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personal obedience to the divine law, apprehended by true faith, as so imputed to the believer, that it constitutes his title to eternal life, which neither oblivion of sin, nor full acceptance of duty' could do. It is the meritorious ground of his being dealt with as an heir of eternal happiness, notwithstanding all his sins and imperfections : for eternal happiness is properly the reward of perfect righteousness. But this act of God, in
justifying the ungodly,” and “ imputing righ“ teousness without works,” neither alters the rule of duty, nor the nature of a man's actions ; while it increases the believer's obligations to obedience, and aggravates the guilt of his subsequent sins : and, while God looks on believers as “ in Christ,” in respect of justification, he views their character and actions in all respects as they really are in themselves. “The righteousness of
God, which is unto all and upon all that believe," is merely a provision for the honour of the divine law and justice, in making sinners heirs of that happiness which is properly and exclusively the reward of perfect obedience. The justified believer is also adopted: he is a son and heir: and the title to his inheritance is given him, on the ground of his brother and surety's meritorious services, and for his sake. But this no more renders personal obedience or sanctification unnecessary, than the entail of an estate renders obedience to a parent, or a good state of health superfluous. In these respects the obedience of Christ is not, and cannot be, imputed; or if it could it would be of no use.
But he who has the title to the inheritance, under the hand and seal, so to speak, of his heavenly Father, still remains an accountable creature, fallible and peccable, depraved, (though not enslaved to sin,) exposed to temptation ; and consequently he is often, more or less, betrayed into sins, negligences, and omissions. He has, 'however, a tender conscience, and a holy taste; and thus, when he reviews his conduct, he feels ingenuous sorrow and shame for having offended his heavenly Father ; he repents, and humbles himself with tears and prayers; he welcomes rebukes and corrections, kisses his chastening rod, craves forgiveness, and blesses the gracious care of him who “ restores his soul, and leads him in “ the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.” No man who is wholly a stranger to this experience has scriptural proof that the righteousness of Christ is in any sense imputed to him; and all who are deeply acquainted with these conflicts, and this consciousness, must be convinced, if they have a right view of the divine holiness, and of the perfection of the divine law, that all their obedience needs forgiveness, and is utterly insufficient and unsuitable to form a title to eternal glory. From first to last they must“ count all
things but loss, that they may win Christ, and “ be found in him, not having their own righ“ teousness, which is of the law, but that which is
through the faith of Christ, the righteousness “ which is of God by faith.”
But your correspondent objects to what is said respecting the title to heaven, and says that every loyal subject is not admitted to live at court.' As, however, I really do not understand
this latter part of his argument, I hope I shall be excused for not attempting an answer.
I have for a long course of years counted the righteousness of Jesus Christ, imputed to the believer through faith, and sealed on his heart by the progressive sanctification of the Holy Spirit, the only meritorious ground of hope that he shall at last inherit eternal life, of which the very imperfection of his faith proves him unworthy: yet he will daily feel that very sense of sin, those challenges of consciences for omissions and transgressions, and that need of daily and earnest prayer for pardon, through the atoning blood, which your correspondent speaks of with great feeling, but thinks inconsistent with a state of complete justification. I am persuaded, however, that we do not mean very differently, though the unscriptural views given of imputed righteousness by some, seem to excite unscriptural prejudices against it in others. But I must add, that I cannot think any loyal subject of Christ will be willing always to be absent from court; and that, through the righteousness of Christ and the sanctification of the Spirit, he will be expecting shortly to arrive in the presence of God" where “ is fulness of joy,” and to share those“ pleasures “ which are at his right hand for evermore.”
The duty of trusting the promises and providence of God in giving to the poor, even when one's circumstances are moderate and precarious, especially on urgent occasions ; and the still higher duty of relieving parents in distress, as far as children have it in their power; seem to be generally acknowledged: yet it is to be feared that few so entirely rely on the promises of God on this subject, as to risk much in obeying his plain commands; and those who do are often censured by their brethren as imprudent. It is to be feared also, that to expect any remarkable interposition of providence in case of poverty, occasioned by such conduct, however consonant to the divine precepts, would scarcely be exempted from the charge of enthusiasm. I have, however, kriown several instances, in which these promises of scripture have been literally understood, relied on, and fulfilled, even beyond expectation. The case that follows, fell under my own immediate observation.
A woman servant who was past the prime of life, in an inferior station, but much respected for her well-known piety and integrity, had saved a little money from her wages, which, as her health was evidently on the decline, and there was reason to think she could not long support the fatigues of her situation, would probably soon be required
for her own relief. Thus circumstanced, she heard that her aged parents, by unavoidable calamity, were reduced to extreme indigence; and at the same time she had reason to fear that they were strangers to the comforts of true religion. She in
consequence obtained leave to visit them; and, making the best use of the opportunity, both shared her little with them, and used her utmost endeavours to make them acquainted with the consolations and supports of the gospel : which she did apparently with some success.
She was afterwards remonstrated with by a religious acquaintance, who observed that, in all probability, she would herself soon stand in need of all the little she had laid by. But to this she replied, that she could not think it her duty to see her aged parents pining in want, while she had more than was needful for her present use; and that she trusted God would find her some friend if he saw good to disable her for service.
According to her faith so it proved to her. She continued to assist her parents till their death : soon after which event she was so entirely deprived of health as to be utterly incapable of labour. But, when nothing but a workhouse was in prospect for her, God, in a wonderful manner, raised her up friends where she least expected them. For nine years she has now been very comfortably supported in a way she could never have conceived, and circumstances have at length been so ordered, that her maintenance to the end of life is almost as much ensured as any thing can be in this perishing uncertain world.