John Bunyan.

The greatness of the soul : and the unspeakableness of the loss thereof ; No way to heaven but by Jesus Christ ; The strait gate (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryJohn BunyanThe greatness of the soul : and the unspeakableness of the loss thereof ; No way to heaven but by Jesus Christ ; The strait gate (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 28)
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fore him thereby. Now here we may behold much cun-
ning of the devil ; he begins with some at a distance from
that law which curseth, and so by little and little bringeth
them under it ; even as by circumcision the Galatians were
at length brought under the law that condemneth all men
to the \sTath and judgment of God. I have often wondered
when I have read how God crieth out against the Jews for
observing his o\\ti commandment (Isaiah, i.) ; but I perceive
by Paul that by these things a man may reject and con-
demn the Lord Jesus ; which those do that for life set up
aught, whether moral or other institution, besides the faith
of Jesus.

Let men therefore warily distinguish betwixt names and
things, betwixt statute and commandment, lest they by
doing the one transgress against the other, 2 Cor. i. 19, 20.
Study, therefore, the nature and end of the law with the
nature and end of the gospel ; and if thou canst keep them
distinct in thy understanding and conscience, neither names
nor things, neither statutes nor commandments, can di-aw


thee from the faith of the gospel. And that thou mayest
yet be helped in this matter, I shall now come to speak to
the second conclusion.

The second position.

That men can be justified from the curse before God
while sinners in themselves by no other righteousness than
that long ago performed by, and remaining with, the per-
son of Christ.

For the better prosecuting of this position, I shall ob-
serve two things —

1. That the righteousness by which we stand just be-
fore God from the curse was performed by the person of

2. That this righteousness is inherent only in him.
As to the first of these, I shall be but brief.

Now, that the righteousness that justifieth us was per-
formed long ago by the person of Christ, besides what hath
already been said, is further manifest thus —

1. He is said to have purged our sins by himself —
" When he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on
the right hand of God," Heb. i. 2, 3. I have shewed that
in Christ, for the accomplishing of righteousness, there was
both doing and suffering ; doing, to fulfil all the commands
of the law ; suffering, to answer its penalty for sin. This
second is that which in this to the Hebrews is in special
intended by the apostle, where he saith, he hath "purged
our sins," Heb. ix. 14 ; that is, by his precious blood ; for
it is that alone can purge our sins, either out of the sight
of God or out of the sight of the soul. Now this was done
by himself, saith the apostle; that is, in or by his personal
doings and sufferings. And hence it is that when God had
rejected the offerings of the law, he said, " Lo, I come. A
body hast thou prepared me, to do thy will, God," Heb.
X. 5-8. Now by this will of God, saith the Scripture, we
are sanctified. By what will 1 Why, by the offering up
of the body of Jesus Christ ; for that was God's will, that
thereby we might be a habitation for him ; as he saith
again — " Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people


with his own blood, suflFered ■\^'ithout the gate," Heb. xiii.

2. As it is said, he hath purged our sins by himself, so
it was by himself at once — '' For by one offering hatli he
perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Now by this
w^ord " at once," or by " one offering," is cut off all those
imaginary sufferings of Christ which foolish men conceive
of; as, that he in all ages hath suffered, or suffereth for
sin in us. No ; he did this work but once : " Not that he
should offer himself often, as the high priest entered into
the holy place every year with the blood of others ; for then
must he often have suffered since the foundation of the
world : but now oiice in the end of the world," in the time
of Pilate, " hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacri-
fice of himself," Heb, ix. 25, 26. Mark how to the pur-
pose the Holy Ghost expresseth it: he hath suffered but
once ; and that once, noio; now once ; noio he is God and
man in one person ; noio he hath taken the body that was
prepared of God ; now once in the end of the world hath he
appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself ; by
the offering iip of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

3. It further appears, in that by his resurrection from
the dead, the mercies of God are made sure to the soul, God
declaring by that, as was said before, how well pleased he
is by the undertaking of his Son for the salvation of the
world : " And as concerning that he raised him up from the
dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this
wise, I will give thee the sure mercies of David," Acts, xiii.
34. For Christ being clothed with man's flesh, and un-
dertaking for man's sins, did then confirm all sure to us by
his resurrection from the dead. So that by the rising of
that man again, mercy and grace are made sure to him that
hath believed on Jesus. Wherefore, from these things, to-
gether with what hath been discovered about his address-
ing himself to the work, I conclude " That men can be
justified from the curse before God while sinners in them-
selves by no other righteousness than that long ago per-
formed by the person of Christ." Now the conclusion is


true, from all show of contradiction ; for the Holy Gho^t
saith, he hath done it ; hath done it by himself, and that
by the will of God, at once, even then when he took the
prepared body upon him — " By the will of God we are
sanctified, through the offering up of the body of Jesus
Christ once for all."

This being so, the second position is also manifest —
namely, that the righteousness by which we stand just
from the curse before God is only inherent in Jesus Christ.
For if he hath undertaken to bring in a justifying right-
eousness, and that by works and merits of his ovm, then
that righteousness must of necessity be inherent in him
alone, and ours only by imputation ; and hence it is call-
ed, in that fifth to the Romans, the gift, the " gift of right-
eousness ;" because neither wrought nor obtained by works
of ours, but bestowed upon us, as a garment already pre-
pared, by the mercy of God in Christ, Romans, v. 17 ; Isa.
Ixi. 10.

There are four things that confirm this for a truth —
First, This righteousness is said to be the righteousness
of one, not of many ; I mean of 07ie properly and personally,
as his own particular personal righteousness. The gift of
grace, which is the gift of righteousness, it is " by one man,
Jesus Christ, Much more they that receive abundance of
grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by
one Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judg-
ment came upon all to condemnation ; even so by the right-
eousness of one the free gift came upon all men to justifica-
tion of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were
made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made
righteous," Rom. v. 15-19. Mark, the righteousness of 07ie,
tlie obedience of one; the righteousness of 07ie man, of one
man, Jesus. Wherefore, the righteousness that justifieth a
sinner, it is personally and inherently the righteousness of
that person only who by works and acts of obedience did
complete it, even the obedience of one, of one man, Jesus
Christ ; and so ours only by imputation. It is improper
to say, Adam's eating of the forbidden fruit was personally


and inherently an act of mine. It was personally his, and
imputatively mine ; personally his, because he did it ; im-
putatively mine, because I was then in him. Indeed, the
effects of his personal eating is found in my person — to wit,
defilement and pravity ; the effects also of the imputation
of Christ's personal righteousness are truly found in those
that are in him by electing love and unfeigned faith, even
holy and heavenly dispositions : but a personal act is one
thing, and the effects of that another. The act may be done
by, and be only inherent in one ; the imputation of the
merit of the act, as also the effects of the same, may be in
a manner universal, extending itself unto the most, or all.
This the case of Adam and Christ doth manifest — the sin
of one is imputed to his posterity ; the righteousness of the
other is reckoned the righteousness of those that are his.

Secondly, The righteousness by which we stand j ust be-
fore God from the curse is called " The righteousness of the
Lord — the righteousness of God — the righteousness of Jesus
Christ," &c., Philippians, iii. 6-8 ; and that by way of op-
position to the righteousness of God's own holy law — " That
I might be found in him, not having on my 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."
Now by this opposition, as by what was said before, the
truth is made exceeding clear ; for by these words, " not
having my own righteotlsness," is not only excluded what
qualifications we suppose to be in us, but the righteousness
through which we stand just in the sight of God by them
is limited and confined to a person absolutely distinct. Dis-
tinct, I say, as to his person and performances, who here is
called God and Jesus Christ ; as he saith also in the prophet
Isaiah, " In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justi-
fied, and shall glory," Isa. xlv, 25 ; liv. 17. In the Lord,
not in the law ; in the Lord, not in themselves. " And
their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord :" of me, not of
themselves ; of me, not of the law. And again ; " Surely
shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength."
Now, as I have already said, all this is to be understood of


the righteousness that was fulfilled by acts and works of
obedience, which the person of the Son of God accomplished
in the days of his flesh in the world ; by that man, I say,
" The Lord our righteousness," Jer. xxiii. 6. Christ in-
deed is naturally and essentially righteousness ; but as he
is simply such, so he justifieth no man ; for then he need
not to bear our sins in his flesh, and become obedient in
all points of the law for us ; but the righteousness by which
we stand just before God is a righteousness consisting of
works and deeds, of the doings and suff'erings of such a
person who also is essentially righteousness. And hence,
as before I have hinted, we are said to be justified by the
obedience and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the doings
and suff^erings of the Son of God. And hence again it is
that he first is called King of righteousness ; that is, a
King of righteousness as God-man, which of necessity sup-
poseth his personal performances ; and after that, " King
of peace," Heb. vii. 1-3 ; for what he is naturally and eter-
nally in his Godhead he is not to us, but himself ; but what
he is actively and by works, he is not to himself, but to
us ; so, then, he is neither King of righteousness nor of
peace to us, as he is only the Eternal Son of the Father,
without his being considered as our priest and undertaker
— " He hath obtained," by works of righteousness, " eter-
nal redemption for us," Heb. ix. 12. So, then, the right-
eousness by which we stand just before God is a righteous-
ness inherent (only) in Christ, because a righteousness per-
formed by him alone.

Now that righteousness by which we stand just before
God must be a righteousness consisting of personal per-
formances ; the reason is, because persons had sinned, this
the nature of justice requireth, that " since by man came
death, by man should come also the resurrection from the
dead," 1 Cor. xv. 21. The angels, therefore, for this very
reason, abide under the chains of e\5erlasting darkness, be-
cause he " took not hold on them," Heb. ii. 16, 17 ; that
is, by fulfilling righteousness for them in their nature : that
is a blessed vrord, to you — " To you is bom this day in the


city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," Luke,
ii. 11 ; to you^ not to angels ; to you is born a Saviour.

Thirdly, It is yet further evident that the righteousness
by -which we stand just before God from the curse is a right-
eousness inherent, not in us, but Christ ; because it is a
righteousness inherent, not in us, but Christ ; because it is
a righteousness besides, and without the law itself. Now
take away the law, and you take away the rule of right-
eousness. Again ; take away the rule, and the act as to
us must cease : " But now the righteousness of God without
the law is manifested, being witnessed by the laAv and the
prophets," Rom. iii. 21. So, then, by such a righteousness
we are justified as is not within the power of the law to
command of us.

Quest. But what law is that which hath not power
to command our obedience in the point of our justification
with God ?

Answ. The moral law, or that called the ten com-
mandments. Therefore we are neither commanded to love
God, or our neighbour, as the means or part of our justify-
ing righteousness ; nay, he that shall attempt to do these
things to be delivered from the curse thereby, by the scrip-
ture is holden accursed of God : " As many as are of the
works," or duties, " of the law, are under the curse," &c.,
Gal. iii. 10. Because we are justified not by that of the
law, but by the righteousness of God without the low ; that
is, Avithout its commanding of us, without our obedience to
it : " Freely by his grace, through the redemption that is
in Jesus Christ ; whom God hath set forth to be a propitia-
tion, through faith in his blood," Rom. iii. 24, 25. This is
the righteousness of God without the law ; that is, without
any of our obedience to the law. Wherefore the righteous-
ness by which we stand just in the sight of God cannot be
inherent in us, but in Christ the King thereof.

Fourthly, This is further made apparent by the capacity
that God will consider that soul in to whom he imputeth
justifying righteousness ; and that is, " as one that worketh
not," as one that stands " ungodly in the judgment of the


law," Rom. iv. 4, 5. But this I have handled before, and
therefore shall pass it here.

Fifthly/, to conclude : If any works of ours could justify
us before God, they would be works after faith received ;
but it is evident that these do not ; therefore the righteous-
ness that justifies us from the curse before God is a right-
eousness inherent only in Christ.

That works after faith do not justify us from the curse
in the sight of God is evident —

1. Because no works of the saints can be justified by the
moral law, considering it as the law of works for life, Gal.
iii. 10. For this must stand a truth for ever — Whatsoever
justifieth us must be justified by the moral law, for that is
it that pronounceth the curse ; unless, then, that curse be
taken away by the work, the work cannot justify us be-
fore God, Rom. iii. 21. But the curse cannot be taken
away but by a righteousness that is first approved of by
tliat law that so curseth ; for if that shall yet complain for
want of a full satisfaction, the penalty remaineth. This is
evident to reason, and confirmed by the authority of God's
word, as hath been already proved ; because the law, once
broken, pronounceth death, expecteth death, and executeth
the same on him that will stand to the judgment of the
law ; but no work of a believer is capable of answering
this demand of the law ; therefore none of his works can
justify him before God ; for the law, that notwithstanding

2. No works of faith can justify us from the curse before
God, because of the want of perfection that is in the greatest
fiiith in us. Now if faith be not perfect, the work cannot
be perfect ; I mean, with that perfection as to please Divine
justice. Consider the person, one that hath to do with God
immediately by himself. Now, that faith is not capable
of this kind of perfection it is evident, because when men
here know most, they know but in part, 1 Cor. viii. 2 ;
xiii. 12. Now he that knows but in part, can do but in
part ; and he that doth but in part, hath a part wanting
in the judgment of the justice of God, So, then, when thou


hast done all thou canst, thou hast done but part of thy
duty, and so art short of justification from the curse by
what thou hast done.

3< Besides, it looks too like a monster that the works of
faith should justify us before God ; because then faith is
turned, as it were, with its neck behind it. Faith, in its
o\A'n nature and natural course, respecteth the mercy of
God through the Mediator Jesus Christ, and, as such, its
virtue and excellency is to expect justification by grace
through him ; but by this doctrine faith is turned round
about, and now makes a life out of what itself hath done :
but methinks faith should be as noble as its fruits, that
being the first, and they but the fruits of that.

Besides, seeing the work is only good because it floweth
from faith, for faith purifieth the heart (Acts, xv. 9), there-
fore faith is it that justifies all its works. If, then, we be
justified by either, it is by faith, and not by his works ;
unless we will say there is more virtue in the less than in
the greater. Now what is faith but a believing, a trusting,
or relying act of the soul ? What, then, must it rely upon
or trust in ? Not in itself, that is without scripture ; not
in its works, they are inferior to itself ; besides, this is the
way to make even the works of faith the mediator between
God and the soul, and so by them thrust Christ out of
doors ; therefore it must trust in Christ ; and if so, then no
man can be justified from the curse before God by the
works that flow from faith.

4. To put ail out of doubt ; the saint, when he hath done
what he can to bring forth good works by faith, yet he dares
not shew these works before God but as they pass through
tlie Mediator Christ, but as they are washed in the blood
of the Lamb. And therefore Peter saith, those sacrifices of
ours that are truly spiritual are only then accepted of God
(1 Pet. ii. 5) when offered up by Jesus Christ. And there-
fore it is said again, that the praj^ers of the saints, whicli
are the fi-uits of faith, come up before^the throne of God
through the angel's hand (Rev. viii. 3, 4), that is, through


the hand of Christ, through his goklen censer, perfumed
with his incense, made acceptable by his intercession.

It is said in the book of the Revelation that it is granted
to the bride, the Lamb's wife, that she should be " arraj^ed
in fine linen, clean and white ; which white linen is the
righteousness of saints." This fine linen, in my judgment,
is the works of godly men, their works that sprang fi-om
faith. But how came they clean ? How came they white 1
'Not simply because they were the works of faith. But
mark, " They washed their robes, and made them white in
the blood of the Lamb ; and therefore they stand before the
throne of God," Rev. vii. 14, 15. Yea, therefore it is that
their j^ood works stand there too.

I conclude, then, " our persons are justified while we
are sinners in ourselves." Our works, even the works of
faith, are no otherAvise accepted but as they come through
Jesus Christ, even through his intercession and blood. So,
then, Christ doth justify both our person and works, not
by way of approbation, as we stand in ourselves or works
before God, but by presenting of us to his Father by him-
self, washing what we are and have fi-om guilt in his blood,
and clothing us with his own performances. This is the
cause of our acceptance with God, and that our works are
not cast forth of his presence.

1. Is justifying righteousness to be found in the person
of Christ only 1 Then this should admonish us to take
heed of seeking it in ourselves — that is, of working right-
eousness, thereby to appease the justice of God, lest by so
doing we affront and blaspheme the righteousness of
Christ. He that shall go about to establish his own right-
eousness, he, as yet, doth defiance to that which is of God,
of God's appointing, of God's providing ; and that only
wherewith the justice of the law must be well pleased.
Wherefore take heed, I say, of doing such a thing, lest it


provoke the eyes of the Lord's glory — " When I shall say
to the righteous, that he shall surely live ; if he trust to
his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his right-
eousness shall not be remembered ; but for his iniquity
that he hath committed, he shall die for it," Ezek. xxxiii.
13. Mark, though he be righteous, yea, though he have a
promise of life, yet he shall die. But why ? Because he
sinned against the Lord by trusting to his own righteous-
ness, therefore he must die for it.

There are some things that will preserve a man from
splitting upon this rock. As,

1. Get good acquaintance with the covenant of grace,
and of the persons concerned in the conditions of that cove-
nant. The conditions of that covenant are, that a right-
eousness shall be brought into the world that shall please
the justice of God and answer (and so remove the curse of)
the law. Now he that doth perform this condition is
Christ ; therefore the covenant is not immediately with
man, but with him that will be the Mediator betwixt God
and man : " As for thee, by the blood of thy covenant,"
Zech. ix. 11, speaking of Christ. So, then, Christ, the
Man-Christ, is he who was to bring in these conditions —
to \ltit, everlasting righteousness. And hence it is that
God hath said, " Christ shall be the covenant of the peo-
ple," — that is, he shall be our conditions to Godward, Dan.
ix. 23, 24. He therefore is all our righteousness as to the
point of our justification before God ; he is the covenant of
the people, as well as the light of the Gentiles ; for as no
man can see but in the light of his Spirit, so no man can
stand but in and by him — he is the covenant of the people,
the conditions and qualifications of the people, Isa. Hi. 6.
So that to Godward Christ is all in all, and no man any-
thing at all. " He hath made with me an everlasting cove-
nant ;" with me, as I stand in my head Christ, who, be-
cause he hath brought in everlasting righteousness, theie-
fore hath removed the curse of the law ; wherefore he adds,
this covenant " is ordered in all things, and sure," 2 Sam.
xxiii. 5 ; because all points that concern me as to redeoip-



tion from the cm-se are taken away by Christ, as before is
discoursed. Look, then, upon Christ as tlie man, the me-
diator, undertaker, and accomplisher of that righteousness
in himself, wherein thou must stand just before God ; and
that he is the covenant or conditions of the people to God-
ward, always having in himself the righteousness that the
law is well pleased with, and always presenting himself be-
fore God as our only righteousness.

2. That this truth may be the more heartily inquired
into by thee, consider thine own perfections ; I say, study
how polluted thou art, even from the heart throughout.
No man hath a high esteem of the Lord Jesus that is a
stranger to his O'svn sore. Christ's church is an hospital of
sick, wounded, and afflicted people ; even as when he was
in the world, the afflicted and distressed set the highest
price upon Jesus Christ. Why ? They were sick, and he
was the Physician ; but the whole had no need of him.
And just thus it is now : Christ is offered to the world to
be the righteousness and life of sinners, but no man will
regard him save he that seeth his OAvn pollution ; he that
seeth he cannot answer the demands of the law, he that
sees himself from top to toe polluted, and that therefore his
service cannot be clean as to justify him from the tjurse
before God, he is the man that must needs die in despair
and be damned, or must trust in Jesus Christ for life.

Further, This rule I would have all receive that come to
Jesus Christ for life and salvation.

1. Not to stick at the acknowledgment of sin, but to
make that of it which the law makes of it : " Acknowledge
thine iniquity," saith the Lord, Jer. iii. 13. This is a hard
pinch (I know what I say) for a man to fall do\^^l under
the sense of sins by acknowledging them to be what the
Lord saith they are ; to acknowledge them, I say, in
their owm defiling and polluting nature ; to acknowledge
them in their unreasonable and aggravating circumstances ;
to acknowledge them in their God-ofFending and soul-de-
stroying nature, especially when the conscience is burdened

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