Hints on the Gospel of God.
I.— THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF THE GOSPEL.
THESE lines are addressed to workers for God in His gospel. Whether preachers, teachers, or visitors, we are all workers, and are entrusted in our degree, as stewards, with the truth in order that we may communicate it to others. As we can only give what we personally have, it is most important that we have a sound understanding of the gospel. God has made His truth the power, workers are to use for Him, and it has "pleased God by the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe" (I Cor. i. 21). Hence, it is our duty to seek the teaching of His Holy Spirit, that we may better know what "the preaching" the subject matter of the gospel preached—really is.
In the hints about to be offered, first there presses upon us the solemn reality of enforcing upon our own hearts—the unchangeableness of the Gospel of God.
The Gospel of God was given to the apostle "by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. i. 12). It is not the gospel of a church, or school of thought, but the good news of God Himself to men. Its subject matter is "concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord " (Rom. i. 3), and all men are bound to obey it (verse 5). In it, God declares His righteousness (vs. 17), and it is God's own power to the salvation of every human being who believes it (vs. 16).
As we realize these things, we understand the reason for the awful denunciation upon such as preach any other gospel than it. "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you," said Paul the Apostle to the Galatian churches, " than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. i. 8). It is traitorship to God to declare as His good news any other than His truth, and every worker for God in His gospel is therefore under the most solemn obligation to God, faithfully and loyally to make His good news known, and not to distribute, or ally himself with the distribution of a gospel different from God's. Divine Truth and Divine Authority are not regarded in our day as they should be, and the force of the apostolic—"Let him be accursed" may be nearer to our doors than we expect. However the Gospel of God is specific and definite.
Such is it in itself, and what it is, the revelation of God teaches. We, as exponents of it, may be feeble and immature, and yet in heart be loyal to it. Still, we should seek according to our measure to be well acquainted with it, and in declaring it, we should act on the principle that whatever we do for God should be done to the best of our powers. Hence, we should study God's Word, and pray that the Holy Spirit may be indeed our Guide and Teacher.
There are certain parts of the New Testament which are chiefly devoted to the unfolding of the gospel. For example, its broad outline is laid down in the first eight chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. By reading these chapters straight through again and again, in dependence upon God, we gain a good insight into it.
Chapters three to five, inclusive of the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians should also be earnestly read. We suggest not lingering over a difficult verse so much as seeking to gain the sense of the whole passage.
In like manner, the whole of the Epistle to the Galatians should be studied. It is a controversial epistle, and we all need to be well versed in the matter of the controversy, which caused the early churches of Galatia to forsake their obedience to the truth (v. 7). Also, we learn by the epistle that God's way of meeting error is for His servants to announce and enforce the truth attacked. The three portions mentioned give a comprehensive view of the Gospel of God.
In the Epistle to the Romans, the guilt of man is proved first (read to end of verse 19, chapter iii.); then to man guilty, the righteousness of God is displayed, in God justifying the ungodly through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (read to end of chapter iii.). God further shows that His way of old, ever was to justify the sinner who believes Him; and that His present way is to justify those who believe, and who, as a consequence, have peace with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ. And not only have they peace, but they also joy in God (read chapter iv. and to verse 11 of chapter v.). If we can declare the message on these lines, how we should thank God for the privilege every time we do so! Perhaps, after our work is over for the day, we feel we have done very badly and made mistakes, perhaps we are consciously very stupid, or we are weary; still, never let us omit to fall upon our knees and to bless God for allowing us to tell out His gospel.
We do not enlarge on the gospel in the Epistle to the Romans but give a hint on the chapters selected in the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians. In some respects, these are more difficult than those in the Epistle to the Romans. The intrinsic glory of the gospel (read chapter iii. verses 7 to 16, and chapter iv. verses 3 to 7 inclusive) is divinely set forth in this part of the epistle. It is a great power in the worker when the glory of the gospel fills his soul. Also, the glorying of the worker in the gospel is finely shown in verses 14 to 17 of chapter ii. Paul the prisoner was really Paul the triumphant. Man might load him with chains; God led him as a conqueror through the world. To the Romans Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel" (Rom. i. 16), neither is any one ashamed of it who knows that it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes. We require not only to understand the gospel; we need to be filled with its glory if we would be effective workers in it.
A hint on the gospel as set forth in the epistle to the churches of Galatia shall conclude this paper. The epistle is largely controversial, as has been observed. Suppose we take the standpoint occupied by St. Paul when he wrote it. First, he would exalt God's gospel in the churches at the expense, if necessary, of putting down the greatest of men (see chapter i. verses 5, 7, 8; ii. 4 to 14; iv. 16; vi. 12 to 14). Next, he would deliver the churches to whom he wrote from the shame and misery of the false gospel they were receiving (see chapter iii. 1 to 4; iv. 9 to 11, 20; v. 1 to 7). In many parts of our country at the present time , this controversial epistle is most deeply necessary. Let us seek the yearning spirit of the apostle, so that we may really help the people of God entangled by the doctrine of justification by works. To rebuke a St. Peter, a man must be a St. Paul; but to help an entangled saint of God, a man need be no more than a child who unties a knot the strong man cannot reach. We require a tender and a loving spirit in order to help God's people, and if our controversy is based upon the glory of God and love to His people, we may hope it will be gracious. Harsh and bitter denunciations do not win men's hearts. Of necessity, the knife of the surgeon inflicts pain; but the spiritual surgeon in the church of God should resemble those doctors whose hands are skillful and firm, while their hearts are tender and gentle.
II.— TO WHOM IS THE GOSPEL ADDRESSED: HOW IS IT TO BE RECEIVED?
The good news of God is addressed to all men (Titus ii. 11). Our Lord expressly bade His Apostles go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark xvi. 15). Now, "no distinction" is allowed by God amongst men, as was formerly the case between Jew and Gentile (Rom. iii. 23; x. 12, R.V.), and His grace flows forth freely to all. "Whosoever believes on Him, shall not be put to shame" (vs. 11). "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (vs. 13). "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God" (1 John v. 1).
The breadth of the range of the Gospel brings hope to every sinner of every land, none are excluded, all are welcomed; yet it also imposes upon every soul who hears it, the most solemn responsibility. "All men everywhere are commanded by God to repent" (Acts xviii. 30), and not to obey the gracious message is to court everlasting doom: "He that obeyeth not the Son, shall not see life" (John iii. 36, R.V.).
With such favours and responsibilities before us, we ask, How is the Gospel of God to be received?
We select three Divine statements to assist us in answering this important question— the Gospel is to be received by us as sinners.
Not as righteous, not as religious, not as better than others: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. iii. 23), and "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (vs. 8). Against this gracious, yet humbling truth, our natural pride rebels. There is a large amount of the Pharisee in us (see Luke xv. 1; xix. 7), and the worker in the Gospel finds a Pharisee in many to whom he tells the way of salvation, and to whom the Word is unwelcome—the Gospel is to be received by us as lost sinners.
Not as reformed and improved persons, but as lost sinners. "The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke xix. 10). The sheep the shepherd found was lost, the piece of silver the woman found was lost, the son the father received was lost, and the songs of the father's house were over the lost found (Luke xv.). The fact of the sinner being lost is not only ignored but refused by a very considerable amount of teaching in Christendom. Instead of his being lost, the baptized professing Christian is given to understand that he is in a condition which, by observance of religious duties, will end in salvation. But the Scriptures cannot be broken—we are lost and need saving—The Gospel is to be received by us not only as sinners who are lost, but as guilty before God.
When a man believes he is guilty, if he is honest, he ceases to excuse himself, he accepts the truth about himself; he submits. The religious portion of the world in Apostolic days, the Jews, had this sad record against them: "Being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God" (Rom. x. 3); and as it was with Israel, so also is it in Christendom—a vast number of religious people do not submit themselves to the witness of the Cross of Christ. His death proves our true state before the righteous God. If we could relieve ourselves, why then did Christ die for us? "If righteousness come by law (by man's efforts), then Christ is dead in vain" (Gal. xi. 21).
Another very important truth has to concern us. Not only what we have done is discovered to us by the Gospel, but also what we are. We do what we do because we are what we are. This may be considered as the second part of the Gospel. And God has declared, we are all dead in trespasses and sins, in ourselves, and that our works are the consequence of our state (Eph. ii. 1, 2).
Salvation is provided for the lost sinner, justification for the guilty by the Gospel, and life eternal in Christ is provided for us as we are, dead in our sins by our same gracious God.
It is well for the worker in the Gospel first to deal with his hearer concerning what he has done, for by bringing home to the conscience the evil of a man's doings, he is aroused before God. The second part of the Gospel, as we may term it, which deals with our state, is more suited in moral order for believers in God's Word.
III.— THE ATONEMENT.
"Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do Thy will, O God."—Heb. x. 7.
It is impossible for the genuine worker in the Gospel to disconnect the message from the hearers of the message, and, more solemn still, it is impossible for him to disconnect the message from his God who sends it. The worker is a messenger from God to men. How vital, then, is the importance of his being a faithful messenger, delivering the very message God would have him deliver.
In our day, there is a great need for plain and elementary testimony respecting the foundation truths of the Gospel. England is being rapidly leavened by a system of religious teaching which really makes light of the Atonement, and which rejects the truth of justification.
Our present paper will be occupied with some hints respecting the Atonement. And, first, we earnestly beg of our readers who are working for God, to carefully and prayerfully read for themselves in Old Testament and New, what is recorded concerning atonement. Anyway, pray let them read the book of Leviticus and—note down every verse in it wherein the word Atonement occurs, and then let them do the same with the Epistles to the Romans and the Hebrews, including the word propitiation in the exercise. It is far better to go through the Scripture without a concordance and to write down the verses; such effort impresses the passages upon the mind and assists in grasping the subject; while the short cut of a concordance for such an object as that in view, may produce merely a mechanical result.
Atonement is of accepted importance between man and man. There are differing views in different countries as to what right and wrong are, and in some, the laws take a very low standard, and gross wrongs are regarded as light offences. Still, in most countries, if a wrong has been committed, satisfaction has to be made. When we speak of God and of atonement, it is evident that His righteous demands are absolutely pure and perfect, and further, that they are the result of what He is, and more, that no manner of variation in them can exist. When we visit a foreign land, of necessity we subject ourselves to its laws. When we are in the presence of God, we are under His authority and law, and must yield Him obedience. From this position, the contrite heart does not wish to escape from it, in fact, no one can escape.
Let us look at one Scripture upon our subject: "Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth a propitiation (Propitiatory: Mercy-Seat) through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past (because of the passing over of sins done before) through the forbearance of God; to declare at this time, His righteousness, that He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. iii. 25, 26).
We can see how a nation, by its laws, respecting right and wrong, sets forth its righteousness publicly and before the world and God, by His Propitiatory—Jesus Christ, declares to His creatures what is His righteousness towards sinful men. God's own character is thus associated with the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the worker in the Gospel, as he truly or falsely speaks of the Atonement, honours or dishonours the character of God.
What subject can be more important to a sinful man than the righteousness of God, before whose judgment he must one day stand? The importance of mere outward religion withers up in view of the eternal nature of God. Very frequently, a man's outward religion is the product of the life and history of his nation, but what are the nations in view of the unchangeable being of God?
God declares His righteousness! Who can measure the importance of this fact? Yet, where in Christendom is the fact so much as referred to? Certainly, only where the Gospel of God is the life and energy of God's servants—How does God declare His Righteousness?
First, in reference to His people whose sins He passed by prior to Christ's death. Second, in reference to His people whom He now justifies. God righteously passed over sins before Christ's death, because His Son was about to make full satisfaction by His own blood for such sins; and since this satisfaction has been made, since atonement has been effected, God righteously justifies men. The past and present way of Divine dealing with sinners is based upon the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This truth at once disposes of human pretension to merit Divine favour, to obtain by righteousness, a place of honour before God; it shuts us up to God Himself, and to the work on the Cross our Lord has accomplished for God's glory and for our salvation. Religious training, sacramental benefits, spiritual advantage, not to speak of nineteenth century improvement, do not stand in here for a moment; our righteousness is not in question, but God's righteousness.
IV. — THE ATONEMENT. (continued)
For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."—Heb. x. 14.
. . . When we venture to speak of the Atonement, we can only say, "Who is sufficient for these things" (2 Cor. ii. 16), but still, we may offer some hints to our fellow-workers that may be of practical use. In our last paper, we sought to show chiefly, that the righteousness of God, declared through the Atonement of His Son, removed every hope from the human breast of gaining Divine favour by good works, and left no vestige of encouragement for a vain expectation that we might rise up into a righteousness satisfactory to God and to His glory by our own strength. The greatness of the blessing that awaits man through the Atonement, will occupy us on the present occasion.
God has dealt with sinful man in righteousness on various occasions in the world's history. God swept away the old world with a flood because of human sin; God, likewise, but by fire, destroyed the cities of the plain; and when God brought Israel out of Egypt, He proclaimed to them at Sinai, His righteous requirements at their hands. Then Israel trembled and removed from God as far as it was possible for them to do. The "fiery law" did not attract sinful man to the righteous Jehovah, neither was it intended to do so. The law was not given in order that man thereby might attain life (Gal. iii. 22). "It was added because of transgressions" (v. 19); it was the great teacher of man that he was a sinner. "I had not known sin, but by the law " (Rom. vii. 7).
But God not only dealt in righteousness with man in exposing his sins to him—God made most graciously a way by sacrifice for man to Himself, wherein man's sin could be atoned for and himself accepted. Thus, in the record of the offerings in Leviticus (chapter 1), the word "atonement" occurs again and again, while in the record of the services of the Great Day of Atonement (xvi.), by the blood of the sin-offering, brought into God's holy presence and sprinkled upon and before the Propitiatory (the Mercy-Seat), He made a way (as it were) for Himself to come forth in His holiness and righteousness and to bless man through His high priest. The sacrifice, the priest, the mercy-seat, on that day foreshadowed the glory of the Christ as sacrifice and priest, and the atonement made in the very holy presence of God on account of sin.
Keeping this great figure before us, we better enter into the inspired words, "Jesus Christ . . . a propitiation (or propitiatory, mercy-seat) through faith in His blood." God has set forth in His Gospel, His own Son, a mercy-seat for sinful man, to whom all may approach and by whom all may find pardon and peace. "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the whole world" (1 John ii. 2). God is magnified so richly by the Atonement of His Son that—all the world may come and find pardon and reconciliation.
God has made the way for Himself to man—the way being the blood of His own beloved Son. "Without shedding of blood, is no remission" (Heb. ix. 22). Whoever treads that pathway which God has made (Lev. xvi.), whoever trusts in the blood of the Atonement, God justifies for all things.
God gave to Israel the blood upon the altar for the atonement of their souls (Lev. xvi. 11), and God has made peace through the blood of the Cross of His Son (Col. i. 19). God has limited this shedding of the blood to the altar, to the Cross—the blood once shed and never more to be shed—the life of the blessed Sacrifice once given, and never to be given again. It is profanity to even suggest that Christ can die again. "Christ . . . dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him" (Rom. vi. 9). He died "once for all" (Heb. x. 10). He suffered once (ix. 26), and since He has died and put away the sins of His people, "there is no more offering for sin" (Heb. x. 18), an offering for sin being impossible when sins are put away.
Let the worker in the Gospel fill his mind and heart with these Divine realities, and he will with no hesitating voice tell out the story of the Cross. The glory of the Gospel will fill his soul, and that will be power in his declaration of it—the Gospel in its unchangeableness will be his strength at all times, and in controversy, he will yield, no, not one jot or tittle of it to tradition's charm or to nineteenth century assertion.
Most earnestly should every worker in the Gospel proclaim the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ with no uncertain sound. If a united voice to its glory arose from the thousands of Gospel workers our land possesses, a great work would be done thereby to stay the flow of such evil doctrines as surround the "mass." "Preach the Word" (2 Tim. iv. 2) is the Divine remedy for evil doctrines. Christ's blood shed upon the Cross making peace, and a bloodless sacrifice upon an altar, can never be made to agree. Christ offering up of Himself once for all, and priests offering up their Christ, can never be made to agree. Christ's suffering for sin in His sacrifice, and a non-suffering sacrifice, can never be made to agree.
God sets forth Jesus Christ His Son, a Mercy-Seat for sinners. Re-echo God's words. No other Saviour than Jesus Christ. No other mercy-seat than He. And God sets Him forth to man through faith in His blood. Every religious person believes something; we have to insist that our hearers believe God. God says to man "through faith in His (Christ's) blood." Israel of old saw the sacrificial blood upon the altar—saw the high priest go into the Tabernacle with the sacrificial blood; we are called to believe, not to see. We are bidden believe in what Christ has done to the glory of God, and our joy is to make the blessed reality known. "I believe, therefore have I spoken " (2 Cor. iv. 13), is the spirit of a genuine Gospel worker.
The hour produces its own religious agitation, and very much of this would fall into its due position if the great question, How does God declare His righteousness? had its true place in the heart. The worker in the Gospel does well to keep broad principles ever before his mind. He certainly should ever have present, man's lost and guilty state, and the glory of the Atonement of our Lord, as God Himself sets it forth for man's blessing. He should seek to so announce the Gospel that his hearer is brought face to face with God.
"That He might be just, and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus."—Rom. iii. 26.
Men naturally hate injustice, and they despise unfair laws. Legalized injustice—such as exists in certain countries—is the evidence of the low moral state of such lands and their rulers. When we consider the justice of God, His own character and being as the Righteous One is before us, and His throne of Divine majesty fills our view. All created beings, in whom exist the sense of right and wrong, will eventually witness before His judgment throne, His absolute righteousness, whether in the justification or the condemnation that follows the sentence. And as every human being—must stand before the Judgment Throne and give account of himself to God, the contemplation of Divine justification is of the deepest importance to all.
One brief statement of Scripture assists considerably in approaching the matter; it is this: "It is God that justifieth" (Rom. viii. 33). How these two words, "God . . . justifies," revolutionize our religious thoughts! We are at once face to face with the eternal "God the Judge of all" (Heb. xii. 23), and the traditions of men, the bent of thought of our times, the religious authorities of the day, fall into their place of insignificance—"God . . . justifies!" Not human beings, however important; not angels, however mighty; no, God Himself justifies.
Job, centuries ago, asked the great question: “How can a man be just with God?” (Job ix. 2.) It is a question which each human being may well put for himself, and he may wisely substitute for "a man," "I," and make the question intensely personal—"How can I be just With God?"
Every form of religion in which lingers any right thought of a Supreme Being who takes account of the good and evil done by the children of men, contains in it some notion of justification, and its followers, with greater or smaller energy, seek to fit themselves, or to be made fit, for the presence of the God whom they recognize as holy. In all forms of Christianity, men, whose consciences are in any degree alive to God's holiness, seek to become holy, or to be fit for the Divine presence; and where there is no effort of this kind, spiritual death in its unbroken silence prevails. Now, if the two mighty words, "God . . . justifies," hold their place in the soul of the seeker after holiness, of necessity, the very first inquiry must be, What are God's ways in reference to justification—How does God justify?
The Scripture teaches us that God justifies according to absolute justice, the justice being according to the Divine standard of righteousness. As believers that "God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (I John i. 5), we can allow no thought inferior to this. The highest example of God's perfect righteousness is the Cross of His Beloved Son, and the forsaking of Him by God when Jesus was made sin for us.
In the ever-gracious exposition of God's love expressed by the Lord, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John iii. 16), He said of Himself, "The Son of Man must be lifted up" (verse 14). He had come in His own love and by the love of God His Father to this world to save sinners; and having come, it was a necessity—a gracious but Divine necessity—that He should die on behalf of those He had come to save.
Love Divine moved God to give His Son to save man; Light Divine required that the blessed Love-Gift should satisfy the requirements of Divine Righteousness, and therefore die in the stead of those who deserved to die. And He has died and risen again; He has been delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification (Rom. iv. 25). The mighty and eternal work is complete, and by virtue of this His work, God can "be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. iii. 26).
It is easy to understand how a man unable to pay a debt can be justified by the law of the land for the penalty of its non-payment by another stepping in, taking upon himself the burden of the debt, and discharging it. In such a case, the righteous requirements of the law of the land would be fully met, on the one hand; and the debtor, by the grace of his friend, would go free, on the other. Both righteousness and grace would be apparent in the incident. The illustration applied to the subject before us is very feeble, but it may be accepted as a hint of the way in which righteousness and mercy meet each other.
VI.— JUSTIFICATION. (continued)
"By the deeds of the law (or law) there shall no flesh be justified in His sight."—Rom. iii. 26.
In the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, Love and Light, Grace and Righteousness, combine. In the Gospel of God, they co-exist, and will do so for ever. Now what does God require of the sinner whom He justifies?
The application of a truth to the individual is usually a more difficult undertaking than the statement of it. In the grace of God, a very considerable part of His Word which treats on Justification is devoted to showing what He requires of those whom He justifies. We can but feel how good God is so to address us. He has been precise and careful—we speak with reverence—to meet every natural difficulty our hearts may raise on this, to us, all important matter. And all important it is, for since—It is "God who justifieth;" if He does not justify us, we must remain for ever guilty and condemned sinners. God shows us what He requires of us; God shows us what He will not accept from us; and while making His way so plain that a "wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein "Isa. xxxv. 8), He leaves us no excuse and no escape if we do not obey His directions.
In all religions, faith is demanded from the professor. In civilized life, faith is required in ten thousand things—from the acceptance of the credit of the government to the acceptance of a piece of paper in a tramcar for the penny fare given in its stead. Man, in every circumstance and detail of his life, is a creature whose necessities of existence require faith. Yet while this is so, when—God demands faith in Himself, man objects, and cries out, "This is unreasonable." There is no objection among the multitudes of the religious world to faith in the voice of the Church, to faith in a man whom the Church has declared to be infallible, to faith in the most unreasonable of requirements which history and fact demonstrate to be utterly false—to such faith, there is often no objection taken, but when God demands of men faith in His Word, and in the reasonableness of His requirements, then there is an outcry, and such faith is termed fanaticism!
How all sacerdotalism hates the truth that God justifies those who believe His Word, yet, with true human inconsistency, sacerdotalism demands unreasoning faith in its own most unreasonable statements, that is in its word.
Why, then, is this? If we believe in the credit and promise of a government, we do so because we believe the government. If we believe that our tramcar ticket will avail us for our journey, we do so, because we believe in the company which runs the cars and appoints its servants. If we do not believe what God bids us, the plain reason is, we do not believe God, and this is the root evil and sin that lies in the way and renders the unbelieving ignorant of the way of Peace.
We have given various texts in our papers, showing the goodness and care of God in leaving no question of ours unanswered on the principle of His way of justification. We have already observed that God, in His goodness, gives full and explicit instructions to man—regarding His way of justifying sinners, and also of His requirements from the sinner who would be justified by Him.
Of the time prior to the giving of the law, it is written, "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, "In thee shall all nations be blessed" (Gal. iii. 8), which promise is expressly referred to Christ, for "To Abraham and his Seed were the promises made," the Seed being "Christ" (v. 16). Thus, men were shut up by God in the days of old to Christ for blessing and justification, and so it is to-day, in and through Christ we are justified by God.
VII.— JUSTIFICATION. (concluded)
"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made."—Gal. iii. 16.
"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith."—Rom. iii. 27.
The faithful, before Christ came, believed God's promise, and looked forward to the Coming One; the faithful, since Christ's coming, believe God's fulfilled promise, and rejoice in the work that He who has come has accomplished. On the other hand, religious man, both before and after Christ's advent, has looked to his own efforts and to the assistance of his own religion to obtain justification. Such being the case, let us strengthen ourselves against human pretension and our own natural self-confidence by setting out some few words of Scripture on the matter.
First, let us take the words of God upon that which is—not the way of Peace.
"By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast" (Eph. ii. 8, 9). "NOT BY WORKS of righteousness WHICH WE HAVE DONE, but according to His mercy He saved us " (Titus iii. 5). By such declarations, God shuts up the road of works; He digs a deep trench across it, and if, in spite of this, man will attempt to reach God thereby, he does so in defiance of God.
Now let us take the words of God upon that which is— the way of Peace (iii. 7).
"To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (iv. 5).
Perhaps a general assent may be offered to the two broad statements here made, and a sort of agreement—at least in letter—may be made respecting them, while in fact the attempt of the soul will be to combine both; that is to do one's best, and also to trust in what Christ has done for justification. God meets this most common evil. He plainly tells us that there is—no combining the way of Peace with that which is not the way of Peace, for "if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace" (xi. 6); also "The law is not of faith, but the man that doeth them shall live in them" (Gal. iii. 10).
We have before us "The way of Peace," which is faith in God, and "The way of works," which is faith in man—two ways, and the Divine statement that it is impossible to make the two roads one.
God gives us one reason why we are prone to take "The way of works." It is our natural pride of heart, and such as are "going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God " (Rom. x. 3).
Those who shall stand justified before God, will for ever boast in Christ and God's grace, for "of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us, wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption, that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Cor. i. 30, 31).
“The Springing Well” 1899