given us by his holy Spirit; and from this union we receive continual supplies of grace to enable us to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, which are well pleasing unto God the Father.
This vital union with Christ the head of the body is the principle of divine life in all his members, and it is expressed in scripture by various phrases, which denote the reality and absolute certainty of it, and which cannot admit of a metaphorical sense, such as, “ Christ's “ dwelling in us, and we in him, our being rooted and s planted into him, and built up in him, our being of « one spirit and one flesh with him, our living and be“ ing led by his Spirit.” And it is also represented by