Righteousness Without Works: Part 3

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Fourthly, " I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid: I said, I will confess my trangressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."
What relief is here-full immediate relief; the sense of forgiveness accompanying the very act ofconfession. Silence was broken by confession —no longer is effort made at concealment. The very One whose hand was felt to be so heavy, is the One to whom the heart is opened and poured out; " I acknowledged my sin unto Thee. I said, I will confess my transgression unto the Lord." There is no " creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do " (Heb. 4:1313Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:13)). It is a solemn thought that we have to do with God; and when once this truth gets fast hold on the conscience, the effort at concealment from Him produces the exquisite misery described in the two preceding verses. Confession gives relief, because it at once puts us in the actual place of having to do with God. It practically acknowledges that all things are naked and opened unto His eyes, that He is the rightful and truthful Judge, that what His word says of the evil of our hearts is true. Then is God justified by confession. This is true if God were regarded only in the character of a Judge. But how much more is God justified, when confession is made, under the sense of His love as known in the Gospel of His grace. There is it deepest, and fullest, and most truthful; then the forgiveness of the iniquity of transgression, beads the same heart and lips which have confessed unto sin, to make confession unto salvation. And in this we find the deepestelements of the character of the saint. He had before but one subject of thought and study; that was himself: he has now another, the Christ of God. Has he to speak of the first, it is the language of confession, ever deepening as he advances in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; but is he in his proper and happier element, has he to speak of Christ-it is to confess Him as all his salvation and all his desire. How 'happily do confession and praise unite; happily because truthfully; no language is sufficient to express the real degradation of a sinner; no language sufficient to tell out the grace and glories of the Savior. And when confession and praise are so united, what fervency they give toprayer and intercession.
Now, I doubt not that a great deal of the trial of spirit to which saints are subject arises from their not exercising themselves in self-judgment and confession, under shelter of the blessed truth of ''righteousness without works." It is the right apprehension of this blessed truth which puts us in the place of self-judgment—a place exceedingly high and wonderful. If God, the Judge of all, has become the Justifier of those who believe in Jesus, is it that they shall make light of sin? Far from it; it is that they may judge themselves. The blood of Jesus gives us access into the holiest; there we are in the light; there we are in the privileged place where Israel's High Priest could only enter once in theyear, but which is ever open to us by Jesus, our great High Priest. Entering into the very presence of God, with unshod feet consciously touching the sand of the desert-there it is we address ourselves to one part of our priestly ministry, self-judgment, separating between the precious and the vile; judging between things that differ. We are in the light, and the light in which we are detects that which is inconsistent with itself; and we could not stand there, unless under the shelter of that very blood which has introduced us there; and we learn there more and more the value of that precious blood. We have found in it remission of sins-it has washed us, and keeps us clean. Now, I believe " the uprightness of heart" mentioned in the last verse of this Psalm to be very intimately connected with self-judgment; for this eventually turns us back on the blessedness announced in the Psalm, that the very evil which we have only now detected God doth not impute to us-God has covered it. It is thus that the heart is kept humble, and the conscience tender and lively. I believe the uprightness and honesty of confession which may have been manifested at conversion, is frequently impaired from neglect of self-judgment before God. A saint may become too solicitous about his own character in the eyes of his fellow-saints, or of the world, and thus unconsciously be led to act a part, instead of getting his life strengthened from the Spring and Source of life. There was a truthfulness in the exercise of heart which led first to Christ, but this is impaired when the maintenance of our character becomes our object, instead of Christ. Now, by self-judgment truthfulness is maintained, and our need of Christ in new and various ways becomes manifest. Let the exercise of soul be ever so personally humbling, yet if it leads to Christ, it leads to a larger apprehension of the blessedness declared in this, Psalm: we are really strengthened. At times I marvel at the grace of God in permitting us to judge ourselves. He can never give up His title as ''Judge of all; " we have come to Him as such (Heb. 12:2323To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23)), but so completely has He, by His grace, justified us through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, that He would have us arraign ourselves before the judgment-seat, and be the judges of our own selves. The right apprehension of standing in complete' righteousness before God in Christ can alone qualify us for this. Self-judgment may have been carried on by us in our ignorance on a different principle-viz., seeking to find some ground in ourselves for acceptance with God. But now it is to search and see how just and holy is the way of God in dealing with us, so as to make us debtors alone to grace, and yet this very grace reigns through righteousness by Jesus Christ; since redemption displays the holiness, justice and truth of God in strict accordance with His mercy.
There are three characters of judgment with which the saint has to do—self-judgment—the judgment of the church—the judgment of the Lord. These are very distinct in their character. Attention to the first necessarily precludes an individual from falling under the judgment of the church,, whose province is to judge those within, while those who are without God judgeth (1 Cor. 5:12,1312For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:12‑13),) The failure of the church to exercise judgment, it its own proper province, on overt acts of evil-such as occurred at Corinth-brings on the judgment of the Lord in some outward and manifest form. " For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1 Cot, 11:30). It is equally the province of the church to judge the doctrine of those within. The Lord had it againstThyatira-that Jezebel, which called herself a prophetess, was suffered to teach her seducing doctrine. And the Lord must judge in this case also, if the church tolerates evil doctrine. But the Judgment of the Lord is ever supreme, and we are always, individually and collectively, amenable to it. Self-judgment, indeed, would prevent us, as individuals, from falling under the Lord's judgment in a marked and manifest manner: " If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged,. but. when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:31,3231For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:31‑32)). The rod for willful disobedience need not be applied, because self-judgment would prevent such outbreaks, the principle of which would have been secretly judged. But although the judgment of the Lord, in the shape of presentpunishment, would thus be avoided, this does not interfere with the general truth, that '' whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth " (Heb. 12:66For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (Hebrews 12:6)). The difference of the Lord's dealing, even where there might be outward sorrow, would be very apprehensible to the conscience of those who came under it. To the soul exercised in self-judgment it would readily be interpreted as the interference of love, the wisdom of which would be discerned. To the careless saint it would be felt as punishment, and regarded as a warning to bring him to a sense of his actual condition. Nor must we forget how much the needed discipline of the Lord is preventive; and this, too, is learned in self-judgment, in the holiest of all. The " thorn in the flesh" might have been interpreted by the apostle very differently from what the Lord intended, had his soul been unexercised before God about it: " Lest should be exalted above measure " (2 Cor. 12). He had not been so exalted:; but there was the unsuspected danger and tendency to be guarded against; and this the apostle discovered, not by revelation, but by exercise of soul before the Lord. And have we not all had occasion, not only to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God for something positively wrong in our ways, but also to justify His love and wisdom in some special discipline the preventive character of which has been taught to us by Himself in the holiest of all? I feel increasingly the importance of deep searching self-judgment, under the shelter of the blessed oracle: " Transgression forgiven-sin covered-iniquity not imputed." I say not that we are always able to interpret the Lord's dealings with us, but I believe self-judgment as to the springs of evil, leading to confession before God, to be the means of attaining this interpretation. God is always right -a simple but deeply practical truth. We put God in the right by confession; and we not only get relief, but we actually learn that God is right, and understand His ways.. O if saints did know the toilsome process of self-vindication, and instead of justifying themselves were to justify God, what sorrow would they avoid. And it betrays so much want of confidence in God to be anxious to vindicate ourselves; as if, after all, it was our own character, and not His grace, which was the real power of blessing. I think we see- the design of the apostle in using the word " discern," not simply judge (in the Greek, 1 Cor. 11: 31). If we would " discern " ourselves, we should not be judged. Self-discernment, getting a positive insight into the real moving springs of the activity of the flesh. Who can bear to look too closely into it, unless he know the blessed truth that God had judged the flesh in the cross of Christ:” Our old man has been crucified with Him " (Rom. 6.. 6). The new evil which. we discern in it God had seen from the beginning, and allows us now to see., that we may justify Him in His. total judgment of it. The flesh cannot discern itself-it cannot stand before God. It is by the power of life, communicated directly from. Christ, brought into this exercise by the Holy Ghost Himself, that we thus. discern ourselves; and this in the immediate-presence of God Himself. " The natural man. receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are Spiritually discerned.
“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things " (1 Cor. 2:14, 1514But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (1 Corinthians 2:14‑15)). It is a human aphorism that “ the proper study of mankind is man," but deeply fallacious. Man knows not himself by studying himself, but by studying God: " This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou past sent "(John 17:33And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)). It is by this divine science that man really knows himself; not by measuring himself by himself (cf. 2 Cor. 10:1212For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12)), but by measuring himself by God-by God as He is revealed in and through Christ. And I have often thought that the annals of history dark as they are, or the record of crime black as it is, would not together present such a picture of the depravity of man, as would the secret confessions of saints to God, if they were laid open to us as they are to Him. Nothing but the consciousness of complete justification could ever embolden the saint to confess before God those secret springs of evil which he detects when judging himself immediately in the presence of God. We wonder not at the most devoted saint speaking of himself as the chief of sinners.
"For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when thou mayest be found surely, in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Thou art my hiding-place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance." It is indeed a blessed encouragement to the soul to be assured that there is nothing we may not tell God. He has done everything to win our confidence, even delivering His " Son for our offenses, and raising Him again for our justification." And it is by confession that we practically maintain our confidence in Him. It is because of the connection between confession and forgiveness that every one that is godly can pray unto God in a time when He may be found. If sin fresh discovered in ourselves need not bar access to God—if He does not hide Himself away from us, but is always to be found—what can hinder? And, practically, what does hinder intercourse with God? It is not God Himself. It is not that either a sacrifice or a Priest are to be sought—all is ready. But the unreadiness is in ourselves. There the real hindrance is to be found. We often try anything rather than the right thing. We may become more diligent in outward service-more regular in outward worship —more keen in judging the evil of others—when the one thing needful is confession. It is indeed a bad state of soul, when things most blessed in their place are used by us to interrupt our intercourse with God. God requires truth in the inward parts; and if there be alienation of heart from God, the restoration must be truthful. God must be justified, no blame must be laid on Him, all must be taken on ourselves; and this is just what confession does. He who is godly must regard God as the only justifier, and must know Him, even when we have to go before Him with the confession of iniquity. And is it not in this way that we foil Satan as the accuser? If there be readiness of confession, is there not the consciousness that it is God who justifieth? Who, then, can lay anything to the charge of God's elect? That which the accuser would lay to their charge they have already laid to their own charge before God—and it is forgiven. It is thus, by experience, that the exercised soul knows God Himself as its hiding-place—" Thou art my hiding-place." There may be many ways in which the blessedness of faith in Jesus may be experienced; but I question if any way is more vivid than the difference between hiding ourselves away from God, as Adam did in thegarden after he had sinned, and hiding ourselves in God. What a thought it is, that God should present Himself, as He does in the Gospel of His grace, as the only refuge for a sinner; as the alone One who is able to take his part, and can effectually take his part. Is not this one blessed aspect of the glory of God? He makes all His goodness to pass before us, and proclaims His own name as just, yet the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus-the only God-because He is a just God and a Savior; and has thus given His challenge that there is no God beside Him; because He is a Savior God. There is a refuge from the accusations of Satan—from the frowns of the world—from that which is more bitter than either, self-condemnation; and this refuge is in God Himself. He has laid Himself out to us as the Depository of our every woe, the Sympathizer with our every care, the One who pitieth every infirmity, the patient Listener to every complaint we have to make against ourselves. Ail this is learned under the knowledge of the blessedness of the truth of " Righteousness without works; " yea, is comprised in that blessedness, It is confidence in this divine way of righteousness which emboldens us to say, "Thou shalt preserve me from trouble." And is any trouble equal to soul trouble? How few are able to take the honorable place of suffering either for Jesus, or for righteousness' sake I such may rightfully rejoice. But spirit-broken, heartsick, self-weary, whither can we go? God is our hiding-place; He " comforteth those that are cast down; " He is "the Father of mercies (pitifulnesses) and the God of all comforts." (2 Cor. 7:6; 1:36Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; (2 Corinthians 7:6)
3Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; (2 Corinthians 1:3)
); He can make us rejoice out, of our sorrow. And surely it is not right for the song of redemption to be sung once only on the shore of the Red Sea, and then the notes of praise to die away, and to be succeeded by murmurings. Alas, it is often so practically; the joy of conversion is frequently followed by murmuring and complaining. The beginning of our confidence is not held fast. The truth of the blessedness of God's imputing righteousness without works is let slip, as though we no longer needed it. Saints have to learn to justify the wisdom of God in redemption in all its fullness, by learning, in the progress of their own experience, that nothing short of it would meet their need. We do not, as we might expect, find saints singing the new song, new and ever varied, yet in substance the same. And wherefore? Because grace alone can he the ground work of our song; and if the heart be not established in grace, we have no heart for song. But when a saint goes on under the shelter of the blessedness of " righteousness without works," learning it as he goes on his way, how frequent the boast of thanksgiving—" Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance." There is a "singing and making melody in the heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:1919Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (Ephesians 5:19)); and this not publicly, but privately in the closet. For great, unquestionably, as is the transition from darkness to light, by faith in Christ Jesus, at the outset, yet, what is the experience of the saint afterward? Is it not constant deliverances? " He that is our God is the God of salvations " (Psa. 68:2020He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death. (Psalm 68:20)). It is a happy school into which we are brought to learn God in the character in which He has revealed Himself to us. The history of each individual saint will tell out the same truth-that where "sin abounded grace has superabounded;" and the end of each saint individually will show forth the same truth as the church collectively, "to the praise of the glory of His grace." O that we may be honest and upright in heart with God, and then the marking His ways will issue in frequent songs of deliverance.
(Continued from page 100.)
(To be continued, D. V.)