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It will be remembered, by those who have perused the foregoing memoirs, that Whitefield complains, that the transcripts of his sermons, taken in short-hand, and published by his well meaning, but irresponsible friends, were unfair and mutilated exhibitions of his actual performances. He says of some of these imperfect copies, that “the sense and connection are entirely destroyed." It has been thought a duty, therefore, to confine the following selections from his sermons and other writings, as far as possible, to those which came immediately from his own pen, or received his final revision, or, at least, his sanction and approbation. Thus, it is believed, justice will be done to the memory of this wonderful man; and no further apology need be made for limiting our range of selection mainly to those writings which, says he, “I think I may say, were given me by the Lord Jesus Christ.”
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
JEREMIAH xxiii. 6.
The Lord our Righteousness.
WHOEVER is acquainted with the nature of mankind in general, or the propensity of his own heart in particular, must acknowledge that self-righteousness is the last idol that is rooted out of the heart. Being once born under a covenant of works it is natural for us all to have recourse to a covenant of works, for our everlasting salvation. And we have contracted such a devilish pride by our fall from God, that we would, if not wholly, yet in part at least, glory in being the cause of our own salvation. We cry out against Popery, and that very justly; but we are all Papists, at least I am sure we are all Arminians by nature; and, therefore, no wonder so many natural men embrace that scheme. It is true we disclaim the doctrine of merit, and are ashamed directly to say we deserve any good at the hands of God; therefore, as the apostle excellently well observes, we go about, we fetch a circuit, to establish a righteousness of our own, and like the Pharisees of old, will not wholly submit to that righteousness which is of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is the sorest, though, alas! the most common evil that was ever yet seen under the sun.
An evil, that in any age, especially in these dregs of time, wherein we live, cannot sufficiently be inveighed against. For as it is with the people, so it is with the priests; and it is to be feared, even in those places where once the truth as it is in Jesus was eminently preached, many ministers are so sadly degenerated from their pious ancestors, that the doctrines of grace, especially the personal, all-sufficient righteousness of Jesus, is but too seldom, too slightly mentioned. Hence the love of many waxeth cold; and I have often thought, was it possible, that this single consideration would be sufficient to raise our venerable forefathers again from their graves, who would thunder in their ears their fatal error.
The righteousness of Jesus Christ is one of those great mysteries which the angels desire to look into, and seems to be one of the first lessons that God taught men after the fall. For what were the coats that God made to put on our first parents, but types of the application of the merits or righteousness of Jesus Christ to believers' hearts? We are told, that those coats were made of skins of beasts; and as beasts were not then food for men, we may fairly infer that those beasts were slain in sacrifice, in commemoration of the great sacrifice, Jesus Christ, thereafter to be offered. And the skins of those beasts thus slain, being put on Adam and Eve, they were thereby taught how their nakedness was to be covered with the righteousness of the Lamb of God.
This is it which is meant, when we are told Abraham believed on the Lord, and it was counted to him for righteousness. In short, this is it of which both the law and all the prophets have spoken, especially Jeremiah, in the words of the text: The Lord our righteousness.
I propose, through divine grace, 1. To consider who we are to understand by the word Lord. II. How the Lord is man's righteousness.
III. I will consider some of the chief objections that are generally urged against this doctrine.
IV. I shall show some very ill consequences that flow naturally from denying this doctrine.
V. Shall conclude with an exhortation to all to come to Christ by faith, that they may be enabled to say with the prophet in the text, The Lord our righteousness.
I. I am to consider who we are to understand by the word Lord- The Lord our righteousness.
And if any Arians or Socinians are drawn by curiosity to hear what the babbler has to say, let them be ashamed of denying the divinity of that Lord that has bought poor sinners with his precious blood. For the person mentioned in the text, under the character of Lord, is Jesus Christ. Behold, ver. 5. the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, a King shall reign and prosper, shall erecute judgment and justice in the earth. In his day, ver. 6. Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall duell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness. By the righteous Branch, all agree that we are to understand Jesus Christ. He it is that is called the Lord in our text. If so, if there were no other text in the Bible to prove the divinity of Christ, that is sufficient. For if the word Lord may properly belong to Jesus Christ, he must be God. For as you have it in the margins of your Bibles, the
word Lord is in the original Jehovah, which is the essential title of God himself. Come, then, ye Arians, kiss the Son of God, bow down before him, and honor him, even as you honor the Father. Learn of the angels, those morning stars, and worship him as truly God. For otherwise you are as much idolaters, as those that worship the Virgin Mary. And as for you, Socinians, who say Christ was a mere man, and yet profess that he was your Savior, according to your own principles, you are accursed. For, if Christ be a mere man, then he is only an arm of flesh. And it is written, Cursed is he that trusteth on an arm of flesh. But I would hope there are no such monsters here. At least, that after these considerations, they would be ashamed of broaching such monstrous absurdities any more. For it is plain, that by the word Lord, we are to understand the Lord Jesus Christ, who here takes to himself the title of Jehovah, and therefore must be very God, of very God, or, as the apostle devoutly expresses it, God blessed for evermore.
II. How the Lord is to be man's righteousness comes next to be considered.
And that is, in one word, by imputation. For it pleased God, after he had made all things by the word of his power, to create man after his own image. And so infinite was the condescension of the high and lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity, that although he might have insisted on the everlasting obedience of him and his posterity, yet he was pleased to oblige himself, by a covenant or agreement made with his own creatures, upon condition of an unsinning obedience, to give them immortality and eternal life. For when it is said, the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die, we may fairly infer, so long as he continued obedient, and did not eat thereof, he should surely live. The 3d of Genesis, gives us a full, but mournful account, how our first parents broke this covenant, and thereby stood in need of a better righteousness than their own, in order to procure their future acceptance with God. For what must they do? They were as much under a covenant of works as ever. And, though after their disobedience they were without strength, yet they were obliged not only to do, but continue to do all things, and that too in the most perfect manner which the Lord had required of them. And not only so, but to make satisfaction to God's infinitely offended justice, for the breach they had already been guilty of. Here then opens the amazing scene of divine philanthropy; I mean, God's love to man. For behold, what man could not do, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father's love, undertakes to do for him. And that God might be just in justifying the ungodly, though