THE BEARING AND IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
Rom. i. 17.—" The just shall live by faith."
From these words I desire to illustrate the bearing and the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith. The points which have been illustrated in the previous discourses are the following:—The importance of the inquiry, How man can be justified with God; the fact that man cannot justify or vindicate himself by denying the truth of the charges against him; the fact that he cannot do it by showing that he had a right to do as he has done; the fact that he cannot merit salvation; the consideration of what is to be understood by the merits of Christ; the sense in which we are justified by the merits of Christ; and the agency of faith in our justification. It is proposed now, in the conclusion of the subject, to refer to some historical illustrations of the value and influence of the doctrine of justification by faith, and to show why it has the place which history has assigned it.
I. In illustrating the value and influence of the doctrine as shoim by history, three periods of the world may be briefly referred to.
(1.) The first is, the age of the apostles—when, perhaps, the effect of the doctrine of justification by faith was more vividly seen than it has ever been since. That this was the doctrine which Paul preached, which he made prominent in his writings, and which he everywhere defended, no one acquainted with his history can for a moment doubt. It would be needless here to transcribe the passages of his writings which declare his views on this point, or which show how earnestly he expressed his convictions of its truth and importance. Everywhere he maintained that a man is not justified by the deeds of the law, but by the righteousness of faith; that we are saved, not by works of righteousness which we have done; that they that are under the law, are under the curse; and that they who are justified by faith, have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. In the most earnest and emphatic manner he abjured all dependence on his own merits for salvation; disclaimed all reliance on the extraordinary zeal for religion which he had manifested in early life, and on his own blameless outward deportment; and declared it now to be the grand purpose of his soul to " know Christ, and to be found in him, not having his own righteousness, which was of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith," Phil. iii. 9. In this, he coincided with all the other apostles, who taught as he did, that no reliance was to be placed on outward forms of religion, on good works, on an amiable character, or on alms, as the ground of salvation. It was then that the doctrine of simple dependence on Christ for salvation went forth with freshness and with power. It was unencumbered by any attending doctrine of a different character to fetter its movements, or to hinder its progress through the world. There was no necessity proclaimed of depending on rites or forms of religion ; no reverence for sacred places was inculcated as necessary to salvation ; no connexion with a particular church, organized under a peculiar ministry, was declared to be essential; no saving efficacy was attributed to sacraments and to alms; no merits of the holy men of other ages could be looked to, to make up the deficiency of those who sought to be saved; no promise was held out that the dead might be saved through the extraordinary sacrifices and benevolence of the living. The naked doctrine of justification by faith in Christ stood out before the world, fresh in its youthful vigour, with no trappings or ornaments to hide and obscure it; a simple, solemn, sublime truth, that all might appreciate, and that might be available to all. This was then the sword of the Spirit, slaying human pride; cutting down the self-righteousness of men ; prostrating the great and the mean, the learned and the unlearned, the patrician and the plebeian, the master and the slave, the man in purple and the man in rags, alike—a sword, whose keenness was not rendered useless then by being hid in a gorgeous scabbard.
The doctrine thus promulgated by the apostles stood opposed to the prevailing views of all the world. It was opposed to all the aims of the Pharisees—the essential tenet of whose religion, was expressed graphically and honestly by one of their own number—" God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are." It stood opposed to all the views of the Sadducees, who held to the necessity of no kind of religion, denying the whole doctrine of the future state. It stood opposed to the Essenes. the remaining Jewish sect, who sought to work out their salvation by extraordinary fastings and privations, and by exclusion from contact with the world. It stood opposed to the whole system of sacrifices among the heathen, who sought to propitiate the gods, and to render themselves accepted, by dependence on the forms of religion ; and it was at variance with all the views of philosophy.—the pride of the Stoic, confident in his own righteousness ; the licentiousness of the Epicurean, justifying his own voluptuousness; and the self-complacency of the sage, relying on liis own wisdom. An apostle could go nowhere, where this doctrine would ncjt come in conflict with all the prevailing views in regard to the way in which men might he saved. Yet no one now can he ignorant of the effect of this doctrine, as promulgated by the apostles. This it was which changed the religion of the world; for Christianity made no other advances than as it taught men to renounce every other ground of dependence, and to rely for salvation solely on the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. It had no martial power by which to make its way; it had no influence derived from name and rank to enforce its claims; it had no authority derived from a venerable antiquity on which to rely; it had no gorgeous and imposing forms to enable it to command the respect of those who had worshipped in the Parthenon or the Pan theon ; it had no claims to any new discoveries in philosophy. It had but one thing that was new, great, improving, commanding; and that was the announcement of Christ crucified, and the fact that men everywhere might now be justified by the merits of His atoning blood. Never has any truth on any subject stood more by itself, to make its own way without adventitious aid, than this did in the hands of the Christian apostles; and never before had any simple truth on any subject produced such changes in the world.
(2.) The second fact to which reference will be made, is the state of the world when the doctrine of justification by faith was obscured and almost extinguished in the Church. It soon began to be obscured. Very early the professed friends of religion began to lose sight of it. So strong in the human mind is die love of pomp and ceremony and form, so attached is man to splendour and show in religion as in everything else, so prone is the heart to rely on its own doings, and so reluctant is the sinner everywhere to depend for salvation on the righteousness of another, that this doctrine gradually died away, and almost ceased to be remembered in the church. Then arose the system which spread night all over the Christian world—the night of ignorance, error, superstition, and crime,—a night deepening for ages,, till it terminated in the consummate depravity of the Papacy under Alexander VI. Amid this forgetfulness of the doctrine of justification by faith, or of salvation by simple dependence on Christ crucified, arose the uersal respect for sacred places and orders of men; zeal for splendid temples of worship, and for gorgeous ceremonies; extraordinary veneration for the sepulchres of saints, and for their holy remains ; pilgrimages to the Holy Land ; the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, and of absolution of sins by the imposition of holy hands; the belief that grace was imparted by sacraments, administered by a priesthood; the doctrine that the merits of the saints of other days were garnered up for the benefit of future ages, and placed at the disposal of the Church; the multiplication of sacraments, with saving efficacy attributed to them all; and the belief of a peculiar sacredness attached to ground consecrated to the burial of the dead. All these were features of one great system. They had some relation to Christianity, and had grown in part out of the abuse of its doctrines. But though various, they were arranged evidently under the auspices of one master-mind, and with the same end in view. That was to render nugatory the doctrine of justification by faith, and to substitute in its place the doctrine of salvation by works. It was, indeed, salvation by works connected with the religion of Christ, and was a different system from that of the Pharisee, who expected to be saved by conformity to the law of Moses,—or the Grecian philosopher, who hoped to reach heaven by the purity of his doctrine and his morals,—or the degraded Pagan, who relied on the blood of sacrifices,—or the man now who relies on his own honesty and fidelity in the various relations of life; but it was essentially the same system. It excluded the simple dependence of the soul on the Lord Jesus for salvation, and substituted in its stead a reliance on human merit.
The effect was seen in the darkness, sin, and corruption of Europe before the Reformation. Every feature of the state of things in the " dark ages" can be traced to an obscuring of the great doctrine of justification by faith. Every advance of society into that deep and deepening gloom was connected with some loosening of its hold on that doctrine, and the substitution of something else in its place, until the hold was entirely gone, and Europe was plunged in total night.
(3.) The third historical fact, therefore, to be referred to, is the effect which the recovery and restoration of this doctrine had on the church and the world at the period of the Reformation. To those who have studied the history of that period, as all Protestants should do, it is unnecessary to say that this was the elementary doctrine—the central view—the starting-point in the whole of that glorious revolution. This was the great truth which dawned on the mind of Luther, and which led to all that lie attempted and accomplished for the restoration of the Church to its primitive purity; and it occupied an equally central position in the view of all his fellow-labourers. Three times was the doctrine of justification by faith brought before the mind of Luther, with the same sort of power which it had when promulgated by the apostles, and with such energy as to rouse all that was great in his soul into life. The first was when he was a monk in his cell. He had found a copy of the Bible, and he began to study it, and to lecture on it. He commenced with the Psalms, but soon passed to the Epistle to the Romans. One dav, having proceeded as far as the seventeenth verse of the first chapter, the words quoted from Habakkuk, " The just shall live by faith," arrested his attention. A new thought struck him. A new way of salvation opened before his mind. A new light shone upon his heart; and the words, " The just shall live by faith," seemed never to leave him. The second instance was when he first visited Rome. These words followed him, and lingered on his ear. One of his first impressions was, that he was now in the very place to which Paul had addressed these words in his epistle. Yet in that city how were they obscured and unknown ! On every hand were arrangements for being justified by works—by forms and ceremonies, by pomp and pageantry, by the merits of the saints, and by penance. What a total obscuration of the great doctrine which Paul had taught in the letter to the church there, and which he had himself doubtless taught when he had dwelt in that city! The third instance in which these words were brought to the heart of Luther was more impressive still. " One day, wishing to obtain an indulgence promised by the pope to any one who should ascend on his knees what is called ' Pilate's Staircase' the poor Saxon monk was slowly climbing the steps, which they told him had been miraculously transported from Jerusalem to Rome. But while he was going through this meritorious work, he thought he heard a voice like thunder speaking from the depth of his heart—' The just shall live by faith!' He started up in terror on the steps up which he had been crawling; he was horrified at himself; and struck with shame for the degradation to which superstition had debased him, he fled from the scene of his folly. This powerful text had a mysterious influence on the life of Luther. It was a creative word for the Reformer and for the Reformation."* It was this truth that wrought out the Reformation;—and whatever there was in that work that is valuable and precious, whatever there was to shed a benign * D'Aubigne.
influence on literature, liberty, and morals, whatever there was to spread pure religion over Switzerland, or Germany, or England, or ultimately over our own land, and then by a reflex influence on Asia Minor, on Palestine, on the palmy East, on dark Africa, and on the islands of the sea, is to be traced to those moments when this text broke with so much living power on the soul of Luther—" The just shall live by faith." It became with him an elementary truth, that the doctrine of justification by faith was the " article of the standing or the falling Church"— the very joint or hinge (articulus) on which the whole depended.* To that doctrine we owe, in its various developments, all that we value in this Protestant land, and all that distinguishes us in religion from what Europe was in the days of Alexander VI. and Leo X.; and there is not an interest of religion, liberty, or learning, which has not been moulded by it more than by any other single cause. Our modes of worship; our readiness to spread the Bible; our freedom of discussion; our general diffusion of intelligence; our untrammelled press; our separation of religion from the state ; our societies for the spread of the gospel ; our blessed and glorious revivals; our deliverance from superstition, and from the tyranny of a priesthood, and from the corruptions and abominations of the monastic system, and from the debasement of penances and pilgrimages, are all to be traced to the power of this single truth that blazed with such an intensity on the soul of the poor Saxon monk. Such being some of the facts in the case, let us,
II. In the second place, inquire why this doctrine has this importance and power. This will be seen if we can trace its connexion with what undeniably it has been everywhere united to:—a religion of deep spirituality, of simplicity of worship, of deadness to the world, of freedom of opinion, of liberal views, and of great and cheerful sacrifices for the good of mankind. There are but two systems of religion on the earth: the one is that of self-righteousness; the other, that of salvation by the merits of Christ;—the one, that of men who attempt, in various ways, to justify themselves before God; the other, that of those who seek to be justified through the righteousness of the Redeemer. The bearing and importance of the latter, in contrast with the former, is the point now before us.
(1.) This doctrine of justification by faith has a power of reaching the soul, and of calling forth every active energy of our nature, which the other system never can have. It leaves the impression, that the soul is of vast value; that religion is of * "Articulus stantia vel eadentis ecclesias."
inestimable importance ; that the grand purpose of living should be religion. The reason of this, which may not at once be apparent, is, that it finds the soul in such a state, wherever it is embraced, that it arouses all that is thrilling, and vast, and momentous in the soul itself, and in its hopes and relations. The language which the doctrine of justification by faith addresses to each individual is this:—" You are a lost sinner. You have no righteousness of your own. You never will have any. Your heart is by nature depraved, and your whole past life has been evil. In all that you have done, you have done nothing to merit the favour of God, or even to commend yourself to his approbation. All your righteousness is as filthy rags. All your outward forms of religion—your fastings, penances, and vows, your amiableness of character, your honesty, your integrity, your pride of birth and station, are all to pass for nothing before God in the matter of justification. Nor can you hope of yourself to do anything more in the future that will commend you to God than you have done in the past. No form of religion, no flood of tears, no framing of the life by an outward law, no acts of self-denial, no fastings, prayers, or almsgivings, can wipe away the deep stains of past guilt on the soul, or constitute an expiation for what you have done. In this state you are near the grave, and just over the world of woe. A moment might cut you off from the land of the living, and from the possibility of being saved. In this state you are wholly dependent on the sovereign mercy of God. You may be saved, but not by works of righteousness of your own. You may be saved, but it must be by renouncing all dependence on your own righteousness for ever. You may be saved, but it must be wholly by the merits of another. Kings, sages, philosophers, priests, poets, warriors, knights, senators, judges; the gay, the accomplished, the rich, the poor, the vile, the bond, the free,—all lie on a level before God. You may be saved, but it will only be by making up tho mind to a willingness to be saved in the same way as the vilest of the species, and to stand before the throne clothed in the same robes of salvation that shall adorn the most debased and downtrodden of the human race." Now it is easy to conceive, even for those who have not experienced this, that such a religion must have the elements of great power of some kind. It can make its way only by sufficient power to crush the pride of man; to bring down his lofty thoughts; to humble him in the dust; and then to impart life where there has been none. There is nothing negative and tame about it. It has living energy through all this process. No man reaches the position of self
abasement and self-renunciation, where this doctrine finds him, without a struggle with his own pride. To come down there, and to lie thus low before God, is the result of mighty power on a proud man's soul, and is no neutral or unmeaning thing. It is not the work of ease, and of effeminacy, and the business of a holiday, for a man to renounce all his own righteousness, and to be willing to acknowledge before heaven, and earth, and hell, that he is so great a sinner that he ought to be excluded from heaven, and banished from the earth, and be doomed to unspeakable torments for ever in the world of woe. And it is not an unmeaning thing, when in this state a voice from heaven bids him rise from the dust, and go forth a pardoned man, a renovated being, a child of God, an heir of heaven.
Accordingly, this is the doctrine which arouses the world. It was this which produced the commotions in the apostolic times, when it was said, " These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." It was this which produced so much excitement at Jerusalem, at Antioch, at Philippi. It was this which aroused Europe in the Keformation. It is this whose power is seen in every revival of religion. It is this whose energy is felt in the efforts made to carry religion around tho globe.
To illustrate what has been now said, reference may be made to the case of two individuals, who have stated the effect of this doctrine on their own minds. The first is that of the apostle Paul. It is found in the Epistle to the Philippians:—" If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews ; as touching the law, a Pharisee ; concerning zeal, persecuting the church ; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. Hut what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord," ch. iii. 4—8. The other is Luther's record of his own feelings when he was first made to understand this doctrine. " Though as a monk," says he, " I was holy and irreproachable, my conscience was still filled with trouble and torment. I could not endure the expression—' The righteous justice of God.' I did not love that just and holy Being who publishes sinners. I felt a secret anger against him ; I hated him, because, not satisfied with terrifying by his law and by the miseries of life poor creatures already ruined by original sin, he aggravated our sufferings by the gospel. But when by the Spirit of God I understood these words—when I learned how the justification of the sinner proceeds from God's mere mercy by the way of faith—then I felt myself born again as a new man, and I entered by an open door into the very paradise of God. From that hour I saw the precious and holy Scriptures with new eyes. I went through the whole Bible. I collected a multitude of passages which taught me what the work of God was. And as I had before heartily hated the expression, ' the righteousness of God,' I began from that time to value and to love it as the sweetest and most consolatory truth. Truly this text of St. Paul was to me as the very gate of heaven." *
To a soul thus lost and ruined this doctrine always has this power. To others it has neither power nor beauty; nor can we hope that it will make its way among men except where the soul is deeply aroused on the subject of religion. Then it is what it is so often said to be in the Scriptures, " the power of God :" it is His mighty energy quickening the soul that was dead in sin to newness of life.
(2.) The second remark illustrating its bearing and importance will be drawn from the contrast of this doctrine with the opposite. It has already been observed, that there are in fact but two kinds of religion on the earth—that of self-righteousness, and that of dependence on another for salvation; that in which man attempts to justify himself, and that in which he relies for justification on the merits of the Son of God. These systems divide the world; for, however numerous may be the methods by which men attempt to save themselves, they all have this essential characteristic, that they are systems of self-righteousness. What are the eharaeteristies of these two systems ? What would be the tendency of each of them ? Let them be put in contrast, and what must be their respective effects ? The effect of the one—of the plan of justification by faith—we have already in part seen. Its obvious tendency must be to produce humility, penitence, gratitude, a simple reliance on the Saviour, a disposition to make him all in all in religion. What are the effects of the opposite system ? They must be such as these :—
(a) Pride. " God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are," is its language all over the world.
(b) A multiplication of forms, and a reliance on them. Religion becomes an outward thing, not a work of the heart. So it was with the Pharisees, the Greeks, the Romans ; so it is now in the Pagan world, among Mussulmans, and in all the perverted forms of Christianity. It matters little what the outward system
is; where the doctrine of justification is obscured or unknown, religion niHsf degenerate into heartless forms. It makes up for its want of vital power by the multiplication of rites and ceremonies. It adds a new ceremony for every step of departure from the doctrine of justification by faith; it attaches an additional sacredness to externals as this doctrine is obscured; and where this is wholly lost out of view, religion becomes merely a punctilious performance of imposing rites, a careful observance of forms. A man, when he thinks of death and the judgment, must have some righteousness on which to rely. If it be not that of the Saviour, and if there be the pretence of religion at all, it must be that consisting of a sacred reverence for forms.
(c) The denial of the doctrine of justification by faith will be always attended with superstition. There will be an attempt to merit heaven by reverencing dead men's bones, by pilgrimages, by bodily tortures, by seclusion from the world, by garnishing the sepulchres of the righteous, and by imploring the intercession of departed saints. The world must make up its mind to have the doctrine of justification by faith held in its purity, or to have a religion of superstition substituted in its place. One or the other has prevailed always ; one has always excluded the other; the suppression of the one has been the occasion of the introduction of the other ; and one or the other will live to the end of time. The question is now before this country, whether we shall hold on to the great doctrine of justification by faith, or whether we shall go abroad and import all the superstitions of heathenism, either original or baptized at Home ; whether we shall adhere to the grand truth which was the element in the Reformation, or take Christianity, so called, as it was in the days of Alexander VI. and Leo X.
(d) The system which denies this doctrine has been from some cause an exclusive and a persecuting system. To whatever this fact may be traced, of the fact itself there can be no doubt. The history of the world has confirmed it, and that history has taught us that if we would be free from the evils of an exclusive and a persecuting system, we must hold in its simplicity and its purity the great doctrine of justification by faith.
(3.) A third thing illustrating its bearing and importance is its connexion with freedom of thought and the advancement of society. The fact here is more apparent than the reason of it. No one acquainted with history will dispute the position, that the doctrine of justification by faith has been held with the most simplicity and purity in the times when freedom of thought has most prevailed, and in the lauds most characterized for it. And no one can doubt that the denial of the doctrine, and the denial of the right of free inquiry, have gone together. It was the same system that hy all its arrangements denied the doctrine of justification hy faith, which imprisoned Galileo. The Inquisition grew up in lands where this doctrine was rejected, and has flourished there only, and could live nowhere else. The proclamation of this doctrine in Europe hy Luther and his fellow-labourers unfettered the human mind, and abolished the Inquisition; and nothing can be clearer than that no circumstances could ever arise in any land in which the doctrine of justification by simple faith in Christ is held, under which the Inquisition could be established ; and we may be certain that, as long as we can assert this doctrine in its purity throughout all our borders, we shall be free from thumb-screws, and ojcks, and auto-da-fes, and dark dungeons made to incarcerate the advocates of any religious belief. Whatever else we may be subjected to, this doctrine will be a palladium to us of far more value than the image of Minerva was to Troy, to secure for us the protection of Heaven.
The reasons of the fact which is now adverted to would be found in such considerations as these:—that in this doctrine there is nothing which we wish to conceal; that it depends for its support on nothing which may not be fully examined; that it recognises everywhere the equality of men ; that it asks no patronage from the State ; that it relies for its advancement on its own simple power as truth—as commending itself to the conscience and the reason of mankind, and as finding a response in the soul of every man who feels that he is a sinner. The support of the other system is to be found in just the opposite of these things. It cloaks itself in mystery. It seeks to establish the claims of a priesthood composed of a superior order of men— and this must be based on arguments that will not bear the light. It is, and must be, sustained by the power of the State. It loves a teaching rather than a reasoning religion. It is identified with all that human ingenuity can devise to substitute a righteousness in the place of that by faith in the Saviour. It is identified with interest—where the procuring of absolution becomes a matter of bargain and sale. And it is conscious that the free examination of its claims would show how baseless is the fabric on which it stands, and how worthless all the devices which have been originated to enable man to work out a righteousness of his own. Without pursuing these thoughts further, one other remark may be added:—
(4.) It is the fourth in order, and is this, that the doctrine of justification by faith is connected with liberality in religion. We have seen what is the character, in this respect, of the opposite system. It is essential to every other system that it be illiberal and exclusive. The reason is this:—According to every such system, grace is conveyed only through a certain channel. There are certain men who alone are appointed to dispense it; it is to be obtained only in union with a certain ecclesiastical connexion, and in the performance of certain specified rites and ceremonies. But none of these things are essential to the doctrine of justification by faith. It is a direct concern between the soul and its Saviour. It practically removes every human being from any participation in obtaining for the sinner the favour of God. However the ministers of religion may have bee« instrumental in arousing the attention of the soul to its guilt and danger, or in pointing the way to the Cross, yet the transaction is one where all foreign agency and all human holiness of office are excluded. It matters not whether the minister officiates with or without a surplice ; whether in a plain "meeting-house" or a magnificent cathedral; whether he can trace his commission through the apostolic succession or not; whether his doctrines can or cannot be sustained by synods and councils ; nay, whether there be any minister of religion at all;— the soul may be justified by simple faith in the Lord Jesus. The worshipper may be a Cameronian on the hills of Scotland under the open heaven ; or a man who has strayed somehow into a conventicle ; or a wandering savage who is made to listen, to attend, to be enraptured, till his eyes pour forth tears under the preaching of some humble missionary on whose head the hands of a mitred prelate have never been laid,—and there shall be all the elements of the doctrine of justification. What has occurred to him on the hills, or in the woods, or in a schoolhouse, or in a church, he feels may occur anywhere else in the same way. It will not then become essential, in his view, that the doctrines of religion should be preached on a hill, or in a valley; that the minister stand in front of a tent, or that he serve at a particular altar; that he wear a certain vestment, or be able to trace his spiritual genealogy back to far-distant times. That which he wishes to know is, whether a man has experienced in his own soul what he has in his—the power of the doctrine of justification by faith in the blood of Jesus. If so, that is enough. It is to him a question of comparatively no moment whether such an one thinks that baptism by immersion is the only method; or whether he regards John Wesley as the greatest and the best of men ; or whether he believes that all human wisdom was embodied in the Westminster assembly of divines ; or whether he thinks that the ministry exists only in three orders. All these will be comparative trifles. The grand matter is, that the lost and guilty soul is justified by the blood of the " everlasting covenant;" and this settles everything that is truly valuable in his view in regard to the salvation of the soul. Such a system, it is clear, must be essentially liberal. It cannot be a system which will be primarily concerned in " questions and strifes of words" about the externals of religion. It will recognise in every man, who has ever felt the efficacy of the blood of Christ, a Christian brother. It will regard all men by nature as essentially on the same level in reference to salvation. There will be, in the matter of religion, no favoured class, no holy order; none by nature nearer heaven than others, and none who shall have a right to prescribe to others what they are to believe or to do. One point, one grand doctrine distinguishes them,—no matter of what sect, or country, or complexion they may be,—that they are redeemed by the blood of the same Saviour. They are of the same family. They have the same rights in the kingdom of grace. No one has a right, in virtue of blood, or name, or connexion with outward forms of religion, to claim a superior nearness to heaven; nor, if the soul is justified by the blood of Jesus, has any believer the right or the disposition to withhold the name of Christian, or to say that a soul thus justified is left to " the uncovenanted mercies of God."
The doctrine which has been considered constitutes the peculiarity of the Protestant religion. Protestantism began in the restoration of the doctrine of justification by faith. This, more than anything else, distinguishes the system. All there is of Protestantism that is of value, is in this doctrine ; and all that we have of liberality in religion, and freedom from persecution, and purity of doctrine, is to be traced to this.
The whole discussion on the doctrine of justification may be closed by a personal appeal. There are but two ways conceivable in which you can be saved. One is, on the ground of your own righteousness ; the other is, on the ground of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. There is no middle way. The grand question, then, and one in which every individual has the deepest interest, is, What is the ground of your reliance ? On which of these do you depend, when you think of being admitted to heaven ? If you rely on the former,—on your own righteousness,—it must be either because you can disprove the facts which are charged on you as sin ; or because, if the facts are undeniable,
you will be able to vindicate your conduct before the bar of the Almighty. Here, then, it may be solemnly asked, whether you are willing to rest your soul's interests on such a foundation ? Are you prepared to abide the issue of such a trial ? Can you calmly look forward to such an investigation of your life before God's bar, and feel secure when you think how tremendous the interests of the soul that are at stake ? Are you prepared to go up to meet your Maker with the feeling that your only hope there is self-vindication ? ■ I Am Not. I turn to the other system which I have endeavoured to set before you. I look away from all that I have done,—the miserable rags of my own righteousness,—to the white robe of salvation wrought out by my great Redeemer, and seek to wrap that robe around my guilty soul; and I feel that, if justified by faith in his blood, I shall be safe.
A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On Thy kind arms I fall;
Be Thou my strength and righteousness, .
My Saviour and my all.