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youth,”—“only evil continually." It is also certain, that faith in Christ is contemporary with (though, in order of nature, it flows from, and is successive to) the first principle of spiritual life ; and it is from our union to Christ by faith that we derive from him supplies of
grace and strength, and that the whole progress of holiness is carried on in the soul. It is therefore necessary that we be first united to Christ, the Head of all influences and Fountain of all holiness, and so be habitually alive to God, before we can actually live to God, as I have observed before. All our attainments in religion, without a vital principle within, will be but as a carcass without breath, or as streams from a corrupt fountain. Whence it follows, that those who are looking to sincere obedience for justification, must be strangers to true holiness ; they not having first committed their souls to Christ, depended upon him alone for righteousness and strength, and thereby obtained supplies of grace for a life of holiness, from that only fountain of life. To seek justification from our sanctification, is to invert the order and method for our salvation; it is to produce the cause from the effect, to fetch the fountain from the streams. We must, first, by a new living principle, be enabled to exercise faith in Christ, to receive him, and thereby be united to him, and be justified in the sight of God; otherwise all our religious and moral duties will be vain, a sacrifice without a heart, mere legal or slavish performances, that have nothing of true holiness in them. We must be created in Christ Jesus unto good works, if we would walk in them, Eph. ii. 10. We must be renewed in the spirit of our mind, if we would put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, Eph. iv. 23, 24. We must be “ quickened together
6 sanctified through
with him,” Col. ii. 13. the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all,” Heb. x. 10. It is of Christ's fulness that we all receive, even grace for grace, John i. 16. And“ the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can we, except we abide in Christ,” John xv. 4.
Moreover, I think, it will be readily allowed, that we cannot live a life of holiness, while we remain children and servants of sin and Satan. It must also be allowed, that the whole world of mankind are either the children of God or the children of the devil. This distribution divides the whole human race, 1 John iii. 10. Now, then, if we are the children of God, we are already in a justified state, and therefore cannot depend upon our sincere obedience for our justification ; but if the children of the devil, we cannot be holy, whatever pretences to sincere obedience we may make. An unjustified child of God, or a holy child of the devil, are each of them the greatest solecism that can be thought of. We become children of God by the same means by which we are justified. We are justified by faith, Rom. iii. 26. And children of God by faith in Christ Jesus,” Gal. iii. 26. But all those who have not this faith, and are not thereby become the children of God, and justified in his sight, are so blinded by the god of this world, that they are utterly incapable, in their present state, of a life of true holiness. “ The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them,” 2 Cor. iv. 4.
I may add to this, that the natural disposition of every one, while without an interest in Christ and in
an unjustified state, is utterly repugnant to, and inconsistent with a life of holiness. The character and state of all such is, that they are servants of sin, and free from righteousness, Rom. vi. 17. 20. They are “ dead in trespasses and sins,” Eph. ii. 1. They are after the flesh, and mind the things of the flesh, Rom. viii. 5. Their carnal mind is enmity to God; and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, Rom. viii. 7. This is the case of every man while in a natural state ; a case which can never be remedied, till the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus make us free from the law of sin and death, Rom. viii. 2. And I even appeal to yourself to determine, whether life and death, light and darkness, God and Belial, cannot as well be reconciled, as these characters made consistent with a life of holiness. It is therefore evident, that we can have no sincere obedience until we are justified; and that we cannot live a holy life, while we depend upon sincere obedience for our justification.
I will only subjoin, that we cannot expect the renewing and sanctifying influences of the Spirit of Christ, while we depend upon our own sincere obedience for justification. He has indeed made us gracious promises, that if we receive him, we shall have the privilege to become the children of God; and if we trust in him, we shall never be ashamed. But we must expect no better than to follow after the law of righteousness, and not attain to it, if we seek it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law, Rom. ix. 31, 32. I have already shown you, Christ did not undertake our redemption to the end that he might assist us in working out a righteousness of our own, for our justification; nor may we expect any saving grace from him, till we depend upon him alone to do all in us and for us. When he is of God made unto us righteousness, through faith, we may then, but not till then, expect from him the supply of the Spirit, for progressive sanctification and redemption. They may rejoice in Christ Jesus (and none but they) who have no confidence in the flesh. Look, sir, through the whole Bible, and see if you can, any where, find encouragement to expect a progress of quickening and sanctifying influences from Christ, without an interest in him, or dependence upon him; and while repairing to your own personal obedience as your refuge and hope. In fine, as you can have no principle of holiness in yourself, but are under the influence of sin and Satan, and under the power of affections and dispositions utterly inconsistent with true holiness, so are you without any well-grounded expectations of the Divine influences to renew and sanctify you, while you are building upon this false foundation; I mean, while you are doing so practically, as well as speculatively.
I cannot but hope, sir, notwithstanding your present wavering and unsettled posture, you have had some experience of the truth of what I am now setting before
in your own soul. Look back, and consider how often you have found all your self-righteous, self-confident promises, and endeavours in your own strength, to mortify your corruptions, and to maintain a closer walk with God, too weak a foundation to build upon, and how insufficient they have been to produce that new obedience which
have purposed and expected : but how have you found, on the contrary, that an humble and cheerful dependence upon Christ for righteousness and strength, has invigorated your soul in your spiritual progress ! How often have you found a legal frame has clipped the wings of
your devotion, while a believing dependence upon the riches of God's infinite mercy in Christ has enabled you to mount up with wings as the eagle, to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint ! Reflect upon your own experience ; and consider how often you have found, that even the restraints of the law, when you have acted upon no higher motive, have rather irritated and strengthened those corruptions which you have endeavoured to mortify; how often you have found that nothing but faith in Christ, and a realizing sense of the love of God in him, could give you the victory, engage your heart to the service of God, and make the ways of holiness pleasant and delightful to you. These things are the common experience of the children of God, and a standing evidence to them of the truth which I am representing to you.
Have patience with me, while I mention one exception more to the scheme you have proposed, which is, that this doctrine is destructive to the comfort of a life of religion, and subversive of that joy and peace which may be found in believing: The scriptures inform us, that the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace ; and exhort us to rejoice evermore, to rejoice in Christ Jesus, without confidence in the flesh. This was one end of Christ's coming into the world, that we might serve him without fear, in righteousness and holiness before him all the days of our life. Those who are justified by faith, have peace with God, and should rejoice in hope of his glory. This, the scripture principles, lay a foundation for.
True scriptural joy is the joy of faith. We may have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us. We know whom we have trusted, that he is able to keep that which we