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THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE LAW, AND THAT BY
PHILIP. iii. 9.
And be found in him, not having mine own righteous
ness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
TẢESE words lead our thoughts forward to a most awful and interesting period, when small and great must stand before God; when there will be a general and severe scrutiny into every person's character and conduct, before the Judge of all the earth, who will assuredly do right, and render to every man according to his deeds—“to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God.”
I said, a period awful and interesting : and so indeed it is ;-“for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.” Every individual of this assembly will make a part of the general and grand assembly of that day: the greatest will not be excused, nor will the meanest be overlooked.
All must appear, to "give an account of the deeds done in the body;" when God will bring every work into judgment, and every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil: when those things which we did so secretly that no eye saw us, shall be published to the whole world ; when those words which we whispered in the closet, shall be proclaimed upon the house-top ; and even the secrets of our hearts, which we never ventured to trust our tongues with -when, I say, the secrets of our hearts shall be made manifest. - Where is the man that does not blush, where is the heart that does not tremble, at the thought of being thus exposed ? It is the day of general judgment. It concerns not this or the other person only; it concerns us all. Our own characters will be questioned, and our own conduct examined'; which will leave us little leisure, and less inclination, to canvass the characters and censure the conduct of others.
Since these things are so of a truth : since it is not more certain that we are now sitting together in this house, than that we shall stand together at God's righteous tribunal; since the events of that day are decisive, and the sentence that will then be pronounced will determine our state for eternity; and since we know not how soon some of Death's gloomy messengers may be sent to summon us thither : -all these things considered, it is impossible not to inquire, and to inquire too with some degree of solicitude and concern, “ Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, or bow myself before the most high God ?” In what condition shall I be found at
that infinitely important day? When God enters into judgment with me, what have I to say for myself? Is my defence ready, and is it good, Will it bear examination--the examination of God, who cannot be deceived, and will not be mocked ; who will see through all disguises in a moment, and abhor the wretch that dares to use them ?--Important, confessedly important, as the inquiry. is, yet, so deeply are we engaged in the pursuit of worldly profits, or worldly pleasures, that there are few things less thought of or regarded. Let us therefore gladly seize the opportunity which is now afforded us, to inquire into our present state, and to lay up for ourselves “a good foundation against the time to come.”
The Apostle, in the beginning of this chapter, sets himself to oppose those who, while they affected to be zealous advocates for the law, acted in direct opposition both to the letter and spirit of it; who had confidence in the flesh, and, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish a righteousness of their own, would not submit themselves to the righteousness of God. He reckons up a long catalogue of honorary titles, to let them see that in all those outward accomplishments and advantages he was not inferior to the best of them; and then tells them, that, as to his acceptance with God, he counted them as nothing better than dross or dung. And it would have been happy if those mistaken zealots had been confined to the Apostle's days ; 'but there have been some in all ages of the church, who have depended more on others' holiness than their own; and boasted more of their relation to the church, than their relation to Christ.
If you will give me leave, therefore, before we enter upon the particular.consideration of the subject before us, I would briefly descant upon each of those things which the Apostle once counted
gain," but was afterwards induced to count as " loss, for Christ."
Circumcised the eighth day (according to the exactest institution of Moses) ;--of the stock of Israel (God's chosen people) ;- of the tribe of Benjamin (which intimates, not only the 'certainty of his being a Jew, but also that he was not a son of the bondwoman) ;-an Hebrew of the Hebrews (both his parents were descendants of Abraham).-And yet, all these privileges of his birth he utterly disclaimed, and accounted both their merits and his own abso. lutely worthless and despicable, as to any service they could do him in respect to his acceptance with God. To descend from an ancient and honourable family is undoubtedly a privilege, if we inherit their vir. tues : but, let our pedigree be never so ancient, if we cannot prove our relation to the “ Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace;" let the piety of our forefathers be never so eminent, if we ourselves do pot inquire which is the “good old way, and walk in it;" the virtues of our ancestors will only reflect a greater dishonour on their degenerate posterity. To be descended from pious parents is a privilege of peculiar importance, if rightly improved--it is a greater blessing than to be descended from emperors and kings; but it avails nothing, if we are not also “born again,” and become the sons of God. The Jews depended much on being able to say, “We have Abraham for our father;'--but Christ tells them,- If ye were Abraham's children, ye
would do the works of Abraham ; but now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth : this did not Abraham., Ye are of your father, the devil; and the works of your father ye will do."
It is observed, that the tribe of Benjamin was situated nearest the Temple, and joined not with the other ten tribes in their revolt, but still adhered to the pure and uncorrupted worship of God at Jerusalem : and yet the Apostle lays no manner of stress even upon this advantage. Ordinances in themselves are highly to be esteemed and valued, as the wise and gracious appointment of God, and the means of great good to us; but we egregiously pervert the original design of them, and lose the principal benefit they were intended to convey, when we rest only in the “ bodily exercise, which profiteth nothing," and do not consider them as the glass through which we might behold the glory of the Lord. Thus the Jews did in Jeremiah's days (Jer. vii. 4 :) there were those that trusted in lying words, saying, “ the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are we :" and even at the day of judgment there will be many that will have nothing to support their claim to eternal life, but“ we have eaten and drunk in' thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets." Conscience will not be satisfied without some appearance of religion. Repentance, mortification, crucifying the flesh with its affections and fusts, and the other vigorous exertions of the power of godliness, are too powerful and expensive. There is an iniquity which we regard in our hearts, and a sin which we roll as a sweet morsel under our tongue, and are loth to part with; and therefore we