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a man to pass under the relation of a minister, God will write the law of that relation on him. If God does cause a man to pass under the relation of a husband, or a father, God will cause the law of that relation to
written upon his heart. Now when a man is justified by faith alone, then he becomes the son of God: “ To as many as receive him, he gives power to be called the sons of God; even to as many as believe on his name,” John i. 12. I say, when a man is justified by faith alone, he becomes the son of God, he passes under that relation; therefore then does the Lord write the law of that relation of a son upon his heart, and thereby he is made more son-like by his obedience.
3. The more a man does agree with God and the law, the more fit he is to walk with God and observe the law. When a man is justified by faith, then he is agreed with God: “Can two walk together, unless they be agreed ?” Amos iii. 3. Now when a man is justified by faith, he is reconciled to God; reconciled to the justice of God, reconciled to the anger of God, reconciled to the law of God, the law is his friend. Now before a man was justified, the anger of God was his enemy, and the justice of God his enemy, and the law his enemy; but now, being justified, he is reconciled to God : reconciled to his anger, that is satisfied by Christ; reconciled to the law, that is satisfied by Christ: thus he is made a friend to God, he is agreed with God, and with the law, and so he can walk with God, and so he is the more obedient.
4. But especially thus: As by works, and seeking justification by works, a man is estated in the covenant of works; so by faith, and seeking justification by faith alone, a man is estated in the covenant of grace. When a man is estated in the covenant of grace, God is engaged to give grace unto him, to make him holy. For that, I pray, do but read what we have in that xxxvith chapter of Ezekiel, at the 25th verse, and so downwards : “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart, also, will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes; and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.” First, I pray, mark here, that the
Lord does promise remission of sin, although it be never so great: “ I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and wash ye from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you." But, says a poor doubting soul, though the Lord do thus wash, I am so foul, and so unclean, that I am afraid I shall never be cleansed. Yes, says the Lord, I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean. But though I be clean, and cleansed from my guilt, and my sin pardoned; yet, notwithstanding, I have such a naughty, filthy heart, as I shall foul myself again. See what follows: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” Oh, but my heart is so hard, like a stone, that I shall resist this mercy of God. Nay, says he, “ And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh :" I will take away the resistance, the stony heart out of your flesh. But though it be so, as long as my nature is unchanged I shall never do that which is right. Says God, I will change your nature for you; “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” I will make such a change in you, that whereas before, naturally, ye were as hard as a stone, now I will make you as soft as flesh. But though the Lord doth thus change my nature, yet, notwithstanding, I shall never be able to order my conversation aright, I shall never be obedient. Mark what follows: “ I will put my Spirit within you, and I will cause you to walk in my statutes :" I will make you obedient, says God. Oh, what streams of mercy are here! But, I pray, mind the fountain whence these flow; they all flow from this fountain of free remission. The first is, “ I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and cleanse you from all your idols;" I will forgive you freely. Aye, but though this be set first, it may be this is not the cause of the rest; how shall it appear that this free remission is the cause of all our holiness? Then, I pray, look into the viiith chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, where this covenant of grace is repeated, at the 10th verse: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts: and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord : for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” Why? “ For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their
sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” So that remission is the cause of sanctification: I will thus and thus sanctify, says the Lord; “ For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more:” this is the cause of all that. Now, I say, when a man is once estated in this covenant of grace, the Lord, ye see, is engaged then to make him holy. And as by works, and seeking justification by works, a man is estated in the covenant of works; so by faith, and seeking justification by faith alone, a man is estated in the covenant of grace; and so the Lord is engaged for to make him holy. So that thus you see, now, this free grace of God, justification of a poor sinner by faith alone, it is no enemy, but a real friend unto all our holiness and spiritual life. No wonder, therefore, that the apostle says, “ And now I live."
By way of application. If these things be so, then here we see the reason why men are no more gracious, no more heavenly, no more holy, no more spiritual in their lives ; because they think not of this, they study not this, they never had the true sense of this: even because they do not stand clear from their own duties, and their own doings, as to the great matter of justification and acceptance with God. Is the free remission of sin, and justification by faith alone, the fountain and original of all our holiness? Then why stand ye gazing upon your own duties? upon your own prayers and mournings? Would ye live? would : “ Skin for skin, and all that a man hath will he give for his life,” Job ii. 4. But, would you live spiritually? would you live an eternal life, that life that never dies, that communicative life, that life that is better than you should have had in the state of innocency? Then do you stand clear from all your own doings and duties and workings, as to this great matter of your acceptance with God the Father. Do ye think that Jesus Christ will present a duty or a service unto God the Father, that steps into his room and place and office? What is the place and room of Christ ? He is our Saviour, and the Mediator between God and man, that stands between God and man, for to cause acceptance with God the Father. If then you pray, hear, read, mourn, and think by all these to fetch in your acceptance with God the Father; do you not bring your duty into the room of Christ,
I know you
and into the place of Christ? And do ye think that the Lord Jesus Christ will ever present such a duty unto God the Father, as steps into his room and place? What a sad thing is it, for a man to draw his own works or his own doings into his acceptance or justification : for a man to turn aside to the covenant of works!
You will say, But when may a man be said for to draw his own works or duties into his acceptance with God the Father? Or, when may a man be said to turn aside to the covenant of works?
Even godly men do it too much. Abraham, though the father of the faithful, went in to Hagar, the type of the law. And so now the children of Abraham, believers, do too much go in to Hagar still, and to the law still. When a man cannot, dares not rely upon Jesus Christ, until he first sees his own duty, and his own prayer, and enlargement in duty; then he does this too much. When a man does measure all his acceptance with God the Father, by his own performance -If I be enlarged, then I am accepted; if I am straitened, now I am not accepted-then he does this too much. When a man will not come to Christ, until his heart be first quickened and warmed by some particular word; then he does this too much. But oh! you, you that are godly, labour I beseech ye in Christ, to stand clear from your own duties and doings. The more distinct knowledge ye have in this truth, and the more ye walk in the sense of it, the more spiritual and holy ye will be.
But, will some say, that I may take off some scruples and answer some cases of conscience; If these things be so, then do I fear that my obedience was never right, for truly I have even turned aside to a covenant of works, the Lord knows I have. I remember the time when I had legal breakings, and all my obedience hath flowed from thence. Is free remission, and justification by faith alone, the fountain and spring-head of all our obedience and holiness? then seeing that legal breakings have been the spring-head of all
my obedience, then do I fear my obedience was never right. Oh! I fear that I have been wrong all this while, that I have been but an hypocrite all this while, and have deceived myself, and been under the law all this while.
Stay a little, you read in Scripture concerning Jacob and
Esau: it is said, “ That the elder shall serve the younger, Gen. xxv. 23. That is, says Luther, in a spiritual way: the elder, the law, shall serve the younger the gospel: and the elder sin shall serve the younger grace. Now, have your former legal-breakings, made you more for to prize grace, and to prize Christ, and to prize free remission, and justification by faith alone? Here then, the elder does serve the younger. And what though legal-breakings were first, and were the elder in your heart, yet so long as the elder does serve the younger, thou hast no reason to be discouraged in this respect.
I fear that my obedience and my holiness is not right; because it so little, and so scant: free remission the fountain of all our holiness, that is a fun fountain : and if my holiness were a stream from that fountain, it would be more full and more abundant: the Jews they knew little of this truth, justification by faith alone, and yet they were holy; David holy, and Moses holy, and Josiah holy: is this the fountain of all our grace, and of all our holiness, free remission and justification by faith alone? Then the more discovery there is of this, the more holy we should be: but alas, I find my holiness and my obedience so scant, and little, that I am afraid it can never come from so full a fountain as this is.
Beloved, there is nothing little between God and a gracious soul. There is nothing small that comes from God to you, because it comes from an infinite God: there is nothing small that goes from a gracious soul unto God again, because it comes from an infinite desire of pleasing God. It is one thing to be more in the shell, and another thing to be more in the kernel. Luther professes, that when he was a monk, as it seems by his writings he was fifteen years in a cloister, says he, When I was a monk, I was a great deal more holy then, according to the outward appearance, than I am now; then I prayed, and then I fasted, and then I macerated my body, and then I went meanly; but now I eat, and I drink, and I clothe myself as others do; and yet now one little prayer is more accepted with God than all my fifteen years prayers before : why? because says he, then I prayed in a way of works, and sought justification in a way of works; but now I have had a taste of this justification by faith alone,