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This carnal reason cannot apprehend, and being proud, therefore rejects and argues against it; says, How can this thing be? But faith closes with it, and rejoices in it; without either doing or suffering, the sinner is acquitted and justified, and stands as guiltless of breach, yea, as having fulfilled the whole law. And happy they that thus fasten upon this righteousness; they may lift up their faces with gladness and boldness before God: Whereas the most industrious self-saving Justiciary, though in other men's eyes and his own, possibly for the present, he makes a glittering shew, yet when he shall come to be examined of God, and tried according to the law, he shall be covered with shame, and confounded in his folly and guiltiness. But faith triumphs over self-unworthiness, and sin, and death, and the law, shrowding the soul under the mantle of Jesus Christ; and there it is safe: All accusations fall off, having no where to fasten, unless some blemish could be found in that righteousness in which faith hath wrapt itself. This is the very spring of solid peace, and fills the soul with peace and joy. But still men would have something within themselves to make out the matter, as if this robe needed any such piecing; and not finding what they desire, thence disquiet and unsettlement of mind arises.
True it is, that this faith purifies the heart, and works holiness, and all graces flow from it: But in this work of justifying the sinner, it is alone, and cannot admit of any mixture, as Luther's resemblance is, "Faith is as the bride with Christ in the bed-chamber alone; but when she cometh forth, hath the attendance and train of other graces with her." This well understood, the soul [ that believes, on, Jesus Christ, will not let go, for all deficiency in itself; and yet so resting on him, will not be slothful nor regardless of any duty of holiness; Yea, this is the way to abound in all the, fruits of the Spirit, first, to have that wisdom from:
him, rightly to apprehend and apply him as our righteousness, and then shall we find all furniture of grace in him; in him; he will likewise be sanctification. Say not, "Unless I find some measure of sanctification, what right have I to apply him as my righteousnes?" This inverts the order, and disappoints thee of both. Thou must first, without finding, yea, or seeking any thing in thyself but misery and guiltiness, lay hold on him as thy righteousnes; or else thou shalt never find sanctification by any other endeavour or pursuit.
He it is that is made sanctificatiou to us, and out. of him we seek it in vain. Now, first, He must be thy righteousness, before thou find him thy sanctification: Simply, as a guilty sinner, thou must fly to him for shelter; and then, being come in, thou shalt be furnished out of his fullness, with grace for grace. As a poor man pursued by the justiciary, flying to a strong castle for safety, and being in it, finds it a rich palace, and all his wants supplied there.
This misunderstanding of that method is the cause of that darkness and discomfort, and withal of that deadness and defect of graces, that many persons go drooping under, who will not take this way, the only streight and sure way of life and comfort. Now,
Sanctification.] He is to us not only as a perfect pattern, but as a powerful principle. It is really the Spirit of Christ in a believer, that crucifies the world, and purges out sin, and forms the soul to his likeness. It is impossible to be holy, not being in him; and being truly in him, it is as impossible not to be holy Our pothering and turmoiling without him, makes us lose our labour; and in this point indeed, Little wit makes much labour.
Redemption.] Sin is often prevailing, even in believers; and therewithal discomforts and doubts arising, as it cannot otherwise chuse: Oh! how do they groan and sigh as captives still to the law of
sin and death. Well, there is in our Lord Jesus help for that too, he is redemption, that is the compliment and fulness of deliverance, the price he paid once for all. Now he goes on to work that deliverance by conquest, that he bought by ransom; It is going on, even when we feel it not; and within a little while it shall be perfected, and we shall see all the host of our enemies that pursued us, as Israel saw the Egyptians, lie dead upon the shore. Courage that day is coming; and all this, that he that glories, may glory in the Lord: Is it not rea→ sonable? No self-glorying; the more faith, the less still of that. A believer is nothing in himself: All is Christ's Christ is his all; (that treasurer, that being called to an account, because that out of nothing he had enriched himself suddenly, many thought he would have been puzzled with it; but he, without being much moved, next morning came before the king in an old suit that he wore before he got that office, and said, "Sir, this suit on my back is mine, but all the rest is thine :" So our old suit is ours, all the rest Christ's, and he allows it well) and in the full and pure glory that ascends to God in this work, are we to rejoice more than in in the work itself, as our salvation. There is an humble kind of boasting that becomes a Christian, My soul shall glory, or make her boast in God, says David, all the day long. What was I before I met with Christ? thinks a believer: And now what am I? And, upon that thought, wonders and loves. But most of the wonder is yet to come; for he conceives but little what we shall be.
JEREMIAH x. 23, 24.
O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.
T cannot be expressed what an advantage a heart acquainted with God hath, in all the revolutions and changes of the world, when it turns in to him, and gives vent to its griefs and desires into his bosom, and so finds ease. This the prophet does here, after the denouncing of a heavy judgment, he turns towards him from whom he brought that message, to entreat for them to whom he brought it. After a very sad close of his sermon, he adds this short but very sweet prayer; presents himself, and speaks in that stile, as representing the whole people, Correct me, O Lord; makes their calamity, as it were, all his own; bears their person, and presents his petition for them in his own name. The prophets, though they could not but applaud and approve the justice of God that sent them in the harshest news they brought; yet withal could not be insensible of the miseries of his people: And so we find them mixing pathetical complaints and prayers for them, with the predictions of judgments against them.
Obser. And thus are all his faithful ministers af fected towards his church. The Lord himself is pleased to express a kind of regret, sometimes in the punishing of them. As the tender-hearted far ther feels the lashes he lays on, though highly de
served by the stubbornness of his children; How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I make thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. So it well becomes his servants to be thus affected, when they deliver sad news to his people, to return praying for them: Thus going, as angels betwixt Heaven and earth, beseeching the people to return unto God, and beseeching God to return to his people, and spare them.
The prophet, in this prayer, first premises a position suiting his purpose; and then, upon that, presents his supplication. The position he lays, to make a double benefit of it in order to his petition. It is both a sure ground for himself to stand on, and a fit argument to move God by. Thus it is, and thus he intends and uses it, at once to support his own faith, and work on the goodness of God by it. Beside the fitness of the truth itself for both these ends, we find some print of both, in the very way of expressing it, O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself, &c. so expressing both his own persuasion of the truth of it, I know, and representing it to God, as a fit truth to urge his suit by, O Lord, I know.
Obser. A great part of the strength and art of prayer lies in this, first, to have the mind furnished with fit conceptions of God, and established in the firm persuasions of them; in that is much of the strength of prayer: Then fitly to call up, and use these conceptions and persuasions, for our own supporting and prevailing with God; in that lies the art
We possibly do think that we do sufficiently believe both the goodness and power of God, especially his power, none suspecting himself of the least doubt of it; yet our perplexing doubts and fears, our feeble staggerings in faith and prayer, upon
* Hos. xi. 8.