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THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
JEREMIAH xxiii. 6.
66 This is his Name, whereby he shall be called, The
LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."
1. HOW dreadful, and how innumerable are the contests, which have arisen about religion! And not only among the children of this world, among those who knew not what true religion was; but even among the children of God, those who had experienced “ the kingdom of God within them,” who had tasted of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” How many of these in all ages, instead of joining together against the common enemy, have turned their weapons against each other, and so not only wasted their precious time, but hurt one another's spirits, weakened each other's hands, and so hindered the great work of their common Master! How many of the weak have hereby been offended! How many of the lame turned out of the way! How many sinners confirmed in their disregard of all religion, and their contempt of those that profess it? And how many of “the excellent ones upon earth” have been constrained to “weep in secret places?"
2. What would not every lover of God and his neighbour do, what would he not suffer to remedy this sore evil?
To remove contention from the children of God? To restore or preserve peace among them? What but a good conscience would he think too dear to part with, in order to promote this valuable end? And suppose we cannot “make [these] wars to cease in all the world,” suppose we cannot reconcile the children of God to each other, however, let each other do what he can, let him contribute, if it be but two mites towards it. Happy are they, who are able, in any degree, to promote “ peace and good-will among men !" Especially among good men; among those that are all listed under the banner of 6 the Prince of Peace:” and are, therefore, peculiarly engaged, “ as much as lies in them, to live peaceably with all men.”
3. It would be a considerable step towards this glorious end, if we could bring good men to understand one another. Abundance of disputes arise purely from the want of this, from mere misapprehension. Frequently, neither of the *contending parties understands what his opponent means ; whence it follows, that each violently attacks the other, while there is no real difference between them. And yet it is not always an easy matter, to convince them of this. Particularly when their passions are moved: it is then attended with the utmost difficulty. However, it is not impossible: especially when we attempt it, not trusting in ourselves, but having all our dependence upon him, with whom all things are possible. How soon is he able to disperse the cloud, to shine upon their hearts, and to enable them both to understand each other, and “the truth as it is in Jesus!”
4. One very considerable article of this truth is contained in the words above recited, “This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our RightEOUSNESS." A truth this, which enters deep into the nature of Christianity, and, in a manner, supports the whole frame of it. Of this, undoubtedly, may be affirmed, what Luther affirms of a truth closely connected with it, it is, Articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ: the christian church stands or falls with it. It is
certainly the pillar and ground of that faith, of which alone cometh salvation : of that faith, which is found in all the children of God, and which "unless a man keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
5. Might not one, therefore, reasonably expect, that however they differed in others, all those who name the Name of Christ, should agree in this point? But how far is this from being the case! There is scarce any wherein they are so little agreed :, wherein those who all profess to follow Christ, seem so widely and irreconcileably to differ. I say seem; because I am thoroughly convinced, that many of them only scem to differ. The disagreement is more in words than in sentiments : they are much nearer in judgment than in language. And a wide difference in language there certainly is, not only between Protestants and Papists, but between Protestant and Protestant; yea, even between those who all believe Justification by Faith: who agree, as well in this, as in every other fundamental doctrine of the gospel.
6. But if the difference be more in opinion than real experience, and more in expression than in opinion, how can it be, that even the children of God should so vehemently contend with each other on the point? Several reasons may be assigned for this : The chief is their not understanding one another; joined with too keen an attachment to their opinions, and particular modes of expression.
In order to remove this, at least in some measure, in order to our understanding one another on this head, I shall, by the help of God, endeavour to shew,
I. What is the Righteousness of Christ;
And, 1. What is the Righteousness of Christ? It is twofold, either his divine or his human Righteousness.
1. His divine Righteousness belongs to his divine Nature, as he is, O wv, " He that existeth, over all, God, blessed
for ever :" the Supreme, the Eternal : “ Equal with the Father, as touching his Godhead, though inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood." Now, this is his eternal, essential, immutable holiness: his infinite mercy and truth: In all which, “ he and the Father are One."
But I do not apprehend that the divine righteousness of Christ, is immediately concerned in the present question. I believe few, if any, do now contend, for the imputation of this righteousness to us. Whoever believes the doctrine of imputation, understands it chiefly, if not solely, of his human righteousness.
2. The human righteousness of Christ, belongs to him in hịs human nature; as he is the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.” This is either internal or external. His internal righteousness is the image of God, stamped on every power and faculty of the soul. It is a copy of his divine righteousness, so far as it can be imparted to a human spirit. It is a transcript of the divine purity, the divine justice, mercy, and truth. It includes love, reverence, resignation to his father; humility, meekness, gentleness; love to lost mankind, and every other holy and heavenly temper: And all these in the highest degree, without any defect, or mixture of unholiness.
3. It was the least part of his external righteousness, that he did nothing amiss: that he knew not outward sin of any kind, neither was “guile found in his mouth :” that he never spoke one improper word, nor did one improper action. Thus far it is only a negative righteousness, though such an one as never did, nor ever can belong to any one that is born of a woman, save himself alone. But even his outward righteousness was positive too. He did all things well. In every word of his tongue, in every work of his hands, he did precisely the “ Will of him that sent him.” In the whole course of his life, he did the will of God on earth as angels do it in heaven. All he acted and spoke was exactly right in every circumstance. The whole and every part of his obedience was complete. “He ful. filled all righteousness." VOL. IX.
4. But his obedience implied more than all this: It im. plied, not only doing, but suffering : suffering the whole Will of God, from the time he came into the world, till "he bore our sins in his own body upon the tree:” yea, till having made a full atonement for them, He bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. This is usually termed the passive righteousness of Christ, the former, his active righteousness. But as the active and passive righteousness of Christ were never in fact separated from each other, so we never need separate them at all, either in speaking or even in thinking. And it is with regard to both these conjointly, that Jesus is called, “ The Lord our Righteousness.
II. But when is it, that any of us may truly say, “The Lord our Righteousness ?”. In other words, when is it that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, and in what sense is it imputed ?
1. Look through all the world, and all the men therein are either believers or unbelievers. The first thing, then, , which admits of no dispute among reasonable men is this. To all believers the righteousness of Christ is imputed; to unbelievers it is not.
“But when is it imputed?” When they believe. In that very hour the righteousness of Christ is theirs. It is imputed to every one that believes, as soon as he believes : faith and the righteousness of Christ are inseparable. For, if he believe according to Scripture, he believes in the righteousness of Christ. There is no true faith, that is, justifying faith, which hath not the righteousness of Christ for its object.
2. It is true, believers may not all speak alike; they may not all use the same language. It is not to be expected that they should: we cannot reasonably require it of them. A thousand circumstances may cause them to vary from each other, in the manner of expressing themselves. But a difference of expression does not necessarily imply a difference of sentiment. Different persons may use different expressions, and yet mean the same thing. Nothing is more common than this, although we seldom make suffi