Sermon 11. The Law of the Spirit Seasons - Epiphany

"Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Rom. x. 4.

[Note] {143} IN the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul argues against Jews who rejected the Gospel; in his Epistles to the Corinthians, he rebukes Christians who had abused it. The sin of the fickle and vainglorious Corinthians was very different from that of the hard-hearted Jews; and yet in either case it rose from one and the same root, pride. Both Jews and Greeks prided themselves on what they were, on what Moses had left them, or what Christ's Apostles had brought them; both forgot that whatever they had was God's gift, and that it was their duty to be dependent and watchful. But in appearance they differed: the Jews insisted on God's former mercies unseasonably; and the Greeks of Corinth thought even of His last and best, lightly and unthankfully.

Sinful feelings and passions generally take upon themselves the semblance of reason, and affect to argue. {144} It was in this way that the Jews, whom St. Paul is opposing in the text, disguised from themselves their own unbelief; and this has turned out a benefit to the Church ever since, as having led St. Paul, in consequence, to set forth views of the Gospel which otherwise might not have come to us with the authority of inspiration. The text contains such a view, expressed very concisely, which I now propose to explain; and after doing so, I will add a few words on the feelings of the Jews, in contrast with the doctrine it contains.

St. Paul tells us, that "Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Here are three subjects which call for remark: the Law, Righteousness, and Faith. I will speak of them in succession.

1. In the first place, of "the Law." By the Law is meant the eternal, unchangeable Law of God, which is the revelation of His will, the standard of perfection, and the mould and fashion to which all creatures must conform, as they would be happy. God is holy, and His Law is holy. His Law is the image of Himself; it is the word of Life and Truth commanding that, of which He is the perfect pattern. "Be ye holy," He says, "for I am holy." "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" [1 Pet. i. 16. Matt. v. 48.] His Law is the declaration of His infinite and glorious attributes, and thereby becomes the rule by which all beings imitate, approach, and resemble Him. And when He created them, He provided that it should be to them what it ought to be. God loves holiness, and therefore, as became a good and {145} kind Father, He created all His children holy. He created them to be His children, not His enemies; beings in whom He might take pleasure; who might be near Him, not far off from Him; whom He might love and reward. He formed them upon the pattern of the Law; He moulded them into symmetry by means of it. He created man "in His own image, and after His likeness;" that is, upon the type of the Law. He put His Spirit within him, and set up the Law in his heart; so that, what He is in His infinite nature, such was man, such was Adam in a finite nature,—perfect after his kind.

And in this sense, the Law given to the Israelites from Mount Sinai is called in Scripture, and may be considered, the holy and eternal Law of God. Not that any number of commandments, uttered in man's language and written upon tables, could be commensurate with what is of an infinite and of a spiritual nature; not that a code of precepts, addressed to one portion of a fallen race, in one country, and in one particular state of moral and social existence, could rise to the majesty and beauty of what is perfect;—but that the law of Moses represented the law of God in its place and age; was the fullest revelation of it, and the nearest approximation to it, then vouchsafed; and was that Law, as far as it went. As Adam, a child of the dust, was also an "image of God," so the Jewish Law, though earthly and temporary, had at the same time a divine character. It was the light of God shining in a gross medium, in order that it might be "comprehended;" and if it did not teach the chosen people all, it taught them much, and in the only way in which they could be taught it. {146} And hence, as in the text, St. Paul, when on the subject of the Jews, speaks of their Law as if it were the eternal Law of God; and so it was, but only as brought down to its hearers, and condescending to their infirmity.

2. Such is "the Law," as spoken of in the text; and by "Righteousness" is meant conformity to the law,—that one state of soul which is pleasing to God. It is a relative word, having reference to a standard set up, and expressing the fulfilment of its requirements. To be righteous is to act up to the Law, whatever the Law be, and thereby to be acceptable to Him who gave it. Such Adam was in Paradise; the Law was his inward life, and Almighty God dealt with him accordingly,—He called, accounted, dealt with him as righteous, because he was righteous.

It was far otherwise with him when he had fallen. He then forfeited the presence of the Holy Spirit; he no longer fulfilled the Law; he lost his righteousness, and he knew he had lost it. He knew it before God told him; he condemned himself, he pronounced himself unrighteous, before God formally rejected him from his state of justification. And in this unrighteous state he has remained, viewed in himself, ever since; knowing the Law, but not doing it; admiring, not loving; assenting, not following; not utterly without the Law, yet not with it; with the Law not within him, but before him,—not any longer in his heart, as the pillar of a cloud, which was a gracious token and a guide to the Israelites, but departing from him, and moving away, and taking up its place, as it were over against him, and confronting him as an enemy, accuser, and avenger. It was a cloud {147} of thick darkness, instead of a pillar of light; and from it the Lord looked out upon him, and troubled him. Or in St. Paul's words, "the commandment, which was ordained to life, he found to be unto death." [Rom. vii. 10.] What had been a law of innocence, became a law of conscience; what was freedom, became bondage; what was peace, became dread and misery.

Let us thank God that dread and misery are left us. Better is it that the Law remain to us externally, and in the way of an upbraiding conscience, than that it should be utterly removed. While, and so far as it so remains, our own judgment upon ourselves is a warning to us, what the judgment of God will be hereafter, what His view of us is at present. For is not the pain of a bad conscience different from any other pain that we know? I do not ask whether it is greater or less than other pain, but whether it is not unlike any other, peculiar and individual. Can that pain be compensated and overcome by the wages of sin, whatever they be,—or rather, does it not, while it lasts, remain distinctly perceptible and entire in the midst of them? In conscience, then, we have the figure of the wrath of God upon transgressors of the Law; the pain which it inflicts on us at times, or in certain cases, is a sort of indication how God regards, and will one day visit, all sins, according to the sure word of Scripture. Take an instance, which, though extreme, will serve to explain what I would say. What accounts do we read of the frightful sleepless remorse which murderers have before now shown! so much so that, though no one knew their crime, yet they could {148} not help confessing it,—as if death were a lighter suffering than a bad conscience. Here you see the misery of being unjustified. Or, again, consider the peculiar piercing distress which follows upon the commission of sins of impurity;—here you have a corroboration in a particular instance of what Scripture affirms generally, concerning the misery of sinning. Or, think of those indescribable feelings in our nature, to which our first parent alludes, when he says, "I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." [Gen. iii. 10.] Are not these feelings a type of the horror with which Angels now look, with which we shall look hereafter, upon all transgression of the Law, or unrighteousness?

Unrighteousness then is a state of misery, frightful as the murderer's, acute as theirs who follow Belial, and overpowering as Adam's when he fled from God. And from this state Christ came to save us, by bringing us back again to righteousness. Man was righteous at the first, because the Law of God ruled him; he became unrighteous when this Law ceased to rule him; and he becomes righteous again by the Law of God once more ruling him. He was righteous at the first by the presence of the Holy Spirit, which enabled him to obey the Law; and such too is his second righteousness. And thus the words of the text are fulfilled; "Christ is the end of the Law for" or unto "righteousness." He effects what the Law contemplates and enjoins, but cannot accomplish, our righteousness. And how? St. Paul does not mention it in the text, but in many other {149} places in his Epistles; viz. by that great gift of His passion, the abiding influence of the Holy Ghost, which enables us to offer to God an acceptable obedience, such as by nature we cannot offer.

Now let me show from Scripture some of these points on which I have been insisting.

First, not much need be said to make it plain that by nature we cannot please God, or, in other words, have no principle of righteousness in us. St. Paul says in so many words, "They that are in the flesh cannot please God;" and just before, "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." In the foregoing chapter he says, "We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not: but what I hate, that do I. I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." Again, "By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin." In like manner the prophet Isaiah says, "We are all as an unclean thing; and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." [Rom. viii. 7, 8; vii. 14, 15, 18; iii. 20. Isa. lxiv. 6.] Such is our state by nature: the best things we do are displeasing to God in themselves, as savouring of the Old Adam, and being works of the flesh and not spiritual.

And as this is our natural state, so the desire of religious men, and the one promise of a merciful God has ever been, that we should be made obedient to the Law, or righteous. Thus David says, "Thou {150} requirest truth in the inward parts; and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly. Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. O give me the comfort of Thy help again; and stablish me with Thy free Spirit." Again, "I will wash my hands in innocency, O Lord, and so will I go to Thine altar." Again, "Give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy Law, yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart ... Behold, my delight is in Thy commandments. O quicken me in Thy righteousness." "Teach me to do the thing that pleaseth Thee; for Thou art my God: let Thy loving Spirit lead me forth into the land of righteousness." [Ps. li. 6, 7, 10, 12; xxvi. 6; cxix. 30, 40; cxliii. 10.]

And what Psalmists ask, Prophets promise. They make it the one great distinction of Gospel times, that that original righteousness which is so necessary for us and from which we are so far gone, should be vouchsafed again to us, and that through the Spirit. Daniel states the object of Christ's coming to be the "making reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in everlasting righteousness." Malachi says that Christ should "purify the sons of Levi," that they may "offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." In Isaiah, Almighty God speaks to them "that know righteousness," viz. "the people in whose heart is My law;" and he also speaks of "the Spirit being poured upon us from on high," and in consequence of "righteousness remaining in the fruitful field, and the work of righteousness being peace, {151} and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever." Still more clear is the prophet Jeremiah in declaring what the Gospel gift consists in; "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." In similar terms does the prophet Ezekiel describe the great gift of the Gospel, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them." Again elsewhere the prophet Isaiah calls this new nature, or righteousness, or gift of the Spirit, which the Gospel furnishes, a sort of garment or robe of the soul, being that glory which Adam had before sin stripped him of it; "He hath clothed me with the garment of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." With this passage must be compared St. John's words in the Revelations, "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." Our Lord also speaks of the great gift of the Gospel under the same figure, when he tells us of the man who came to the marriage feast without a wedding-garment, that is, without righteousness or holiness. [Dan. ix. 24. Mal. iii. 3. Isa. li. 7; xxxii. 15, 16, 17. Jer. xxxi. 31. Ez. xxxvi. 26, 27. Isa. lxi. 10. Rev. xix. 7, 8.] {152}

Thus, if we listen to the voices of the Prophets, we must believe that the righteousness of the Law really is fulfilled in us under the Gospel through the Spirit;—but as this is a truth in this day denied by some persons, it may be well to insist upon it.

Now that it is a plain truth of Scripture, is proved, in addition to what has been said, by those numerous passages which speak of holy men as "righteous before God." This is an expression to which we shall do well to attend, as being an additional explanation of the word "righteousness;" for if holy men are righteous before God, they come up to God's standard of perfection. The phrase "in the sight of " or "before" often occurs in Scripture, and it means "in the judgment," "with the witness" of him or them to whom it is applied. Thus in the last chapter of St. Luke, where it is said, "Their words seemed to them as idle tales," this stands in the original Greek, "Their words seemed in their sight" or "before them," that is, "in their judgment." And hence when St. Paul speaks with an oath, he uses these words, "Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not," that is, "with the witness of God." And so Peter and John answer the council, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye," i.e. "in the presence" and "with the witness of God." And hence the Angels are said "to stand in the presence of God," or to be "before His throne," for they can bear it. And on the other hand, the prodigal son says, " Father; I have sinned before Thee," that is, I know that Thou art conscious of my {153} sin. When then it is said, as it so often is said in Scripture, that the righteous are righteous "before God," this means that their righteousness is not merely the name or semblance of righteousness, nor righteousness up to an earthly standard, but a real and true righteousness which approves itself to God. They are able to stand before God and yet not be condemned. They are not sinners before God, but they are righteous before God, and bear His scrutiny. By nature no one can stand in His presence. "All the world becomes guilty before God." "By the deeds of the Law no flesh shall be justified in His sight." How then are we able to come before Him? How shall we stand in His sight? The answer is given us in the Old Testament, in the words of Balaam to Balak. Balak asked, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God?" and the answer was, "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Or again, the answer may be given in the words of Zacharias, who blesses the Lord God of Israel for fulfilling His promise, and enabling us to come into His presence to "serve Him, without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him." And accordingly, to come to the case of individuals, Noah, even before the Gospel times, is said to have "found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Why? Because, in the words of Almighty God to him, "Thee have I seen righteous before Me," or in My sight, "in this generation;" and Daniel escaped the lions, {154} forasmuch as before God innocency was found in him." In like manner Zacharias and Elizabeth "were both righteous before God," or in the judgment of God. It was told to Cornelius that "his prayers and alms had come up for a memorial in the sight," or judgment, of God. And St. Paul speaks of intercession for governors being "good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour." And he prays for his brethren that God would "work in them that which is well pleasing in His sight," or judgment. St. Peter too speaks of a "meek and quiet spirit," being, "in the sight of God, of great price." And St. John, that "we receive what we ask of Him, because we do those things that are pleasing in His sight." And Christ warns the Church of Sardis to "be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, which are ready to die;" for He says, "I have not found thy works perfect before God," or in the witness of God. And accordingly the word "witness" is itself used elsewhere to express the same thing, as in the instance of Abel, who, St. Paul says, by his "more excellent sacrifice," "obtained witness that he was righteous; God testifying of his gifts." [Luke xxiv. 11. Gal. i. 20. Acts iv. 19. Luke i. 19. Rev. viii. 2; i. 5. Rom. iii. 19. Mic. vi. 8. Luke i. 74, 75. Gen. vii. 1. Dan. vi. 22. Luke i. 6. Acts x. 4. 1 Tim. ii. 3. Heb. xiii. 21. 1 Pet. iii. 4. 1 John iii. 22. Rev. iii. 2. Heb. xi. 4.] If then it is plain from Scripture, as it is, that by nature we are unrighteous in God's sight, and cannot stand before God, the same Scripture also proves that by the gift of grace we are righteous, and can stand before Him; and it is {155} as easy, by some evasion, to explain away the Scripture proofs for the doctrine of original sin, as to get rid of those which Scripture furnishes us for the doctrine of implanted righteousness, and that through the Spirit.

St. Paul has a number of other passages concerning the office of the Holy Spirit, which are equally apposite to show that He it is who vouchsafes to give us inward righteousness under the Gospel, or to justify, or make us acceptable to God. For instance, he says, "Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." Elsewhere he first calls the Gospel "the ministration of the Spirit," and in the next verse, "the ministration of righteousness." Elsewhere he speaks of the Holy Ghost as "the Spirit of adoption." And he intimates that "the righteousness of the law" is "fulfilled" in those "who walk after the Spirit." Again he says that the presence of the Spirit in us pleads, as it were, for us with the Father, "making intercession for us with plaints unutterable;" and that God, "who searcheth the hearts," "knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints, according," or, in a way acceptable, "to God." And elsewhere he contrasts the state of nature and the state of grace in this plain way, clearly implying that that inward gift of righteousness which we lost in Adam we have recovered in Christ; "As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were {156} made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous ... that, as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." [1 Cor. vi. 11. 2 Cor. iii. 8, 9. Gal. iv. 5, 6. Rom. viii. 26, 27; v. 18-21.] Sin, which we derive through Adam, is not a name merely, but a dreadful reality; and so our new righteousness also is a real and not a merely imputed righteousness. It is real righteousness, because it comes from the Holy and Divine Spirit, who vouchsafes, in our Church's language, to pour His gift into our hearts, and who thus makes us acceptable to God, whereas by nature, on account of original sin, we are displeasing to Him. We are "not in the flesh, but in the Spirit," and therefore in a state of grace. Again, St. Paul speaks of the "offering of the Gentiles being acceptable." How acceptable? He proceeds, "being sanctified by the Holy Ghost." He speaks of presenting our "bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God." He says that Christ has "saved us, according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost," and that we are able thereby to "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing." [Rom. xv. 16; xii. 1. Tit. iii. 5. Col. i. 10.]

Such then is the meaning of the words of the text, "Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness." As if the Apostle said, Would you fulfil the righteousness of the Law? You cannot in your own strength. You cannot without that divine gift which His passion has purchased, the gift of the Spirit; with it "the {157} righteousness of the Law may be fulfilled in you." Christ then is the end of the Law for righteousness, because He effects the purpose of the Law. He brings that about which "the Law cannot do, because it is weak through the flesh," through our unregenerate, unrenewed, carnal nature.

3. But here this question may be asked,—"How can we be said to fulfil the Law, and to offer an acceptable obedience, since we do not obey perfectly? At best we only obey in part; the best obedience of ours is sullied with imperfection. Even with the gift of the Spirit, we do nothing which will bear the strict inspection of a holy and just Judge. Adam, on the other hand, had no sinful nature at all, before his fall; there was nothing in him to counteract or to defile the influences of grace. He then might be justified by his inward righteousness, but we cannot."

I answer as follows:—We can only be justified, certainly, by what is perfect; no work of ours, as far as it is ours, is perfect: and therefore by no work of ours, viewed in its human imperfections, are we justified. But when I speak of our righteousness I speak of the work of the Spirit, and this work, though imperfect, considered as ours, is perfect as far as it comes from Him. Our works, done in the Spirit of Christ, have a justifying principle in them, and that is the presence of the All-holy Spirit. His influences are infinitely pleasing to God, and able to overcome in His sight all our own infirmities and demerits. This we are expressly told by St. Paul, in reference to one work of the Holy Ghost, the exercise of prayer, as I just now {158} quoted his words. "He that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints," that is, in their hearts, "according to God." [Rom. viii. 27.] Not then for anything of our own are we acceptable to God, but for the work of grace in us; and as having this work of grace in us we are acceptable. And this Divine Presence in us, makes us altogether pleasing to God. It makes those works pleasing to God, which it produces, though human infirmity be mixed with them: it hallows those acts, that life, that obedience of which it is the original cause, and which it orders and fashions; so that our new obedience or righteousness is justifying, though imperfect, not for its own sake, but for this new and heavenly principle of grace infused into it.

But again, there is another reason why, for Christ's sake, we are dealt with as perfectly righteous, though we be not so. Not only for the Spirit's presence in us, but for what is ours;—not indeed what is now ours, but for what we shall be. We are not unreprovable, and unblemished in holiness yet, but we shall be at length through God's mercy. They who persevere to the end, will be perfect in soul and body, when they stand before God in heaven; and now that perfection is beginning in them, now they have a gift in them which will in due time, through God's mercy, leaven the whole mass within them. They will one day be presented blameless before the Throne, and they are now to labour towards, and begin that {159} perfect state. And in consideration that it is begun in them, God of His great mercy imputes it to them as if it were already completed. He anticipates what will be, and treats them as that which they are labouring to become. This is what is meant by faith being imputed for righteousness, which St. Paul often insists on, and which is implied in the last words of the text, which I have not yet explained. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Faith is the element of all perfection; he who begins with faith, will end in unspotted and entire holiness. It is the earnest of a great deal more than itself, and therefore is allowed, in God's consideration, to stand for, to be a pledge of, to be taken in advance for that, which it for certain will end in. He who believes has not yet perfect righteousness and unblameableness, but he has the first fruits of it. And all through a man's life, whether his righteous deeds be more or less, or his righteousness of heart more or less, his faith is something quite distinct from anything he had in a state of nature, and though it does not satisfy the requirements of God's law, yet since it tends to perfection, it is mercifully taken as perfection. "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness," because God, who sees the end from the beginning, knew it would end in perfect and unblemished righteousness. And in like manner to us "it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." [Rom. iv. 24, 25.] {160}

4. Lastly, such being the Law, such our righteousness, such the work of Christ in us through the Spirit, and such the office of faith, we see what the mistake of the Jews was, of which so much is said in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, and which seems to be the reason why the text itself was written. They were in a path which never would lead to holiness and heaven. They were in a state which was destitute of grace and help. They were under the threatening and condemning Law. Many good men doubtless there had been and were under the Law, but their spiritual excellence was not from the Law, but from the Gospel, the blessings of which were anticipated under it, and which the Apostle was at that time preaching throughout the world. But the Pharisees and others, not understanding the real nature and office of their Law, and the reason why God had given it through Moses, thought to be saved by it,—thought it led to heaven. Whereupon St. Paul attempted to show them that they were, as I may say, in the wrong road. They aimed at eternal life; that was the object towards which they professed to be travelling. Now St. Paul told them that the Jewish Law did not lead to it. He said that if they desired to reach the eternal rest of heaven, they must betake themselves to another road. And that they could not as it were, cross over into it, but that they must go back and enter in at the gate, and that this gate was faith. He said that the further they went on in their present course, the less they would really advance, towards their object; and, though it seemed lost time {161} to go back, it was not so. They might do as many works and services as they would in their present state, but these would not advance them at all, and why?—not that works were not necessary, God forbid! but that such works were not good works; that no works were good works but those done in the Spirit, and that nothing could gain them the gift of the Spirit but faith in Christ. They desired to be righteous; it was well; but Christ alone was "the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believed." They desired to fulfil the Law; well then, let them seek "the Law of the Spirit of life," whereby "the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in them." They desired the reward of righteousness: be it so; let them then "wait through the Spirit for the hope of righteousness by faith." [Gal. v. 5.] But they were too proud to confess that they had anything to learn, that they had to begin again, to submit to be taught, to believe in Him they had crucified, to come suppliantly for the gift of the Spirit. They refused the true righteousness which God had provided, thinking they were righteous as they were, and that they could be saved in the flesh. Hence St. Paul says, "They, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." [Rom. x. 3.] They thought that faith was something mean and weak,—so it was; and, therefore, that it was unable to do great things,—so it was not; for Christ's strength is made perfect in weakness, and He has chosen the despicable things of this world to put to shame such as are highly {162} esteemed. They considered that they were God's people by a sort of right, that they did not need grace, and that their outward ceremonies and their dead works would profit them. Therefore the Apostle warned them, that Abraham himself was justified, not by circumcision, but by faith; that circumcision was not taken for righteousness in his case, for it never would arrive at righteousness, but that faith would arrive, and therefore it was taken; that "to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness;" [Rom. iv. 5.] that "by grace are we saved through faith, not of works, for we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works;" [Eph. ii. 8-10.] that "if by grace, then is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace; but if it be of works, then is it no more grace, otherwise work is no more work." [Rom. xi. 6.] However, the Jews still preferred their old works to good works; they refused to go the way by which alone their persons, thoughts, words, actions, services could be made acceptable to God; they would not exercise that loving faith which alone could gain for them the gift of the Spirit, and was fruitful in true righteousness; they refused to be justified in God's way, and determined to use the Law of Moses for a purpose for which it was never given, for their justification in His sight, and for attaining eternal life.

And in consequence God turned from them, and gave to others what was first offered to them. He manifested Himself to the Gentiles. Those who had hitherto been without any tokens of God's favour, outstripped in the {163} race those who had long enjoyed it. The first became last, and the last first. "The Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith; but Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it, not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the Law; for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone." [Rom. xi. 30-32.]

Let us see to it, lest in any way we too stumble at God's commands or promises; let us beg of Him to lead us on in His perfect and narrow way, and to be "a lantern to our feet, and a light to our path," while we walk in it.

Top | Contents | Works | Home


Note

Epiphany.
Return to text

Top | Contents | Works | Home


Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.