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self déclares, saying, Search the scriptures, (namely the law and the prophets, for the gospel was not yet written); for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me; and ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. John 5, 39. 40.
This was the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, that they thought they had eternal life in the works of the law, which, notwithstanding, only bore testimony of Christ. Therefore he declared to the people, (who no doubt looked upon the scribes and pharisees as being the particular favorites of God, for they kept the outside clean, fasted oft, made long prayers, were acquainted with the law, Matt. 23. Rom. 2., appeared righteous before men and gave tithes, Luke 18.) I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 5, 20.
From this I would have thee to learn, that with all thy morality, formal prayers, almsgiving, apparent piety, and with all thy carnal faith, outward confession and worship of God, thou shalt be finally lost, unless thou shalt have something to exceed all this.
Thou must first become poor in spirit and filled with godly sorrow; thou must become meek, must hunger and thirst in thy soul after the righteousness of Christ, which alone is accepted of God; thou must become merciful and compassionate towards thy friends and thy enemies; thou must, through the blood of Christ, obtain a pure heart in which thou mayest see God, and perceive that God is reconciled unto thee through the death of his son, by whom we have access by faith into this grace. Rom. 5, 2.
Therefore Paul says, Where is boasting then? it is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Rom. 3, 27. Here then is an end to boasting; here a person liveth no longer himself, but Christ by his righteousness liveth in him (Gal. 2, 20.): therefore he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord, (2 Cor. 10, 17. 1 Cor. 1, 31.) and live by faith; for he hath attained, in the gospel, the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. Rom. 1, 17. Habak. 2, 4.
This faith, nevertheless, cannot exist without works; for without them it is dead;
as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also, (James 2, 26.) but with this difference: we must do the works not of ourselves, but by faith, that the honor may not be unto us, but unto God; for to this effect is the saying of Paul, We are his workmanship created unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Eph. 2, 10.
Now, that we are created by grace as a work of God, we can not discontinue the same; for faith is constantly bringing forth its fruits in us; as a productive tree cannot conceal its fruit, neither can faith, which is constantly bringing forth its fruits in us, which are love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, chastity, truth, righteousness, humility, godliness, modesty and temperance. Gal. 5, 22. Eph. 3, 12. 2 Pet. 1, 5. 6. 7.
Faith always looks unto Christ, and receives of his fulness grace for grace (John 1, 16.); and all these works, which true faith works in us by love, a person does not ascribe to himself, but to God, who worketh all things in him by the Spirit of Christ; thus a man offers again by faith all things unto God. As all the water
comes from the sea and flows back thither again, (Eccl. 40, 11. Prov. 1, 7.) so all the virtues and fruits of the Spirit proceed from God to our souls, and flow thither again through the spirit of faith, constituting a complete spiritual engine, kept always in motion by faith through love, as living members of the body of Christ, bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. Therefore they are not strong in themselves; that is, of themselves they can do nothing, but they can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth them. Phil. 4, 13. And being members of their Head, Christ Jesus, they are obedient and submissive, and follow their Head, who preserves them alive by the influx of his heavenly love, and gives them power to become the children of God (John 1.); and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Rom. 8, 17.
This, then, is the true righteousness of Christ; this is the real wedding garment, which a man puts on after he has in humility of spirit put off the old garment, and laid aside his own righteousness. This is, as it is called, to put on Christ, (Rom. 12.) and be rooted and built up in him (Col. 2, 7.): this is the kingdom of God H
within us, (Luke 17, 21.) and the righteousness which exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees.
O Jesus, the true righteousness,
From this thou canst conclude that it behoves thee to remain, as a sucking child, at the breast of Jesus and his righteousness, and learn of him, following his pattern and example, and confessing that without him thou canst not do any thing; that thou mayest abide in humility; for what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? 1 Cor. 4, 7.
Now, my beloved fellow man, examine thyself by the above criterion, and see whether thou hast become such a disciple of Jesus; whether thou hast assumed the nature of Christ, attained his righteousness by faith, and, as a productive tree, bringest forth the fruits of godliness, that