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Concerning the Work of Christ, through which Grace
Having taken a view of the Person of Christ, and of his qualifications for the work of a Mediator, arising from his personal excellencies considered as Immanual; we must now advert to that perfect work through which grace reigns, and in virtue of which her favours are dispensed.
Grace reigns, says the oracle of heaven, THROUGH RIGHTEOUSNESS. Righteousness, in this place, i understand as included the whole of that obediance which the Redeemer, under the character of a surety, performed to the perceptive part of the law and all those bitter sufferings which he underwent, in conformity to its penal sanction. Through this obedience Grace reigns, in a way strictly conformable to the rights of divine justice. By this most perfect work of Christ, the tenderest mercy is manifested to miserable sinners, and meets with the truth of Jehovah's righteous threatenings against sin. Here the righteousness of God, as the lawgiver, appears in taking vengeance on sin; so as to be productive of substantial and lasting peace to the sinner. Happy expedient! Wonderful grace! -But let us a little more particularly consider the nature and exellencies of this evangelical righte
As to its nature ; It is a complete conformity to the divine law. Whatever the precepts of Jehovah's law demanded, the adorable Jesus performed in its fullest extent. His nature being perfectly holy, the principle of his actions was absolutely pure; the end for which he did them entirely right; and the matter of them and rule of their performance, without any defect. Whatever the law, considered as broken, threatened by way of punishment against the offender, to that he submitted in all its dreadful severity. For he was made sin : he was made a curse. He suffered— Amazing love! unparelleled condescension ?—He suffered the greatest shame, the most excruciating pain, that the malice of men, or the subtilty of devils could invent or inflict; and, which was infinitely more, the wrath of God. The duration of his passion was indeed comparatively short; but for this the infinite dignity of his Person was a full compensation. When we consider that it was he Son of God and LORD. OF GLORY, who bled and died under every circumstance of infamy and pain ; all the dreadful monuments of divine justice inflicted on the sons of rebellion in past ages, and transmitted to posterity in the most authentic records; all the misery that awaits the licentious world, and is denounced in the scripture, cannot raise our ideas of Jehovah's vindictive justice to so high a pitch, as a remembrance of the bitter, though transitory sufferings of the divine Jesus.
The excellencies of this righteousness appear from the characters it bears in holy writ. For, to signify its unspotted purity, it is called fine linen, clean and white, To denote its completeness, it is called a robe. To hold forth its exquisite beauty, rich
ness, and glory, it is called clothing of wrought gold, and raiment of needle-work. To point out its unequalled exellency, it is called the best robe. It is better than the robe of innocence with which our first parents were clothed before the fall; yea, better than the righteousness of angels in glory. For theirs is but the obedience of mere creaturesof dependent beings. But this—which is the highest epithet that language can give—this is the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. Its nature and properties are such, that the Lord himself seems to glory in it, frequently calling it his righteousness. Rev. xix. 8. Isa, lxi. 10. Psal. xlv. 13, 14. Luke xv. 22. 2 Cor. v. 21. Rom. X. 3. Jer. xxiii. 6. Isa. xlvi. 13. and li. 5, 6, 8. and lvi. 1.
It is an everlasting righteousness. Dan. ix. 24. It is a robe, the beauty of which will never be tarnished-a garment that will never decay-and clothing that will never wear out. When millions of-ages have run their ample round, it will continue the same that it was the first day it came into use; and when millions more are elapsed, there will be no alteration. The continuance of its efficacy, beauty, and glory will be lasting as the light of the New Jerusalem-unfading as the eternal inheritance.
It is a righteousness already performed. It is not something now to be wrought in us by the operation of the Holy Spirit. No! it was completed when the divine Redeemer cried, It is finished and gave up the ghost. But here many persons fall into a fatal mistake. Ready they are to imagine, that sinners are accepted of God in virtue of righteousness wrought in them, through the assistance of the
Holy Spirit; which assistance, they suppose, was purchased for them by the death of Christ. But, while such an imagination prevails, they never can experience what it is to be in a justified state. Besides, when the blessed Jesus died, he did not do something to assist our weak but willing endeavours to save ourselves; he did not lay in a provision of grace, or purchase the Spirit for us, by which the defects of enfeebled nature might be supplied, and we rendered capable of performing the condition of our justification. But, at that awful and evermemorable period, when he bowed his head, and expired, He, by himself alone, perfectly finished that righteousness which is the proper condition and the grand requisite of our justification. That the Spirit of Grace and truth, as given to any, is a precious fruit of the death, resurrection, and glorification of Christ, is freely acknowledged; but that Jesus died to purchase the Spirit, to work in us any part of that righteousness on account of which we are accepted of God, must be denied. For the principal work of the Spirit in the method of grace, our Lord himself bearing witness, is to testify of him, and reveal his glory to the sinner's conscience. He shall testify of me—he shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. John xv. 26, and xvi. 14. 1 Cor. ii. 12. Nor does the Spirit of truth act as a sanctifier till, in order of nature, we are perfectly justified: and when justified, he effects our sanctification by that very truth which reveals the obedience of Christ as a finished work. To think otherwise is according to the popish scheme, which confounds justification with sanctification, but is very far from being the doc
trine of the apostles. It is also contrary to the sentiments of our first Reformers, and of all their genuine successors, both at home and abroad.
Notwithstanding what has been said concerning the matchless excellence of the Redeemer's righteousness, the reader whose mind is enlightened to behold the defects attending his own best performances, and whose conscience is affected with a sense of deserved wrath, may perhaps be ready to say, 'As to the glorious nature and superlative excellence of this obedience, there is no dispute. But is it free for a mere sinner? Is it not rather designed for those who are in some way qualified for it, by a set of holy principles, and a series of pious actions—those who are distinguished from the altogether worthless and vile? Is there any possibility for a miserable sinner--a condemned criminal--one whose transgressions are great, and whose corruptions are strong, to partake of it, and be made happy by it ? "And if there be, which is the way ? To these momentous inquiries the oracles of God furnish a substantial answer. For they inform us that there is another excellency attending it, which has a special regard to the manner of its communication, and therefore ought by no means to be overlooked. Yes! blessed be God! the unerring word warrants me to assert that this righteousness is absolutely free. It was wrought for the sinner; it was designed for the sinner; and is freely bestowed on the vilest of sinners. It is not matter of bargain, or the subject of sale; it is not proposed on certain conditions, as the performing some arduous course of duties, or the attaining some notable qualifications; but it is a free gift. Grace, as a sovereign, is ex