Part 2 out of 3
dost make it appear, that thou dost not love thy God; for as he that
taketh, or that derogateth from his neighbour in that which is his
neighbour's due, sinneth against his neighbour; so he that taketh or
derogateth from God, sinneth against God.
Now, then, though thou hast not, as thou dost imagine, played at that
low game as to derogate from thy neighbour; yet thou hast played at
that high game as to derogate from thy God; for thou hast robbed God
of the glory of salvation; yea, declared, that as to that there is no
trust to be put in him. "Lo, this is the man that made not God his
strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and
strengthened himself in his wickedness;" Psalm lii. 7.
What else means this great bundle of thy own righteousness, which
thou hast brought with thee into the temple? yea, what means else thy
commending of thyself because of that, and so thy implicit prayer,
that thou for that mightst find acceptance with God?
All this, what does it argue, I say, but thy diffidence of God? and
that thou countest salvation safer in thine own righteousness than in
the righteousness of God? and that thy own love to, and care of thy
own soul, is far greater, and so much better, than is the care and
love of God? And is this to keep the first table; yea, the first
branch of that table, which saith, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God?" for thy thus doing cannot stand with love to God?
How can that man say, I love God, who from his very heart shrinketh
to trust in him? Or, how can that man say, I would glorify God, who
in his very heart refuseth to stand and fall by his mercy?
Suppose a great man should bid all the poor of the parish to his
house to dinner, and should moreover send by the mouth of his
servant, saying, My lord hath killed his fatlings, hath furnished his
table, and prepared his wine, nor is there want of anything; come to
the banquet: Would it not be counted as an high affront to, great
contempt of, and much distrust in, the goodness of the man of the
house, if some of these guests should take with them, out of their
own poor store, some of their mouldy crusts, and carry them with
them, lay them on their trenchers upon the table before the lord of
the feast and the rest of his guests, out of fear that he yet would
not provide sufficiently for those he had bidden to the dinner that
he had made?
Why, Pharisee, this is the very case; thou hast been called to a
banquet, even to the banquet of God's grace, and thou hast been
disposed to go; but behold, thou hast not believed that he would of
his own cost make thee a feast when thou comest: wherefore of thy
own store thou hast brought with thee, and hast laid upon thy
trencher on his table thy mouldy crusts in the presence of the
angels, and of this poor Publican; yea, and hast vauntingly said upon
the whole, "God, I thank thee, I am not as other men are." I am no
such needy man; Luke xviii. 11. "I am no extortioner, nor unjust,
nor adulterer, nor even as this Publican." I am come indeed to thy
feast, for of civility I could do no less; but for thy dainties, I
need them not, I have of such things enough of mine own; Luke xviii.
12. I thank thee therefore for thy offer of kindness, but I am not
as those that have, and stand in need thereof, "nor yet as this
Publican." And thus feeding upon thine own fare, or by making a
composition of his and thine together, thou contemnest God, thou
countest him insufficient or unfaithful; that is, either one that has
not enough, or having it, will not bestow it upon the poor and needy;
and, therefore, of mere pretence thou goest to his banquet, but yet
trustest to thy own, and to that only.
This is to break the first table; and so to make thyself a sinner of
the highest form: for the sins against the first table are sins of
an higher nature than are the sins against the second. True, the
sins of the second table are also sins against God, because they are
sins against the commandments of God: but the sins that are against
the first table, are sins not only against the command, but against
the very love, strength, holiness, and faithfulness of God: and
herein stands thy condition; thou hast not, thou sayst, thou hast not
done injury to thy neighbour; but what of that, if thou hast
reproached thy maker?
Pharisee, I will assure thee, thou art beside the saddle; thy state
is not good, thy righteousness is so far off from doing any good,
that it maketh thee to be a greater sinner, because it signifieth
more immediately against the mercy, the love, the grace, and goodness
of God, than the sins of other sinners, as to degree, do.
And as they are more odious and abominable in the sight of God (as
they needs must, if what is said be true, as it is), so they are more
dangerous to the life and soul of man; for that they always appear
unto him in whom they dwell, and to him that trusteth in them, not to
be sins and transgressions, but virtues and excellent things; not
things that set a man further off, but the things that bring a man
nearer God, than those that want them are or can be.
This therefore is the dangerous estate of those that go about to
establish their own righteousness, that neither have, nor can, while
they are so doing, submit themselves to the righteousness of God;
Rom. x. 3. It is far more easy to persuade a poor wretch, whose life
is debauched, and sins are written in his forehead, to submit to the
righteousness of God (that is, to the righteousness that is of God's
providing and giving), than it is to persuade a self-righteous man to
do it; for the profane is sooner convinced of the necessity of
righteousness to save him, as that he has none of his own, and
accepteth of, and submitteth himself to the help and salvation that
is in the righteousness and obedience of another.
And upon this account it is that Christ saith the publicans and
harlots enter into the kingdom of heaven before the scribes and
Pharisees; Matt. xxi. 31. Poor Pharisee, what a loss art thou at?
thou art not only a sinner, but a sinner of the highest form. Not a
sinner by such sins (by such sins chiefly) as the second table doth
make manifest; but a sinner chiefly in that way as no self-righteous
man did ever dream of. For when the righteous man or Pharisee shall
hear that he is a sinner, he replieth, "I am not as other men are."
And because the common and more ordinary description of sin is the
transgression against the second table, he presently replieth again,
"I am not as this Publican is;" and so shroudeth himself under his
own lame endeavours and ragged partial patches of moral or civil
righteousness. Wherefore, when he heareth that his righteousness is
condemned, slighted, and accounted nothing worth, then he fretteth
and fumeth, and would kill the man that so slighteth and disdaineth
his goodly righteousness; but Christ, and the true gospel-teacher
still go on, and condemn all his righteousness as menstruous rags, as
an abomination to God, and nothing but loss and dung.
Now menstruous rags, things that are an abomination and dung, are not
fit matter to make a garment of to wear when I come to God for life,
much less to be made my friend, my advocate, my mediator and
spokesman, when I stand betwixt heaven and hell; Isa. lxiv. 6; Luke
xvi. 15; Phil. iii. 6-8, to plead for me that I might be saved.
Perhaps some will blame me, and count me also worthy thereof, because
I do not distinguish betwixt the matter and the manner of the
Pharisee's righteousness. And let them condemn me still for saving
the holy law, which is neither the matter nor manner of the
Pharisee's righteousness, but rather the rules (if he will live
thereby) up to which he should completely come in every thing that he
doth. And I say again, that the whole of the Pharisee's
righteousness is sinful, though not with and to men, yet with and
before the God of heaven. Sinful, I say it is, and abominable, both
in itself, and also in its effects.
1. In itself; for that it is imperfect, scanty, and short of the
rule by which righteousness is enjoined, and even with which every
act should be; for shortness here, even every shortness in these
duties, is sin and sinful weakness; wherefore the curse taketh hold
of the man for coming short; but that it could not justly do, if his
coming short was not his sin: Cursed is every one that doth not, and
that continueth not to do all things written in the law; Deut. xxvii.
26; Gal. iii. 10.
2. It is sinful; because it is wrought by sinful flesh; for all
legal righteousness is a work of the flesh; Rom. iv. 1, &c.; Phil.
A work, I say, of the flesh; even of that flesh, who, or which also
committeth the greatest enormities; for the flesh is but one, though
its workings are divers: sometimes in a way most notoriously sensual
and devilish, causing the soul to wallow in the mire.
But these are not all the works of the flesh; the flesh sometimes
will attempt to be righteous, and set upon doing actions that in
their perfection would be very glorious and beautiful to behold. But
because the law is only commanding words, and yieldeth no help to the
man that attempts to perform it; and because the flesh is weak, and
cannot do of itself that, therefore this most glorious work of the
But, I say, as it is a work of the flesh it cannot be good, forasmuch
as the hand that worketh it is defiled with sin; for in a good man,
one spiritually good, that is "in his flesh, there dwells no good
thing," but consequently that which is bad; how then can the flesh of
a carnal, graceless man (and such a one is every Pharisee and self-
righteous man in the world), produce, though it joineth itself to the
law, to the righteous law of God, that which is good in his sight.
If any shall think that I pinch too hard, because I call man's
righteousness which is of the law, of the righteous law of God,
flesh, let them consider that which follows: to wit, That though man
by sin is said "to be dead in sin and trespasses," yet not so dead
but that he can act still in his own sphere; that is, to do, and
choose to do, either that which by all men is counted base, or that
which by some is counted good, though he is not, nor can all the
world make him, capable of doing any thing that may please his God.
Man, by nature, as dead as he is, can, and that with the will of his
flesh, will his own salvation. Man, by nature, can, and that by the
power of the flesh, pursue and follow after his own salvation; but
then he wills it, and pursues or follows after it, not in God's way,
but his own; not by faith in Christ, but by the law of Moses. See
Rom. ix. 16, 31; x. 3, 7.
Wherefore it is no error to say, that a man naturally has will, and a
power to pursue his will, and that as to his own salvation. But it
is a damnable error to say, that he hath will and power to pursue it,
and that in God's way: for then we must hold that the mysteries of
the gospel are natural; for that natural men, or men by nature, may
apprehend and know them, yea, and know them to be the only means by
which they must obtain eternal life; for the understanding must act
before the will; yea, a man must approve of the way to life by Jesus
Christ, before his mind will budge, or stir, or move, that way: "But
the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God (of the
gospel); for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them,
because they are spiritually discerned."
He receiveth not these things; that is, his mind and will lie cross
unto them, for he counts them foolishness; nor can all the natural
wisdom in the world cause that his will should fall in with them,
because it cannot discern them.
Nature discerneth the law, and the righteousness thereof; yea, it
discerneth it, and approveth thereof; that is, that the righteousness
of it is the best and only way to life, and therefore the natural
will and power of the flesh, as here you see in the Pharisee, do
steer their course by that to eternal life; 1 Cor. ii. 14.
The righteousness of the law, therefore, is a work of the flesh, a
work of sinful flesh, and therefore must needs be as filth, and dung,
and abominable as to that for which this man hath produced it and
presented it in the temple before God.
Nor is the Pharisee alone entangled in this mischief; many souls are
by these works of the flesh flattered, as also the Pharisee was, into
an opinion, that their state is good, when there is nothing in it.
The most that their conversion amounteth to is, the Publican is
become a Pharisee; the open sinner is become a self-righteous man.
Of the black side of the flesh he hath had enough, now therefore with
the white side of the flesh he will recreate himself. And now, most
wicked must he needs be that questioneth the goodness of the state of
such a man. He, of a drunkard, a swearer, an unclean person, a
Sabbath-breaker, a liar, and the like, is become reformed, a lover of
righteousness, a strict observer, doer, and trader in the formalities
of the law, and a herder with men of his complexion. And now he is
become a great exclaimer against sin and sinners, denying to be
acquaint with those that once were his companions, saying, "I am not
even as this Publican."
To turn therefore from sin to man's righteousness, yea, to rejoice in
confidence, that thy state is better than is that of the Publican (I
mean, better in the eyes of divine justice, and in the judgment of
the law); and yet to be found by the law, not in the spirit, but in
the flesh; not in Christ, but under the law; not in a state of
salvation, but of damnation, is common among men: for they, and they
only, are the right men, "who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice
in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Where, by
"flesh," must not be meant the horrible transgressions against the
law (though they are also called "the works of the flesh," Gal. iv.
29); for they minister no occasion unto men to have confidence in
them towards God: but that is that which is insinuated by Paul,
where he saith, he had no "confidence in the flesh," though he might
have had it; as he said, "though I might also have confidence in the
flesh." "If any other man," saith he, "thinketh that he hath whereof
he might trust in the flesh, I more," Phil. iii. 3, 4; and then he
repeats a twofold privilege that he had by the flesh.
1. That he was one of the seed of Abraham, and of the tribe of
Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, &c.
2. That he had fallen in with the strictest men of that religion,
which was such after the flesh, to wit, to be a Pharisee, and was the
son of a Pharisee, had much fleshly zeal for God, and "touching the
righteousness which is of the law, blameless," Phil. iii. 3, 5, 6.
But I say still, there is nothing but flesh; fleshly privileges and
fleshly righteousness, and so, consequently, a fleshly confidence,
and trust for heaven. This is manifest; when the man had his eyes
enlightened, he counted all loss and dung that he might be found in
Christ, not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but
that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is
of God by faith.
And this leads me to another thing, and that is, to tell thee, O thou
blind Pharisee, that thou canst not be in a safe condition, because
thou hast thy confidence in the flesh, that is, in the righteousness
of the flesh. "For all flesh is grass, and all the glory of it as
the flower of the field;" and the flesh, and the glory of that being
as weak as the grass, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the
oven, is but a weak business for a man to venture his eternal
salvation upon. Wherefore, as I also hinted before, the godly-wise
have been afraid to be found in their righteousness, I mean their own
personal righteousness, though that is far better than can be the
righteousness of any carnal man: for the godly man's righteousness
is wrought by the Spirit and faith of Christ, but the ungodly man's
righteousness is of the flesh, and of the law. Yet I say, this godly
man is afraid to stand by his righteousness before the tribunal of
God, as is manifest in these following particulars.
1. He sees sin in his righteousness; for so the prophet intimates,
when he saith, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa.
lxiv.); but there is nothing can make one's righteousness filthy but
sin. It is not the poor, the low, the mean, the sickly, the beggarly
state of man, nor yet his being hated of devils, persecuted of men,
broken under necessities, reproaches, distresses, or any kind of
troubles of this nature that can make the godly man's righteousness
filthy; nothing but sin can do it, and that can, doth, hath, and will
do it. Nor can any man, be he who he will, and though he watches,
prays, strives, denies himself, and puts his body under what
chastisement or hardships he can; yea, though he also get his spirit
and soul hoisted up to the highest peg or pin of sanctity and holy
contemplation, and so his lusts to the greatest degree of
mortification; but sin will be with him in the best of his
performances: with him, I say, to pollute and defile his duties, and
to make his righteousness speckled and spotted, filthy and
I will give you two or three instances for this.
(1.) Nehemiah was a man (in his day), one that was zealous, very
zealous, for God, for his house, for his people, and for his ways;
and so continued, and that from first to last, as they may see that
please to read the relation of his actions; yet when he comes
seriously to be concerned with God about his duties, he relinquisheth
a standing by them. True, he mentioneth them to God, but confesseth
that there are imperfections in them, and prayeth that God will not
wipe them away. "Wipe not out my good deeds, O my God, that I have
done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof." And
again, "Remember me, O my God, concerning this also (another good
deed), and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy; and
remember me, O my God, for good;" Neh. xiii.
I do not think that by these prayers he pleadeth for an acceptance of
his person, as touching justification from the curse of the law (as
the poor blind Pharisee doth), but that God would accept of his
service, as he was a son, and not deny to give him a reward of grace
for what he had done, since he was pleased to declare in his
testament, that he would reward the labour of love of his saints with
an exceeding weight of glory; and therefore prayeth, that God would
not wipe away his good deeds, but remember him for good, according to
the greatness of his mercy.
(2.) A second instance is that of David, where he saith, "Enter not
into judgment with thy servant, O Lord; for in thy sight shall no man
living be justified;" Psalm clxiii. 2. David, as I have hinted
before, is said to be a man "after God's own heart," Acts xiii.; and
as here by the Spirit he acknowledges him for his servant; yet behold
how he shrinketh, how he draweth back, how he prayeth, and
petitioneth, that God would vouchsafe so much as not to enter into
judgment with him. Lord, saith he, if thou enterest into judgment
with me, I die, because I shall be condemned; for in thy sight I
cannot be justified; to wit, by my own good deeds. Lord, at the
beginning of thy dealing with me, by the law and my works, I die:
therefore do not so much as enter into judgment with me, O Lord. Nor
is this my case only, but it is the condition of all the world: "For
in thy sight shall no man living be justified."
(3.) A third instance is that general conclusion of the apostle,
"But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is
evident; for the just shall live by faith." By this saying of St
Paul, as he taketh up the sentence of the prophet Habakkuk, chap. ii.
4, so he taketh up this sentence, yea, and the personal justice of
David also. No man, saith he, is justified by the law in the sight
of God: no, no just man, no holy man, not the strictest and most
righteous man. But why not? Why, because "the just shall live by
The just man, therefore, must die, if he has not faith in another
righteousness than that which is of the law, called his own: I say,
he must die, if he has none other righteousness than that which is
his own by the law. Thus also Paul confesses of himself: "I (saith
he) know nothing by myself," either before conversion or after; that
is, I knew not that I did any thing before conversion, either against
the law, or against my conscience; for I was then, touching the
righteousness which is of the law, blameless. Also, since my
conversion, I know nothing by myself; for "I have walked in all good
conscience before God unto this day."
A great saying, I promise you. Well, but yet "I am not hereby
justified;" Phil. iii. 7; Acts xxiii. 1; 1 Cor. iv. 4. Nor will I
dare to venture the eternal salvation of my soul upon mine own
justice; "for he that judgeth me is the Lord;" that is, though I,
through my dim-sightedness, cannot see the imperfections of my
righteousness, yet the Lord, who is my judge, and before whose
tribunal I must shortly stand, can and will; and if in his sight
there shall be found no more but one spot in my righteousness, I
must, if I plead my righteousness, fall for that.
2. That the best of men are afraid to stand before God's tribunal,
there to be judged by the law as to life and death, according to the
sufficiency or non-sufficiency of their righteousness, is evident;
because by casting away their own (in this matter), they make all the
means they can for this; that is, that his mercy, by an act of grace,
be made over to them, and that they in it may stand before God to be
Hence David cries out so often, "Lead me in thy righteousness."
"Deliver me in thy righteousness." "Judge me according to thy
righteousness." "Quicken me in thy righteousness." "O Lord (says
he), give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me,
and in thy righteousness." "And enter not into judgment with thy
servant, O Lord: for in thy sight shall no flesh living be
justified." And David, what if God doth thus? Why, then, saith he,
"My tongue shall speak of his righteousness." "My tongue shall sing
of thy righteousness." "My mouth shall shew forth thy
righteousness." "Yea, I will make mention of thy righteousness, even
of thine only;" Psalm lviii.; xxxi. 1; xxxv. 24; cxix. 40; xxxv. 28;
li. 14; lxxi. 15, 16.
Daniel also, when he comes to plead for himself and his people, he
first casts away his and their righteousness, saying, "For we do not
present our supplications unto thee for our righteousness:" And he
pleads God's righteousness, and that he might have a share and
interest in that saying, "O Lord, righteousness belongeth to thee;"
to wit, that righteousness, for the sake of which, mercy and
forgiveness, and so heaven and happiness, is extended to us.
Righteousness belongeth to thee, and is thine, as nearly as sin,
shame, and confusion, are ours, and belongeth to us. Read the 16th
and 17th verses of the 9th of Daniel. "O Lord (saith he), according
to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger, and thy
fury, be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain;
because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers,
Jerusalem, and thy people, are become a reproach to all that are
about us. Now, therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant,
and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary
that is desolate, for the Lord's sake:" For the sake of the Lord
Jesus Christ; for on him Daniel now had his eye, and through him to
the Father he made his supplication; yea, and the answer was
according to his prayer, to wit, that God would have mercy on
Jerusalem; and that he would in his time send the Lord, the Messias,
to bring them in everlasting righteousness for them.
Paul also, as I have hinted before, disclaims his own righteousness,
and layeth fast hold on the righteousness of God; seeking to be found
in that, not having his own righteousness, for he knew that when the
rain descends, the winds blow, and the floods come down on all men,
they that have but their own righteousness, must fall; Phil. iii
Now, the earnest desire of the righteous to be found in God's
righteousness, ariseth from strong conviction of the imperfections of
their own, and the knowledge that was given them of the terror that
will attend men at the day of the fiery trial; to wit, the day of
judgement. For although men can now flatter themselves into a fool's
paradise, and persuade themselves that all shall be well with them
then, for the sake of their own silly and vain-glorious performances,
yet when the day comes that shall burn like an oven, and when all
that have done wickedly shall be as stubble (and so will all appear
to be that are not found in Christ), then will their righteousness
vanish like smoke, or be like fuel for that burning flame. And hence
the righteousness that the godly seek to be found in, is called, The
name of the Lord, a strong tower, a rock, a shield, a fortress, a
buckler, a rock of defence, unto which they resort, and into which
they run and are safe.
The godly therefore do not, as this Pharisee, bring their own
righteousness into the temple, and there buoy up themselves and
spirits by that into a conceit, that for the sake of that God will be
merciful and good unto them; but throwing away their own, they make
to God for his, because they certainly know, even by the word of God,
that in the judgment none can stand the trial but those that are
found in the righteousness of God.
3. That the best of men are afraid to stand before God's tribunal by
the law, there to be judged to life and death, according to the
sufficiency or non-sufficiency of their righteousness, is evident;
for they know, that it is a vain thing to seek, by acts of
righteousness, to make themselves righteous men, as is the way of all
them that seek to be justified by the deeds of the law.
And herein lieth the great difference between the Pharisee and the
true Christian man. The Pharisee thinks, by acts of righteousness,
he shall make himself a righteous man: therefore he cometh into the
presence of God well furnished, as he thinks, with his negative and
Grace suffereth not a man to boast before God, whatever he saith
before men. His soul that is lifted up, is not upright in him; and
better is the poor in spirit than the proud in spirit. The Pharisee
was a very proud man; a proud, ignorant man; proud of his own
righteousness, and ignorant of God's: for had he not, he could not,
as he did, have so condemned the Publican, and justified himself.
And I say again, that all this pride and vain-glorious show of the
Pharisee did arise from his not being acquainted with this, that a
man must be good before he can do good; he must be righteous, before
he can do righteousness. This is evident from Paul, who insinuateth
this as the reason why none do good, even because "There is none that
is righteous, no, not one." "There is none righteous," saith he, and
then follows, "There is none that doeth good;" Rom. iii. 10, 11, 12.
For it is not possible for a man that is not first made righteous by
the God of heaven, to do any thing that in a gospel-sense may be
called righteousness. To make himself a righteous man, by his so
meddling with them, he may design; but work righteousness, and so by
such works of righteousness make himself a righteous man, he cannot.
The righteousness of a carnal man is indeed by God called
righteousness; but it must be understood as spoken in the dialect of
the world. The world indeed calls it righteousness, and it will do
no harm, if it bear that term with reference to worldly matters.
Hence worldly civilians are called good and righteous men, and so,
such as Christ, under that notion, neither died for, nor giveth his
grace unto; Rom. v. 7, 8. But we are not now discoursing about any
other righteousness, than that which is so accounted either in a law
or in a gospel-sense; and therefore let us a little more touch upon
A man then must be righteous in a law-sense, before he can do acts of
righteousness, I mean, that are such in a gospel-sense. Hence,
first, you have true gospel-righteousness made the fruit of a second
birth. "If ye know that Christ is righteous, know ye that every one
that doeth righteousness is born of him;" 1 John ii. 29. Not born of
him by virtue of his own righteous actions, but born of him by virtue
of Christ's mighty working with his work upon the soul, who
afterwards, from a principle of life, acteth and worketh
And he saith again, "Little children, let no man deceive you: he
that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous."
Upon this scripture I will a little comment, for the proof of what is
urged before: namely, that a man must be righteous in a law-sense,
before he can do such things that may be called acts of righteousness
in a gospel-sense. And for this, this scripture, 1 John iii. 7,
ministereth to us two things to be considered by us.
The first is, That he that doth righteousness is righteous.
The second is, That he that doth righteousness is righteous, as
Christ is righteous.
First, He that doth righteousness; that is, righteousness which the
gospel calleth so, is righteous; that is, precedent to, or before he
doth that righteousness. For he doth not say, he shall make his
person righteous by acts of righteousness that he shall do; for then
an evil tree may bear good fruit, yea, and may make itself good by
doing so; but he saith, He that doth righteousness is righteous; as
he saith, He that doth righteousness is born of him.
So then, a man must be righteous before he can do righteousness,
before he can do righteousness in a gospel-sense.
Our second thing then is to inquire, with what righteousness a man
must be righteous, before he can do that which in a gospel-sense is
And, first, I answer, he must be righteous in a law-sense: that is,
he must be righteous in the judgment of the law. This is evident:
because he saith, "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, as he is
righteous." That is, in a law-sense: for Christ in no sense is
righteous in the judgment of charity only; but in his meanest acts,
if it be lawful to make such comparison, he was righteous in a law-
sense, or in the judgment of the law. Now the apostle saith, that
"he that doeth righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous." They
are the words of God, and therefore I cannot err in quoting of them,
though I may not so fully as I would make the glory of them shine in
speaking to them.
But what righteousness is that, with which a man must stand righteous
in the judgment of the law, before he shall or can be found to do
acts of righteousness, that by the gospel are so called?
1. I answer, first, It is none of his own which is of the law, you
may be sure: for he hath his righteousness before he doth any that
can be called his own. "He that doeth righteousness is righteous"
already, precedent to, or before he doth that righteousness; yea, he
"is righteous, even as he is righteous."
2. It cannot be his own which is of the gospel; that is, that which
floweth from a principle of grace in the soul: for he is righteous
before he doth this righteousness. "He that doeth righteousness is
righteous." He doth not say, he that hath done it, but he that doth
it; respecting the act while it is in doing, he is righteous. He is
righteous even then when he is a-doing of the very first act of
righteousness; but an act, while it is doing, cannot, until it is
done, be called an act of righteousness; yet, saith the text, "he is
But again, if an act, while it is doing, cannot be called an act of
righteousness, to be sure, it cannot have such influences as to make
the actor righteous--to make him righteous, as the Son of God is
righteous; and yet the righteousness with which this doer is made
righteous, and that before he doth righteousness, is such; for so
saith the text, that makes him righteous, as he is righteous.
Besides, it cannot be his own, which is gospel-righteousness, flowing
from a principle of grace in the soul; for that in its greatest
perfection in us, while we live in this world, is accompanied with
some imperfections; to wit, our faith, love, and whole course of
holiness is wanting, or hath something lacking in it. They neither
are apart, nor when put all together, perfect, as to the degree, the
uttermost degree of perfection.
But the righteousness under consideration, with which the man, in
that of John, is made righteous, is a perfect righteousness; not only
with respect to the nature of it, as a penny is as perfect silver as
a shilling; nor yet with respect to a comparative degree, for so a
shilling arriveth more toward the perfection of the number twenty,
than doth a twopenny or a threepenny piece; but it is a righteousness
so perfect, that nothing can be added to, nor can any thing be taken
from it; for so implieth the words of the text, he is righteous as
Christ is righteous; yea, thus righteous before, and in order to his
doing of righteousness.
And in this he is like unto the Son of God, who was also righteous
before he did acts of righteousness referring to a law of
commandment; wherefore it is said, that as he is, so are we in this
world. As he is or was righteous, before he did acts of
righteousness among men by a law; so are his righteous, before they
act righteousness among men by a law. "He that doeth righteousness
is righteous, as he is righteous."
Christ was righteous before he did righteousness, with a twofold
righteousness. He had a righteousness as he was God; his Godhead was
perfectly righteous: yea, it was righteousness itself. His human
nature was perfectly righteous, it was naturally spotless and
undefiled. Thus his person was righteous, and so qualified to do
that righteousness, that because he was born of woman, and made under
the law, he was bound by the law to perform.
Now, as he is, so are we; not by way of natural righteousness, but by
way of resemblance thereunto. Had Christ, in order to his working of
righteousness, a two fold righteousness inherent in himself?--the
Christian, in order to his working of righteousness, had belonging to
him a twofold righteousness. Did Christ's twofold righteousness
qualify him for that work of righteousness that was of God designed
for him to do?--why, the Christian's twofold righteousness doth
qualify him for that work of righteousness that God hath ordained
that he should do and walk in this world.
But you may ask, What is that righteousness with which a Christian is
made righteous before he doth righteousness?
I answer, It is a twofold righteousness.
1. It is a righteousness put upon him.
2. It is a righteousness put into him.
For the first, It is a righteousness put upon him, with which also he
is clothed as with a coat or mantle, Rom. iii. 22, and this is called
"the robe of righteousness;" and this is called "the garment of
salvation;" Isa. lxi. 10.
This righteousness is none other but the obedience of Christ; the
which he performed in the days of his flesh, and can properly be
called no man's righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ;
because no man had a hand therein, but he completed it himself. And
hence it is said, that "by the obedience of one shall many be made
righteous;" Rom. v. 19. By the obedience of one, of one man Jesus
Christ (as you have it in verse 15); for he came down into the world,
to this very end; that is, to make a generation righteous, not by
making of them laws, and prescribing unto them rules (for this was
the work of Moses, who said, "And it shall be our righteousness, if
we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as
he hath commanded us;" Deut. vi. 25; xxiv. 13); nor yet by taking
away by his grace the imperfections of their righteousness, and so
making of that perfect by additions of his own; but he makes them
righteous by his obedience, not in them, but for them, while he
personally subjected himself to his Father's law on our behalf, that
he might have a righteousness to bestow upon us. And hence we are
said to be made righteous, while we work not, and to be justified,
while ungodly (Rom. iv. 5), which can be done by no other
righteousness than that which is the righteousness of Christ by
performance, the righteousness of God by donation, and our
righteousness by imputation. For, I say, the person that wrought
this righteousness for us, is Jesus Christ; the person that giveth it
to us, is the Father; who hath made Christ to be unto us
righteousness, and hath given him to us for this very end, that we
might be made the righteousness of God in him; 1 Cor. i. 4; 2 Cor. v.
21. And hence it is often said, "One shall say, Surely in the Lord
have I righteousness and strength." And again, "In the Lord shall
all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." "This is the
heritage of the servants of the Lord; and their righteousness is of
me, saith the Lord;" Isa. xlv. 24, 25; liv. 17.
This righteousness is that which justifieth, and which secureth the
soul from the curse of the law; by hiding, through its perfection,
all the sins and imperfections of the soul. Hence it follows, "Even
as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God
imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose
iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the
man to whom the Lord will not impute sin;" Rom. iv.
And this it doth, even while the person, that by grace is made a
partaker, is without good works, and so ungodly. This is the
righteousness of Christ, Christ's personal performances, which he did
when he was in this world; that is that by which the soul, while
naked, is covered, and so hid as to its nakedness, from the divine
sentence of the law: "I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy
nakedness," Ezek. xvi. 4-9.
Now this obediential righteousness of Christ consisteth of two parts.
1. In a doing of that which the law commanded us to do. 2. In a
paying that price for the transgression thereof, which justice hath
said shall be required at the hand of man; and that is the cursed
death. "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die
the death;" to wit, the death that comes by the curse of the law. So
then, Christ having brought in that part of obedience for us, which
consisteth in a doing of such obediential acts of righteousness which
the law commands, he adds thereto the spilling of his blood, to be
the price of our redemption from that cursed death, that by sin we
had brought upon our bodies and souls. And thus are the Christians
perfectly righteous; they have the whole obedience of Christ made
over to them; to wit, that obedience that standeth in doing the law,
and that obedience that standeth in paying of a price for our
transgressions. So, then, doth the law call for righteousness? here
it is. Doth the law call for satisfaction for our sins? Here it is.
And what can the law say any more to the sinner but that which is
good, when he findeth in the personal obedience of Christ for him,
that which answereth to what it can command, that which it can demand
Herein, then, standeth a Christian's safety, not in a bundle of
actions of his own, but in a righteousness which cometh to him by
grace and gift; for this righteousness is such as comes by gift, by
the gift of God. Hence it is called the gift of righteousness, the
gift by grace, the gift of righteousness by grace, which is the
righteousness of one, to wit, the obedience of Jesus Christ, Rom. v.
And this is the righteousness by which he that doth righteousness is
righteous as he is righteous; because it is the very self-same
righteousness that the Son of God hath accomplished by himself. Nor
has he any other or more excellent righteousness, of which the law
taketh notice, or that it requireth, than this: for as for the
righteousness of his Godhead, the law is not concerned with that; for
as he is such, the law is his creature, and servant, and may not
meddle with him.
The righteousness also of his human nature, the law hath nothing to
do with that; for that is the workmanship of God, and is as good, as
pure, as holy, and undefiled, as is the law itself. All then that
the law hath to do with, is to exact complete obedience of him that
is made under it, and a due satisfaction for the breach thereof; the
which, if it hath, then Moses is content.
Now, this is the righteousness with which the Christian, as to
justification, is made righteous; to wit, a righteousness that is
neither essential to his Godhead, nor to his manhood; but such as
standeth in that glorious person (who was such) his obedience to the
law. Which righteousness himself had, with reference to himself, no
need of at all, for his Godhead, yea, his manhood, was perfectly
righteous without it. This righteousness therefore was there, and
there only necessary, where Christ was considered as God's servant
(and our surety) to bring to God Jacob again, and to restore the
preserved of Israel. For though Christ was a Son, yet he became a
servant to do, not for himself, for he had no need, but for us, the
whole law, and so bring in everlasting righteousness for us.
And hence it is said, that Christ did what he did for us. He became
the end of the law for righteousness for us; he suffered for us, he
died for us, he laid down his life for us, and he gave himself for
us. The righteousness then that Christ did fulfil, when he was in
the world, was not for himself simply considered, nor for himself
personally considered, for he had no need thereof; but it was for the
elect, the members of his body.
Christ then did not fulfil the law for himself, for he had no need
thereof. Christ again did fulfil the law for himself, for he had
need of the righteousness thereof; he had need thereof for the
covering of his body, and the several members thereof; for they, in a
good sense, are himself, members of his body, of his flesh, and of
his bones; and he owns them as parts of himself in many places of the
holy scriptures; Eph. v. 30; Acts ix. 4, 5; Matt. xxv. 45; x. 40;
Mark ix. 37; Luke x. 16; 1 Cor. xii. 12, 27. This righteousness
then, even the whole of what Christ did in answer to the law, it was
for us; and God hath put it upon them, and they were righteous in it,
even righteous as he is righteous. And this they have before they do
acts of righteousness.
Secondly, There is righteousness put into them, before they act
righteous things. A righteousness, I say, put into them; or I had
rather that you should call it a principle of righteousness; for it
is a principle of life to righteousness. Before man's conversion,
there is in him a principle of death to sin; but when he is converted
to Christ, there is put in him a principle of righteousness, that he
may bring forth fruit unto God; Rom. vii. 4-6.
Hence they are said to be quickened, to be made alive, to be risen
from death to life, to have the Spirit of God dwelling in them; not
only to make their souls alive, but to quicken their mortal bodies to
that which is good; Rom. viii. 11.
Here, as I hinted before, they that do righteousness are said to be
born of him, that is, antecedent to their doing of righteousness, 1
John ii. 29; "born of him," that is, made alive with new, spiritual,
and heavenly life. Wherefore the exhortation to them is, "Neither
yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but
yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and
your members as instruments of righteousness unto God;" Rom. vi. 13.
Now this principle must also be in men, before they can do that which
is spiritual: for whatever seeming good thing any man doth, before
he has bestowed upon him this heavenly principle from God, it is
accounted nothing, it is accounted sin and abomination in the sight
of God; for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit: "Men do not
gather grapes of thorns; neither of a bramble gather figs." It is
not the fruit that makes the tree, but the tree that makes the fruit.
A man must be good, before he can do good; and evil before he can do
This is that which is asserted by the Son of God himself; and it
lieth so level with reason and the nature of things, that it cannot
be contradicted: Matth. vii. 16-18; Luke vi. 43-45. "A good man,
out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is
good: and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart,
bringeth forth that which is evil." But notwithstanding all that can
be said, it seemeth very strange to the carnal world; for they will
not be otherwise persuaded, but that they be good deeds that make
good men, and evil ones that make evil men. And so, by such dotish
apprehensions, do what in them lieth to fortify their hearts with the
mists of darkness against the clear shining of the word, and
conviction of the truth.
And thus it was from the beginning. Abel's first services to God
were from this principle of righteousness; but Cain would have been
made righteous by his deeds; but his deeds not flowing from the same
root of goodness, as did Abel's, notwithstanding he did it with the
very best he had, is yet called evil: for he wanted, I say, the
principles, to wit, of grace and faith, without which no action can
be counted good in a gospel-sense.
These two things, then, that man must have that will do
righteousness. He must have put upon him the perfect righteousness
of Christ: and he must have that dwelling in him, as a fruit of the
new birth, a principle of righteousness. Then indeed he is a tree of
righteousness, and God is like to be glorified in and by him; but
this the Pharisee was utterly ignorant of, and at the remotest
You may ask me next, But which of these are first bestowed upon the
Christian--the perfect righteousness of Christ unto justification, or
this gospel-principle of righteousness unto sanctification?
Answ. The perfect righteousness of Christ unto justification must
first be made over to him by an act of grace. This is evident,
1. Because he is justified as ungodly; that is, whilst he is
ungodly: but it must not be said of them that have this principle of
grace in them, that they are ungodly; for they are saints and holy.
But this righteousness, by it God justifieth the ungodly, by imputing
it to them, when and while they, as to a principle of grace, are
This is further manifested thus: The person must be accepted before
his performance can; "And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his
offering;" Gen. iv. If he had respect to Abel's person first, yet he
must have respect unto it for the sake of some righteousness; but
Abel as yet had no righteousness; for that he acted, after God had a
respect unto his person. "And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to
his offering: but unto Cain, and to his offering, he had no
The prophet Ezekiel also shews us this, where, by the similitude of
the wretched infant, and of the manner of God's receiving it to
mercy, he shews how he received the Jews to favour. First, saith he,
"I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness." There is
justification; "I covered thy nakedness." But what manner of
nakedness was it? Yes, it was then as naked as naked could be, even
as naked as in the day that it was born; Ezek. xvi. 4-9. And as thus
naked, it was covered, not with any thing but with the skirt of
Christ; that is, with his robe of righteousness, with his obedience,
that he performed of himself for that very purpose; for by the
obedience of one, many are made righteous.
2. Righteousness unto justification must be first; because the first
duty that a Christian performeth to God, must be accepted, not for
the sake of the principle from which in the heart it flows, nor yet
for the sake of the person that acts it, but for the sake of Christ,
whose righteousness it is by which the sinner stands just before God.
And hence it is said, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more
excellent sacrifice than Cain," Heb. xi. By faith he did it; but
faith in respect to the righteousness that justifies; for we are
justified by faith; not by faith as it is an acting grace, but the
righteousness of faith, that is, by that righteousness that faith
embraceth, layeth hold of, and helpeth the soul to rest and trust to,
for justification of life, which is the obedience of Christ.
Besides, it is said, by faith he offered; faith then in Christ was
precedent to his offering.
Now, since faith was in act before his offer, and since before his
offer he had no personal goodness of his own, faith must look out
from home; I say to another for righteousness; and finding the
righteousness of Christ to be the righteousness which by God was
designed to be performed for the justification of a sinner, it
embraces it, and through it offereth to God a more excellent
sacrifice than Cain.
Hence it follows, "By which he obtained witness that he was
righteous;" by which, not by his offering, but by his faith; for his
offering, simply as an offering, could not have made him righteous if
he had not been righteous before; for "an evil tree cannot bring
forth good fruit." Besides, if this be granted, why had not God
respect to Cain's offering as well as to Abel's? For did Abel offer?
So did Cain. Did Abel offer his best? So did Cain his. And if with
this we shall take notice of the order of their offspring, Cain
seemed to offer first, and so with the frankest will and forwardest
mind; but yet, saith the text, "The Lord had respect to Abel and to
his offering." But why to Abel? Why, because his, person was made
righteous before he offered his gift: "By which he obtained witness
that he was righteous;" God testifying of his gifts, that they were
good and acceptable because they declared Abel's acceptation of the
righteousness of Christ, through the riches of the grace of God.
By faith, then, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than
Cain. He shrouded himself under the righteousness of Christ, and so,
of that righteousness, he offered to God. God also looking and
finding him there (where he could not have been, as to his own
apprehension, no otherwise than by faith), accepted of his gift; by
which acceptation (for so you may understand it also) God testifieth
that he was righteous, for God receiveth not the gifts and offerings
of those that are not righteous, for their sacrifices are an
abomination unto him, Prov. xxi. 27.
Abel then was, I say, made righteous, first, as he stood ungodly in
himself; God justifieth the ungodly, Rom. iv. Now, being justified,
he was righteous; and being righteous, he offered his sacrifice of
praise to God, or other offerings which God accepted, because he
believed in his Son. But this our Pharisee understandeth not.
3. Righteousness by imputation must be first, because we are made
so, to wit, by another--"By the obedience of one shall many be made
righteous." Now to be made righteous, implies a passiveness in him
that is so made, and the activity of the work to lie in some body
else; except he had said, they had made themselves righteous; but
that it doth not, nor doth the text leave to any the least
countenance so to insinuate; nay, it plainly affirms the contrary,
for it saith, by the obedience of one, of one man, Jesus Christ, many
are made righteous; by the righteousness of one, Rom. v. So then, if
they be made righteous by the righteousness of one; I say if many be
made righteous by the righteousness of one, then are they that are
so, as to themselves, passive and not active, with reference to the
working out of this righteousness. They have no hand in that; for
that is the act of one, the righteousness of one, the obedience of
one, the workmanship of one, even of Christ Jesus.
Again, If they are made righteous by this righteousness, then also
they are passive as to their first privilege by it; for they are made
righteous by it; they do not make themselves righteous by it.
Imputation is also the act of God. "Even as David also describeth
the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness."
The righteousness then is a work of Christ, his own obedience to his
Father's law; the making of it ours is the act of the Father, and of
his infinite grace: "For of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God
is made unto us wisdom and righteousness." "For God hath made Jim to
be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the
righteousness of God in him." And both these things God shewed to
our first parents, when he acted in grace towards them after the
There it is said, the Lord God made unto Adam, and unto his wife,
coats of skins, and clothed them; Gen. iii. 21.
(1.) That Adam and his wife were naked, both in God's eye and in
their own, verses 10, 11.
(2.) That the Lord God made coats of skins.
(3.) That in his making of them, he had respect to Adam and to his
wife, that is, he made them.
(4.) That when he had made them, he also clothed them therewith.
They made not the coats, nor did God bid them make them; but God did
make them himself to cover their nakedness with. Yea, when he had
made them, he did not bid them put them on, but he himself did clothe
them with them: for thus runs the text; "Unto Adam also, and to his
wife, did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them." O it
was the Lord God that made this coat with which a poor sinner is made
righteous! And it is also the Lord God that putteth it upon us. But
this our Pharisee understandeth not.
But now, if a man is not righteous before he is made so, before the
Lord God has by the righteousness of another made him so; then
whether this righteousness comes first or last, the man is not
righteous until it cometh; and if he be not righteous until it
cometh, then what works soever are done before it comes, they are not
the works of a righteous man, nor the fruits of a good tree, but of a
bad. And so again, this righteousness must first come before a man
be righteous, and before a man does righteousness. Make the tree
good, and its fruit will be good.
Now, since a man must be made righteous before he can do
righteousness, it is manifest his works of righteousness do not make
him righteous, no more than the fig makes its own tree a fig-tree, or
than the grape doth make its own vine a vine. Hence those acts of
righteousness that Christian men do perform, are called the fruits of
righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of
God; Phil. i. 11.
The fruits of righteousness they are by Jesus Christ, as the fruits
of the tree are by the tree itself; for the truth is, that principle
of righteousness, of which mention has been made before, and
concerning which I have said it comes in in the second place; it is
also originally to be found for us nowhere but in Christ.
Hence it is said to be by Jesus Christ; and again, "Of his fulness
have we all received, and grace for grace;" John i. 16. A man must
then be united to Christ first, and so being united, he partaketh of
this benefit, to wit, a principle that is supernatural, spiritual,
and heavenly. Now, his being united to Christ, is not of or from
himself, but of and from the Father, who, as to this work, is the
husbandman; even as the twig that is grafted into the tree
officiateth not, that is, grafteth not itself thereunto, but is
grafted in by some other, itself being utterly passive as to that.
Now, being united unto Christ, the soul is first made partaker of
justification, or of justifying righteousness, and now no longer
beareth the name of an ungodly man; for he is made righteous by the
obedience of Christ; he being also united to Christ, partaketh of the
root and fatness of Christ; the root, that is, his divine nature; the
fatness, that is, the fulness of grace that is laid up in him to be
communicated unto us, even as the branch that is grafted into the
olive-tree partaketh of the root and fatness of the olive-tree. Now
partaking thereof, it quickeneth, it groweth, it buddeth, and
yieldeth fruit to the praise and glory of God; Rom. xi. 17.
But these things, as I have often said, the poor Pharisee was
ignorant of, when so swaggeringly he, with his "God, I thank thee,"
came into the temple to pray. And, indeed, in that which hath been
said is something of the mystery of God's will in his way with his
elect; and such a mystery it is, that it lieth hid for ever to nature
and natural men; for they think of nothing less than of this, nor of
nothing more, when they think of their souls and of salvation, than
that something must be done by themselves to reconcile them to God.
Yea, if through some common convictions their understandings should
be swayed to a consenting to that, that justification is of grace by
Christ, and not of works by men; yet conscience, reason, and the law
of nature, not being as yet subdued by the power and glory of grace
unto the obedience of Christ, will rise up in rebellion against this
doctrine, and will over-rule and bow down the soul again to the law
and works thereof for life.
4. Righteousness by imputation must be first, because, else faith,
which is a part, yea, a greater part of that which is called a
principle of grace in the soul, will have nothing to fix itself upon,
nor a motive to work by. Let this therefore be considered by those
that are on the contrary side.
1. Faith, so soon as it has a being in the soul, is like the child
that has a being in the mother's lap; it must have something to feed
upon; not something at a distance, afar off, to be purchased (I speak
now as to justification from the curse), but something by promise
made over of grace to the soul; something to feed upon to support
from the fears of perishing by the curse for sin. Nor can it rest
content with all duties and performances that other graces shall put
the soul upon; nor with any of its own works, until it reaches and
takes hold of the righteousness of Christ. Faith is like the dove,
which found no rest any where until it returned to Noah into the ark.
But this our Pharisee understandeth not.
Perhaps some may object, that from this way of reasoning it is
apparent, that sanctification is first; since the soul may have
faith, and so a principle of grace in it, and yet, as yet it cannot
find Christ to feed and refresh the soul withal.
Answ. From this way of reasoning it is not at all apparent that
sanctification, or a principle of grace, is in the soul before
righteousness is imputed and the soul made perfectly righteous
thereby. And for the clearing up of this, let me propose a few
1. Justifying righteousness, to wit, the obedience of that one man,
Christ, is imputed to the sinner, to justify him in God's sight; for
his law calls for perfect righteousness, and before that be come to,
and put upon the poor sinner, God cannot bestow other spiritual
blessings upon him; because by the law he has pronounced him
accursed; by the which curse he is also so holden, until a
righteousness shall be found upon the sinner, that the law and divine
justice can approve of, and be contented within. So then, as to the
justification of the sinner, there must be a righteousness for God; I
say, for the sinner, and for God: for the sinner to be clothed
within, and for God to look upon, that he may, for the sake thereof
in a way of justice, bless the sinner with forgiveness of sins: for
forgiveness of sins is the next thing that followeth upon the
appearance of the sinner before God in the righteousness of Christ;
Rom. iv. 6, 7.
Now, upon this forgiveness follows the second blessing. Christ hath
redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; and
so, consequently, hath obtained for us the forgiveness of sins: for
he that is delivered from the curse hath received forgiveness of
sins, or rather is made partaker thereof. Now, being made a partaker
thereof, the second blessing immediately follows, to wit, the
blessing of Abraham, that is, the promise of the Spirit through
faith; Gal. iii. 13. 14. But this our Pharisee understandeth not.
But now, although it be of absolute necessity that imputed
righteousness be first, to the soul; that is, that perfect
righteousness be found upon the sinner first by God, that he may
bestow other blessings in a way of justice:
Let God then put the righteousness of his Son upon me; and by virtue
of that, let the second blessing of God come into me; and by virtue
of that, let me be made to see myself a sinner, and Christ's
righteousness, and my need of it, in the doctrine of it, as it is
revealed in the scriptures of truth. Let me then believe this
doctrine to be true, and be brought by my belief to repentance for my
sins, to hungering and thirsting vehemently after this righteousness:
for this is the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. Yea, let me
pray, and cry, and sigh, and groan, day and night, to the God of this
righteousness, that he will of grace make me a partaker. And let me
thus be prostrate before my God, all the time that in wisdom he shall
think fit; and in his own time he shall shew me that I am a justified
person, a pardoned person, a person in whom the Spirit of God hath
dwelt for some time, though I knew it not.
So then, justification before God is one thing, and justification in
mine own eyes is another; not that these are two justifications, but
the same righteousness by which I stand justified before God, may be
seen of God, when I am ignorant of it: yea, for the sake of it I may
be received, pardoned, and accounted righteous of him, and yet I may
not understand it. Yea, further, he may proceed in the way of
blessing to bless me with additional blessings, and yet I be ignorant
So that the question is not, Do I find that I am righteous? but, Am I
so? Doth God find me so, when he seeth that the righteousness of his
Son is upon me, being made over to me by an act of his grace? For I
am justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in
Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through
faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of
sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; Rom. iii. 24.
But this our Pharisee understandeth not.
I am then made righteous first by the righteousness of another; and
because I am thus righteous, God accepteth of my person as such, and
bestoweth upon me his grace; the which, at first, for want of skill
and experience in the word of righteousness, I make use of but
poorly, and have need to be certified that I am made righteous, and
that I have eternal life; not by faith first and immediately, but by
the written word which is called "the word of faith;" which word
declareth unto me (to whom grace, and so faith in the seed of it, is
given), that I have eternal life, and that I should with boldness, in
peace and joy, believe on the Son of God; Heb. v. 13; Rom. xv. 13; 1
John v. 13. But,
Again, I, in the first acts of my faith, when I come at Christ, do
not accept of him, because I know I am righteous, either with imputed
righteousness, or with that which is inherent. Both these, as to my
present privilege in them, may be hidden from mine eyes, and I only
put upon taking of encouragement to close with Christ for life and
righteousness, as he is set forth to be a propitiation before mine
eyes, in the word of the truth of the gospel; to which word I adhere
as, or because I find, I want peace with God in my soul, and because
I am convinced that the means of peace is not to be found any where
but in Jesus Christ. Now, by my thus adhering to him, I find stay
for my soul, and peace to my conscience, because the word doth
ascertain to me, that he that believeth on him hath remission of
sins, hath eternal life, and shall be saved from the wrath to come.
But, alas! who knows (the many straits, and as I may say, the stress
of weather, I mean) the cold blasts of hell, with which the poor soul
is assaulted, betwixt its receiving of grace, and its sensible
closing with Jesus Christ? None, I dare say, but it and its fellows.
"The heart knows its own bitterness; and a stranger intermeddleth not
with his joy;" Prov. xiv. 10. No sooner doth Satan perceive what God
is doing with the soul, in a way of grace and mercy, but he
endeavoureth what he may to make the renewing thereof bitter and
wearisome work to the sinner. O what mists, what mountains, what
clouds, what darkness, what objections, what false apprehensions of
God, of Christ, of grace, of the word, and of the soul's condition,
doth he now lay before it, and haunt it with; whereby he dejecteth,
casteth down, daunteth, distresseth, and almost driveth it quite into
despair! Now, by the reason of these things, faith (and all the
grace that is in the soul) is hard put to it to come at the promise,
and by the promise of Christ; as it is said, when the tempest and
great danger of shipwreck lay upon the vessel in which Paul was, they
had "much work to come by the boat;" Acts xxvii. 16. For Satan's
design is, if he cannot keep the soul from Christ, to make his coming
to him, and closing with him, as hard, as difficult and troublesome,
as he by his devices can. But faith, true justifying faith, is a
grace, is not weary by all that Satan can do; but meditateth upon the
word, and taketh stomach, and courage, fighteth and crieth, and by
crying and fighting, by help from heaven, its way is made through all
the oppositions that appear so mighty, and draweth up at last to
Jesus Christ, into whose bosom it putteth the soul, where, for the
time, it sweetly resteth, after its marvellous tossings to and fro.
And besides what hath been said, let me yet illustrate this truth
unto you by this familiar similitude.
Suppose a man, a traitor, that by the law should die for his sin, is
yet such an one that the king has exceeding kindness for; may not the
king pardon this man of his clemency; yea, order that his pardon
should be drawn up and sealed, and so in every sense be made sure;
and yet, for the present, keep all this close enough from the ears or
the knowledge of the person therein concerned? Yea, may not the king
after all leave this person, with others under the same
transgression, to sue for and obtain this pardon with great expense
and difficulty, with many tears and heart-achings, with many fears
and dubious cogitations?
Why, this is the case between God and the soul that he saveth; he
saveth him, pardoneth him, and secureth him from the curse and death
that is due unto sin, but yet doth not tell him so; but he ascends in
his great suit unto God for it. Only this difference we must make
between God and the potentates of this world; God cannot pardon
before the sinner stands before him righteous by the righteousness of
Christ; because he has in judgment, and justice, and righteousness,
threatened and concluded, that he that wants righteousness shall die.
And I say again, because this righteousness is God's and at God's
disposal only, it is God that must make a man righteous before he can
forgive him his sins, or bestow upon him of his secondary blessings;
to wit, his Spirit, and the graces thereof. And I say again, it must
be this righteousness; for it can be no other that justifies a sinner
from sin in the sight of God, and from the sentence of the law.
Secondly, This is, and must be the way of God with the sinner, that
faith may not only have an object to work upon, but a motive to work
(1.) Here, as I said, faith hath an object to work upon, and that in
the person of Christ, and that personal righteousness of his, which
he in the days of his flesh did finish to justify sinners withal.
This is, I say, the object of faith for justification, whereunto the
soul by it doth continually resort. Hence David saith to Christ, "Be
thou my strong habitation (or as you have it in the margin, Be thou
to me a rock of habitation) whereunto I may continually resort;"
Psalm lxxi. 3. And two things he infers by so saying.
The first is, That the Christian is a man under continual exercises,
sometimes one way, and sometimes another; but all his exercises have
a tendency in them more or less to spoil him; therefore he is rather
for flying to Christ than for grappling with them in and by his own
The second is, that Christ is of God our shelter as to this very
thing. Hence his name is said to be "a strong tower," and that the
righteous run into it, and are safe, Prov. xviii. 10. That also of
David in the fifty-sixth Psalm is very pregnant to this purpose;
"Mine enemies," saith he, "would daily swallow me up; for they be
many that fight against me, O thou Most High." And what then? Why,
saith he, "I will trust in thee." Thus you see, faith hath an object
to work upon to carry the soul unto, and to secure the soul in times
of difficulty, and that object is Jesus Christ and his righteousness.
(2.) Again, as faith hath an object to work upon, so it hath a
motive to work by; and that is the love of God in giving of Christ to
the soul for righteousness. Nor is there any profession, religion,
or duty and performance, that is at all regarded, where this faith,
which by such means can work, is wanting. "For in Jesus Christ
neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but
faith which worketh by love" (so Gal. v. 6) acteth lovely; or, by
faith whose fruit is love (though true faith hath love for its
offspring) but faith which worketh by love, that is true, saving,
justifying faith, as it beholdeth the righteousness of Christ as made
over to the soul for justification; so it beholdeth love, love to be
the cause of its so being made over.
It beholdeth love in the Father, in giving of his Son, and love in
the Son, in giving of himself to be made soul-saving righteousness
for me. And seeing it worketh by it, that is, it is stirred up to an
holy boldness of venturing all eternal concerns upon Christ, and also
to an holy, endeared, affecting love of him, for his sweet and
blessed redeeming love. Hence the apostle saith, "The love of Christ
constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all,
then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live,
should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died
for them and rose again," 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.
Thus then is the heart united in affection and love to the Father and
the Son, for the love that they have shewed to the poor sinner in
their thus delivering him from the wrath to come. For by this love
faith worketh, in sweet passions and pangs of love, to all that are
thus reconciled, as this sinner seeth he is. The motive then,
whereby faith worketh, both as to justification and sanctification,
the great motive to them, I say, is love, the love of God, and the
love of Christ: "We love him, because he first loved us." That is,
when our faith hath told us so; for so are the words above, "We have
known and believed the love that God hath to us." And then, "We love
him, because he first loved us." And then, "This commandment have we
from him, that he that loveth God, loveth his brother also," 1 John
iv. 16-21. But this our poor Pharisee understandeth not. But,
5. Righteousness by imputation must be first, to cut off boasting
from the heart, conceit, and lips of men. Wherefore he saith, as
before, that we are justified freely by the grace of God, not
through, or for the sake of an holy gospel-principle in us; but
"through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ," &c. "Where is
boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay, but by
the law of faith." And this is the law of faith, by which we are
justified as before; Rom. iii. 27, 28.
Nor can any man propound such an essential way to cut off boasting as
this, which is of God's providing: For what is man here to boast of?
No righteousness, nor yet of the application of it to his soul. The
righteousness is Christ's, not the sinner's. The imputation is
God's, not the sinner's. The cause of imputation is God's grace and
love, not the sinner's works of righteousness. The time of God's
imputing righteousness is when the sinner was a sinner, wrapped up in
ignorance, and wallowing in his vanity; not when he was good, or when
he was seeking of it; for his inward gospel-goodness is a fruit of
the imputation of justifying righteousness. Where is boasting then?
Where is our Pharisee then, with his brags of not being as other men
are? It is excluded, and he with it, and the poor Publican taken
into favour, that boasting might be cut off. "Not of works, lest any
man should boast." There is no trust to be put in men; those that
seem most humble, and that to appearance, and farthest off from
pride, it is natural to them to boast; yea, now they have no cause to
boast; for by grace are we saved through faith, and that not of
ourselves, it is the gift of God. "Not of works, lest any man should
But if man is so prone to boast, when yet there is no pound of
boasting in him, nor yet in what he doth; how would he have boasted
had he been permitted by the God of heaven to have done something,
though that something had been but a very little something, towards
his justification? But God has prevented boasting by doing as he has
done; Eph. ii. 8, 9. Nay, the apostle addeth further (lest any man
should boast), that as to good works, "We are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before
ordained that we should walk in them; ver. 10. Can the tree boast,
since it was God that made it such? Where is boasting then? "But of
him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according
as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord;" 1
Cor. i. 30, 31. Where is boasting then? Where is our Pharisee then,
with all his works of righteousness, and with his boasts of being
better than his neighbours?
It may be said, If we should be justified for the sake of our
inherent righteousness, since that righteousness is the gift of God,
will it not follow that boasting is, in the occasion thereof, cut
Answ. No; for although the principle of inherent righteousness be
the gift of God, yet it bringeth forth fruits by man, and through
man; and so man having a hand therein, though he should have ever so
little, he has an occasion offered him to boast. Yea, if a man
should be justified before God by the grace, or the working of the
grace of faith in him, he would have ground of occasion to boast;
because faith, though it be the gift of God, yet as it acteth in man,
takes man along with it in its so acting; yea, the acting of faith is
as often attributed to the man by whom it is acted, and oftener, than
to the grace itself. How then can it be, but that man must have a
hand therein, and so a ground therein, or thereof to boast?
But now, since justification from the curse of the law before God
lieth only and wholly in God's imputing of Christ's righteousness to
a man, and that too, while the man to whom it is imputed is in
himself wicked and ungodly, there is no room left for boasting before
God, for that is the boasting intended; but rather an occasion given
to shame and confusion of face, and to stop the mouth for ever, since
justification comes in a way so far above him, so vastly without him,
his skill, help, or what else soever; Ezek. xvi. 61-63.
6. Righteousness by imputation must be first, that justification may
not be of debt, but of mercy and grace. This is evident from reason.
It is meet that God should therefore justify us by a righteousness of
his own, not of his own prescribing; for that he may do, and yet the
righteousness be ours; but of his own providing, that the
righteousness may be his. "Now to him that worketh is the reward not
reckoned of grace, but of debt;" Rom. iv. 2-4. If I work for
justifying righteousness, and that way get righteousness, my
justification is not of grace, but of debt. God giveth it not unto
me, but he oweth it unto me; so then it is no longer his, but mine:
mine, not of grace, but of debt. And if so, then I thank him not for
his remission of sins, nor for the kingdom of heaven, nor for eternal
life; for if justifying righteousness is of debt, then when I have
it, and what dependeth thereon, I have but mine own; that which God
oweth to me.
Nor will it help at all to say, But I obtain it by God's grace in me;
because that doth not cut off my works, nor prevent my having of a
hand in my justifying righteousness.
Suppose I give a man materials, even all materials that are necessary
to the completing of such or such a thing; yet if he worketh, though
the materials be mine, I am to him a debtor, and he deserveth a
reward. Thou sayst, God has given thee his Spirit, his grace, and
all other things that are necessary for the working up of a complete
righteousness. Well, but is thy work required to the finishing of
this righteousness? If so, this is not the righteousness that
justifieth; because it is such as has thy hand, thy workmanship
therein, and so obtains a reward. And observe it, righteousness,
justifying righteousness, consisteth not in a principle of
righteousness, but in works of righteousness; that is, in good
duties, in obedience, in a walking in the law to the pleasing of the
law, and the content of the justice of God.
I suppose again, that thou shalt conclude with me, that justifying
righteousness, I mean that which justifies from the curse of the law,
resideth only in the obedience of the Son of God; and that the
principle of grace that is in thee is none of that righteousness, no,
not then when thou hast to the utmost walked with God according to
thy gift and grace; yet if thou concludest that this principle must
be in thee, and these works done by thee, before this justifying
righteousness is imputed to thee for justification, thou layest in a
caveat against justification by grace; and also concludest, that
though thou art not justified by thy righteousness, but by Christ,
yet thou art justified by Christ's righteousness for the sake of
thine own, and so makest justification to be still a debt. But here
the scripture doth also cut thee off: "Not for thy righteousness, or
for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess the land"
(which was but a type of heaven); and if our righteousness cannot
give us, by its excellency, a share in the type, be sure that for it
we shall never be sharers in the anti-type itself. "Understand,
therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to
possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked
people;" Deut. ix. 5, 6.
Gospel-performances, therefore, are not first; that was first, for
the sake of which God did receive these people into favour with
himself, and that was a covenant-righteousness; and where could that
covenant-righteousness be found, but in the Prince, Mediator, and
High Priest of the covenant? For it was he, and he only, that was
appointed of God, nor could any but himself bring in everlasting
righteousness; Dan. ix. 24, 25. This is evident from these texts
last mentioned; it was not for their righteousness that they
possessed the land.
Again, As it was not for their righteousness that they were made
possessors of the land, so it was not for the sake of their
righteousness that they were made partakers of such a righteousness
that did make them possess the land. This is plain to reason; for
personal righteousness, when by us performed, is of no worth to
obtain of God a justifying righteousness. But if it be of no worth
to obtain a justifying righteousness, then, it seems, it is more
commodious to both parties than justifying righteousness. First, it
is more commodious to him that worketh it; and, secondly, it is more
commodious unto him that receiveth it, else why doth he for it give
us a due debt, and so put upon us the everlasting justifying
Perhaps it will be objected, That God doth all this of grace; but I
answer, That these are but fallacious words, spoken by the tongue of
the crafty. For we are not now discoursing of what rewards God can
give to the operations of his own grace in us, but whether he can in
a way of justice (or how he will) bestow any spiritual blessing upon
sinful creatures, against whom, for sin, he has pronounced the curse
of the law, before he hath found them in a righteousness, that is
proved to be as good justice and righteousness, as is the justice and
righteousness of the law, with which we have to do.
I assert he cannot, because he cannot lie, because he cannot deny
himself: for if he should first threaten the transgression of the
law with death, and yet afterwards receive the transgressor to grace,
without a plenary satisfaction, what is this but to lie, and to
diminish his truth, righteousness, and faithfulness; yea, and also to
overthrow the sanction and perfect holiness of his law? His mercy,
therefore, must act so towards the sinner that justice may be
satisfied, and that can never be without a justifying righteousness.
Now what this justifying righteousness should be, and when imputed,
that is the question. I say, it is the righteousness, or obedience
of the Son of God in the flesh, which he assumed, and so his own, and
the righteousness of no body else otherwise than by imputation.
I say again, that this righteousness must be imputed first, that the
sinner may stand just in God's sight from the curse, that God might
deal with him both in a way of justice as well as mercy, and yet do
the sinner no harm.
But you may ask, how did God deal with sinners before his
righteousness was actually in being?
I answer, He did then deal with sinners even as he dealeth with them
now; he justified them by it, by virtue of the suretyship of him that
was to bring it in. Christ became surety for us, and by his
suretyship laid himself under an obligation for those for whom he
became a surety to bring in this everlasting and justifying
righteousness, and by virtue of this, those of his elect that came
into and went out of the world before he came to perform his work
were saved though the forbearance of God. Wherefore, before the Lord
came, they were saved for the Lord's sake, and for the sake of his
name. And they that were spiritually wise understood it, and pleaded
it as their necessities required, and the Lord accepted them; Heb.
vii. 22; Rom. iv. 24; Dan. ix. 17; Psalm xxv. 11.
7. Righteousness by imputation must be first, that justification may
be certain; "Therefore it is of faith (of the righteousness that
faith layeth hold on), that it might be by grace; to the end the
promise might be sure to all the seed;" Rom. iv. 16. "That the
promise,"--What promise? The promise of remission of sins, &c.,
might be sure.
Now a promise of remission of sins supposeth a righteousness going
before; for there is no forgiveness of sins, nor promise of
forgiveness, for the sake of righteousness that shall be by us, but
that already found in Christ as head, and so imputed to the elect for
their remission. "God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you," Eph. iv.
32; For Christ's sake; that this, for the sake of the righteousness
of Christ. Imputed righteousness must be first; yea, it must be
before forgiveness, and forgiveness is extended by God then when we
lie in our blood, though to us it is manifested afterwards.
Therefore it is OF faith; he saith not BY it, respecting the act of
faith, but of, respecting the doctrine or word which presenteth me
with this blessed imputed righteousness: they that are of faith are
the children of faithful Abraham. They that are of the doctrine of
faith, for all the elect are the sons of that doctrine in which is
this righteousness of Christ contained; yea, they are begotten by it
of God to this inheritance, to their comfortable enjoyment of the
comfort of it by faith.
That the promise might be sure to all the seed, to all them wrapped
up in the promise, and so begotten and born. That it might be sure,
implying that there is no certain way of salvation for the elect but
this; because God can never by other means reconcile us to himself,
for his heavenly eyes perceive, yea, they spy faults in the best of
our gospel performances; yea, our faith is faulty, and also
imperfect: how then should remission be extended to us for the sake
of that? But now the righteousness of Christ is perfect, perpetual
and stable as the great mountains; wherefore he is called the rock of
our salvation, because a man may as soon tumble the mountains before
him, as sin can make invalid the righteousness of Christ, when, and
unto whom, God shall impute it for justice; Psalm xxxvi. In the
margin it is said to be like the mountain of God; to wit, called
Mount Zion, or that Moriah on which the temple was built, and upon
which it stood; all other bottoms are fickle, all other
righteousnesses are so feeble, short, narrow, yea, so full of
imperfections; for what the law could not do in that it was weak
through the flesh, Christ did for us in the similitude of sinful-
flesh. But what could not the law do? Why, it could not give us
righteousness, nor strengthen us to perform it. It could not give us
any certain, solid, well-grounded hope of remission of sin and
Wherefore this righteousness being imputed, justice findeth no fault
therewith, but consenteth to the extending to the sinner those
blessings that tend to perfect his happiness in the heavens.
8. Righteousness by imputation must be first, that in all things
Christ may have the pre-eminence. Christ is head of the church, and
therefore let him have the highest honour in the soul; but how can he
have that, if any precede as to justification before his perfect
righteousness be imputed? If it be said, grace may be in the soul,
though the soul doth not act it until the moment that justifying
righteousness shall be imputed:
I ask, What should it do there before, or to what purpose is it
there, if it be not acted? And again, how came it thither, how got
the soul possession of it while it was unjustified? or, How could God
in justice give it to a person, that by the law stood condemned,
before they were acquitted from that condemnation? And I say,
nothing can set the soul free from that curse but the perfect
obedience of Christ; nor that either, if it be not imputed for that
end to the sinner by the grace of God.
Imputed, that is, reckoned or accounted to him. And why should it
not be accounted to him for righteousness? What did Christ bring it
into the world for? for the righteous or for sinners? No doubt for
sinners. And how must it be reckoned to them? Not in circumcision,
but in uncircumcision; not as righteous, but as sinners. And how are
they to consider of themselves, even then when they first are
apprehensive of their need of this righteousness? Are they to think
that they are righteous, or sinners?
And again, How are they to believe concerning themselves, then when
they put forth the first act of faith towards this righteousness for
justification? Are they to think that they are righteous, or
sinners? Sinners, doubtless, they are to reckon themselves, and as
such to reckon themselves justified by this righteousness. And this
is according to the sentence of God, as appeareth by such sayings.
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us."
"For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the
death of his Son," &c., Rom. v.
Out of these words I gather these three things.
1. That Christ by God's appointment died for us.
2. That by his death he reconciled us to God.
3. That even then, when the very act of reconciliation was in
performing, and also when performed, we were ungodly, sinners,
Now, the act by which we are said to be reconciled to God, while
ungodly, while sinners, and while enemies, was Christ's offering
himself a sacrifice for us, which is, in the words above mentioned,
called his death. Christ died for the ungodly; Christ died for us
while sinners; Christ reconciled us to God by his death. And as
Christ is said to die for us, so the Father is said to impute
righteousness to us; to wit, as we are without works, as we are
ungodly. "Now to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that
justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." He
worketh not, but is ungodly, when this gracious act of God, in
imputing the righteousness of Christ to him, is extended; when he
shall believe, his faith is counted to him for righteousness. And
why should we not have the benefit of the righteousness, since it was
completed for us while we were yet ungodly? Yea, we have the benefit
of it: "For when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the
death of his Son."
When I say the benefit, I mean that benefit that we are capable of,
and that is justification before God; for that a man may be capable
of while he is in himself ungodly, because this comes to him by the
righteousness of another. True, were it to be his own righteousness
by which he was to be justified, he could not: but the righteousness
is Christ's, and that imputed by God, not as a reward for work, or of
debt, but freely by his grace; and therefore may be, and is so, while
the person concerned is without works, ungodly, and a sinner.
And he that denieth that we are capable of this benefit while we are
sinners and ungodly, may with the like reason deny that we are
created beings: for that which is done for a man without him, may be
done for him at any time which they that do it shall appoint. While
a man is a beggar, may not I make him worth ten thousand a-year, if I
can and will: and yet he may not know thereof in that moment that I
make him so? yet the revenue of that estate shall really be his from
the moment that I make him so, and he shall know it too at the rent-
This is the case: we are sinners and ungodly; there is a
righteousness wrought out by Jesus Christ which God hath designed we
shall be made righteous by: and by it, if he will impute it to us,
we shall be righteous in his sight; even then when we are yet ungodly
in ourselves: for he justifies the ungodly.
Now, though it is irregular and blameworthy in man to justify the
wicked, because he cannot provide and clothe him with a justifying
righteousness, yet it is glorious, and for ever worthy of praise, for
God to do it: because it is in his power, not only to forgive, but
to make a man righteous, even then when he is a sinner, and to
justify him while he is ungodly.
But it may be yet objected, that though God has received satisfaction
for sin, and so sufficient terms of reconciliation by the obedience
and death of his Son, yet he imputeth it not unto us, but upon
condition of our becoming good.
Ans. This must not be admitted: For,
1. The scripture saith not so; but that we are reconciled to God by
the death of his Son, and justified too, and that while or when we
are sinners and ungodly.
2. If this objection carrieth truth in it, then it follows that the
Holy Ghost, faith, and so all grace, may be given to us, and we may
have it dwelling in us, yea, acting in us, before we stand righteous
in the judgment of the law before God (for nothing can make us stand
just before God in the judgment of the law, but the obedience of the
Son of God without us.) And if the Holy Ghost, faith, and so,
consequently, the habit of every grace, may be in us, acting in us,
before Christ's righteousness be by God imputed to us, then we are
not justified as sinners and ungodly, but as persons inherently holy
and righteous before.
But I have shewed you that this cannot be, therefore righteousness
for justification must be imputed first. And here let me present the
reader with two or three things.
1. That justification before God is one thing, and justification to
the understanding and conscience is another. Now, I am treating of
justification before God, not of it as to man's understanding and
conscience: and I say, a man may be justified before God, even then
when himself knoweth nothing thereof; Isa. xl. 2; Mark ii. 5; and
while he hath not faith about it, but is ungodly.
2. There is justification by faith, by faith's applying of that
righteousness to the understanding and conscience, which God hath of
his grace imputed for righteousness to the soul for justification in
his sight. And this is that by which we, as to sense and feeling,
have peace with God "Being justified by faith, we have peace with
God, through our Lord Jesus Christ;" Rom. v. 1. And these two the
apostle keepeth distinct in the 10th verse: that "while we were
enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." He
addeth, "And not only so, but we joy in God through our Lord Jesus
Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement," verse 11. Here
you see, that to be reconciled to God by the death of his Son is one
thing, and for us actually to receive by faith this reconciliation is
another: and not only so, but we have "received the atonement."
3. Men do not gather their justification from God's single act of
imputing of righteousness, that we might stand clear in his sight
from the curse and judgment of the law; but from the word of God,
which they understand not till it is brought to their understanding
by the light and glory of the Holy Ghost.
We are not, therefore, in the ministry of the word to pronounce any
man justified, from a supposition that God has imputed righteousness
to him (since that act is not known to us), until the fruits that
follow thereupon do break out before our eyes; to wit, the signs and
effects of the Holy Ghost indwelling in our souls. And then we may
conclude it, that is, that such a one stands justified before God,
yet not for the sake of his inherent righteousness, nor yet for the
fruits thereof, and so not for the sake of the act of faith, but for
the sake of Jesus Christ his doing and suffering for us.
Nor will it avail to object, that if at first we stand justified
before God by his imputing of Christ's righteousness unto us, though
faith be not in us to act, we may always stand justified so; and so
what need of faith? for therefore are we justified, first, by the
imputation of God, as we are ungodly, that thereby we may be made
capable of receiving the Holy Ghost and his graces in a way of
righteousness and justice. Besides, God will have those that he
shall justify by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus
Christ to have the Holy Ghost, and so faith, that they may know and
believe the things not only that shall be, but that already are
freely given to us of God. "Now," says Paul, "we have received, not
the spirit of the world but the Spirit which is of God, that we might
know the things that are freely given to us of God;" 1 Cor. ii. 12.
To know, that is, to believe: it is given to you to believe, who
believe according to the working of his mighty power; "And we have
known and believed the love that God hath to us," preceding to our
believing; John iv. 16. He then that is justified by God's
imputation, shall believe by the power of the Holy Ghost; for that
must come, and work faith, and strengthen the soul to act it, because
imputed righteousness has gone before. He then that believeth shall
be saved; for his believing is a sign, not a cause, of his being made
righteous before God by imputation; and he that believeth not shall
AND THUS MUCH FOR THE PHARISEE, AND FOR HIS INFORMATION. AND NOW I
COME TO THAT PART OF THE TEXT WHICH REMAINS, AND WHICH RESPECTETH THE
"And the Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as
his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be
merciful to me a sinner."
What this Publican was, I have shewed you, both with respect to
nation, office, and disposition. Wherefore I shall not here trouble
the reader as to that. We now, therefore, come to his repentance in
the whole and in the parts of it; concerning which I shall take
notice of several things, some more remote, and some more near to the
matter and life of it.
But, first, let us see how cross the Pharisee and the Publican did
lie in the temple one to another, while they both were presenting of
their prayers to God.
1. The Pharisee he goes in boldly, fears nothing, but trusteth in
himself that his state is good, that God loves him, and that there
was no doubt to be made but of his good speed in this his religious
enterprise. But, alas! poor Publican, he sneaks, crawls into the
temple, and when he comes there, stands behind, aloof, off; as one
not worthy to approach the divine presence.
2. The Pharisee at his approach hath his mouth full of many fine
things, whereby he strokes himself over the head, and in effect calls
himself one of God's dear sons, that always kept close to his will,
abode with him, or, as the prodigal's brother said, "Lo, these many
years do I serve thee; neither transgressed I at any time thy
commandment;" Luke xv. 29. But alas! poor Publican, thy guilt, as to
these pleas, stops thy mouth; thou hast not one good thing to say of
thyself, not one rag of righteousness; thy conscience tells thee so;
yea, and if thou shouldst now attempt to set a good face on it, and
for thy credit say something after the Pharisee in way of thine own
commendations, yet here is God on the one side, the Pharisee on the
other, together with thine own heart, to give thee a check, to rebuke
thee, to condemn thee, and to lay thee even to the ground for thy
3. The Pharisee in his approach to God, wipes his fingers of the
Publican's enormities, will not come nigh him, lest he should defile
himself with his beastly rags: "I am not as other men are, nor yet
as this Publican." But the poor Publican, alas for him! his fingers
are not clean, nor can he tell how to make them so; besides, he
meekly and quietly puts up with this reflection of the Pharisee upon
him, and by silent behaviour justifies the severe sentence of that
self-righteous man, concluding with him, that for his part he is
wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and not
worthy to come nigh, or to stand by, so good, so virtuous, so holy,
and so deserving a man as our sparkling Pharisee is.
4. The Pharisee, as at feasts and synagogues, chose the chief and
first place for his person, and for his prayer, counting that the
Publican was not meet, ought not to presume to let his foul breath
once come out of his polluted lips in the temple, till HE had made
his holy prayer. And, poor Publican, how dost thou hear and put up
this with all other affronts, counting even as the Pharisee counted
of thee, that thou wast but a dog in comparison of him, and therefore
not fit to go before, but to come as in chains, behind, and forbear
to present thy mournful supplication to the holy God, till he had
presented his, in his own conceit, brave, gay, and fine oration?
5. The Pharisee, as he is numerous in his repeating his good deeds,
so is he stiff in standing to them, bearing up himself, that he hath
now sufficient foundation on which to bear up his soul against all
the attempts of the law, the devil, sin, and hell. But, alas, poor
Publican! thou standest naked, nay, worse than naked; for thou art
clothed with filthy garments, thy sins cover thy face with shame:
nor hast thou in, or of thyself, any defence from, or shelter
against, the attempts, assaults, and censures of thy spiritual
enemies, but art now in thine own eyes (though in the temple) cast
forth into thine open field stark-naked, to the loathing of thy
person, as in the day that thou wast born, and there ready to be
devoured and torn in pieces for thy transgressions against thy God.
What wilt thou do, Publican? What wilt thou do? Come, let us see;
which way wilt thou begin to address thyself to God? Bethink
thyself: hast thou any thing to say? speak out, man: the Pharisee
by this time has done, and received his sentence: make an "O yes;"
let all the world be silent; yea, let the angels of heaven draw near
and listen; for the Publican is come to have to do with God! yea, is
come from the receipt of custom into the temple to pray to him.
"And the Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as
his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be
merciful to me a sinner." And is this thy way, poor Publican! O
cunning sinner! O crafty Publican! thy wisdom has outdone the
Pharisee; for it is better to apply ourselves to God's mercy than to
trust to ourselves that we are righteous. But that the Publican did
hit the mark, yea, get nearer unto, and more in the heart of God and
his Son than the Pharisee, the sequel will make manifest.
Take notice then of this profound speech of the Publican, "God be
merciful to me a sinner." Yea, the Son of God was so delighted with
this prayer, that for the sake of it, he even as a limner draweth out
the Publican in his manner of standing, behaviour, gestures, &c.,
while he makes this prayer to God: wherefore we will take notice
both of the one and of the other; for surely his gestures put lustre
into his prayer and repentance.
1. His prayer you see is this, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
His gestures in his prayer were in general three.
1. He "stood afar off."
2. He "would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven."
3. He "smote upon his breast," with his fist, saying, "God be
merciful to me a sinner."
To begin first with his prayer. In this prayer we have two things to
1. His confession: I am a sinner.
2. His imploring of help against this malady: "God be merciful to
me a sinner."
In his confession divers things are to be taken notice of. As -
1. The fairness and simplicity of his confession; "A sinner:" I am a
sinner; "God be merciful to me a sinner." This indeed he was, and
this indeed he confesses; and this, I say, he doth of godly
simplicity. For a man to confess himself a sinner, it is to speak
all against himself that can be spoken. And man, as degenerate, is
too much an hypocrite, and too much a self-flatterer, thus to confess
against himself, unless made simple and honest through the power of
conviction upon his heart. And it is worth your noting, that he doth
not say he was, or had been, but that at that time his state was
such, to wit, a sinner. "God be merciful to me a sinner," or who am,
and now stand before thee a sinner, in my sins.
Now, a little to shew you what it is to be a sinner; for every one
that sinneth may not in a proper sense be called a sinner. Saints,
the sanctified in Christ Jesus, do often sin, but it is not proper to
call them sinners: but here the Publican calls himself a sinner; and
therefore in effect calls himself an evil tree, one that beareth no
good fruit; one whose body and soul is polluted, whose mind and
conscience is defiled; one who hath walked according to the course of
this world, and after the spirit that now worketh in the children of
disobedience: they having their minds at enmity against God, and are
taken captive by the devil at his will; a sinner, one whose trade
hath been in sin, and the works of Satan all his days.
Thus he waives all pleas, and stoops his neck immediately to the
block. Though he was a base man, yet he might have had pleas; pleas,
I say, as well as the Pharisee, though not so many, yet as good. He
was of the stock of Abraham, a Jew, an Israelite of the Israelites,
and so a privileged man in the religion of the Jews, else what doth
he do in the temple? Yea, why did not the Pharisee, if he was a
heathen, lay that to his charge while he stood before God? But the
truth is, he could not; for the Publican was a Jew as well as the
Pharisee, and consequently might, had he been so disposed, have
pleaded that before God. But he would not, he could not, for his
conscience was under convictions, the awakenings of God were upon
him; wherefore his privileges melt away like grease, and fly from him
like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor, which the wind taketh
up and scattereth as the dust; he therefore lets all privileges fall,
and pleads only that he us a sinner.
2. In this confession he judges and condemns himself: For a man to
say, I am a sinner, is as much as to say, I am contrary to the
holiness of God, a transgressor of the law, and consequently an
object of the curse, and an heir of hell. The Publican, therefore,
goeth very far in this his confession; For,
3. In the third place, To confess that there is nothing in him, done
or can be done by him, that should allure, or prevail with God to do
any thing for him: for a sinner cannot do good; no, not work up his
heart unto one good thought: no, though he should have heaven itself
if he could, or was sure to burn in hell-fire for ever and ever if he
could not. For sin, where it is in possession, and bears rule, as it
doth in every one that we may properly call a sinner, there it hath
the mastery of the man, hath bound up his senses in cords and chains,
and made nothing so odious to the soul as the things that are of the
Spirit of God. Wherefore it is said of such, that they are "Enemies
in their minds;" that "The carnal mind is enmity against God," and
that "Wickedness proceedeth of the wicked;" and that the Ethiopian
may as well change his skin, or the leopard his spots, as they that
are accustomed to do evil may learn to do well; Col. i.; Rom. viii.;
1 Sam. xxiv. 13; Jer. xiii. 23.
4. In this confession he implicitly acknowledgeth that sin is the
worst of things, forasmuch as it layeth the soul out of the reach of
all remedy that can be found under heaven. Nothing below or short of
the mercy of God can deliver a poor soul from this fearful malady.
This the Pharisee did not see. Doubtless he did conclude, that at
some time or other he had sinned; but he never in all his life did
arrive to a sight of what sin was: his knowledge of it was but false
and counterfeit, as is manifest by his cure; to wit, his own
righteousness. For take this for a truth undeniable, that he that
thinks himself better before God, because of his reformations, never
yet had the true knowledge of his sin: But the poor Publican he had
it, he had it in truth, as is manifest, because it drives him to the
only sovereign remedy. For indeed, the right knowledge of sin, in
the filth, and guilt, and damning power thereof, makes a man to
understand, that not any thing but grace and mercy by Christ can
secure him from the hellish ruins thereof.
Suppose a man sick of an apoplexy unto death, and should for his
remedy make use only of those things that are good against the second
ague, would not this demonstrate that this man was not sensible of
the nature and danger of this disease? The same may be said of every
sinner that shall make use only of those means to justify him before
God, that can hardly make him go for a good Christian before
judicious men. But the poor Publican, he knew the nature and the
danger of his disease; and knew also, that nothing but mercy,
infinite mercy, could cure him thereof.
5. This confession of the Publican declareth, that he himself was
borne up now by an almighty though invisible hand. For sin, when
seen in its colours, and when appearing in its monstrous shape,
frighteth all away from God. This is manifest by Cain, Judas, Saul,
and others, who could not stand up before God under the sense and
appearance of their sin, but fled before him, one to one fruit of
despair, and one to another. But now this Publican, though he
apprehends his sin, that himself was one that was a sinner, yet he
beareth up, cometh into the temple, approaches the presence of an
holy and sin-revenging God, stands before him, and confesses that he
is that man that sin had defiled, and that had brought him into the
danger of damnation thereby.
This therefore was a mighty act of the Publican. He went against the
voice of conscience, against sense and feeling, against the curse and
condemning verdict of the law: he went, as I may say, upon hot
burning coals to one that to sin and sinners is a consuming fire.
Now then, did the Publican this of his own head, or from his own
mind? No, verily; there was some super-natural power within that did
secretly prompt him on, and strengthen him to this more noble
venture. True, there is nothing more common among wicked men, than
to trick and toy, and play with this saying of the Publican, "God be
merciful to me a sinner:" not at all being sensible either what sin
is, or of their need of mercy. And such sinners shall find their
speed in the Publican's prayer far otherwise than the Publican sped
himself; it will happen unto them much as it happened unto the
vagabond Jews, exorcists, who took upon them to call over them that
had evil spirits, the name of the Lord Jesus; that were beaten by
that spirit, and made fly out of that house naked and wounded, Acts
xix. 13. Poor sinner, thou wilt say the Publican's prayer, and make
the Publican's confession, and say, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
But hold; dost thou do it with the Publican's heart, sense, dread,
and simplicity? If not, thou dost but abuse the Publican and his
prayer, and thyself and his God; and shalt find God rejecting of thee
and thy prayers, saying, The Publican I know; his prayers and godly
tears I know; but who or what art thou? and will send thee away
naked. They are the hungry that he filleth with good things, but the
rich (and the senseless) he sendeth empty away.
For my part, I find it one of the hardest things that I can put my
soul upon, even to come to God, when warmly sensible that I am a
sinner, for a share in grace and mercy. Oh! methinks it seems to me
as if the whole face of the heavens were set against me. Yea, the
very thought of God strikes me through; I cannot bear up, I cannot
stand before him; I cannot but with a thousand tears say, "God be
merciful to me a sinner;" Ezra ix. 15.
At another time, when my heart is more hard and stupid, and when his
terror doth not make me afraid, then I can come before him, and ask
mercy at his hand, and scarce be sensible of sin or grace, or that
indeed I am before God. But above all, they are the rare times, when
I can go to God as the Publican, sensible of his glorious majesty,
sensible of my misery, and bear up, and affectionately cry, "God me
merciful to me a sinner."
But again, the Publican, by his confession, sheweth a piece of the
highest wisdom that a mortal man can shew; because; by so doing, he
engageth as well as imploreth the grace and mercy of God to save him.
You see by the text he imploreth it; and now I will shew you that he
engageth it, and makes himself a sharer in it.
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth
and forsaketh them shall have mercy." And again, "If we confess our
sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse
us from all unrighteousness;" Prov. xxviii. 13; 1 John. i. 9.
First, In the promise of pardon, "he shall have mercy;" he shall have
his sins forgiven. As also Solomon prays, that God will forgive them
that know their own sores; and they are indeed such as are sensible
of the plague of their own heart, 2 Chron. vi. 29, 30; 1 Kings viii.
37, 38. And the reason is, because the sinner is now driven to the
farthest point, for confession is the farthest point, and the utmost
bound unto which God has appointed the Publican to go, with reference
to his work; as it is said of Saul to David, when he was about to
give him Michal his daughter to wife, "I desire not any dowry, but an
hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's
So says God in this matter, I desire no sacrifices, nor legal
righteousness to make thee acceptable to me: "Only acknowledge and
confess thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against me," 1
Sam. xviii. 25; Jer. iii. 12, 13. And though this by some may be
thought to be a very easy way to come at, and partake of the mercy of
God; yet let the sensible sinner try it, and he shall find it one of
the hardest things in the world. And there are two things to which
man is prone, that makes confession hard:
First, There is a great proneness in us to be partial, and not
thorough and plain in our confessions. We are apt to make half