The Moral Law not Injured by the Everlasting Gospel

NPG D16262, William Huntington

Quot. Now I dare venture to say, that some of you expect, from this text, that I should give you the following interpretation of it: That since the Scribes and Pharisees made a great bustle about righteousness, that the righteousness here meant is the righteousness of Christ. But that is not the meaning of this text. Are you alarmed at it? No; the text don’t relate to justification, but-to sanctification.

Answ. I think my brother Rowland is entirely wrong here; and that he does contradict the Saviour himself, who, in this text, shews the need of what he had said before. The Lord had, in a preceding verse, blessed them that did hunger and thirst after righteousness, and said they should be filled: and then goes on to tell them, that he came to fulfil the law. Which fulfilling obedience of his was to fill them that hungered and thirsted after righteousness. And without this excellent obedience of his being imputed to them, which exceeds all the obedience of the Scribes and Pharisees, they could in no sense be filled, nor in any case enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is righteousness, sir, that gives us a right and title to the kingdom; and it is sanctification that gives us a meetness for it. Righteousness, and not sanctification, is what the text means.

Quot. There is a meaning in these words, and it must be a solemn one: “Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And now I will be bold to say, that the righteousness of Christ, here mentioned, is this: that when the Pharisees thought they should be justified by an external righteousness of their own performance, our Lord gives them to understand, that a man will never enter into the kingdom of heaven, that does not talk of being justified by it. But he will never go to heaven, he will never be in a kingdom of grace in time, he will never be in glory to eternity; unless in his personal state, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, he is made more righteous than a Scribe or a Pharisee, inwardly, and experimentally, and internally. That is the meaning of my text.

Answ. I must confess, reverend and dear sir, that I do not understand this. You here call it the righteousness of Christ mentioned. Before, you said, that it was not Christ’s righteousness meant in the text, &c. It is justification that brings a man into a state of grace, and it is the same that gives a man a title to heaven: The righteous nation, that keepeth the truth, shall enter in. “Whom God justifies, them he glorifies.” This act of justifying includes sanctification, both by the blood of Christ and by the Spirit of God, for it is always accompanied with it. It is the Spirit that works faith in the heart to believe; it is the Spirit that applies the atonement; it is the Spirit that takes the righteousness of Christ, and shews it to us, and reveals it in us, and bears his soul-satisfying witness to the glorious work: “We are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” The righteousness of faith, and the testimony of the Spirit, always go together: “He that believes hath the witness in himself.”

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