The Doctrine Of Imputed Righteousness Defended
The Doctrine Of Imputed Righteousness Defended
In A Discourse
Preached In London
In the Year 1759.
Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness
2 Corinthians 5:21
He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might
be made the righteousness of God in him.
IT is the great and merciful design of the gospel to acquaint a sinner, who is guilty and condemned by the holy law of God, how he may be pardoned and justified. Every one of us is a sinner: for all have sinned, and therefore all of us stand in need of pardon, and ought to receive it with thankful hearts as soon as the gospel offers it to us. But the greatest part of mankind are not sensible of their guilt, nor apprehensive of their danger. Sin has nothing in it terrible to them. They love it, dream of happiness in the enjoyment of it, and while this delusion continues, they see not their want of, and therefore have no desire for, the gospel salvation. But when one of these persons awakes and opens his eyes, he is then terrified at the sight of his present state. Sin appears to him in a new light: he finds it to be exceeding sinful, and the wrath of God revealed from heaven against it to be beyond measure dreadful. His guilty conscience alarms him with an awful sense of his danger, and makes him feel some of the punishment due to sin, and then he cannot be easy, until he know that his sins may be pardoned, and he cannot be happy, until he has some evidence of their being pardoned. Now Christianity is the only religion, which can give such a person relief: because it alone teaches him by what means he may be pardoned and justified, and have peace with God. He may be pardoned freely through the grace of God, and justified through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, whom God the Father hath made sin for us, although he knew no sin in himself, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him; and being thus justified by faith in him, we might have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Although this doctrine be clearly taught throughout the scriptures, yet there are at present two sorts of men who are great enemies to it, and who strive to keep convinced sinners from the comfort of it; I mean the papists, who go about to establish their own righteousness, and the pharisees among us, who will not submit to the righteousness of God. The notion of the papists concerning merit is the foundation of all their errors. They teach, that Christ merited the grace for them, which is in them, and then this grace in them merits their justification, and for this inherent grace God doth justify them. And thus they make a Saviour of inherent grace, and put it in the place of Christ, and give his glory to their own works. But if inherent grace be our righteousness before God, then how does God justify the ungodly, who have no grace, or how can he justify a man for those graces which are imperfect, and which want the benefit of Christ’s atonement? Absurd as this opinion of theirs is, yet they must defend it. Their cause rests upon it: for if you take away their doctrine of merit, down falls the whole superstructure of their superstition, all their indulgences, pardons, pilgrimages, masses, fasts, penances, and the mighty Babel of man’s inventions. When this doctrine was grown to a monstrous height, it pleased God to raise up Luther and the rest of the reformers to preach against it. Their principal aim and design was to overthrow the merit of works, and to establish justification by faith only, and they succeeded. Several nations were converted from the errors of popery, and among the rest the inhabitants of this island. Our forefathers threw off the Romish yoke, and received the pure doctrines of the gospel, which amidst our several changes and revolutions of government have been happily preserved, until there has been of late years a manifest departure from them. Great multitudes of protestants are going fast back again to Popery, and seemingly without knowing it; for it is a received opinion in England, as much as in France, that man’s works are effectual and meritorious towards his justification before God. This is the fundamental heresy of the papists, and how many nominal protestants have fallen into it, our enemies can tell. They see, with pleasure, that there is very little appearance of religion left among us, and that some of our most decent professors are become papists in that leading principle, which separates the popish from the protestant communion.
Things being in this unpromising state, the friends of the Reformation should bestir themselves. They should try to point out the old land marks. This is more especially incumbent upon the clergy. It is high time for them to hold forth to their people the fundamental doctrines of the established church, and to warn them against the errors of popery and pharisaism. With this view, I have chosen the words now read for your present meditation; and may the Lord give his blessing to what shall be spoken upon them. Oh that he may accompany with the effectual working of his power what shall be said,
First, Concerning Christ’s unspotted innocence. He knew no sin. Yet,
Secondly, God made him to be sin for us; and
Thirdly, For this reason, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
And first, our Lord’s fitness to be made sin for us, is here set forth by his knowing no sin. He knew it not in the scripture sense of the word. He had no practical knowledge of sin, either in thought, word, or deed. Speculatively he knew it well, but that could not defile him; for it was the sin of others which he knew, and hated, and came to put away by the sacrifice of himself. Christ was perfectly acquainted with the holy, just, and good law of God; he saw clearly into the purity and spirituality of it, which could not suffer the least offence, being as holy, just, and good as God himself is, and being the copy of his most perfect mind and will. In this view our Lord beheld the odious nature of sin, and the exceeding sinfulness of it. He knew the hatred which the all-pure God had to it, the punishment it deserved, and the everlasting fire which it had kindled in the nethermost hell. No one ever understood these things so clearly as Christ did. He saw the destructive effects of sin, what disorder it had brought into the world, and to what temporal and eternal evils it had subject the bodies and the souls of men. He knew also that there was no help upon earth, and that no creature in heaven of the highest order of angels could deliver any one sinner from his distress, and much less a multitude; therefore his eye pitied us, and his compassion was moved at the sight of our lost and helpless state. Behold what manner of love he hath bestowed upon such sinners as you and me; a love which led him to do greater wonders to save, than he had before done to create us: for he, the most high God, blessed for ever, humbled himself to be made man. He, whom angels and archangels had been worshipping from the moment of their creation, took upon him the form of a servant, and came to save his people from their sins. Adore, my brethren, and praise this infinite condescension of the incarnate God: for it was for you who believe it by true faith, and for your salvation, that the Word was made flesh. He was equal to this great work, because he was perfect God and perfect man in one Christ, and as such he was absolutely free from sin, – “he knew no sin,” he knew it not in practice. No sin, no inclination, no motion, or rising of sin, ever entered into his heart, and therefore he was pure from the least spot or stain of pollution.
The scripture is very plain upon this point. Christ was known in the times of the Old Testament by the titles of the Holy Name, the Holy One, the Holy One of Israel, and the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Lord the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One; and when the fulness of time was come, that this Holy One should be made flesh, he was conceived and born without the least taint of corruption, conceived of the Holy Spirit, and born of a pure virgin. Yea, the angel Gabriel pronounced him to be holy before his birth, in the message to the virgin, Luke 1:35. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.” He was born holy, and such was the life of the holy child Jesus, as his birth had been. We may see clearly how pure he came into the world, from the purity with which he lived in it. How different was his life from ours; he knew no sin in thought, word, or deed. The prophet says, “He had a clean heart,” all his thoughts were clean; “He had pure hands,” all his actions were pure; “and he had a mouth without guile,” no idle, false, or sinful word ever passed through his lips. He was altogether holy, harmless, and undefiled, and separate from sinners. In the law of the Lord was his study and his delight. He came to glorify it, and by keeping it in its spiritual nature, and in its full extent, with every faculty of soul and body, and at all times he made it honourable. He paid it that obedience which it demanded, and continued in all things that were written in the book of the law to do them. Thus in him was no sin, sin being the transgression of the law. And accordingly we find him challenging his bitterest enemies upon this point. “Which of you,” says he, (John 8:45,) “convinceth me of sin?” Nay, he went further, and defied Satan himself, as well as the Jews, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me,” no sin of mine own to lay to my charge.
From these passages it plainly appears, that Christ knew no sin. He was a pure and spotless lamb, holy and without blemish; and it was necessary he should be so: because, if he ever had any sin of his own he could not have obeyed and suffered for the sins of others. The infinite purity of God’s law can pass by no sin. Upon the least transgression, if it be but a thought or motion in the heart, the law passes sentence and condemns, “Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them:” and if you continue not to do them, justice calls aloud for the inflicting of the threatened curse, and waits to see it fully executed; therefore unless Christ had continued to do all things which are written in the book of the law, he could not have obeyed and suffered for the sins of others; because he would then have suffered for his own, which must not be imagined. It would be blasphemy to suppose any such thing. When the last scene of his sufferings began, he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, a lamb without blemish and without spot, such as the ceremonial law required. You know, my brethren, that no creature could be offered in sacrifice to the Lord, if it had the least blemish or deformity. By this type was prefigured the perfect sinless purity, which was to be in the great sacrifice for sin. He was to be a lamb without blemish, without the least spot or stain of sin, either in his nature or in his life, and such an one was the lamb of God. The apostle says expressly, 1 Pet. 2:22, “He did NO sin;” and St. John, 1 Eph. 3:5, speaks to believers, “Ye know, that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin:” this was a known and established truth, that in Christ there was NO sin. If judgment was laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, there would be found in him a perfect conformity to the law. And this his active obedience was necessary to prepare him for his passive, that having obeyed the law actively he might suffer passively whatever was due to our disobedience. And that righteousness, by which we are accounted righteous before God, is the effect of his being obedient unto death, of his obedience to the perceptive part of the law, which was his fulfilling the righteousness of the law, and of his obedience to the vindictive part of the law, which was his bearing the cures of it. His active obedience was absolutely perfect. He knew NO sin, and therefore was every way fit and qualified to suffer for sin, “to be made sin for us,” as the apostle expresses it in my text, which words I am in the second place to consider.
Although Christ knew no sin, yet he was made sin. How could that be? How could he be made sin, who knew no sin? He was made sin, not practically, but by imputation. He had no sin inherently in him, but had sin imputed to him, when the Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all. In his own person there was no inherent spot or stain of sin, or any such thing. He could not touch the pollution of sin, nor could he practically know its filthy, defiling nature. He was not a drunkard, a whoremonger, a thief, or whatever you call a sinner as such. He neither was a sinner practically, nor had he ever the least inclination to be so; because his will was always in perfect harmony with the will of God. From whence it appears that Christ was not made a polluted sinner, nor yet a guilty sinner as to the merit and desert of sin. In this respect he was not capable of being made sin. he did not, as to himself, deserve the punishment of sin, for which he suffered. Punishment is due to transgressors, but Christ had not transgressed. Even when he suffered, according to St. Peter, he was just, and righteous in himself; 1 Pet. 3:18, “Christ also hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust.” He was perfectly just, and therefore capable of undertaking to suffer for the unjust, that as no suffering was due to him, the merit of what he suffered might be imputed unto them. And so it was. He freely entered into an obligation to stand in the place of the unjust, and to undergo the punishment due to them, and this with his own consent the Lord laid upon him, and in this sense he was made sin for us. He was made sin in the same way that we are made righteous. Now the righteousness by which we are justified is not inherent in ourselves, but it is in Christ, and is made our’s through God’s imputing it to us. In like manner our sins were not inherent in Christ, but imputed to him and laid upon him. He was willing to become our surety, and to answer for our sins and to have them imputed to him, so as to be obliged to bear the punishment of them, even the wrath and curse, which, if he had not endured them, would have sunk everyone of us into the pit of hell. But Christ his own self bare them in his own body upon the tree. As the surety of all that shall believe in him he undertook to answer all the demands which law and justice had upon them. And he was willing to have all their sins imputed to him, and placed to his account, that he might satisfy for them. Accordingly we read that he was once offered to bear the sins of many, and that by his own blood he obtained eternal redemption for them. When their iniquities were laid upon him, although he knew no sin, yet he knew what it was to suffer for sin. He died the death and endured the pains, which were in nature and proportion due to them for their sins, and for the full satisfaction of law and justice.
In this sense Christ was made sin; but what would this avail, if he was a mere man? He might be made sin, and might suffer, but not for us. The apostle says, in my text, he was made sin for us. What was effectual to us, must be more than human, and could be nothing short of divine. Christ’s undertakings were too great to be performed by any person less than the most high God. And accordingly the scripture teaches us, that Christ was Jehovah, the true self-existent God, a co-equal and co-eternal person with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and in his person God and man were united in one Christ. By this personal union, what the manhood did and suffered partook of the infinite merit of the Godhead. The manhood of Christ had no sin in it, and therefore what it suffered for the sin imputed to it, was infinitely meritorious, because he who suffered was God as well as man. This most wonderful method of bringing many sons unto glory, was contrived by the ever blessed Trinity, and settled by the covenant of grace. God the Son was pleased to become their surety, and to stand up in their nature to act and to suffer for them. And what he undertook he could not fail of accomplishing; for all things are alike possible to his almighty power. When he acted for his people, he was God as well as man, his obedience was therefore divine and infinite, and by the merits of it shall many be made righteous. When he suffered for his people, his sufferings were of such infinite merit and efficacy that by his stripes they are healed and freed from suffering. He took their griefs and carried their sorrows, that they might never fell them. When he died, and paid the debt to justice, which they ought to have paid, he soon brought them a discharge: for although he was buried and descended into hell, yet on the third day he rose again from the dead, and thereby demonstrated, that all the ends were answered, for which he was made sin for them.
Here, my Christian brethren, let us stop and adore the free love and rich mercy of our Divine Redeemer. He, the most high God, blessed for ever, condescended to be made man for us, and for our salvation. O wonderful condescension! that there should be any mercy for such enemies and rebels as we have been, and how did he magnify his compassion, that when he might in justice have destroyed us, yet he humbled himself and stooped down to save us! But how great was his humiliation in vouchsafing to take on him the form of a servant, and to live in poverty and contempt. Considering who it was that became a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, we see the greatest wonder of all, the depth of his humiliation. He that was the lowest upon earth, was the highest in heaven. He came down to be made sin for us, to have our sins imputed to him, and to answer for them to law and justice. Accordingly they were laid upon him, and he bare them in his own body on the cross, and thereby saved us from our sins. Blessed, for ever blessed be the name of our dear Redeemer. Glory, and honour, and thanks never-ceasing be to him, who took all our suffering upon himself, because he could bear that which we could not, and because he could satisfy for that in a short time, which we could not in eternity, and who, having thus delivered us from sin and suffering, has righteousness to impute unto us, in which we may stand blameless at the bar of justice. Oh let us praise him with our lips and lives, who was made sin for us, that he might be made righteousness to us, which is the third point I was to consider.
He was a spotless lamb, and therefore capable of being made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Righteousness is a perfect conformity to the law and will of God, and without this no man shall see the Lord: “For the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. 6:9, and we are all unrighteous, because we have all sinned and robbed God of his glory. The question then is, In what way or by what means can we attain righteousness? Can we attain it by the works of the law? No, it is impossible; because, if it was attainable by our own works, then we should be inherently righteous, and should have such a righteousness as the law demands; but the law demands perfect unsinning obedience, which we have not paid it. And upon our failing to pay it, the law pronounces us guilty, passes sentence, and leaves us, as to any thing we can do, for ever under the curse, it being the irreversible decree of the almighty Law-giver, that since all flesh has sinned and broken the law, therefore by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
But if sinners cannot be justified by any inherent righteousness, what righteousness have they to plead at the bar of justice? They have a righteousness absolutely perfect and complete, called in scripture the righteousness of God, because the Lord our righteousness contrived and wrought it out. He came into the world, and took flesh in order to fulfill all righteousness. By his obedience and suffering he satisfied all the demands of law and justice, and paid that immense debt which none of us could pay, and hereby he was made of God unto us righteousness: God the Father constituted and ordained him to be the perfect righteousness of believers. In him is their righteousness, “Their righteousness is of me, said the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
If you ask how the righteousness of another can be made yours? it must be in the same way that Christ was made sin. He had no sin of his own, and yet he was made sin by imputation; and believers have no righteousness of their own, and yet are made righteous by imputation. Christ had no inherent sin of his own, nor have they any inherent righteousness; but he was made sin by having their sins imputed to him, and they are made righteous by having his righteousness imputed to them. The manner of God’s proceeding is the same in both cases. When the Psalmist says, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity,” how is this to be understood? Has he no iniquity in him? yes, he has original and inherent sin, and if he says he has no sin, he deceives himself; but he is a blessed man, because the Lord does not impute sin to him, nor charge him with it. So when David describeth the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness, has the man this righteousness in himself, and is he inherently righteous? No, but by an act of grace God accounts him righteous, and imputes righteousness unto him, and therefore he is blessed. And thus God imputes righteousness to them who believe, not for a righteousness which is in them, but for a righteousness which he imputes to them. As their iniquities were laid upon Christ, and satisfaction for them required of him as debt is of the bondsman, although he had none of the money, so is the righteousness of Christ laid upon them. In like manner, as their sins were made his, so is his righteousness made theirs. He is sin for them, not inherently, but by imputation; and they righteousness through him, not inherently, but by imputation.
This is the righteousness in which alone a sinner can stand acquitted at God’s bar? There he must make mention of this righteousness, even of this only: for none but this can answer the demands of the law, and expiate the curse of it, and this righteousness can be made his by no other way than by God’s imputing it to him; which, as it is the great truth held forth in my text, I will endeavour more fully to explain and defend by the following reasons:
And first, the ceremonial law taught this doctrine very clearly. Whenever a person had sinned, he was to bring his sacrifice to the priest, and to lay his hands upon its head, confessing his sins over it, and then the guilt was transferred to the sacrifice, and its blood was shed instead of his. This is mentioned several times in Leviticus 4. And of the scape goat we read, Lev. 16:21, “Aaron, shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat.” All the sins of the children of Israel were passed over to the goat, but were they put into the goat, or were they inherent in him? No, this is too absurd to be supposed, but they were put upon the goat. And this was a very expressive image of our sins being laid upon Christ; for all the sacrifices represented him. As the scape goat had imputed to him all the people’s iniquities, so had Christ all his people’s iniquities imputed to him; and as the goat did bear upon him all their iniquities, so Christ did bear all their sins in his own body upon the tree. What was prefigured by the type, was fulfilled by the reality, when Christ suffered once for sin, the just for the unjust: for then he was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Our righteousness is in him; this is a
Second argument; That righteousness which is our justification before God is IN Christ. Believers have it not in themselves. They have not an inherent righteousness wrought out and attained by their own works, but their justifying righteousness was wrought out by another, and it is in him. How then can it be made theirs in any other way than by imputation? Must it not be transferred to them in the same way that their sins were transferred to him? And how were they transferred to him? They were imputed, not inherent; they were laid upon him, not into him. So his righteousness is in him, as their sins were in them, and it is imputed, not inherent; it is not put into them, but upon them. Their righteousness is in him, and he is the Lord their righteousness, and consequently that righteousness for which they are justified, cannot be in them; but it is made theirs when God imputes it to them, and they by faith receive it. The manner of receiving it, which is by faith, is the
Third argument I shall bring in support of the apostle’s doctrine. Faith is the only instrument which God is pleased to use in applying Christ’s righteousness. The apostle calls it the righteousness of faith, because faith alone is employed in the application of this righteousness. It is never called the righteousness of any other grace, but of faith. We never read of the righteousness of humility, meekness, or charity; these are of great price in the sight of God, but they have no office in justifying a sinner. This belongs solely to faith: for to him that worketh not, but believeth, is righteousness imputed. It is not by working, but by believing, that sinners are justified. When they are convinced of sin, find no righteousness in themselves, hear the dreadful sentence of the law against the unrighteous, and feel in their guilty consciences some of the miseries which they deserve, then they are stirred up to seek for a righteousness in which they may stand acquitted before the judgment-seat of God. The scripture offers to them such a righteousness in Christ, and then God enables them to rest and to rely upon it for their justification, they then by faith have peace with God through Jesus Christ their Lord. Thus the convinced sinner is forced to seek a righteousness out of himself, and to rely upon the righteousness of another, and how can this be made or accounted his in any other way, than by imputation? how can he be made righteous in Christ, but by having Christ’s righteousness imputed to him?
If these arguments be well considered, they will, I hope, establish the doctrine of the text; for they clearly prove, that God hath appointed the Lord Jesus Christ to be the only righteousness of his people. He was made sin for them, their sins being laid upon him, as the sins of the children of Israel were laid upon the scape got. And he was made of God unto them righteousness, and their righteousness is in him, not an inherent but an imputed righteousness, and received by faith, which submits to be justified by the righteousness of another, and rests with full trust and confidence upon it. This is the fundamental doctrine of Christianity, and the direct contrary is the fundamental doctrine of popery.
At the reformation the Lord raised up faithful witnesses to bear their testimony against that reigning heresy of the papists, which places merit in man’s works; yea, such merit as to justify a sinner before God; yea, still greater merit, for they maintain, that a man can do more than the moral law requires, and can perform works of supererogation, the merit of which may be imputed to another person, and yet, at the same time, they deny the imputation of Christ’s merits. The first reformers preached boldly against those blasphemies, and that blessed servant of God, Luther, was bold indeed. He knew well the dangerous tendency of the doctrine of merit, and therefore he principally wrote and preached against it, and God gave him great success. A sinner made righteous by the righteousness of Christ, is, as he used to say, the doctrine upon which a church stands or falls. Upon it our church was established, and has long stood; but do we stand upon it now? Are we all champions for the protestant doctrine, or are we in general departed from it? Alas! our enemies can tell, with triumph they tell of the increase of the popish interest among us. And why does it increase? Whence is it that they make so many converts? Is it not because our people are not well established in this protestant doctrine? If it was taught and preached more, our churches would not be so empty as they are, nor the mass houses so full. Many of our people know not what it is to be a protestant, and therefore they become an easy prey to the papists, who are so busy and successful in making converts, that they pretend they have on one Lord’s day more communicants at the mass house in Lincoln’s-inn-fields, than we have on the same day at all the churches in London. I fear this may be true; but is it not greatly alarming, and ought it not to stir up the protestant clergy, to try to put a stop to the spreading of popery? But how can they do this more effectually, than by laying the axe to the root, and striking at the doctrine of merit, which is the fundamental error of the papists? Overthrow this, and popery cannot stand. A man cannot be a papist, who believes that his justifying righteousness is in Christ, and whoever does not believe this is not a protestant. May the Lord raise us up faithful and able men, (for we greatly want them,) to defend his righteousness against them who have established a meritorious righteousness of their own, and will not submit to the righteousness of God.
But, besides the papists, we have other enemies to the doctrine in the text. The careless sinner treats it with great contempt; for he does not see its value, nor his own want of it, and therefore he lives easy and secure in the practice of sin. The scripture has revealed the wrath of heaven against all his unrighteousness, but he does not regard the revelation. The law brings him in guilty and condemns him but he gives himself no concern about the threatenings of the law. The gospel offers him mercy, and its ministers entreat him to accept of it, but he stops his ears. Neither the grace of the gospel, nor the terrors of the law, can prevail upon him. Although he has no righteousness of any kind, yet the lives as if he was in no danger. Oh deluded man: if thou didst but know thy state, thou wouldst cry earnestly to the Redeemer, and seek to be accepted in his righteousness. May he take pity upon thee, and send his good spirit to convince thee of sin, and to convince thee of righteousness.
The formalist is another enemy to the doctrine in the text. He will not receive justification by imputed righteousness, but will have his own righteousness seated on the throne along with Christ. He falls into this great mistake from his ignorance of the perfect nature of God’s law, which has made no provision for any failing, but for the very first passes sentence, “Cursed is every one who continueth not in ALL things,” &c., and since all have failed, consequently all are under the curse, and can never be justified by that law which has condemned them. And his mistake arises also from his ignorance of the gospel. He takes the gospel to be a proposal of terms and conditions, mitigating the rigour of the law, and so he makes Christ only a milder law-giver than Moses, requiring not perfect but sincere obedience of his creatures. Whereas Christ came to redeem us from the curse of the law, by obeying its precepts, and by suffering its penalties, and our righteousness comes to us from him as the fulfiller of the law, and is received by faith, without any of our works or deservings.
If any of you, my brethren, have fallen into this mistake, weigh and consider attentively what has been before said upon the moral law, and upon the law of faith, and if you are not convinced, can you ask God to direct you in the right way? If you can, he has promised to give you wisdom; he will teach you the true doctrine, and will enable you to submit to the righteousness of God. But if you are convinced, are you waiting for the precious gift of faith, or have you received it? If you ware waiting for it, remember whose gift is is. The Holy Spirit alone can work faith in your heart. It requires his power, even that almighty power, which raised up Jesus from the dead. The scriptures ascribes to him the office of convincing sinners of Christ’s righteousness, and of giving them faith to rest upon it for their justification. Look up to him for this blessing. Wait in his appointed ways, hoping for it. And when the Spirit shall be poured upon you from on high, then you will be justified by faith in Christ’s righteousness, and the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance for ever.
Happy are you, my Christian brethren, who have received the righteousness of faith, and knowing whom you have believed. Since Christ’s righteousness is your’s, bring forth its proper fruits, and shew publicly, that there is an inseparable connexion between justifying faith and sanctifying grace. By justifying faith the believer is united to Christ, and receives life from him, as a graft does from the stock upon which it grows. By virtue of this union, Christ liveth in the believer, and enables him to put forth the proper acts of spiritual life, as the stock upon which the graft grows supplies it with sap and juices to put forth leaves, and blossom, and fruit. This is the certain effect of the abiding of a branch in the vine; it will bring forth fruit; and if any one fancy himself to be a believer, and neither brings forth nor is seeking to bring forth any fruit, he only deceives himself, and the truth is not in him: for whosoever has Christ for a Savior, will have the Holy Spirit for a sanctifier, and will bring forth fruit to the Glory of God.
See then, my Christian brethren, that ye value and prize this righteousness, and give it its proper honour, both with your hearts and lives. While you are bringing forth its peaceable fruits, you will continually find the comforts of it. This righteousness is one of the pieces of Christian armour. It is called a breast-plate: because it is the proper armour for the vital parts. Your life is always safe while you have your breast-plate on; you need not fear the terror by night, nor the arrow that flieth by day. Let thousands fall, you are safe. You are defended from outward attacks: for although many be the afflictions of the righteous, yet the Lord delivereth him out of them all; and you are kept in inward peace: for the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever. In time of sickness this righteousness will be a perpetual cordial. It will not suffer the heart to sink, although the body grows weak and faint; for this breast-plate is not only proof against the pains of sickness, but also against the weapons of death. “Righteousness delivereth from death;” Prov. 11:4; not by keeping the justified person from dying, but by keeping him from the fear of the first, and from the power of the second death. The righteous man, armed with this invulnerable breastplate, can challenge all his enemies. Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? shall tribulation or distress, or persecution or death? Nay, clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness, I shall not be afraid to go through the valley and shadow of death, nor yet to stand at the awful bar of God’s infinite justice. Why should he fear to stand there to be tried? For who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God himself that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again for their justification, and in his righteousness they shall stand holy and unblameable and unreprovable before the judgment-seat of God.
Since these are some of the benefits of having on the breastplate of righteousness, let us, my Christian brethren, keep it always in use. Since we are fighting under the Captain of our salvation, let us be ever armed with his righteousness; and may we all wear it upon our breasts, that neither guilt within, nor troubles without, may ever separate us from the love of Christ Jesus our Lord; but may we, in life and death, find the blessedness of this armour, by its protecting us from the threatenings of the broken law, and from the vengeance of almighty justice; and may we in time and in eternity live to his glory, who humbled himself to be made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Grant this, holy Father, for the sake of they dear Son, Jesus Christ: to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, three persons in one Jehovah, be honour and glory, and blessing and praise, for ever and ever. Amen.