Naturally we are inclined to cry up self, in
††††††††† The Apostle, as we see, in all his writings about this matter, is very careful to clear the question of justification so, as man may have no cause of boasting, or of glorying in himself, upon the account of anything he hath, or he hath done in order to justification; that hereby he might cast a copy unto all such, as would approve themselves faithful unto the Lord, in being co-workers with Him, in the Gospel; and that he might so much the more set himself against that pride of heart, that is in all naturally, unto an exalting and crying up of self, in the matter of their justification before, and acceptance with God; and especially we find, how zealously, how frequently, and with what strength and multitude of arguments, he sets himself against, and cries down that, which men do so naturally, and with such a vehement bias, incline unto, to wit, justification by their own works, or by their own obedience to the Law; to the end, their innate pride may have ground of venting itself, in boasting and glorying before men.
††††††††† From this we may ground, in short, the consideration of these three things, to prepare our way unto the clearing up of the Gospel doctrine in this matter.
††††††††† First, that there is a corrupt bias in the heart of men by nature, and a strong inclination, to reject the Gospel doctrine of free justification, through faith in Christ; and to ascribe too much to themselves, in that affair: as if they would hold the life of justification, not purely of the free grace and rich mercy of God, through Jesus Christ; but of themselves, either in whole, or in part, in one measure, or another.
††††††††† Secondly, that it is the duty of all, who would be found faithful ambassadors for Christ, after the example of the Apostle, so to preach forth the grace of God, in this mystery, and to explain the same, as corrupt nature within, and such without, as are biased with mistakes about this matter, and are led away with proud and carnal self conceits, may have no apparent or seeming ground of boasting; nor be confirmed in their natural prejudices and mistakes therein.
††††††††† Thirdly, that in very deed, free Gospel justification is so contrived and ordered as that none have any real ground of boasting, or of glorying in themselves, or of ascribing any part of the glory thereof unto themselves, as if they, by their deeds or works, did contribute anything to the procuring thereof.
††††††††† It will not be necessary to speak to these at any length, but only briefly to touch upon them, to make way unto what follows to be said on this weighty subject, which is of so much concernment to us all.
††††††††† As to the first of these (to which we shall speak little, in this chapter, and thereafter of the rest, in their due order) it is too too apparent to be a truth from these grounds.
I. This is most manifest from the many errors and false opinions, that are vented, owned and maintained, with so much violence and corrupt zeal, and all to cry up self, in less, or in more; and to cry down grace. Hence so many do plead, with great confidence, for an interest of our works, in our justification; such as Papists, (who quite mistake the nature of true justification) Socinians, Arminians, and others, who side with these in less, or in more, and will plead for a justification by our inherent righteousness, or works of righteousness, which we do. Others, that will not plead for such an early interest of our works, in this matter, will plead for faith, as our Gospel righteousness; and affirm, that the very act of our obedience in us, is imputed for a righteousness to us, and is accounted such by God; and so, hath the same place in the New Covenant, that complete and perfect obedience had in the Old Covenant of works, made with Adam; which, as shall hereafter appear, drives us upon the same rock.
II. It is manifest like wise from the large and frequent disputes about this matter that we have in Paulís epistles. If there had not been a great proneness in man, by nature, to cry up himself, and to set up his own righteousness, in matter of justification, why would the Spirit of the Lord have been at so much pains (to speak so) to cry down self and our works, in this matter, as He is, in these epistles of Paul; if He had not seen the great necessity thereof, by reason of this strong inclination, that men naturally have hereunto? We must think not, that anything is there spoken in vain; or that the Spirit of the Lord would have left that doctrine so fully cleared, wherein our works are so expressly excluded, if there had not been a necessity for it, and if it had not been as necessary, in all after ages of the Church, as at that time, when first written. Whatever the truth be, that is so frequently and pungently inculcated in the Scriptures,
we may safely suppose, that as the faith and practice of that truth necessary; so there must be such reluctance of soul in us to receive the same, and to close with it, and a strong inclination to believe and practice the contrary.
III. In the infancy of Christianity, we see, what a strong inclination there was to cry up works, what we do, and the Law, as the only ground of justification; or, at least, to have a share with Christ, in that interest, which gave occasion to the penning of these epistles of Paul, where this matter is so fully and clearly handled; particularly that to the Romans, and that to the Galatians; and unto the speaking less or more hereunto, in almost all his other epistles. And this inclination to the crying up of works and the Law, in opposition to the pure Gospel way of justification, was not only among the Gentiles, who had been without God, and without Christ, and all the means of understanding anything of salvation through a slain Savior; but even amongst the Jews, who, by the dispensation of the New Covenant, which they were under, might have been better principled; for it was they, who most urged the interest of the Law, and of works, and thereby labored to corrupt the Gentiles, and to lead them off the simplicity of the Gospel truth; and of them, saith the Apostle Romans 10: 3, that, being ignorant of Godís righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. They sought after a righteousness another way, than by faith in Christ, who is the end of the Law for righteousness, to everyone that believes Romans 10: 4, but as it were by the works of the Law Romans 9: 32.
IV. The Pharisee, who went up to the Temple Luke 18: 11, 12, and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not, as other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican: I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess, &c. hath many followers. Many there are, who will have confidence in the flesh, and in what they do. Nature never taught Paul, to account all his great privileges and attainments loss and dung; but rather to account them gain; for he says, they were gain to him; that is, while he was a stranger to the Gospel, and to the grace of God, manifested therein. Hence is it, that the last are first, and the first are last; such, as thought themselves far advanced, and to have attained a great measure of righteousness, and so to be children of the Kingdom, are shut out, and Publicans and harlots are preferred, as being willing to renounce themselves and their own righteousness more, than such legalists and justiciaries (officers of justice), who confide in something, which they themselves do, and have attained.
V. This is also manifest from the great difficulty of prevailing with such, as seem to themselves to have in them something more than ordinary, to relinquish and renounce these things, and to betake themselves only unto Jesus, and to rest on Him alone, for righteousness, life and salvation; and from the little fruit that the Gospel doctrine finds among them. How many subterfuges find they out, under which they think to shelter themselves from the wrath of God? How many fig leaves do they sow together,
that they may cover the shame of their nakedness withal? And at what cost, pains and charges are they, in seeking to establish their own righteousness? and all to fortify themselves in their own delusions, and to keep out the pure doctrine of the Gospel. And how ready are some to take hold of the smallest twig, that they may hang upon it, and find relief, if it can yield but the least ground of hope, in their imaginations, ere they betake themselves to Christ according to the Gospel? How many fetchings, turnings, and windings hath a soul, pursued by wrath, and the apprehension of death, ere it be willing to close heartily with Christ, offered in the Gospel? Yea, if such, as have had some wakenings, come so far, as to change something of their former outward courses, and be not so loose and profane, as formerly, how ready are they to sit down, even upon that bit of negative righteousness? Much more, if they be brought the length, to go about some religious duties, how will they then sit down and sing, as if all were well? All which do plainly evince, that there is a strong inclination in us by nature, to follow the way of works, that we may have some share of the honor of our own justification.
VI. This sad truth is hence apparent likewise, that when any opinion is broached, that but seems to give more to works, than ought to be given, though possibly upon the matter, there be but little said, that may make any real difference, how ready are many to close therewith, to entertain that doctrine, to cry it up and commend it, and to improve the advantages, real or supposed, there had, to the further confirmation of that anti-evangelic error, which their souls fully comply with: when, upon the other hand, there is such a nauseating in many too too manifest, at the simplicity of the Gospel, and of the Doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ.
If it be inquired, whence doth this proceed? or what can be the true causes hereof? I answer, many things have a powerful influence into this, as:
I. The natural enmity unto all the ways of God, that each hath, as a piece of his inheritance from Adam: Whatever God willeth, we will not, yea we will nil; though our nilling of it be against ourselves, and we have no reason for it. There is a spirit of contradiction and enmity to God in us all by nature, that we neither can, nor will comply with Godís ways and with what tends to set forth His glory. It is marked of the Jews, that they stumbled at that stumbling stone, Jesus Christ, who was the end of the Law for righteousness, to all such as believe, Romans 10: 4, and . They had such a prejudice at Christ, and at the way of salvation through him, that they broke their necks upon Him, who only was the rock of salvation.
II. The innate darkness of menís minds, touching themselves, and all the things of God, especially the mysteries of salvation, is another cause of this opposition to the Gospel way of justification. They neither know their own hearts, nor their own ways and doings; nor are they acquainted
with the holy and righteous nature of God, nor with the nature of His laws and commandments &c. They know not, I say, the corruption of their own natures and the innate wickedness which is there, which neither is, nor can be subject to the Law of God. Hence ordinarily such as err, in this matter of justification, do entertain erroneous apprehensions about original sin, and our innate pravity;† as do all the Socinians, Papists, and many Arminians, and others. So they are ignorant of the Law of God, not knowing how holy, good and spiritual it is; and how it obliges the whole man, spirit, soul, judgment, understanding, will, affections, and memory; and all the outward man; condemning the least sin, in thought, word, or deed, and commanding the highest pitch of holy duties, and right principles, end and motives &c. And hence they see neither omissions of what is commanded, not their commissions of what has been prohibited, whether as to their nature, multitude, or other aggravations: and the ignorance of this makes them to see less of a necessity of a righteousness without them; and to seek for it with less earnestness and zeal: whence it cometh to pass, ordinarily (as is to be seen among Papists) that such as are most for works, in justification, shape the Law according to their mind, and curtail it, as did the Pharisees of old, that i9t may look more conformed to their works, when their works are no way conformed to it. So likewise, they are ignorant of God, and of his holiness, and righteousness; and because they see, that if He be such, as the orthodox say He is, according to His word, they cannot stand before His justice; therefore they deny His justice altogether, as do Socinians; or imagine him to be all mercy &c. and so imagine Him to be altogether such a one, as themselves; and therefore are not very zealous for any other righteousness, than what may come most readily to hand, and they themselves can make up with their own diligence and care; never remembering, that the justice of God must be satisfied; therefore deny all satisfaction (as do Socinians;) or suppose Christ hath satisfied for all, and procured a New Covenant, or way to life, wherein we may bring what we have, and it will be accepted, and there is no more to do: Nor remembering, that we must have an interest in Christ by faith, ere we have any interest in His merits and satisfaction; and that the whole of our salvation is so contrived, as man may be abased, and Christ only exalted.
III. A vain conceit, that all things in religion must be just as we apprehend them to be; and our blind, corrupt and biased reason and understanding must be the supreme judge and determiner of all these mysteries. Hence the Socinians down-right say, that let the Scripture say what it will, and how oft it will, they are believe and to receive nothing, but according to their reason: so that, what their blinded reason cannot comprehend, they may and will reject. And others, who possibly will not so plainly lay down this ground; yet instead of conforming their judgments and apprehensions to the word, and of being led by it, do frame a conception of the matters of God, in their own heads, and then cause the Scriptures to comply with their apprehensions, by interpreting them accordingly.
So that following a corrupt guide here, they cannot but incline to that way, which suits most with that corrupt principle; and be most adverse from compliance with the Mystery of God, which is most opposite there unto.
IV. Natural corrupt self love is another evil principle, concurring to this effect, by its malignant influence. We love to cry up ourselves, to have something of our own to boast of, and to glory of before men; and hence we cannot naturally comply so sweetly with that way, which taketh away all boasting, and leaves no ground for man to glory in anything, save in the Lord; and such is the way of faith, and of Gospel justification Romans 3: 27, 4: 2.
V. A vain and groundless high conceit, that people have of themselves, and of what they do, as if there were worth and excellence in it, to oblige God, to bestow upon them, what reward they think meet; not knowing, that when they have done all they can do, they are but unprofitable, and that they have nothing but what they have received; and that for any good that they do, they are more beholden to God, than God is beholden to them; and that the best of their actions are so defiled, that they could not answer for one of them, nor stand, if God should enter into judgment with them, and strictly mark iniquity. Psalm 130: 3, 143: 2.
VI. Pride of heart is another malignant cause of this aversion and unwillingness to comply with Godís way; and of this strong inclination to the way of justification by works. This was it, which led the Jews away from Christ, the end of the Law for righteousness: they would not submit themselves unto the righteousness of God Romans 10: 3, and because they would not bow themselves to take on this righteousness, therefore they were at so much pains and labor, to establish their own, and to cause it to stand. Proud man would work, and enjoy the reward of his labors, and will not willingly harken to any other way. He will not be beholden to free grace, nor ascribe glory to the Lord Mediator; but will still be at the old way of the first covenant, at works and wages; that he may have it to say, he hath earned and purchased the crown of life with his own hands and industry.
Therefore, from this we should all take warning, to look about us, and to guard against this strong and violent torrent, that is ready to carry us headlong to our ruin; and to be jealous of our treacherous hearts. Hence also we may see, whence it cometh, that the Gospel gets so little footing among many; and how nothing less than the mighty power of God, will be able o prevail with a natural soul, and cause it to comply with the Gospel way of justification, and submit itself unto the righteousness of God, and hold on Christ by faith. Further, we need not wonder to see, so many rising up, in all ages, against the Gospel of the grace of God, and corrupting the Gospel doctrine of justification, being blinded and unmortified man is not in the case, to be cast in its mold, nor willing to embrace it, until he be broken, and broken again.