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I believe that my person is only justified by the merit of Christ imputed to me; and that my nature is only sanctified by the Spirit of Christ implanted in me.
AND thus I do not only believe Christ to be my Saviour, but I believe only Christ to be my Saviour. It was he alone ‘that trod the wine-press of his Father’s wrath’ filled with the sour and bitter grapes of my sins. It was he that carried on the great work of my salvation, being himself both the ‘author and the finisher’ of it. I say it was he, and he alone; for what person or persons in the world could do it, besides himself? the angels could not if they would, the devils would not if they could; and as for my fellow-creatures, I may as well satisfy for their sins, as they for mine; and how little able even the best of us are to do either, i. e. to atone either for our own transgressions, or those of others, every man’s experience will sufficiently inform him. For how should we, pour worms of the earth, ever hope, by our slime and mortar, (if I may so speak,) of our own natural abilities, to raise up a tower, ‘whose top may reach to heaven?’ Can we expect by the strength of our own hands to take heaven by violence? or by the price of our own works to purchase eternal glory? It is a matter of admiration to me, how any one that pretends to the use of his reason, can imagine, that he should he accepted before God for what comes from himself? For, how is it possible 58that I should be justified by good works, when I can do no good works at all before I be first justified? My works cannot be accepted as good, until my person be so; nor can my person be accepted by God, till first ingrafted into Christ: before which ingrafting into the true vine, it is impossible I should bring forth good fruit; for the ‘plowing of the wicked is sin,’ says Solomon, yea, ‘the sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord.’9797 Prov. xxi. 4.; xv. 8. And, if both the civil and spiritual actions of the wicked be sin, which of all their actions, shall have the honour to justify them before God? I know not how it is with others, but for my own part, I do not remember, neither do I believe, that I ever prayed in all my life-time, with that reverence, or beard with that attention, or received the sacrament with that faith, or did any other work whatsoever, with that pure heart and single eye, as I ought to have done. Insomuch that I look upon all my ‘righteousness as filthy rags;’ and it is in the robes only of the righteousness of the Son of God that I dare appear before the majesty of heaven. Nay, suppose I could at length, attain to that perfection, as to do good works, exactly conformable to the will of God, yet must they have better eyes than I, that can see how my obedience in one kind, can satisfy for my disobedience in another; or how that which God commands from me, should merit any thing from him.
No, I believe there is no person can merit any thing from God, but he that can do more than is required of him; which it is impossible any creature should do. For, in that it is a creature, it continually depends ‘upon God, and therefore is 59bound to do every thing it can, by any means possible to do for him; especially, considering, that the creature’s dependence upon God is such, that it is beholden to him even for every action that issues from it; without whom, as it is impossible any thing should be, so likewise that any thing should act, especially, what is good. So that to say, a man of himself can merit any thing from God, is as much as to say, that he can merit by that which of himself he doth not do; or that one person can merit by that which another performs; which is a plain contradiction. For in that it merits, it is necessarily implied, that itself acts that by which it is said to merit, but in that it doth not depend upon itself, but on another in what it acts, it is as necessarily implied, that itself doth not do that by which it is said to merit.
Upon this account, I shall never be induced to believe that any creature, by any thing it doth, or can do, can merit, or deserve any thing at the hand of God, till it can be proved that a creature can merit by that which God doth; or that God can be bound to bestow any thing upon us, for that which himself alone is pleased to work in us, and by us; which, in plain terms, would be as much as to say, that because God had been pleased to do one good turn for us, he is therefore bound to do more; and, because God path enabled us to do our duty, he should therefore be bound to give us glory.
It is not, therefore, in the power of any person in the world to merit any thing from God, but such a one who is absolutely co-essential with him, and so depends not upon him either for his existence or actions. And, as there is no person can merit any 60thing from God, unless he be personally distinct from him: forasmuch as, though a person may be said to merit for himself, yet he cannot be said, without a gross solecism, to merit any thing from himself. So that he that is not as perfectly another person from God, as really as the same in nature with him, can never be said to merit any thing at his hands.
But further, God the Father could not properly be said to do it in his own person, because, being (according to our own conception) the party offended, should he have undertaken this work for me, he, in his own person, must have undertaken to make satisfaction to his own person, for the offences committed against himself; which, if he should have done, his mercy might have been much exalted, but his justice could not have been satisfied by it. For justice requires, either that the party offended should be punished for these offences, or, at least some fit person in his stead, which the Father himself cannot be said to be, in that he was the party offended, to whom the satisfaction was to be made: and it is absurd to suppose, that the same person should be capable of making satisfaction, both by and to himself, at the same time.
It remains, therefore, that there were only two persons in the holy Trinity, who could possibly be invested with this capacity; the Son and the Spirit: as to the latter, though he be indeed the same in nature with the Father, and a distinct person from hint, and so far in a capacity to make satisfaction to him; yet not being capable both of assuming the human nature into the divine, and also uniting and applying the divine nature to the human, (as I have showed before in the fifth article,) he was not 61in a capacity of making satisfaction for man; none being fit to take that office upon him, but he that, of himself, was perfectly God, and likewise capable of becoming perfectly man, by uniting both natures in the same person; which the Holy Ghost could not do, because he was the person by whom, and therefore could not be the person also in whom, this union of the two natures was to be perfected. And yet it was by this means, and this method only, that any person could have been completely capacitated to have borne the punishment of our sins: he that was only man could not do it, because the sin was committed against God; and he that was only God could not do it, because the sin was committed by man.
From all which, as I may fairly infer, so I hope I may safely fix my faith in this article, viz. That there was only one person in the whole world that could do this great work for me, of justifying my person before God, and so glorifying my soul with him; and that was the Son of God, the second person in the glorious Trinity, begotten of the substance of the Father from all eternity; whom I apprehend and believe to have brought about the great work of my justification before God, after this or the like manner.
He being, in and of himself, perfectly coequal, coessential, and coeternal with the Father, was in no sort bound to do more than the Father himself did; and so whatsoever he should do, which the Father did not, might justly be accounted as a work of supererogation; which, without any violation of divine justice, might be set upon the account of some other persons, even of such whom he pleased 62to do it for. And hereupon, out of mercy and compassion to fallen man, he covenants with his Father, that if it pleased his majesty to accept it, he would take upon him the suffering of those punishments which were due from him to man, and the performance of those duties which were due from man to him: so that whatsoever he should thus humble himself to do or suffer, should wholly be upon the account of man, himself not being any ways bound to do or suffer more in time than he had from eternity.
This motion, the Father, out of the riches of his grace and mercy, was pleased to consent unto: and hereupon, the Son assuming our nature into his Deity, becomes subject and obedient both to the moral and ceremonial laws of his Father, and, at last, to death itself; ‘even the death of the cross.’ In the one, he paid an active, in the other a passive obedience; and so did not only fulfil the will of his Father, in obeying what he had commanded, but satisfied his justice in suffering the punishment due to us for the transgressing of it. His active obedience, as it was infinitely pure and perfect, did, without doubt, infinitely transcend all the obedience of the sons of men, even of Adam too, in his primitive state. For, the obedience of Adam, make the best of it, was but the obedience of a finite creature; whereas the obedience of Christ was the obedience of one that was infinite God, as well as man. By which means the laws of God had higher obedience performed to them, than themselves in their primitive institution required; for being made only to finite creatures, they could command no more than the obedience of finite 63creatures; whereas the obedience of Christ was the obedience of one who was the infinite Creator, as well as a finite creature.
Now, this obedience being more than Christ was bound to, and only performed upon the account of those whose nature he had assumed, as we, by faith, lay hold upon it, so God, through grace, imputes it to us, as if it had been performed by us in our own persons. And hence it is, that as, in one place, Christ is said to be ‘made sin for us,’9898 2 Cor. v. 21. so, in another place, he is said to be ‘made our righteousness.’9999 1 Cor. i. 30. And in the forecited place,100100 2 Cor. v. 21. he is said to be made ‘sin for us,’ so we are said to be ‘made righteousness’ in him: but what righteousness? Our own? No, ‘the righteousness of God,’ radically his, but imputatively ours: and this is the only way, whereby we are said to be ‘made the righteousness of God,’ even by the righteousness of Christ’s being made ours, by which we are accounted and reputed as righteous before God.
These things considered, I very much wonder how any man can presume to exclude the active obedience of Christ from our justification before God, as if what Christ did in the flesh was only of duty, not at all of merit; or, as if it was for himself, and not for us. Especially, when I consider, that suffering the penalty is not what the law primarily requireth; for the law of God requires perfect obedience, the penalty being only threatened to (not properly required of) the breakers of it. For, let a man suffer the penalty of the law in never so high a manner, he is not therefore accounted obedient 64to it; his punishment doth not speak his innocence, but rather his transgression of the law.
Hence it is, that I cannot look upon Christ as having made full satisfaction to God’s justice for me, unless he had performed the obedience I owe to God’s laws, as well as borne the punishment that is due to my sins: for though he should have borne my sins, I cannot see how that could denominate me righteous or obedient to the law, so as to entitle me to eternal life, according to the tenor of the old law, ‘Do this and live.’101101 Lev. xviii. 5. Which old covenant is not disannulled or abrogated by the covenant of grace, but rather established,102102 Rom. iii. 31. especially as to the obedience it requires from us, in order to the life it promiseth; otherwise, the laws of God would be mutable, and so come short of the laws of the very Medes and Persians, which alter not. Obedience, therefore, is as strictly required under the New, as it was under the Old Testament, but with this difference: there obedience in our own persons was required as absolutely necessary; here, obedience in our surety is accepted as completely sufficient.
But now, if we have no such obedience in our surety, as we cannot have, if he did not live, as well as (he, for us; let any one tell me what title he hath, or can have, to eternal life. I suppose he will tell me, he hath none in himself, because he hath not performed perfect obedience to the law. And I tell him, he hath none in Christ, unless Christ performed that obedience for him, which 65none can say he did, that doth not believe his active, as well as passive obedience, to be wholly upon our account.
And now I speak of Christ’s being our surety, as the apostle calls him,103103 Heb. vii. 22. methinks this gives much light to the truth in hand: for, what is a surety, but one that undertakes to pay whatsoever he, whose surety he is, is bound to pay, in case the debtor proves nonsolvent, or unable to pay it himself? And thus is Christ, under the notion of a surety, bound to pay whatever we owe to God, because we ourselves are not able to pay it in our own persons.
Now, there are two things that we owe to God, which this our surety is hound to pay for us, viz. first, and principally, obedience to his laws, as he is our Creator and governor; and secondly, by consequence, the punishment that is annexed to the breach of these laws, of which we are guilty. Now, though Christ should pay the latter part of our debt for us, by bearing the punishment that is due unto us; yet, if he did not pay the former and principal part of it too, i. e. perform the obedience which we owe to God, he would not fully have performed the office of suretyship, which he undertook for us; and so would be but a half-mediator, or half-saviour, which are such words as I dare scarce pronounce, for fear of blasphemy.
So that, though it is the death of Christ by which I believe my sins are pardoned; yet it is the life of Christ, by which I believe my person is accepted. His passion God accounts as suffered by me, and therefore I shall not die for sin: his obedience God 66accounts as performed by me, and therefore I shall live with him. Not as if I believed, that Christ so performed obedience for me, that I should he discharged from my duty to him: but only that I should not be condemned by God, in not discharging my duty to him in so strict a manner, as is required. I believe that the active obedience of Christ will stand me in no stead, unless I endeavour after sincere obedience in my own person; his active, as well as his passive obedience, being imputed unto none, but only to such as apply it to themselves by faith; which faith in Christ will certainly put such as are possessed of it upon obedience unto God. This, therefore, is the righteousness, and the manner of that justification, whereby I hope to stand before the judgment-seat of God; even by God’s imputing my sins to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness to me; looking upon me as one not to be punished for my sins, because Christ hath suffered, but to be received into the joys of glory, because Christ hath performed obedience for me, and does by faith, through grace, impute it to me.
And thus it is into the merit of Christ that I resolve the whole work of my salvation; and this, not only, as to that which is wrought without me, for the justification of my person, but likewise as to what is wrought within me for the sanctification of my nature. As I cannot have a sin pardoned without Christ, so neither can I have a sin subdued without him; neither the fire of God’s wrath can be quenched, nor yet the filth of my sins washed away, but by the blood of Christ.
So that I wonder as much at the doctrine that some men have advanced concerning free-will, as I 67do at that which others have broached in favour of good works; and it is a mystery to me, how any that ever had experience of God’s method in working out sin, and planting grace in our hearts, should think they can do it by themselves, or any thing in order to it. Not that I do in the least question, but that every man may be saved that will; (for this, I believe, is a real truth) but I do not believe, that any man of himself can will to be saved. Wheresoever God enables a soul effectually to will salvation, he will certainly give salvation to that soul; but I believe, it is as impossible for my soul to will salvation of itself, as to enjoy salvation without God.
And this my faith is not grounded upon a roving fancy, but the most solid reasons; forasmuch as, of ourselves, we are not able, in our understandings, to discern the evil from the good, much less then, are we able, in our wills, to prefer the good before the evil; the will never settling upon any thing, but what the judgment discovers to it. But now, that my natural judgment is unable to apprehend and represent to my will the true and only good under its proper notion, my own too sad experience would sufficiently persuade me, though I had neither Scripture nor reason for it. And yet the Scripture also is so clear in this point, that I could not have denied it, though I should never have had any experience of it; the Most High expressly telling me, that the ‘natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’104104 1 Cor. ii. 14.68 ‘Neither can he know them,’ i. e. there is an absolute impossibility in it, that any one remaining in his natural principles, without the assistance of God, should apprehend or conceive the excellency of spiritual objects. So that a man may as soon read the letter of the Scripture without eyes, as understand the mysteries of the gospel without grace. And this is not at all to be wondered at; especially, if we consider the vast and infinite disproportion betwixt the object and the faculty; the object to be apprehended being nothing less than the best of beings, God; and the faculty whereby we apprehend it, nothing more than the power of a finite creature polluted with the worst of evils, sin.
So that I believe it a thousand times easier for a worm, a fly, or any other despicable insect whatsoever, to understand the affairs of men, than for the best of men in a natural state to apprehend the things of God. No; there is none can know God, nor, by consequence, any thing that is really good, but only so far as they are partakers of the divine nature: we must, in some measure, be like to God, before we can have any true conceptions of him, or be really delighted with him; we must have a spiritual sight, before we can behold spiritual things: which every natural man being destitute of, he can see no comeliness in Christ, why he should be desired; nor any amiableness in religion, why it should be embraced.
And hence it is, that I believe, the first work that God puts forth upon the soul in order to its conversion, is, to raise up a spiritual light within it, to clear up its apprehensions about spiritual matters, so as to enable the soul to look upon God as the chiefest good, and the enjoyment of him as the 69greatest bliss: whereby the soul may clearly discern between good and evil, and evidently perceive, that nothing is good, but so far as it is like to God; and nothing evil, but so far as it resembles sin.
But this is not all the work that God hath to do upon a sinful soul, to bring it to himself; for though I must confess that in natural things, the will always follows the ultimate dictates of the understanding, so as to choose and embrace what the understanding represents to it, under the comely dress of good and amiable, and to refuse and abhor whatever, under the same representation, appears to be evil and dangerous; I say, though I must confess, it is so in natural, yet I believe, it is not so in spiritual matters. For, though the understanding may hare never such clear apprehensions of spiritual good, yet the will is not at all affected with it, without the joint operations of the grace of God upon us; all of us too sadly experiencing what St. Paul long ago bewailed in himself, that ‘what we do, we allow not,’105105 Rom. vii. 15. that though our judgments condemn what we do, yet we cannot choose but do it; though our understandings clearly discover to us the excellence of grace and glory, yet our wills overpowered with their own corruptions, are strangely hurried into sin and misery, I must confess, it is a truth which I should scarcely have ever believed, if I had not such daily experience of it: but, alas! there is scarce an hour in the day, but. I may go about lamenting, with Medea in Seneca, Video meliora, proboque; deteriora sequor; though I see what is good, yea, and judge it to be the better, yet I very often choose the worse.70
And the reason of it is, because, as by our fall from God, the whole soul was desperately corrupted; so it is not the rectifying of one faculty, which can make the whole straight; but as the whole was changed from holiness to sin, so must the whole be changed again from sin to holiness, before it can be inserted into a state of grace, or so much as an act of grace to be exerted by it.
Now, therefore, the understanding and will being two distinct faculties, or, at least two distinct acts in the soul, it is impossible for the understanding to be so enlightened, as to prefer the good before the evil, and yet for the will to remain so corrupt, as to choose the evil before the good. And hence it is, that where God intends to work over a soul to himself, he doth not only pass an enlightening act upon the understanding and its apprehensions, but likewise a sanctifying act upon the will and its affections, that when the soul perceives the glory of God, and the beauty of holiness, it may presently close with, and entertain it with the choicest of its affections. And without God’s thus drawing it, the understanding could never allure the soul to good.
And therefore it is, that for all the clear discoveries which the understanding may make to itself concerning the glories of the invisible world, yet God assures us, it is himself alone that affects the soul with them, by inclining its will to them: for it is God ‘which worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.’106106 Phil. ii. 13. So that, though God offer heaven to all that will accept of it, in the holy Scriptures; yet none can accept of it, but such 71whom himself stirs up by his Holy Spirit to endeavour after it. And thus we find it was in Israel’s return from Babylon to Jerusalem, though king Cyrus made a proclamation, ‘that whosoever would might go up to worship at the holy city,’ yet there was none that accepted of the offer, ‘but those whose spirit God had raised to go up.’107107 Ezra, i. 3, 5. So here, though God doth, as it were, proclaim to all the world, that whosoever will come to Christ shall certainly he saved, yet it doth not follow, that all shall receive salvation from him, because it is certain all will not come; or rather, none can will to come unless God enable him.
I am sure, to say none shall be saved, but those that will of themselves, would be sad news for me, whose will is naturally so backward to every thing that is good. But this is my comfort, I am as certain, my salvation is of God, as I am certain it cannot be of myself. It is Christ who vouchsafed to die for me, who hath likewise promised to live within me: it is he that will work all my works, Moth for me and in me too. In a word, it is to him I am beholden, not only for my spiritual blessings and enjoyments, but even for my temporal ones too, which, in and through his name, I daily put up my petitions for. So that I have not so much as a morsel of bread, in mercy, from God, but only upon the account of Christ: not a drop of drink, but what flows to me in his blood. It is he that is the very blessing of all my blessings, without whom my very mercies would prove but curses, and my prosperity would but work my ruin.
“Whither therefore, should I go, my dear and 72blessed Saviour, but unto thee? ‘Thou hast the words of eternal life.’ And how shall I come, but by thee? Thou hast the treasures of all grace. O thou, that host wrought out my salvation for me, be pleased likewise to work this salvation in me; give me, I beseech thee, such a measure of thy grace, as to believe in thee here upon earth: and then give me such degrees of glory, as fully to enjoy thee for ever in heaven.”
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