RIGHTEOUSNESS VIEWED AS A GIFT AND AS
I NOW propose to contrast the view of justification -*- which has been drawn out in the last Lectures with that to which certain writers of the Roman School consider themselves committed by the wording of the Tridentine Decree, into which also some of our writers have virtually fallen, and which, moreover, is unfairly imputed to many of our standard divines. As to the Protestant doctrine, on the other hand, which was a third in the discussion, I cannot go more deeply into what seems to me a system of words without ideas, and of distinctions without arguments. If I am told, in reply, that such a view of it arises from want of spiritual perception,— those who are blind to heavenly objects not understanding heavenly words,—I answer, that, though undoubtedly divine words express divine things, and divine things are hidden from all but divinely enlightened minds, yet this does not tell against a man for stumbling at words which are not divine. Luther's words are his own, reasoned out from Scripture, which every one of us has equal right to do. If I receive the doctrine of the Church Catholic as divine, it is as guaranteed by many concordant witnesses, which converge to one place and one time, the day of Pentecost, ,when the Apostles were with one accord assembled in one place.1 And if I bow to some individual teacher, as Irenaeus or Augustine, it is not from a notion of his infallibility, but on the ground of his representing the whole Church, or from a sense of the authority of men of holy and mortified lives in questions of religion. But what binds me to yield a submission to the sixteenth century, which I withhold even from the second? why must I measure spiritual discernment in myself and others, by our apprehension, not of Scripture, but of comparatively modern treatises, and accept terms and distinctions which, over and above their human origin, have no internal consistence,—no external proof,—no part or lot in Antiquity; which, in short, have but a praiseworthy object for their excuse, the overthrow, as they think, of Roman error? Surely the reverse of wrong is not right; yet this doctrine mainly rests its pretensions upon the errors of a rival doctrine, assumes itself true because it is serviceable, proves itself Scriptural by proving Eomanism unscriptural, natters itself that it has a meaning viewed out of Eomanism, and thinks to live and flourish though Romanism came to an end.
1 "Nay, moreover, I shall persuade myself, that from this one instance (among many) you will learn from henceforth the modesty of sabmitting your judgment to that of the Catholic doctors, when they are found generally to concur in the interpretation of a text of Scripture, how absurd soever that interpretation may at first appearance seem to be; for upon a diligent search you will find, that'aliquid latet, quod non patet,' there is a mystery in the bottom; and that what at the first view seemed even ridiculous, will afterwards appear to be a most important truth. Let them, therefore, who reading the Fathers are prone to laugh at that in them which they do not presently understand, seriously consider, 'quanto suo periculo id faciant.'"—Bull, State of Man before the Fall, p. 99.
On these grounds, as regards the three doctrines above drawn out,—of the righteousness of Christ imputed only, imparted only, and both imputed and imparted by His real indwelling,—I omit the first in the comparison between them, which now naturally follows, as being partly negative, partly extravagant. It is a negative statement to say that justification is not by works; it is extravagant to say that it is by faith as the primary and sole instrument. Whether a disputant says nothing positive or nothing literal,1 in neither case is there room for discussion, which claims to touch and handle, to sift, to weigh, to adjust, to distribute. There is nothing precise, nothing to grapple with, when we are told, for instance, that faith justifies independent of its being a right and good principle—that it justifies as an instrument not as a condition,—that love is its inseparable accident, yet not its external criterion,—that good works are necessary, but not to be called so in controversy or popular preaching;2 and that nothing in us constitutes our being justified. Such a doctrine is, what it makes justification to be, a shadow.
1 Melanchthon, the most judicious defender of the chief doctrine of Protestantism, justification by the apprehensive power of faith, whom our Church follows, makes that doctrine intelligible and true by admitting that it is not to be taken literally, but as a mode of symbolizing a protest against the doctrine of human merit. The Confession of Augsburgh (Ed. 1538), which is his composition, says, "Jam bonas mentes nihil offendat novitas Paulinos figurce, 'Fide justificamur,' si intelligant proprie de misericordia dici;" on which Bull observes, Ex ipsorum doctrina liquido liquet . . . figurata quidem sed non incommoda locutione dici posse, nos sola fide justificari.,—Harm. Apost. ii. 18, § 6.
2 Dav. de Just. Habit. 31, who observes also, Multi qui recipiunt hanc propositionem, "Bona opera sunt fidelibus necessaria," rejiciunt et damnant eandem, si hoc additamentum apponatur "Sunt necessaria ad justificaticmem," vel "sunt necessaria ad salutem," . . . E contra reperirentur e Protestantibus nonnulli, qui haud verentur concedere, bona opera esse ad salutem necessaria.
2. I proceed, then, to suggest some poiuts of contrast between the two other views of justification mentioned, the doctrine of the justifying Presence, which I have been maintaining, and that of justifying obedience, as found among ourselves; for there certainly has been a school of divines in our Church, who by a very different road have practically approached the doctrine of Rome on this subject. What Eoman writers have brought about by insisting exclusively on the effects of grace, many among ourselves have done by disparaging its sacramental means. The former raise man to the capacity, the latter have reduced him to the necessity, of being justified by his obedience and nothing else. By the latter divines I mean the Arminians who rose in Charles the First's time, and have exercised an extensive influence in our Church since 1688.• Those who conceive duly of the gift of justification, exalt the sacramental instruments of possessing it, as feeling that nothing short of means ordained of God can convey what is so much above them. Thus their glowing language about the Sacraments is but the measure of their estimation of their spiritual privileges. And if they go on to say that obedience justifies, it never occurs to them to suppose that they can be taken to be speaking of anything but the state of soul in which the heavenly gift resides, and by which it is retained, not that which really causes, or procures, or purchases it.1 Thus the high doctrine of the Sacraments held by Rome is a safeguard against any such defective or incomplete view of justification as is sanctioned by certain of her writers. But they who see nothing supernatural and mysterious in the Gift, though in words they refer it to the Sacraments, will practically associate it with that which they do see, and which seems to them naturally connected with it, viz., their own obedience. Not believing in any true sense that they are temples of the Holy Ghost, inhabited by Christ, and members of His Body, they consider their justification properly to consist in works, because they do not discern, they do not believe in, anything else, in which it can consist. Justification by obedience, then, is their distinguishing tenet; doubtless it is also the doctrine of the English Church, as it is of St. James; yet not only it, but much more besides. To put a parallel case, one man might say that our bodily life consisted in organization, or in a certain state of the nerves, or in the circulation of the blood; and another might ascribe it to the presence of the soul. The latter doctrine is the former and something besides; but the former by itself is defective. He who holds the former is not wrong, but he who holds only the former. Eeligious men may ascribe life to the heart, and thought to the brain; but those who say these are the only constituting causes of life and thought are materialists. In like manner St. Austin and others who, though they place justification in renewal, refer renewal to the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost, are not to be compared with those who enlarge on what is seen, and explain away the mystery. This analogy holds in many other points; but I confine it to what is before us. I say, then, justification by obedience is anyhow true; it is sound doctrine, if we hold another doctrine too; it is incomplete, if we omit that other doctrine; it becomes erroneous, if we deny it. When it is held exclusively among ourselves, it often takes the following shape: that God accepts our sincere obedience, as if it were perfect; or that God will save us if we do our part; or that God has done His part in Baptism, and now we must do ours. Such statements are most true and Scriptural, if they are not meant to deny (what may be called) our Sacramental life, the fount of grace which Holy Baptism has stored within us, and the awful realities of Holy Communion, those invisible facts (as I may call them) in which we stand, in which we breathe, on which we feed. For if our Life be verily and indeed hid with Christ in God, it follows, that, though we are bound to do our part and work with Him, such co-operation is the condition, not of our acceptance, or pardon, but of the continuance of that sacred Presence which is our true righteousness, as an immediate origin of it. I believe this distinction is no
1 Davenant grants as much as this :—" Bona opera justificatorum sunt ad salutem necessaria, necessitate ordinis non causalitatis, vel planius, ut via ordinata ad vitam mterna/m, non ut causa meritorise vitse jeternae." He also freely grants that they are "media sen conditiones sine quibus Deus non vult justificationis gratiam in hominibus conservare."—c. 31. That is, we are saved neither by faith, nor by works, but as walking in the way both of faith and of works.
matter of words, but real and practical, as a few remarks will show.
3. Now, when you teach as follows, that Christ's Atoning Death, eighteen hundred years since, and our own personal Baptism in our infancy, so changed our state in God's sight once for all, that henceforth salvation depends on ourselves, on our doing our part in the Covenant,—that those gracious events put us indeed on a new footing, wiped out what was passed, set us off fair, and are still operative as gaining for us heaven, if obedient, and present aids if believing, but that faith and obedience are the conditions of grace and glory,—true as all this is to the letter, yet if nothing more is added, we shall seem, in spite of whatever we say concerning the Atonement and the influences of the Holy Ghost if duly sought, to be resting a man's salvation on himself, and to be making him the centre of. the whole religious system.1 All has been done for him ages ago, or when he was an infant; and all that has been done, seems as though a condition of his existing at all, as benefits on which he cannot be said to repose his mind, because they are presupposed in his being himself, which do not come to him from without, nor admit of being viewed by him objectively. I would not say that this doctrine will so affect men of high religious attainments; but that, viewed as the multitude will view it, it does not come up to the idea of the Gospel Creed as contained in Scripture, does not fix our thoughts on Christ in that full and direct way of which Scripture sets the pattern, as being not only the Author of salvation to the whole race, but the Saviour of each of us individually through every stage of our Christian course, and in every act of our lives. This seems to be the real meaning of the popular saying, that "Christ ought to be preached," and of the anxiety felt by a portion of the community to maintain the supremacy and all-sufficiency of His righteousness.
1 "God is pleased to grant remission of all past sins, for the sake of His Blessed Son, on account of faith only; but He requires from those whom He thus graciously receives into His favour, an implicit obedience to His commands in future; if they disobey, their pardon is cancelled, the state of acceptance forfeited, and liability to punishment ensues."—p. 124. . . . "If he really performed these conditions, he continued in a state of justification, and if he persevered to the end of his life, his salvation was secured. But if, he did not perform these conditions," etc.—p. 134. The continuance of justification "depends upon their abstinence from those sins which are forbidden, and upon the practice of those virtues which are enjoined in the Gospel. By the indulgence of any criminal passion, or by the neglect of any practicable duty, the state of justification is forfeited."—p. 142.—Tomline on Calvinism. It is not insinuated that the author is at all wanting in
Hence the charge against Eomanism, not unfounded as regards its popular teaching,1 that it views the influences of grace, not as the operations of a living God, but as a something to bargain about, and buy, and traffic with, as if religion were, not an approach to Things above us, but a commerce with our, equals concerning things we can master.1 And this is the cause of the suspicions entertained in many quarters against those who in any sense teach that obedience justifies, as if it implied we had something in ourselves to rely upon; whereas, if the Presence of Christ is our true righteousness, first conveyed into us in Baptism, then more sacredly and mysteriously in the Eucharist, we have really no inherent righteousness at all. What seems to be inherent, may be more properly called adherent, depending, as it does, wholly and absolutely upon the Divine Indwelling, not ours to keep, but as heat in a sickly person, sustained by a cause distinct from himself. If the Presence of Christ were to leave us, our renovation would go with it; and to say we are justified by renovation, only means that we are interested in Him from whom it flows, that we dwell beneath the overshadowing Power of Him who is our Justifier.
explicit statements concerning the influence of divine grace, nor that what he says is not true, (e.g. Jerome thus speaks in Jovinian. ii. 32. fin.), but the prominence he gives to this view of justification makes the doctrine what would popularly be called cold; approximates it, theologically speaking, to the unica formalis causa of the Council of Trent; and, when analyzed, will be found to arise from a neglect of the doctrine of the Eeal Presence.
1 [It requires a considerable acquaintance with the working of the Catholic system to have a rijjht thus to speak of it. ]
1 "Disdaining to be anticipated by God Himself, [the soul of man] prevents Him in His supernatural gifts by a previous display of her own meritorious deeds, challenging, as a congruous rigid, that which only could have been otherwise conferred as a favour undeserved. Approaching the throne of mercy, not with a conscious sense of frailty, but with a confident persuasion of her inherent dignity, she wrests from a somolent Deity, hitherto but a slumbering spectator of her efforts, an ornamental grace, enabling her to merit that reward by condignity, which, without any defect of virtue, but merely by the appointed order of things, she is incapable of meriting by congrnity."—Laurence, Bampt. Lect. 4, quoting in the notes the following striking passage of Luther. '' Quisque Monachus hanc habet imaginationem: 'Ego per observantiam Sanctse Regulae possum mereri gratiam de congruo; operibus autem, quae post acceptam gratiam facio, tantum meritum accumulare possum, ut non tantum mihi sufficiat pro consequenda vita seterna, sed etiam hoc aliis communicare et vendere possim.'" [Luther's language is vigorous, though slanderous; but did any one ever come across so elaborate a specimen of pretentious writing, as is this passage of the Bampton Lecturer's ?]
And further, it is not nearly so consoling yet awful a doctrine to say, that we have had mercy and shall have reward, and are at present in some measure in a middle state, expected to move and promised grace upon moving, as to know, which I conceive is the full truth of the Gospel, that that perfection, which is as yet but begun in our own nature, is anticipated, pledged, and in one sense realized within us by a present gift, and that the centre on which our thoughts must be fixed, and the foundation from which our exertions must proceed, is not ourselves, but His Presence, in whom "we live, and move, and have our being." And though it is most necessary to exhibit to men the severer side of the Gospel, and to dwell on their duties, and responsibilities, and the conditions on which grace is given, yet this is but one .side; and when it is exclusively presented to Christians, as it is in the school of divinity in question, a complaint will not unfairly arise against it as cold and narrow, and unlike what it is popular to call "the freeness and fulness" of the GospeL
4. And here I am reminded of another objection which may be urged against this same school of theology, viz. that it disparages certain doctrines which are very prominent in Scripture, those of predestination and election. The Gospel is a free gift; it comes to the unworthy, to those who have done nothing to earn it, who can do nothing right towards God before He shows mercy towards them. That spontaneous mercy is abundantly taught in the doctrine of the Atonement itself and the ordinance of Baptism; but, these being, as I said just now, past events in our own case, and as if conditions of our existence rather than objects presented to us, the Covenant of God's unsearchable grace becomes one of man's free election; and man has rather to choose Heaven than Heaven man. The great mercies of God are done and over; and we have now to act, if we would receive additional benefits. Thus, in this view of the Gospel, there is a tendency, which in our Church has been realized, to put out of sight the doctrines of election and sovereign grace; a circumstance which by itself would separate it, in spite of partial resemblance, from the teaching of St. Austin, who is known to have laid an unprecedented stress on those doctrines, and to have given them a new direction.
Moreover, it is no slight evil in the mode of teaching here censured, that by withdrawing a portion of truth, countenance is given to those false Protestant views now so popular among us. Truth always avenges itself; and if kept in bondage, it breaks forth irregularly, burying itself with the strong man in the overthrow of its oppressors. And so if our Church has at any time forgotten the Living Presence conveyed in the Sacraments, an opening has been at once made for the meagre and artificial doctrine of a nominal righteousness. So many passages are there which speak of the Atonement as still living in Christians, that if we will not enforce them literally, we must be content to hear them explained away into a mere imputation of it in God's dealings with us, or into a contemplation of it by our faith.
I say, the view of justification taken by a school of divines in the Eoman Church1 and among ourselves, tends to fix the mind on self, not on Christ, whereas that which I have advocated as Scriptural and Catholic, buries self in the absorbing vision of a present, an indwelling God. And as so doing, it is a more awakening and fearful doctrine even, than that mode of teaching which insists mainly and directly on our responsibilities and duties. For to what does it point as the great and immediate condition of justification? to faith and holiness of our own? or, on the other hand, to the mere title of righteousness, which cannot be literally approached or profaned by us? no,—but to the glorious Shekinah of the Word Incarnate, as to the true wedding garment in which the soul must be dressed. Does not such a view far increase, instead of diminishing, our responsibilities 1 does it not make us more watchful and more obedient, while it comforts and elevates us 1 Surely it takes our minds off ourselves, in order to fill us with triumph, awe, and godly fear at what our state is, and what we hold within us. When are we the more likely to dread sinning, when we know merely we ought to dread it, or when we see the exceeding peril of it? When are we the more likely to keep awake and be sober, when we have a present treasure now to lose, or a distant reward to gain? Is it not more dreadful, when evil thoughts assail us, more encouraging and ennobling in affliction, more kindling in danger and hardship, to reflect (if the words may be said) that we bear God within us, as the Martyr Ignatius expresses it, that He is grieved by us or suffers with us, according as we carry or renounce His Cross,—I say, has not this thought more of persuasiveness in it to do and suffer for Him than the views of doctrine which have spread among us? is it not more constraining than that which considers that the Gospel comes to us in name not in power; deeper, and more sacred than a second, which makes its heavenly grace a matter of purchase and trade; more glowing than a third, which depresses it almost to the chill temperature of natural religion?
1 [This school is elsewhere called in these Lectures ultra-Eoman or extreme Eomanist. Such Catholic divines as Caietan, Vasquez, and Bellarmine were intended by this title, who, by making justification consist in the habit of charity, or again in good works, not in sanctifying grace as an initial and distinct gift from above, seemed to the writer to fix the mind, equally with Anglican Arminians, not on a Divine inward Presence vouchsafed to it, but on something of its own, as a ground to rest upon and take satisfaction in. Of course, such a judgment seems to him now unreal and arbitrary.]
Such are some of the doctrinal respects in which what I consider the Scriptural view of justification recommends itself to the Christian mind . It is open however at first sight to one objection, which some persons may think not inconsiderable; but which I believe, when examined, will be found rather to be an additional argument in its favour. To this I shall now direct attention.
It may be said then that the doctrine of righteousness as consisting in the Indwelling of Christ in the soul labours under this difficulty, that, supposing it true, the word "justification" has different senses in the Old and New Testament. If under the Gospel it consists in the inward Presence of the Incarnate Word, therefore, this gift being peculiar to the Gospel, Abraham (for instance) who was justified, was justified in some other way; whereas St. Paul certainly does liken the one justification to the other, as if, whatever the word meant in the Old Testament, such it meant in the New. For instance, it is said that faith "was imputed to Abraham for righteousness; now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed." Here, it may be objected, that faith is said to justify us as it justified Abraham; which it is supposed to do both in the Roman system and in the Protestant, but not in that which has been here explained . Whether faith be taken as a mere instrument, as the Lutherans say, or for a sanctifying element with divine love for its life as the Romanists, in either case righteousness means a state of divine acceptance; whereas (it may be objected), if it consists under the Gospel in being a temple of Christ, this could not be Abraham's state, who lived before the Son became the Christ; and then the question arises, What did Abraham's justification consist in, and why is it compared to ours?
As far as this objection relates to an interpretation of Scripture, I do not consider it requires much notice; since all that St. Paul says is that righteousness or acceptableness is imputed to Abraham and us on faith, which I take as literally as Romanist or Lutheran; the distinction between Abraham and us relating to a further point, viz. what this righteousness is under the Gospel; or in what way this acceptableness is conveyed, whether by a mere act of God's will or by a positive gift on His part? There is nothing contrary to St. Paul's argument in supposing that that same blessing which was conveyed before Christ came in one way, should under the Gospel come to us in another and more precious way. For instance, animal life belongs to men and to brutes; but, whatever be the mode of its existence in the case of the latter, in the former it lies in the special gift of a rational souL However, let us consider the state of the case more attentively.
Now this circumstance, which at first sight seems a difficulty, that the attribute of righteousness, however conveyed to the Old Saints, should since Christ's coming be the attendant on a divine gift, even His own sacred Presence, will in truth be found, as I have said, an argument in favour of the doctrine. For such a transformation of shadows into substances, and human acts into divine endowments, far from being anomalous, is the very rule of the New Covenant. Christ came for this very purpose, to gather together in one all the elements of good dispersed throughout the world, to make them His own, to illuminate them with Himself, to reform and refashion them into Himself. He came to make a new and better beginning of all things than Adam had been, and to be a fountain-head from which all good henceforth might flow. Hence it is said that " in the dispensation of the fulness of times" Almighty God "gathered together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth."1 How He became a new commencement to things in heaven, we know not; nor know we adequately in what way He recapitulated or ordered anew things on earth. But this we know, that, the world being under the dominion of Satan, and truth and goodness in it being but as gems in the mine, or rather as metal in the ore, He came to elicit, to disengage, to combine, to purify, to perfect. And, further than this, He came to new-create,—to begin a new line, and construct a new kingdom on the earth: that what had as yet lain in sin, might become what it was at the first, and more than that. In His incomprehensible mercy He designed that man, instead of being a child of wrath, should be quickened and impregnated with Divine Life; and sooner than this should not be, (as the Creed says) He was made man. He took on Him our nature, that in God that nature might revive and be restored; that it might be new born, and, after being perfected on the Cross, might impart that which itself was, as an incorruptible seed, for the life of all who receive it in faith, till the end of time. Hence He is called in Scripture the Beginning of the Creation of God, the First-begotten of the dead, the First-fruits of the Besurrection.
If this be so, we see how wide and essential a difference there is, there must be, in this life, between good men before His coming and good men after. Whatever they were, however high in God's favour, however influenced by God's secret aids, they could not, 1 Ephea. i. 10.
while here below, be partakers of that which as yet did not exist; the Body and Blood of the Incarnate Son. God had His favoured servants then as afterwards, and had His own inscrutable ways both of blessing them at the time, and of incorporating them afterwards into His Christ. But taking a general view of human nature, and not dwelling on exceptions, we may say that its highest piety and devotion, out of Him, though the fruit (as it surely is) of divine assistance, is but the poor effort after that righteousness which it never can really reach, and which He is. Its services at best are but an imitation, not a likeness, of Him. They do not tend to that perfection which they testify; like the moonlight which never rivals, though it comes from the radiance of the sun. They may be shadows and auguries of God's merciful purposes; but they cannot rise out of their feeble selves, or claim to be His work and not man's. Such is human nature in its fallen state; but at length its Bedeemer came. He left His Bather's courts, He was manifested, He spake; and His voice went out into all lands. He has taken to Himself His great power and reigned; and, whereas an enemy is the god and tyrant of this world, as Adam made it, so, as far as He occupies it, does He restore it to His Father. Henceforth He is the one principle of life in all His servants, who are but His organs. The Jewish Church looked towards Him; the Christian speaks and acts from Him. What is prior to Him is dark, but all that comes after Him is illuminated. The Church, before His manifestation, offered to Him material elements "which perish with the using;" but now He has sent His Spirit to fill such elements with Himself, and to make them living and availing sacrifices to the Father. Figures have become means of grace, shadows are substances, types are Sacraments in Him. What before were decent ordinances and pious observances, have now not only a meaning but a virtue. Water could but wash the Body in the way of nature; but now it acts towards the cleansing of the souL "Wine which maketh glad the heart of man," and "bread which strengthens man's heart," nay, the "oil which maketh him a cheerful countenance," henceforth are more than means of animal life, and savour of Him. Hands raised in blessing, the accents of the voice of man, which before could but symbolize the yearnings of human nature, or avail for lower benefits, have now become the "unutterable intercessions" of the Spirit, and the touch and the breath of the Incarnate Son. The Church has become His Body, her priests His delegates, her people His members.
This is what Christ has done, by His coming; but observe, while He did all this for His Church, He claimed all He did as His own. Henceforth whatever is done is His doing, and it is called what it is. As He is the unseen Source, so must He be acknowledged as the Agent, the present Object of worship and thanksgiving in all that is done; and His instruments are not even so much as instruments, but only the outward lineaments of Him. All is superseded by Him, and transmuted into Him. Before He came there were many masters, but henceforth only One; before He came many Fathers, but He is the One Father of the coming age, as the Prophet styles Him; before He came, all to whom the word of God came were called gods, but He is the One God manifested in the flesh; before He came, there were many angelic appearances with the name of God on them, but now the great Angel of the Covenant is alone to be worshipped; before He came, there were many priests who had infirmity, offering sacrifices year by year continually, but now there is but One High Priest, "who is. set on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man -,"1 before, there were innumerable sacrifices of bulls and calves which could never perfect the worshippers, now One Immaculate Lamb who taketh away the sin of the world; before, there were judges, kings, and rulers of various ranks, but now there is but One King of kings, and Lord of lords, in His kingdom. Those former kings, prophets, priests, and sacrifices, those masters, teachers, and fathers, not being from Him, were not claimed by Him as His; they were ordained according to the old constitution of nature; they were but little glorious, yet, what they were, they were in themselves, and had a sort of substantive existence, and gained some benefit by their functions. Their priests were real priests, sacrificing real propitiations, and gaining thereby real blessings, namely temporal. Their cities of refuge were really sanctuaries, and saved from death of the body. Their kings were real representatives of God, and suffered and wrought for the real good of their people. 1 Heb. viii. 1, 2.
There were mediators many, and prophets many, and atonements many. But now all is superseded by One, in whom all offices merge, who has absorbed into Himself all principality, power, might, and dominion, and every name that is named; who has put His holy and fearful Name upon all, who is in and through all things, and without whom nothing is good. He is the sole self-existing principle in the Christian Church, and everything else is but a portion or declaration of Him. Not that now, as then, we may not speak of prophets, and rulers, and priests, and sacrifices, and altars, and saints, and that in a far higher and more spiritual sense than before, but that they are not any of them such of themselves; it is not they, but the grace of God that is in them. There is under the Gospel but One proper Priest, Prophet, and King, Altar, Sacrifice, and House of God.1 Unity is its characteristic sacrament; all grace flows from One Head, and all life circulates in the members of One Body. And what is true of priests and sacrifices, is true of righteous and holy men. It is their very privilege thus to be taken into Christ, to exist in Christ, as already in their mortal life they "have their being" in God. They had indeed before what was more their own than they have now; but to what did it tend, and how far did it aspire? It aspired to earthly blessings, and it tended to an earthly end. Better surely to be the mere stones of the Everlasting Pavement, than the head of the corner in the Jewish Temple. Better to be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven, even than the greatest of all that were born of women before it. Far better surely than Solomon in all his glory, is that chosen generation, that royal priesthood, that holy nation, that peculiar people, whose life is hid with Christ in God, who live because He lives in them, who are blessed because He is blessed, who are the fragrance of His breath, the myrrh, aloes, and cassia from His garments; nay, are one spirit with Him, as His dove, "His undefiled one," His sister and spouse," "coming up from the wilderness leaning upon her Beloved."
1 [It is true that there is but one Priest and one Sacrifice under the Gospel, but this is because the Priests of the Gospel are one with Christ, not because they are only improperly called Priests. "Christus et Sacerdotes sunt unus Sacerdos."—Catech. Roman, ii. 84. "Profiteor in Missa offerri Deo verum, proprium, et propitiatorium sacrificium pro vivis et defunctis."—Profess. Fid. Trident.]
Now to apply these remarks to our immediate subject, unless this has been sufficiently done in the course of them.—If in other things Christ changed the application of words, it is surely but fitting and natural that He should have in a similar way changed the application of the words "righteousness" and "justification." Priests, I have said, offered sacrifices under the Law: Christian Ministers also offer sacrifices, but it is their privilege to know that those sacrifices are not independent of Christ, or complete in themselves, but continuations, as it were, of His Sacrifice, and shadows cast from His Cross; and that though, distinct as visible and literal acts, yet, as being instinct with that which they commemorate, they are absorbed and vivified in it. And so in like manner the inherent righteousness of a true Christian, viewed as distinct from Christ's inward presence, is something real, and doubtless far higher than that of a Jew; but why should we so degrade ourselves, so disparage our own high privilege, as to view it separately, to disjoin it from Him through whom we have it, to linger in the thought of it instead of tracing it back to that which is its immediate source; as if a man were to praise the daylight, yet forget the sun? No; whatever might be the righteousness of the Jews, we certainly know what is ours; and it is what they could not have had; it is "Christ," our propitiation, "within us;" on it we rely, not on ourselves. It is our boast thus to look back from the ultimate manifestations of life, in which is our sanctification, upon that Glory within us, which is its fount, and our true justification. It is our blessedness to have our own glory swallowed up in Christ's glory, and to consider our works and our holiness, to avail merely as securities for the continuance of that glory; not as things to be dwelt upon and made much of for their own sake, but as a sort of sacramental rite addressed to Him, for the sake of which He may be pleased still to illuminate us, and as tokens that His grace is not in vain. And after all, what we are, whatever it is, could not avail, were it tried in the balance, for more than this, to prove our earnestness and diligence. Even what is acceptable in us, is still so imperfect that the blood of Christ is necessary to complete what His Spirit has begun; and, as His regenerating grace has infused sweetness into what was bitter, so must His mercifulness overlook the remaining bitterness in what He has made sweet.
In this way then, let me reply to what seems at first sight a specious argument against what I consider to be the Catholic doctrine. It is a more simple theory, doubtless, to say that righteousness should be to the Christian what it was to the Jew; as it is a more simple theory that we should have real priests, sacrifices, and altars now.1 But those who believe that Christ has set up a new creation in unity, and that He Himself is the One principle in His Church of all grace and truth, will not be surprised to find that He has superseded the righteousness, as He has abolished the victims, of the ancient time; and that as the grace of the Holy Eucharist is the Presence of Christ Crucified, so the justification of those who approach it is the Indwelling of Christ risen and glorified.
1 [ Vid. p. 198, note. The Christian Priesthood is real and proper. "Cum in N. T. Sanctum Eucharisti® sacrincium visibile ex Domini institutione Catholica Ecclesia acceperit, fateri etiam oportet, in ea novum esse visibile et externum Sacerdotium, in quod vetus translatum est."—Cone. Trid. Sess. 23, cap. 1.]