Righteousness Without Works: Part 4

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Righteousness Without Works: Part 4
"I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go. I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee."  Under the blessedness of transgression forgiven, sin covered, and iniquity not imputed, comes in a new order of guidance; the guidance of the eye of Him who has justified us freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
When it pleased Jehovah to redeem Israel out of Egypt He Himself became their Guide. Israel needed guidance; and Jehovah went before them in a pillar of a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. He thus went before them to search out a resting place for them in the wilderness: They pitched or struck their tents at the moving or settling of the Pillar of the cloud. "The cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys " (Ex. 40:3838For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40:38)). This surely was blessed guidance-in strict keeping with the character of redemption then manifested—a shadow of a deeper reality—but it was not intelligent guidance. There was no communion of soul with Jehovah needed to apprehend this guidance: ''the cloud of the Lord was in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys."
But now the very end of redemption is to bring us into communion with the thoughts and ways of God, and such a guidance would not be suitable to our standing: "The servant knoweth not what his master doeth" (John 15:1515Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. (John 15:15)). He goes and comes at his bidding, but he knows not the reason of either. Such a character of obedience would not suit those who know the blessedness of transgression forgiven, and are thereby admitted into the very thoughts and counsels of God. " We have the mind of Christ" '(1 Cor. 2:16). The obedience now suitable is intelligent obedience: " Understanding what the will of the Lord is "—" Proving what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Eph. 5:1717Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:17); Rom. 12:22And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)). Now just in proportion as the guidance is of a higher order, so is it more difficult; and there is ever a readiness in us from this very difficulty, to take the lower order of providential guidance, instead of the guidance of the eye. The " Directorship " practiced in the Romish church, may as readily be accounted for, on the principle of being a relief from the exercise of conscience before God, as on the principle of priestly domination. It is far more congenial to the natural heart to have the conscience kept by another, than to have it exercised before God. And the plea of infallibility has a charm in it, because it saves us the trouble of judging before God, what is truth, and what is error-what is right and what is wrong. If the real power against the fundamental doctrine of Popery is found alone in the doctrine of "righteousness without works," the practical use of this truth in leading our souls into habitual intercourse with God, is the alone preservative from the principle of " directorship." It is not the guidance of the eye of God, when we follow an individual Christian, or a congregation of Christians. The provision of God in the blessed truth of righteousness without works, is that the conscience of each individual should be in direct connection with Himself.And is there any instance on record where even Christian legislation for the Church has not trenched on God's prerogative, of having to do with the consciences of individuals. Apostolic authority dare not come in between God and the conscience. I utterly repudiate the idea of each man doing what is right in his own eyes, but I do most strenuously assert the truth of God's right to have to do with the conscience; and of the believer's privilege, I say not duty, to have his conscience exercised before God. " Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."   "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin " (Rom. 14:5,235One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. (Romans 14:5)
23And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)
). And is it not the necessary fault of every establishment, that it arrogates to itself the right to settle those things which God has left to be settled before Him. And thus the very obedience of saints is regulated not by God, but by the convention of the religious Society to which they belong. We are members of one body, and members one of another; and our healthful corporate action must be hindered, if we leave out the important truth, that we are members of Christ. How needed is intercourse with God to guide the conduct of a saint. And is it not for neglect of this that we bring much discipline on ourselves? God will have His way with us. But how often are we as the horse and mule, which have no understanding: not understanding the will of God because we study not the guidance of His eye. We are led by circumstances, and not by the Spirit. We walk in a large place when we walk before the Lord; but how apt are we to turn each one to his own way, and God has His bit and bridle for us. This He is wont to use for His enemies:   “Because  thy rage against Me, and thy tumult is come up into Mine ears, therefore will I put My hook in thy nose, and My bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest " (Is. 37:29). And how constantly do we as His saints, to our shame be it spoken, need the bit and bridle to turn us back by the way we have come. Who is there who has not to confess that the right path has been reached by painful and humbling discipline, which would have been readily found had heed been given to the guidance of the eye. Amidst the manifold proofs of present conscious weakness, this appears to me very prominent, the little confidence which the saints have of spiritual guidance in their several paths. They walk not as those consciously led of the Spirit. Among many, indeed, such guidance is not acknowledged even as a principle; providential guidance, if so it may be called '(for providential control over circumstances, or even our own waywardness, can hardly be called guidance), is alone regarded. But where the principle of intelligent spiritual guidance is maintained as the privilege of the saint, how readily do we take hold of providential ordering as our ground of action. Hence we tread uncertainly: or we follow the steps of others; but this is walking by sight and not by faith. This arises from the habit of only using our blessedness as a shelter, and not as that which introduces us into the presence of God.  It is a beautiful description of the Thessalonians, that their "work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ," was "in the sight of God and our Father."
To Israel God shewed His acts, but He made His ways known to Moses, the one with whom He conversed familiarly, as a man talked with his friend (Psa. 103:77He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. (Psalm 103:7); Ex. 33:1111And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle. (Exodus 33:11)). Surely God has by His grace introduced us into intimacy with Himself that we too might know His ways. " Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous; and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart."
Nothing can be more hollow than the mere conventional righteousness of men; it is based on human convenience or selfishness; without any regard to the holiness of God at all. It is simply character as man estimates character, the most fatal hindrance to the reception of the truth " How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which cometh from God only" (John 5:4444How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only? (John 5:44)). And so strongly does this regard for character act, that even when the judgment is convinced of the truth of God, man is too cowardly to avow his conviction: " Nevertheless among the chief rulers also, many believed. on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God " (John 12:42,4342Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42‑43)). There is one way in which we find the word of God frequently detecting this hollowness, and that is, by the remarkable contrasts which it draws: “Everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved;. But he that doeth the truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God " (John 3:20,2120For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:20‑21)). Here the human contrast to doing evil, would be doing good; but that would simply be man's estimate of himself, by comparing himself with his fellow men; but God contrasts man with himself, and " he that doeth truth " forms his estimate of himself from God. This is the thing needed. The light lays man open to himself as he is; naked and open before God. So again, God will send strong delusion on many to believe a lie, because they loved not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thes. 2:11, 12)        And here in the Psalm before us we find “the wicked " contrasted with him " that trusteth in the Lord."
And surely the wicked is he who " hath not submitted himself unto the righteousness of God " (Rom. 10:33For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:3)),-the one who will not submit to be saved as a sinner by the grace of God through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:2424Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (Romans 3:24)), but seeks for righteousness in some other way. To trust in the Lord—how simple, yet how sure—how honoring to God, and yet how happy for ourselves—to give Him credit for having all in Himself which we find not in ourselves-to go out of ourselves for everything, and to find every craving answered in Christ. God knows our need as sinners, and He has provided for that need in Christ. Yes, “We are the circumcision, which worship God in (' by') the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:33For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3)). Such have obtained mercy —such know their need of it. "God is rich in mercy" (Eph. 2:44But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (Ephesians 2:4))—He is able not only to add mercy to mercy, but to multiply mercy; yea, to surround them with mercy; or, as it is beautifully expressed in another translation of the Psalms, " mercy embraceth him on every side." This is our truthful place. If we look back, it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us (Titus 3:55Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5)).        And it is "according to His mercy " that He still deals with us; there will be discipline and correction by the way, because it is for our profit; but God's rule of dealing with us is according to that which is in Himself,—" His mercy." And if we look forward, does the thought arise of glory, as connected with our faithfulness or service?—and the thought does arise sometimes to dispirit, and sometimes to set us on a wrong ground of service—how suitable the word, "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 2121Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 21)). We have earned no title to glory. Glory shall come to us in the shape of mercy. God will “make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He hath afore prepared unto glory “(Rom. 9:2323And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, (Romans 9:23)). When Israel came into possession of houses full of all good things which they filled not, and wells digged which they digged not, vineyards and olive trees which they planted not-then the danger was of their forgetting the Lord (Deut. 6:10-1210And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, 11And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; 12Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (Deuteronomy 6:10‑12)), and assuming that as their own right for which they were merely debtors to the grace of God.  This is too true a picture of our own hearts. We take as a right that for which we are debtors to mercy alone. We rejoice in the blessing which we have reached by trusting in the Lord; and then we trust in the blessing and forget the Lord. We only and always stand in grace, we live by faith, we stand by faith, we are constant debtors to mercy; and in glory we shall know ourselves eternal debtors to mercy. And a great part of our most humbling discipline is designed to keep us in our right and no less blessed standing. " He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall, compass him about."
It is interesting to follow the line of thought of the Spirit of God—if the expression may be allowed —to see the connection between one part of His utterance and another. It is of great advantage to have a solid substratum of Christian doctrine, such as we frequently find in the Protestant confessions of faith. But this, however valuable to detect error and to prevent headiness and high-mindedness, does not meet the need of the soul. The soul is not satisfied with an accurate theory; it needs the truth to be applied in its wondrous variety. In this Psalm the Spirit of God is not treating a subject, but rather carrying out into its blessed results the oracle with which the Psalm commences. The “righteous" are not previously mentioned in the Psalm; and if we were to take our own thought of righteous, instead of the thought of the Spirit, we should sadly mistake. But the comment of the Holy Ghost Himself, by the mouth of His apostle in Rom. 4, immediately leads us to connect the last verse of the Psalm with the first verse, and to identify the righteous here spoken of with those whose blessedness is declared in the oracle with which this Psalm commences. And thus, too, we see that the Holy Ghost, throughout the Psalm, is describing the blessedness of those to whom God imputes "righteousness without works;” and closes all, with calling on such to "be glad in the Lord and rejoice." Just as, by the apostle, He says, "Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. 4:44Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)). There is a time coming when "all the earth” will be called upon to " rejoice before the Lord," even after He shall have made known His salvation, and after His righteousness shall have been openly shown to the heathen (Psa. 98). But we wait not for circumstances. Knowing the Lord, we can and ought to rejoice. And wherefore is it that others judge, through us, of the Gospel, as though it were a system of privation and renunciation, instead of one of the richest acquirements? Is it not that we try to be glad in ourselves, or in circumstances, instead of in the Lord?-and thus we are subject to much variableness, instead of living by faith in the Son of God; learning what He is of God made unto us: and what we are, and what we have, in Him. In the most truthful confession before God of what we are, we can still “rejoice in the Lord." Before He shows Himself publicly—before He manifests in glory to the eyes of all what the sons of God really are (Rom. 8:99But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9))—believing, we can rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. And wherefore our deplorable lack of such joy? Is it not that we fail in discerning and carrying out the blessedness of "righteousness without works?" We do not know it experimentally; we do not see its moral beauty; it does not shine with increasing luster on our souls;—because they are not exercised as they should be before God. We are, somehow or other, more occupied with that which displays us before men, than that which displays God to us. Hence, we drink not at the Spring Head of joy. Oh that we could practically tell out to others that God Himself had made us happy, that we "joy in God" (Rom. 5:1111And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:11)).
And again, the upright in heart are connected with the blessedness declared in the first verses of this Psalm. We read of one whose " heart was not right in the sight of God "(Acts 8:2121Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. (Acts 8:21))'. He had the base thought—"that the gift of God` might be purchased with money." Now, no real Christian can entertain the thought that such a gift as Simon coveted is purchasable by money. But the base thought is in our hearts, to earn something from God, and this hinders uprightness of heart: Surely, uprightness of heart is to maintain our character before God as sinners saved by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, and to carry with us that character before men. If we forget what we are in ourselves, or what grace has made us to be in Christ, we are not upright in heart. It is blessed, indeed, not, to have a part to act before God (for such is human religion), but to go before Him in the character which He has given to us, in the righteousness with which He Himself hath clothed us. To be upright in heart is not to draw a line between religions and other duties, but to come to the light to learn ourselves, and learn the glory of God in His grace. Where there is human sincerity and human uprightness and conscientiousness, it cannot perhaps well be said that there is hypocrisy; but, such natural uprightness is apart from God, and may exist, and has existed, where God has not been known or revealed. But now light has come into the world. Men may know their real character in the estimate of God. And the condemnation is, that he '' cometh not to the light" (John 3:2020For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (John 3:20)). And before God all will be found hypocrites—that is, acting a character—save those who, coming to the light, and learning what they are in God's judgment, have sheltered themselves under the blessedness of " righteousness without works." Such are upright in heart; in their spirit is no guile. They may "shout for joy."
(Concluded from page 120.)
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