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the Romans: "We certainly," says he, " shall need a better righteousness than our own, wherein to stand at the bar of God in the day of judgment." I do not understand the expression. Is it scriptural? Do we read it in the Bible? Either in the Old Testament or the New? I doubt, it is an unscriptural, awkward phrase, which has no determinate meaning. If you mean by that odd, uncouth question, " In whose righteousness are you to stand at the last day,"-For whose sake, or by whose merit, do you expect to enter into the glory of God? I answer, without the least hesitation, For the sake of Jesus Christ, the righteous. It is through his merits alone that all believers are saved: that is, justified, saved from the guilt,-sanctified,―saved from the nature of sin; and glorified,-taken into heaven.
7. It may be worth our while, to spend a few more words on this important point. Is it possible to devise a more unintelligible expression than this," In what righteousness are we to stand before God at the last day?" Why do you not speak plainly, and say, "For whose sake do you look to be saved?" Any plain peasant would then readily answer; "For the sake of Jesus Christ." But all those dark, ambiguous phrases tend only to puzzle the cause, and open a way for unwary hearers to slide into Antinomianism.
8. Is there any expression similar to this, of the wedding garment, to be found in the Holy Scripture? In the Revelation we find mention made of "linen, white and clean, which is the righteousness of the saints." And this too, many vehemently contend, means the righteousness of Christ. But how then are we to reconcile this with that passage in the seventh chapter: "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!" Will they say, "The righteousness of Christ was washed and made white in the blood of Christ?" Away with such Antinomian jargon! Is not the plain meaning this: it was from the atoning blood, that the very righteousness of the saints derived its value and acceptableness with God?
9. In the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, at the ninth verse, there is an expression which comes much nearer to this :-"The wedding supper of the Lamb." There is a nearer resemblance between this, and the marriage feast mentioned in the parable. Yet they are not altogether the same: there is a clear difference between them. The supper mentioned in the parable, belongs to the church militant; that mentioned in the Revelation, to the church triumphant. The one, to the kingdom of God on earth; the other, to the kingdom of God in heaven. Accordingly, in the former, there may be found those who have not a "wedding garment." But there will be none such to be found in the latter. No, not "in that great multitude which no man can number, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." They will all be "kings and priests unto God, and shall reign with him for ever and ever."
10. Does not that expression, "The righteousness of the saints," point out, what is the "wedding garment" in the parable? It is the "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord." The righteousness of Christ is, doubtless, necessary for any soul that enters into glory. But so is personal holiness, too, for every child of man. But it is highly needful to be observed, that they are necessary in different respects. The former is necessary to entitle us to heaven; the latter
to qualify us for it. Without the righteousness of Christ we could have no claim to glory; without holiness, we could have no fitness for it. By the former we become members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. By the latter, we are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."
11. From the very time that the Son of God delivered this weighty truth to the children of men, That all who had not the “wedding garment" would be "cast into outer darkness, where are weeping and gnashing of teeth," the enemy of souls has been labouring to obscure
, that they might still seek death in the error of their life; and many ways has he tried to disguise the holiness, without which we cannot be saved. How many things have been palmed, even upon the Christian world, in the place of this! Some of these are utterly contrary thereto, and subversive of it. Some were no ways connected with, or related to it; but useless and insignificant trifles. Others might be deemed to be some part of it, but by no means the whole. It may be of use to enumerate some of them, lest ye should be ignorant of Satan's devices.
12. Of the first sort, things prescribed as Christian holiness, although flatly contrary thereto, is idolatry. How has this, in various shapes, been taught, and is to this day, as essential to holiness? How diligently is it now circulated, in a great part of the Christian church? Some of their idols are silver and gold, or wood and stone, "graven by art, and man's device:" some, men of like passions with themselves; particularly the apostles of our Lord, and the virgin Mary. To these they add numberless saints of their own creation, with no small company of angels.
13. Another thing as directly contrary to the whole tenor of true religion, is, what is diligently taught in many parts of the Christian church: I mean, the spirit of persecution: of persecuting their brethren even unto death. So that the earth has been covered with blood by those who were called Christians, in order to "make their calling and election sure." It is true, many even in the church of Rome, who were taught this horrid doctrine, now seem to be ashamed of it. But have the heads of that community as openly and explicitly renounced that capital doctrine of devils, as they avowed it in the council of Constance, and practised it for many ages? Till they have done this, they will be chargeable with the blood of Jerome of Prague, basely murdered, and of many thousands, both in the sight of God and man.
14. Let it not be said, "this does not concern us Protestants: we think and let think. We abhor the spirit of persecution, and maintain, as an indisputable truth, that every rational creature has a right to worship God, as he is persuaded in his own mind." But are we true to our own principles? So far, that we do not use fire and faggot. We do not persecute unto blood, those that do not subscribe to our opinions. Blessed be God, the laws of our country do not allow of this: but is there no such thing to be found in England as domestic persecution? The saying or doing any thing unkind to another for following nis own conscience, is a species of persecution. Now, are we all clear of this? Is there no husband who, in this sense, persecutes his wife? who uses her unkindly, in word or deed, for worshipping God after her own conscience? Do no parents thus persecute their children? no
masters or mistresses, their servants? If they do this, and think they do God service therein, they must not cast the first stone at the Roman Catholics.
15. When things of an indifferent nature are represented as necessary to salvation, it is a folly of the same kind, though not of the same magnitude. Indeed it is not a little sin, to represent trifles as necessary to salvation; such as going of pilgrimages, or any thing that is not expressly enjoined in the holy Scripture. Among these we may undoubtedly rank orthodoxy, or right opinions. We know indeed that wrong opinions in religion naturally lead to wrong tempers, or wrong practices; and that, consequently, it is our bounden duty to pray, that we may have a right judgment in all things. But still a man may judge as accurately as the devil, and yet be as wicked as he.
16. Something more excusable are they who imagine holiness to consist in things that are only a part of it: (that is, when they are con nected with the rest; otherwise they are no part of it at all:) suppose in doing no harm. And how exceeding common is this? How many take holiness and harmlessness to mean one and the same thing? Whereas were a man as harmless as a post, he might be as far from holiness as heaven from earth. Suppose a man, therefore, to be exactly honest, to pay every one his own, to cheat no man, to wrong no man, to hurt no man, to be just in all his dealings; suppose a woman to be uniformly modest and virtuous in all her words and actions; suppose the one and the other to be steady practisers of morality, that is, of justice, mercy, and truth; yet all this, though it is good, as far as it goes, is but a part of Christian holiness. Yea, suppose a person of this amiable character to do much good, wherever he is, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the stranger, the sick, the prisoner; yea, and to save many souls from death, it is possible he may still fall far short of that holiness, without which he cannot see the Lord.
17. What then is that holiness, which is the true wedding garment, the only qualification for glory? "In Christ Jesus" (that is, according to the Christian institution, whatever be the case of the heathen world;) "neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but a new creation:" the renewal of the soul "in the image of God wherein it was created." In "Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love." It first, through the energy of God, worketh love to God and all mankind; and by this love, every holy and heavenly temper. In particular, lowliness, meekness, gentleness, temperance, and long suffering. "It is neither circumcision," the attending on all the Christian ordinances, nor uncircumcision," the fulfilling of all heathen morality,-but "the keeping the commandments of God;" particularly those,-"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself." In a word, holiness is, the having "the mind that was in Christ," and the "walking as Christ walked."
18. Such has been my judgment for these three score years, without any material alteration. Only about fifty years ago I had a clearer view, than before, of justification by faith; and in this, from that very hour I never varied, no not a hair's breadth. Nevertheless, an ingenious man has publicly accused me of a thousand variations. I pray God not to lay this to his charge! I am now on the borders of the grave?
but, by the grace of God, I still witness the same confession. Indeed some have supposed, that when I began to declare, "By grace ye are saved, through faith," I retracted what I had before maintained: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." But it is an entire mistake these scriptures, well consist with each other: the meaning of the former being plainly this: By faith we are saved from sin, and made holy. The imagination that faith supersedes holiness, is the marrow of Antinomianism.
19. The sum of all is this: The God of love is willing to save all the souls that he has made. This he has proclaimed to them in his word, together with the terms of salvation, revealed by the Son of his love, who gave his own life, that they that believe in him might have everlasting life. And for these he has prepared a kingdom, from the foundation of the world. But he will not force them to accept of it: he leaves them in the hands of their own counsel: he saith, " Behold, I set before you life and death; blessing and cursing; choose life that ye may live." Choose holiness, by my grace; which is the way, the only way to everlasting life. He cries aloud, be holy, and be happy; happy in this world, and happy in the world to come. "Holiness becometh his house for ever!" this is the wedding garment of all that are called to "the marriage of the Lamb." Clothed in this they will not be found naked: " They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." But as to all those who appear in the last day without the wedding garment, the Judge will say, "Cast them inte outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Madeley, March 26, 1790.
SERMON CXXV.-Human Life a Dream.
"Even like as a dream when one awaketh; so shalt thou make their image to vanish out of the city," Psa. lxxiii, 20.
1. ANY one that considers the foregoing verses, will easily observe, that the psalmist is speaking directly of the wicked that prosper in their wickedness. It is very common for these, utterly to forget that they are creatures of a day to live as if they were never to die; as if their present state was to endure for ever; or, at least, as if they were indisputably sure, that they "had much goods laid up for many years:" so that they might safely say, "soul, take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry. But how miserable a mistake is this! How often does God say to such a one, "Thou fooi! this night shall thy soul be required of thee!" Well then may it be said of them, "Oh, how suddenly do they consume," perish, and come to a fearful end! Yea, even like as a dream when one awaketh; so shalt thou make their image to vanish out of the city."
2. But I would at present carry this thought farther: I would consider it in a general sense, and show how near a resemblance there is between human life and a dream. An ancient poet carries the comparison farther still, when he styles life, "the dream of a shadow." And so does Cowley, when he cries out,
"Oh life, thou nothing's younger brother;
So like, that we mistake the one for th' other."
But setting these and all other flights of poetry aside, I would seriously inquire, wherein this resemblance lies; wherein the analogy between the one and the other does properly consist?
3. In order to this, I would inquire, first, What is a dream? You will say, "Who does not know this?" Might you not rather say, who does know? Is there any thing more mysterious in nature? Who is there that has not experienced it; that has not dreamed a thousand times? Yet he is no more able to explain the nature of it, than he is to grasp the skies. Who can give any clear, satisfactory account of the parent of dreams, sleep? It is true, many physicians have attempted this; but they have attempted it in vain. They have talked learnedly about it; but have left the matter at last just as dark as it was before. They tell us of some of its properties and effects: but none can tell what is the essence of it.
4. However, we know the origin of dreams, and that with some degree of certainty. There can be no doubt, but some of them arise from the present constitution of the body; while others of then are probably occasioned by the passions of the mind. Again, we are clearly informed in Scripture, that some are caused by the operation of good angels; as others undoubtedly are owing to the power and malice of evil angels. (If we may dare to suppose that there are any such now, or, at least, that they have any thing to do in the world!) From the same divine treasury of knowledge we learn, that on some extraordinary occasions, the Great Father of spirits has manifested himself to human spirits, "in dreams and visions of the night." But which of all these arise from natural, which from supernatural, influence, we are many times not able to determine.
5. And how can we certainly distinguish between our dreams and our waking thoughts? What criterion is there by which we may surely know whether we are awake or asleep? It is true, as soon as we awake out of sleep, we know we have been in a dream, and are now awake. But how shall we know that a dream is such, while we continue therein? What is a dream? To give a gross and superficial, not a philosophical account of it: It is a series of persons and things presented to our mind in sleep, which have no being but in our own imagination. A dream, therefore, is a kind of digression from our real life. It seems to be an echo, of what was said or done when we were awake. Or, may we say, a dream is a fragment of life, broken off at both ends; not connected, either with the part that goes before, or with that which follows after? And is there any better way of distinguishing our dreams from our waking thoughts, than by this very circumstance? It is a kind of parenthesis, inserted in life, as that is in a discourse which goes on equally well either with it, or without it. By this then we may infallibly know a dream, by its being broken off at both ends; by its having no proper connection with the real things which either precede or follow it.
6. It is not needful to prove that there is a near resemblance between these transient dreams, and the dream of life. It may be of more use to illustrate this important truth; to place it in as striking a light as possible. Let us then seriously consider, in a few obvious particulars, the case of one that is just awaking out of life, and opening his eyes in eternity.