Horatius Bonar- The Everlasting Righteousness

Horatius Bonar – LINK & LINK is not so well known today to most Christians, since he lived from 1808 – 1889. He was a Hymnist (140+) and a voluminous and highly popular author. He was a prominent flag-bearer of faith, after John Bunyan (1628) and before Charles Spurgeon (1834).

His book- ‘The Everlasting Righteousness’ is a wonderful book on the topic of Grace. First Published in 1874, The Everlasting Righteousness may be the best book on the doctrine of justification by faith alone- ever written. You can read the excerpts of same below…

Let me warn you- the English is a little old & the writer is well-versed in prose as well. So you might at places find the going a bit deep & at times difficult…but I can assure you that if you persist, you will reap the reward of beautiful & heart-warming messages from this man of God…


“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”—Romans 1:17

The awakened conscience of the sixteenth century betook itself to “the righteousness of God” (Rom 1:17). There it found refuge at once from condemnation and from impurity. Only by “righteousness” could it be pacified; and nothing less than that which is divine could meet the case. At the cross this “righteousness” was found—human yet divine, provided for man, and presented to him by God for relief of conscience and justification [1] of life. On the one word, τετέλεσται, “It is finished” (Joh 19:30), as on a heavenly resting-place, weary souls sat down and were refreshed.

The voice from the tree did not summon them to do, but to be satisfied with what was done. Millions of bruised consciences there found healing and peace. The belief of that finished work brought the sinner into favour with God, nor did it leave him in uncertainty as to this. The justifying work of Calvary was God’s way not only of bringing pardon, but of securing certainty. It was the only perfect thing that had ever been presented to God in man’s behalf; and so peculiar was this perfection, that it might be used by man in his transactions with God, as if it were his own. The knowledge of this sure justification was life from the dead to multitudes.

All over Europe, from the Apennines to the Grampians, from the Pyrenees to the Carpathians, went the glad tidings that man is justified freely, and that God wishes him to know he is justified. It was not merely a new thought for man’s intellect, but a new discovery for his soul:

  1. as to the true source of spiritual health, namely, the setting of man’s conscience right with God;
  2. as to the continuation of that health, namely, the keeping of the conscience right.

The fruit of this was not merely a healthy personal religion, but a renovated intellect and a noble literature, and, above all, a pure worship. It was an era of resurrection. The graves were opened, and the congregation of the dead became the Church of the living. Christendom awoke and arose. The resurrection-dew fell far and wide; nor has it yet ceased to fall.

For ages Christianity had groveled in the dust, smothered with semi-pagan rites; ready to die, if not already dead; bound hand and foot by a semi-idolatrous priesthood, unable to do aught for a world that it had been sent to regenerate.[2] Now “it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon its feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it” (Dan 7:4).

A new conscience was born, and with a new conscience came in new life and power. Nothing had been seen like this since the age of the apostles. The doctrine of Another’s righteousness reckoned [3] to us for justification before God is one of the links that knot together the first and the sixteenth centuries, the Apostles and the Reformers.

The creeds of the Reformation overleap fifteen centuries, and land us at once in the Epistle to the Romans. Judicial and moral cleansing was what man needed; and in that epistle we have both the imputed [4] and imparted [5] righteousness, the former the root or foundation of the latter. Not the one without the other—both together, inseparable; but each in its own order.

It was not Luther (1483-1586) merely who took up the old watchword, “The just shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17), and thus found the answer of a good conscience toward God. To thousands of hearts it came like a voice from heaven, they knew not how. Sunshine from above had fallen upon one grand text, the text that the age needed; men recognised the truth thus supernaturally lighted up.

“The nations came to its light, and kings to the brightness of its rising.” The inquiring men of that age, though not borrowing from each other, betook themselves to this truth and text. From every kingdom of Europe came the same voice, and every Protestant Confession bore witness to the unanimity of awakened Christendom.

The long-needed, long-missing truth had been found; and ε͑͑ύρηκα[6] was the cry of gladness heard announcing its discovery. Our fathers saw that this truth was the basis of all real spiritual life. That which was superficial, morbid, puny, and second-rate might do with some less deep, less broad foundation; but all that is healthy, noble, daring, happy, and successful in religion must rest here: “The just shall live by faith.”

It is “believing” from first to last. We begin, we go on, we end in faith. The faith that justifies is the faith that overcomes (1Jo 5:4). By faith we obtain the “good report” (Heb 11:39), both with God and man. By faith we receive forgiveness; by faith we live; by faith we work, and endure, and suffer. By faith we win the crown—a crown of righteousness, which shall be ours in the day of the appearing of Him Who is our Righteousness (1Co 1:30). —The Grange, Edinburgh; November, 1872

How may I, a sinner, draw near to Him in Whom there is no sin, and look upon His face in peace? This is the great question that, at some time or other, every one of us has asked. This is one of the awful [8] problems that man in all ages has been attempting to solve. There is no evading it: he must face it.

Man has always treated sin as a misfortune, not a crime; as disease, not guilt; as a case for the physician, not for the judge. Herein lies the essential faultiness of all mere human religions or theologies. They fail to acknowledge the judicial aspect of the question as that on which the real answer must hinge, and to recognize the guilt or criminality of the evil-doer as that which must first be dealt with before any real answer, or approximation to an answer, can be given.
God is a Father; but He is no less a Judge. Shall the Judge give way to the Father, or the Father give way to the Judge? God loves the sinner; but He hates the sin. Shall He sink His love to the sinner in His hatred of the sin, or His hatred of the sin in His love to the sinner? God has sworn that He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner (Eze 33:11); yet He has also sworn that the soul that sinneth, it shall die (Eze 18:4). Which of the two oaths shall be kept? Shall the one give way to the other? Can both be kept inviolate? Can a contradiction, apparently so direct, be reconciled? Which is the more unchangeable and irreversible, the vow of pity or the oath of justice?
Law and love must be reconciled, else the great question as to a sinner’s intercourse with the Holy One must remain unanswered. The one cannot give way to the other. Both must stand, else the pillars of the universe will be shaken.

There has been no compromise. Law and love have both had their full scope. Not one jot or tittle[11] has been surrendered by either. They have been satisfied to the full; the one in all its severity, the other in all its tenderness. Love has never been more truly love, and Law has never been more truly Law, than in this conjunction of the two. It has been reconciliation without compromise. God’s honour has been maintained, yet man’s interests have not been sacrificed. God has done it all, and He has done it effectually [12] and irreversibly.
Man could not have done it, even though he could have devised it. But truly he could do neither. God only could have devised and done it. He has done it by removing the whole case into His own courts of Law, that it might be settled there on a righteous basis. Man could not have gone into court with the case, save in the certainty that he would lose it. God comes into court, bringing man and man’s whole case along with Him, that upon righteous principles, and in a legal way, the case may be settled, at once in favour of man and in favour of God. It is this judicial settlement of the case that is God’s one and final answer to man’s long unanswered question, “How should man be just with God?” (Job 9:2). “Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God?” (Mic 6:6).

The consent of parties to the acceptance of this basis is required in court. The Law consents; the Lawgiver consents; Father, Son, and Spirit consent; and man, the chief party interested, is asked for his consent. If he consents, the whole matter is settled. The verdict is issued in his favour; and henceforth he can triumph and say, “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?” (Rom 8:33-34).

Sin is too great an evil for man to meddle with. His attempts to remove it do but increase it, and his endeavours to approach God in spite of it aggravate his guilt. Only God can deal with sin, either as a disease or a crime; as a dishonour to Himself, or as a hinderer of man’s approach to Himself. He deals with it not in some arbitrary or summary way, by a mere exercise of will or power, but by bringing it for adjudication [13] into His own courts of Law. As Judge, seated on His tribunal, He settles the case, and settles it in favour of the sinner—of any sinner on the earth that will consent to the basis that He proposes. Into this court each one may freely come, on the footing of a sinner needing the adjustment of the great question between him and God.

As sin is too great an evil for any but God to deal with, so is righteousness too high for man to reach; too high for any but God to bring down and place at our disposal. God has brought down, and brought nigh, the righteousness. Thus the guilt that we have contracted is met by the righteousness that God has provided; and the exclusion from the divine fellowship that the guilt produced, is more than reversed by the new introduction that the righteousness places at our disposal.

The history of six thousand years of evil has been lost on man. He refuses to read its awful lesson regarding sin, and God’s displeasure against the sinner which that history records. The flood of evil that has issued forth from one single sin he has forgotten. The death, the darkness, the sorrow, the sickness, the tears, the weariness, the madness, the confusion, the bloodshed, the furious hatred between man and man, making earth a suburb of hell—all this is overlooked or misread. And man repels the thought that sin is crime, which God hates with an infinite hate, and which He, in His righteousness, must condemn and avenge.
If sin is such a surface thing, a trifle, as men deem it, what is the significance of this long sad story? Do earth’s ten thousand graveyards, where human love lies buried, tell no darker tale? Do the millions upon millions of broken hearts and heavy eyes say that sin is but a trifle? Does the moaning of the hospital or the carnage of the battlefield, the blood-stained sword, and the death-dealing artillery, proclaim that sin is a mere casualty, and the human heart the seat of goodness after all? Does the earthquake, the volcano, the hurricane, the tempest, speak nothing of sin’s desperate evil?

The world has grown old in sin, and has now more than ever begun to trifle with it, either as a necessity that cannot be cured, or a partial aberration from good order that will rectify itself ere long. It is this tampering with evil, this refusal to see sin as God sees it, as the Law declares it, and as the story of our race has revealed it, that has in all ages been the root of error and of wide departure from the faith once delivered to the saints. Admit the evil of sin, with all its eternal consequences, and you are shut up to a divine way of dealing with it. Deny the evil of sin, and the future results of that evil, and you may deny the whole revelation of God, set aside the cross, and abrogate [14] the Law.

But beyond this the law of man does not go. Substitution in any wider aspect is something about which man has never attempted to legislate. Stripe for stripe is human law; “with his stripes we are healed” (Isa 53:5) is superhuman, the result of a legislation as gracious as it is divine.

From the beginning God recognized this principle in His dealings with man: the Just dying for the unjust, the blessed One becoming a curse that the cursed might be blessed. In all subsequent sacrifices it was the same. Noah’s burnt-offering was like Abel’s, and Abraham’s resembled Noah’s. Transference of guilt from one who could not bear the penalty without being eternally lost, to One Who could bear it, and yet come forth from under it, free and glorious—this was the deep truth into which God educated the patriarchs as that which lay at the foundation of His procedure with the sinner. The consumption of Abraham’s sacrifice by the divine fire told him that the divine displeasure that should have rested on him forever had fallen upon a substitute and been exhausted, so that there remained no more wrath, no darkness, “no condemnation” for him (Rom 8:1); nothing but deliverance and favour and everlasting blessedness.

In the passover-blood, the idea was chiefly that of protection from peril. The lamb stood sentinel at the door of each family; the blood was their “shield and buckler” (Psa 91:4). There might be trembling hearts within, wondering perhaps how a little blood could be so efficacious, and make their dwelling so impregnable; disquieted, too, because they could not see the blood, but were obliged to be content with knowing that God saw it (Exo 12:13). Yet no amount of fearfulness could alter the potency of that sprinkled blood, and no weakness of faith could make that God-given shield less efficacious against “the enemy and the avenger” (Psa 8:2). The blood—the symbol of substitution—was on the lintel, and that was enough.

In the fire we see the holy wrath of the Judge consuming the Victim slain in the sinner’s room. In the ashes we have the proof that the wrath had spent itself, that the penalty was paid, that the work was done. “It is finished” was the voice of the ashes on the altar (Joh 19:30).

In all this we see such things as the following:

  • 1) God’s displeasure against sin;
  • 2) that displeasure exhausted in a righteous way;
  • 3) the Substitute presented and accepted;
  • 4) the Substitute slain and consumed;
  • 5) the transference of the wrath from the sinner to his Representative;
  • 6) God resting in His love over the sinner, and viewing him in the perfection of his Substitute;
  • 7) the sinner reconciled, accepted, complete, enjoying God’s favour, and feeding at His table on that on which God had fed; on that which had come from the altar, and had passed through the fire.

As in the Epistle to the Hebrews, we have this principle of substitution applied to the sanctuary, so in that to the Romans we find it applied to the Courts of Law. In the former we see God making the sinner perfect as a worshipper; in the latter, righteous as a servant and a son. In the one it is priestly completeness; in the latter it is judicial righteousness. But in both, the principle on which God acts is the same. And as He acts on it in receiving us, so does He invite us to act in coming to Him.
It is this truth that the gospel embodies; and it is this truth that we preach, when, as ambassadors for Christ, we pray men in Christ’s stead to be reconciled to God. God’s free love to the sinner is the first part of our message; and God’s righteous way of making that free love available for the sinner is the second. What God is, and what Christ has done, make up one gospel. The belief of that gospel is eternal life. “All that believe are justified from all things” (Act 13:39). With a weak faith and a fearful heart many a sinner stands before the altar. But it is not the strength of his faith, but the perfection of the Sacrifice that saves; and no feebleness of faith, no dimness of eye, no trembling of hand, can change the efficacy of our Burnt-offering. The vigour of our faith can add nothing to it, nor can the poverty of it take anything from it.


What should we have said to the Israelite, who, on bringing his lamb to the tabernacle, should puzzle himself with questions as to the right mode of laying his hands on the head of the victim, and who should refuse to take any comfort from the sacrifice, because he was not sure whether he had laid them aright—on the proper place, in the right direction, with adequate pressure, or in the best attitude? Should we not have told him that his own actings concerning the lamb were not the lamb, and yet that he was speaking as if they were? Should we not have told him that the lamb was everything, his touch nothing, as to virtue or merit or recommendation? …
The quality or quantity of faith is not the main question for the sinner. That which he needs to know is that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again according to the Scriptures. This knowledge is life everlasting!

His banishment into Egypt is referred to once and again by the old divines as part of that life of humiliation by which He was bearing our sins. As the banished One, He bore our banishment that we might return to God. He passed through earth as an outcast, because He was standing in the outcast’s place—“hurried up and down,” says an old writer, “and driven out of His own land as a vagabond” (Flavel, 1627-1691). In each part of His sin-bearing life there is something to meet our case. By the first Adam we were made exiles from God and paradise; by the last Adam we are brought back from our wanderings, restored to the divine favour, and replaced in the paradise of God.


Poor as my faith in this Substitute may be, it places me at once in the position of one to whom “God imputeth righteousness without works” (Rom 4:6). God is willing to receive me on the footing of His perfection; and if I am willing to be thus received, in the perfection of Another with Whom God is well pleased, the whole transaction is completed. I am justified by His blood. “As he is” (1Jo 4:17) so am I even in this world—even now, with all my imperfections and evils. To be entitled to use Another’s name, when my own name is worthless; to be allowed to wear Another’s raiment, because my own is torn and filthy; to appear before God in Another’s person, the Person of the Beloved Son—this is the summit of all blessing. The Sin-bearer and I have exchanged names, robes, and persons! I am now represented by Him, my own personality having disappeared. He now appears in the presence of God for me (Heb 9:24). All that makes Him precious and dear to the Father has been transferred to me. His excellency and glory are seen as if they were mine; and I receive the love, and the fellowship, and the glory, as if I had earned them all.

Abruptly the prophet breaks forth in his description of Messiah, Seed of the woman, son of Adam, son of Abraham, son of David: “He shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground” (Isa 53:2). The soil and the air of earth are alike uncongenial to this shoot from the stem of Jesse. Its affinities are all with a purer climate than ours.

The difficulty of such a case was obvious; and accordingly the prophet meets it in the next verse. It is our griefs that He was bearing; it was our sorrows that He was carrying. These were the things that made Him the Man of sorrows. They that saw Him could not understand the mystery. They said, “God has smitten him for his sins, and afflicted him for some hidden transgression that we know not.” But, no, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (vs.5). The wounding, the bruising, the chastening, and the scourging had their beginnings before He reached the cross; but it was there that they were all completed by the obedience “unto death” (Phi 2:8).

Or, more exactly, “a trespass-offering,” a sacrifice for willful, conscious sin. Of this trespass-offering it is written, “The priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for anything of all that he hath done in trespassing therein” (Lev 6:7). The various offerings of the tabernacle and the altar all centre in and cluster round the cross. It is the soul that is here said to be the trespass-offering; implying that when the soul was parted from the body, when Christ commended His spirit to His Father, then the trespass-offering was completed. Atonement was made, once for all. Before the body of the Surety had reached the tomb, the great work was done. The lying in the grave was the visible and palpable sign or pledge of the work having been already finished. And resurrection was the Father’s seal from above set to the excellency of that completed sacrifice, and to the perfection of Him by Whom it had been accomplished on the cross.

We are never done with the cross nor ever shall be. Its wonders will be always new and always fraught with joy. The “Lamb as it had been slain” (Rev 5:6) will be the theme of our praise above. Why should such a name be given to Him in such a book as the Revelation, which in one sense carries us far past the cross, were it not that we shall always realize our connection with its one salvation; always be looking to it even in the midst of glory; and always learning from it some new lesson regarding the work of Him “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7)? What will they who here speak of themselves as being so advanced as to be done with the cross, say to being brought face to face with the Lamb that was slain, in the age of absolute perfection, the age of the heavenly glory?

5. Righteousness for the Unrighteous:
It is in righteousness and by righteousness that God saves the sinner.

He justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5), but He does it in and by righteousness, for “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness” (Psa 11:7). He “justifies freely by his grace” (Rom 3:24), but still it is in and by righteousness. His grace is righteous grace. It is grace that condemns the sin while acquitting the sinner—nay, that condemns the sin by means of that very thing that brings about the acquittal of the sinner. His pardon is righteous pardon, and therefore irreversible. His salvation is righteous salvation, and therefore everlasting.

Applying here the words of the prophet concerning Jerusalem, we may illustrate and extend the figure used by the Holy Spirit as to the “perfection” of him whom this righteousness covers. Spread out, it is as follows:

“I said to thee, Live” (Eze 16:6). “I spread my skirt over thee” (vs. 8). “I entered into a covenant with thee…thou becamest mine” (vs. 8). “I washed thee” (vs. 9). “I anointed thee” (vs. 9). “I clothed thee” (vs. 10). “I shod thee” (vs. 10). “I girded thee” (vs. 10). “I covered thee with silk” (vs. 10). “I decked thee with ornaments…a beautiful crown” (vs. 12). “Thou wast exceeding beautiful” (vs. 13). “Thy renown went forth for thy beauty” (vs. 14). 

Such, in the symbols of Scripture, is a picture of the perfection (not our own) with which we are clothed, so soon as we believe in Him Who is “Jehovah our righteousness.” “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee” (Song 4:7). “He that believeth is not condemned” (Joh 3:18). This is the negative side; and even were there no more for us, this would be blessedness, seeing our portion was by nature that of “children of wrath” (Eph 2:3). But there is more; for it is written, “All that believe are justified from all things” (Act 13:39); and, “Christ is the end (or fulfilling) of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom 10:4). “As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom 5:18).The strength or kind of faith required is nowhere stated. The Holy Spirit has said nothing as to quantity or quality, on which so many dwell, and over which they stumble, remaining all their days in darkness and uncertainty. It is simply in believing—feeble as our faith may be—that we are invested with this righteousness. For faith is no work, nor merit, nor effort, but the cessation from all these, and the acceptance in place of them of what Another has done—done completely, and forever. The simplest, feeblest faith suffices; for it is not the excellence of our act of faith that does aught for us, but the excellence of Him Who suffered for sin, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. His perfection suffices to cover not only that which is imperfect in our characters and lives, but that which is imperfect in our faith, when we believe on His name.

For then the divinely provided righteousness comes in to cover the unrighteous, and to enable God to receive him in love, and justify him before earth and heaven. In all this we find such things as the following, each of them bringing out a separate aspect of the answer to the great question, “How can man be just with God?” The Justifier—“It is God that justifieth” (Rom 8:33). The sentence of acquittal must come from His lips, and be registered in His books. The justified—Man the sinner, under wrath, the ungodly, the condemned. The justifying fact—The death of Him Whose name is Jehovah our righteousness. The justifying instrument—Faith. Not strong faith, or great faith, or perfect faith, but simply faith, or believing. We are “justified by faith” (Rom 5:1). The justifying medium—The righteousness of God. This is the “best robe” (Luk 15:22) that is prepared for the prodigal, by which he is clothed and beautified, and made fit to enter his Father’s house, and sit down at his Father’s table. Christ is Himself our justification. In Him we “stand” (Rom 5:2). In Him we are “found” (Phi 3:9). Him we “put on” (Gal 3:27), and with Him we are clothed. By Him we are protected as by a shield; in Him we take refuge as in a strong tower.

This righteousness is “reckoned” or “imputed” to all who believe; so that they are treated by God as if it were actually theirs. They are entitled to claim all that which such righteousness can merit from God, as the Judge of righteous claims. It does not become ours gradually, or in fragments or drops, but is transferred to us all at once. It is not that so much of it is reckoned to us (so much to account, as men in business say) in proportion to the strength of our faith, or the warmth of our love, or the fervour of our prayers, but the whole of it passes over to us by imputation. We are “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph 1:6). We are “complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Col 2:10). In its whole quality and quantity it is transferred to us.

This is the scriptural meaning of reckoning or imputing, both in the Old Testament and the New. Let us look at a few of these. Genesis 15:6—“He counted (imputed) it to him for righteousness.” That is, it was so reckoned to him, that in virtue of it he was treated as being what he was not. Genesis 31:15—“Are we not counted of him strangers?” Are we not treated by him as if we were strangers, not children?Leviticus 7:18—“Neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it.” The excellence of the peace-offering shall not be counted to him. Numbers 18:27—“Your heave-offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshing-floor.” It shall be accepted by God as if it were the whole harvest, and ye shall be treated by Him accordingly. 2 Samuel 19:19—“Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me, neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely.” Do not deal with me according to my iniquity. Psalm 32:2—“Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity,” to whom God does not reckon his iniquities, but treats him as if they were not (see also Psa 106:31). Romans 4:3—“It was counted unto him for righteousness.” Romans 4:5—“His faith is counted for righteousness.” That is, not as the righteousness, or as the substitution for it, but as bringing him into righteousness ( εις δικαιοσύνην ). Romans 4:6—“Unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” Romans 4:8—“Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Romans 4:11—“That righteousness might be imputed unto them also.” Romans 4:24—“To whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” 2 Corinthians 5:19—“Not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Galatians 3:6—“It was accounted to him for righteousness.”

…it remains true that the man who believes in Jesus Christ, from the moment that he so believes, not only receives divine absolution from all guilt, but is so made legally possessor of His infinite righteousness, that all to which that righteousness entitles becomes his, and he is henceforth treated by God according to the perfection of the perfect One, as if that perfection had been his own. “As he is, so are we [even] in this world ” (1Jo 4:17), that is, even now, in our state of imperfection, though men of unclean lips, and though dwelling among a people of unclean lips. As it is elsewhere written, “There is therefore now [even now] no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). Not only are we “delivered from the wrath to come” (1Th 1:10); not only shall we “not come into condemnation” (Joh 5:24); not only are we “justified from all things” (Act 13:39); but we are “made [literally, we ‘become,’ γινώμεθα ] the righteousness of God in him” (2Co 5:21).The transaction is not one of borrowing. The perfection made over to us is given, not lent, by God. It becomes ours in law, ours for all legal ends, ours as efficaciously as if it had been from first to last our very own in deed.

Our justification is the direct result of our believing the gospel; our knowledge of our own justification comes from believing God’s promise of justification to everyone who believes these glad tidings. For there is not only the divine testimony, but there is the promise annexed to it, assuring eternal life to everyone who receives that testimony. There is first, then, a believed gospel, and then there is a believed promise. The latter is the “appropriation,” as it is called, which, after all, is nothing but the acceptance of the promise that is everywhere coupled with the gospel message. The believed gospel saves; but it is the believed promise that assures us of this salvation.

God reckons the believing man as having done all righteousness, though he has not done any and though his faith is not righteousness. In this sense it is that faith is counted to us for, or in order to, righteousness, and that we are “justified by faith.” Faith does not justify as a work, or as a moral act, or a piece of goodness, nor as a gift of the Spirit, but simply because it is the bond between us and the Substitute—a very slender bond in one sense, but strong as iron in another. The work of Christ for us is the object of faith; the Spirit’s work in us is that which produces this faith. It is out of the former, not of the latter, that our peace and justification come. Without the touch of the rod the water would not have gushed forth; yet it was the rock, and not the rod, that contained the water.

The bringer of the sacrifice into the tabernacle was to lay his hand upon the head of the sheep or the bullock; otherwise the offering would not have been accepted for him. But the laying on of his hand was not the same as the victim on which it was laid. The serpent-bitten Israelite was to look at the uplifted serpent of brass in order to be healed. But his looking was not the brazen serpent. We may say it was his looking that healed him, just as the Lord said, “Thy faith hath saved thee” (Luk 7:50); but this is figurative language. It was not his act of looking that healed him, but the object to which he looked. So faith is not our righteousness. It merely knits us to the righteous One and makes us partakers of His righteousness.

…either our own or another’s. That which is imperfect cannot justify, and an imperfect faith could not in any sense be a righteousness. If it is to justify, it must be perfect. It must be like the Lamb, without blemish and without spot. An imperfect faith may connect us with the perfection of Another, but it cannot of itself do aught for us, either in protecting us from wrath or securing the divine acquittal. All faith here is imperfect; and our security is this, that it matters not how poor or weak our faith may be, if it touches the perfect One, all is well. The touch draws out the virtue that is in Him, and we are saved. The slightest imperfection in our faith, if faith were our righteousness, would be fatal to every hope.

Faith is the acknowledgment of the entire absence of all goodness in us, and the recognition of the cross as the substitute for all the want on our part. Faith saves because it owns the complete salvation of Another, and not because it contributes anything to that salvation. There is no dividing or sharing the work between our own belief and Him in Whom we believe. The whole work is His, not ours, from the first to last. Faith does not believe in itself, but in the Son of God. Like the beggar, it receives everything, but gives nothing. It consents to be a debtor forever to the free love of God. Its resting-place is the foundation laid in Zion. It rejoices in another, not in itself. Its song is, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Ti 3:5).

The doctrine of our being justified by an infused [61] resurrection-righteousness, or, as it is called, justification in a risen Christ,[62] is a clear subversion of the Surety’s work when He “died for our sins, according to the Scriptures,” or when He “washed us from our sins in his own blood,” or when He gave us the robes “washed…white in the blood of the Lamb” (1Co 15:3; Rev 1:5; 7:14). It is the blood that justifies (Rom 5:9). It is the blood that pacifies the conscience, purging it from dead works to serve the living God (Heb 9:14). It is the blood that emboldens us to enter through the veil into the holiest, and go up to the sprinkled mercy-seat. It is the blood that we are to drink for the quenching of our thirst (Joh 6:55). It is the blood by which we have peace with God (Col 1:20). It is the blood through which we have redemption (Eph 1:7), and by which we are brought nigh (Eph 2:13), by which we are sanctified (Heb 13:12). It is the blood that is the seal of the everlasting covenant (Heb 13:20). It is the blood that cleanses (1Jo 1:7), that gives us victory (Rev 12:11), and with which we have communion in the Supper of the Lord (1Co 10:16). It is the blood that is the purchase money or ransom of the Church of God (Act 20:28).

Such are the Popish arguments against assurance, and the conclusion to which the Council of Trent came was: “If any man shall say that justifying faith is confidence in the mercy of God, Who remitteth sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is by such confidence alone that we are justified, let him be accursed.” Old John Foxe (c.1516-1587), who three hundred years ago wrote the history of the martyrs, remarks concerning the Pope’s Church that it “left the poor consciences of men in perpetual doubt” (Vol. 1, p. 78). This is a true saying.

Let us then assail Luther, and leave Paul alone. Now Luther has said such things as the following:
1. Faith without works is sufficient to salvation, and alone doth justify.
2. Justifying faith is a sure trust, by which one believeth that his sins are remitted for Christ’s sake; and they that are justified are to believe certainly that their sins are remitted.
3. By faith only we are able to appear before God, Who neither regardeth nor hath need of our works; faith only purifying us.
4. No previous disposition is necessary to justification; neither doth faith justify because it disposeth us, but because it is a means or instrument by which the promise and grace of God are laid hold on and received.
5. All the works of men, even the most sanctified, are sin.
6. Though the just ought to believe that his works are sins, yet he ought to be assured that they are not imputed.
7. Our righteousness is nothing but the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; and the just have need of a continual justification and imputation of the righteousness of Christ.
8. All the justified are received into equal grace and glory; and all Christians are equally great (with the Mother of God, and as much saints as she.)

“Christ crucified” (1Co 1:23) is the burden of the message that God has sent to man. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1Co 15:3). The reception of this gospel is eternal life; the non-reception or rejection of it is everlasting death. “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1Jo 5:11). The belief of the gospel saves; the belief of the promise annexed to that gospel makes us sure of this salvation personally. It is not the belief of our belief that assures us of pardon, and gives us a good conscience towards God, but our belief of what God has promised to everyone who believes His gospel—that is eternal life. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Act 16:31).

Many are the efforts and appliances to obtain peace. Man’s whole life is filled up with these. His daily cry is, “Give me peace!” He tries to get it in such ways as the following:

1. By forgetting God. It is the remembrance of God that troubles a sinner. He could get over many of his disquietudes if he could keep God at a distance. He tries to thrust Him out of his thoughts, his heart, his mind, his conscience. Though he could succeed, what would it avail? He would only bring himself more surely into the number of those who shall be “turned into hell”; for they are they who “forget God” (Psa 9:17). What will forgetting God do for a soul? What will it avail to thrust Him out of our thoughts?

2. By following the world. The heart must be filled by someone or in some way. Man betakes himself to the world, as that which is most congenial, and most likely to satisfy his cravings. Pleasure, gaiety, business, folly, change, gold, friends—these man tries, but in vain. Peace comes not.

3. By working hard and denying self. The dispeace of a troubled conscience comes from the thought of evil deeds done, or good deeds left undone. This dispeace he tries to remove by trying to shake off the evil that is in him, and to introduce the good that is not in him. But the hard labour is fruitless. It does not pacify the conscience or assure him of pardon, without which there can be no peace.

4. By being very religious. He does not know that true religion is the fruit or result of peace found, not the way to it, or the price paid for it. He may be on his knees from morn to night, and may make long fastings and vigils, or prosecute his devotional performances till body and soul are worn out; but all will not do. Peace is as far off as ever.He wants peace; but he takes his own way of getting it, not God’s. He thinks there is a resting-place; but he overlooks the free love that said, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” [72] The peace of the cross, what is it? What does it do for us?

But there is more than this. We are justified that we may be holy. The possession of this legal righteousness is the beginning of a holy life. We do not live a holy life in order to be justified, but we are justified that we may live a holy life. That which man calls holiness may be found in almost any circumstances: of dread, or darkness, or bondage, or self-righteous toil and suffering. But that which God calls holiness can only be developed under conditions of liberty and light, and pardon and peace with God. Forgiveness is the mainspring of holiness. Love, as a motive, is far stronger than Law, far more influential than fear of wrath or peril of hell. Terror may make a man crouch like a slave and obey a hard master, lest a worse thing come upon him; but only a sense of forgiving love can bring either heart or conscience into that state in which obedience is either pleasant to the soul or acceptable to God.

False ideas of holiness are common, not only among those who profess false religions, but among those who profess the true. For holiness is a thing of which man by nature has no more idea than a blind man has of the beauty of a flower or the light of the sun. All false religions have had their “holy men,” whose holiness often consisted merely in the amount of pain they could inflict upon their bodies, or of food that they could abstain from, or of hard labour that they could undergo. But with God, a saint or holy man is a very different being. It is in filial, full-hearted love to God that much of true holiness consists. And this cannot even begin to be until the sinner has found forgiveness and tasted liberty, and has confidence towards God.

We are bought with a price, that we may be new creatures in Christ Jesus. We are forgiven that we may be like Him Who forgives us. We are set at liberty and brought out of prison that we may be holy. The free, boundless love of God, pouring itself into us, expands and elevates our whole being; and we serve Him, not in order to win His favour, but because we have already won it in simply believing His record concerning His Son. If the root is holy, so are the branches. We have become connected with the holy Root, and by the necessity of this connection are made holy too.

Condemnation makes sin strike its roots deeper and deeper. No amount of terror can extirpate evil. No fear of wrath can make us holy. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favour can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin and withers all its branches. The “no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” is the only effectual remedy for the deadly disease of an alienated heart and stubborn will.

“By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb 10:14); so that the perfection of His saints, both as to the conscience and as to personal holiness, is connected with the one offering, and springs out of the one work finished upon Calvary. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). Here again the sanctification is connected with the offering of the body of Christ. Whatever place “the power of His resurrection” may hold in our spiritual history, it is the cross that is the source of all that varied fullness by which we are justified and purified. The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety, and his daily intercourse with a crucified and risen Lord.




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