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BY JOH HOWARD HI TO
"Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us ... righteousness." 1 Cor. i. 30. WITHOUT troubling the reader with the connexion of this passage, important and interesting as it is, we will beg him to direct his undiverted thoughts to the great subject which the text presents to him. Here is one grand aspect of God's interposition of mercy for a ruined world. In his infinite grace and wisdom, " Christ Jesus is made unto us righteousness." With this passage before us, our first business will be to ascertain the meaning of it. In what sense is Christ made to us righteousness? He is a teacher of righteousness, say some, and this is true; he was an example of righteousness, say others, and this also is true; but neither of these apart, nor both of them together, will satisfy the language employed. For Christ to be made righteousness to us, is surely more than his being our teacher and example. In order to see our way a little further into this subject, it should be observed that the word righteousness is used in two senses; sometimes to denote a moral righteousness, and sometimes a legal righteousness. These two phrases relate respectively to two systems of things from which they emanate. There is a system of essential right, of right determined by an absolute and unchangeable rule which is to be found in the nature of God, and conformity to this rule is moral righteousness; there is also a system of prescribed right, of right expressed in commandments, embodied in law, and enforced by retributive sanctions, and obedience to this law is legal righteousness. It is for us, then, to ascertain in which of these senses the word righteousness is used in the passage before us.
It is held by some that the apostle here refers to moral righteousness; so that, when Christ is said to be our right-
CHRIST OUR RIGHTEOUS ESS. 213 eousness, the meaning is that he is to us, in some way, the source of holiness. There is, however, an argument close at hand to show that this cannot be so. The whole verse reads thus " Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." ow the word " sanctification " must of necessity be understood of moral righteousness; and, as one cannot impute a mere tautology to the apostle, no meaning remains for the word "righteousness" but that of legal righteousness. ow, since Christ is made to us legal righteousness, it evidently follows that we are placed under a system of administration to which legal righteousness belongs; and, in order to appreciate, or even to understand, the privilege thus expressed, it will be necessary to pay some attention to the character and bearing of that system itself. 1. We are, then, placed by the sovereign will of our Maker under a system of law. A law is expressly given by him to us, in the words " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart . . . and thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. xxii. 37-39); and in the epistle to the Romans (ii. 6-16), the apostle Paul tells us that God "will render to every man according to his deeds," "in the day when he shall judge the secrets of men." 2. ow, iinder a system of law, the necessary and only condition of well-being is obedience, or righteousness. This follows inevitably from the principle laid down, that God "will render to every man according to his deeds." According to the apostle in another place (Rom. vi. 23), "The wages of sin is death." Regularly administered, a law knows nothing of overlooking otfences, or of forgiving them.
It maintains and protects the social position of those who obey it, and of none besides. Under a system of law, therefore, righteousness is, as I have said, the necessary and only condition of well-being. 3. In point of fact, however, our well-l>eing under the law of God is already forfeited by our manifold transgressions. We have in a thousand instances broken it, and as violators of it we are under its curse; a curse which constitutes the most awful element of our misery, and from which it is our most urgent interest to escajx;. But can we escape? As we have just seen, the only possible condition of our well-being is our righteousness; yes, let us repeat it, in some way or other we must possess righteousness, or we are lost !
214 CHRIST OUR RIGHTEOUS ESS. 4. Is this possible, however 1 ? And, if it be possible, in what method can it be effected 1 To these questions we must, in the first instance, answer frankly, that in our own persons it is absolutely impossible. We are sinners, and we never can undo our many deeds of transgression, or any one of them. If our being righteous is possible at all, it must be in the person of another. "The person of another!" my reader, perhaps, exclaims; and adds, " Surely that can never be." So by many it has been thought, and two apparently forcible objections to the idea have been adduced, at both of which we must briefly glance. On the one hand, we are told that it is impossible we should be righteous in the person of another, because actions cannot be transferred. In the nature of things, it is said, our sins always must be our own, and the righteousness of another must always be his. ow we admit this to be perfectly true, and we should feel the bearing of it against us
if we held that actions, whether evil or good, were transferred. We have nothing to do, however, with any such notion. What we are dealing with is not actions, but the consequences of actions the punishment of sin, and the reward of obedience. ow, although actions cannot be transferred, it is quite manifest that the consequences of actions may. If one commits a robbery, and is sentenced to transportation for it, although another cannot commit the robbery, he may undergo the transportation. In like manner, although our sins never can become actually Christ's, nor his obedience ours, he may bear the desert of our iniquities, and we may enjoy the reward of his obedience. This objection, therefore, that actions cannot be transferred, does not apply. Then, on the other hand, we are told that God, as a righteous governor, is required to deal with every man for his own transgressions, and cannot, by the essential principles of his government, be allowed to put another in the transgressor's stead. But we are not sure that this, however plausible, is true; and, at any rate, we cannot admit it without examination. We are liable to get contracted notions on this point, perhaps from our habit of contemplating the position of an earthly judge, who certainly has necessarily to deal with the actual law-breaker, and with no
CHRIST OUR RIGHTEOUS ESS. 215 one besides; but it should be recollected that an earthly judge possesses only a delegated authority, and is by it strictly bound to administer the law as it is put into his hands, while the sovereign in whose name he acts possesses a certain discretionaiy power, and is able to some extent to override the proceedings of the judge, as in the familiar case of a royal pardon. ow, in our case God is at the same time judge and sovereign; and, within certain limits, he can modify the administration of his own law.
That which it is necessaiy for him to maintain is not the strict bearing of his law on the actual transgressors of it, but the honour of the law itself, and the unblemished character of his government. If, consistently with these, any merciful modification of legal process should be found possible, it is quite competent to him to permit it. 5. The question is thus reduced from one of possibility to one of wisdom. The introduction of another person into the judicial proceedings, one to be dealt with in the place of, and as a substitute for, the actual transgressor, need not be refused if suitable conditions can be arranged ; that is to say, if, on the one hand, an apt and adequate substitute can be found, and if, on the other, a mode of rendering his suretyship available can be hit upon which shall include the germ of a renovated character. The question is, no doubt, a difficult and profound one; but, treating it hypothetical ly, it is not absolutely impracticable. One can see, fur example, some of the principal qualifications which a substitute in this case must possess. In the first place, he must be a man; a being of the same nature as the transgressor, a member of the race which has sinned only so can he be a fitting representative of them. In the next place, he must be a man free from the moral taint which attaches to the i-ace; one of human kind, yet not a descendant of Adam ; a member of the race thrown into it from some external source. In the third place, he must be a man, as of innocent nature, so of holy life, and in all practical obedience unblamable not himself a sinner. And, in the fourth place, he must be more than man; having some superhuman dignity attached to his nature, which shall give to his obedience unto death a meritorious and expiatory character, far higher than could belong to that of a mere
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man; inasmuch as he will stand in the stead, not only of many men, but of many millions of men, and must in himself be an equivalent for the whole world. And, with respect to the second point, the discovery of a condition which should provide for the renovation of the sinner's character, one can see that the actual efficacy of this merciful arrangement might be made dependent on the cultivation of a state of mind out of which a new life would certainly grow. 6. Thus looked at hypothetically, it is perceptible that the case is not absolutely intractable; what is wanted being some one of wisdom and power enough to devise and execute the requisite means. How far this work transcends human wisdom and power we need not say; but, happily, we know how all these difficulties have been met and overcome in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the doctrine of salvation through faith in his name. See what he is as a substitute for our guilty race. First, he is " one chosen out of the people," " bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh." ext, he is without spot; the "seed of the woman," indeed, but, even as to his human nature, "the Son of God." Then, his life was as perfect as his natiare was pure, and his entire obedience without a flaw. While, in the last place, his true divinity gives to his person a glory, and to all his doings and sufferings a value, which surpasses the salvation of a thousand worlds. The substitute, therefore, is found. And now for the condition on which his substitution shall be made available, a condition to unite the claims of grace and holiness; to make salvation as free as our lost estate requires, and as purifying as the government of God demands. Behold it in the proclamation of salvation by faith ! ow faith in this connexion may be explained as an act of acquiescence in, or of submission to, God's method of mercy. It is the simple acceptance of that which is simply given.
Salvation cannot be more free. " Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." And the acceptance of God's mercy thus exercised is the first fruit of a state of mind entirely new, arid certainly productive of a holy life. If the enemy were not changed to a friend, God's method of mercy never would have been submitted to; and, if the enemy is turned to a friend, the fruits of friendship will assuredly follow in their season.
CHRIST OUR RIGHTEOUS ESS. 217 It is in this manner, then, that " Christ is of God made unto us righteousness." Under a system of government by law, we as transgressors are liable to condemnation; and our happiness cannot be secured but by our becoming legally righteous, which in our own persons is impossible. God, then, in his infinite mercy, places his own Son in our room, to be dealt with as though he had committed our sins, while we shall be dealt with as though we had wrought his righteousness. This arrangement being made, Christ is sent forth into the world ; by his obedience unto death he magnifies the law, and makes it honourable; he bears our sins in his own body on the tree, and redeems us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. Thus God makes him to be sin [treats him as a sinner] for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God [treated as righteous by God] in him. This righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ, is unto all, and upon all, them that believe. (Isaiah xlii. 21; i Peter ii. 24; Gal. iii. 13; 2 Cor. v. 21; Rom. iii. 22.) Let us now endeavour to make some practical improvement of the subject. 1. How necessary it is to the appreciation, and even to the understanding, of Gospel privileges, that we should distinctly feel, and deeply realize, the antecedent misery to which they correspond ! What can we know about Christ as our righteousness, unless we know also, and feel, too, our
condition under the obligation and the curse of the law? Vague and obscure views on this point have a tendency to vitiate, or enfeeble, the whole of experimental religion, and, in all probability, thev lie at the root of much of its practical instability. Let the reader ask himself Do I know and feel my condition as a creature, under government by law 1 ? Do I know and feel my condition as a sinner, under the curse of law? Do I know and feel my need as a breaker of law, not of pardon merely, but of righteousness ? 2. After the view we have taken, how clearly and simply the way of salvation shows itself! If with any fitting anxiety we ask the question, "What must I do to be saved?" we sec at once what the reply cannot l>o. It will not answer our need to say, Pray to God, for he is merciful; for what we want is righteousness. It will not answer our need to say, Improve your morals, and attend to your religious duties ; for what we want is righteousness. othing can
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answer our need till we see "the righteousness of God," or God's way of making us righteous; and then there is nothing to be done but to bow to it, and accept it. sinner, lost and helpless! behold "the righteousness of God"! In what manner does your heart respond to it 1 Do yon shrink from it in pride, or turn aside in self-righteous confidence ? Will you prefer to trust in prayers, in tears, in names, in ceremonies, in deeds of virtue or of charity? Or, with yielding heart, do you rather say with an apostle, " What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith"? (Phil. iii. 7-9.)
3. How complete and blessed is the provision which divine mercy has made for our need ! As breakers of law we want a righteousness ; and, behold, God in adequate compassion has provided one a righteousness which he himself has devised, which his well-beloved Son has wrought, and which his government in its most solemn transactions will own. How completely, whatever may have been oiu- guilt, are our relations with the divine government reduced to order and peace ! The law, once so angry, demands no more. o longer do we hear thunders of wrath, or charges of transgression. " Who is he that condemneth 1 It is God that justifieth" (Rom. viii. 32). In the midst of God's holy universe we stand not charged with sin, for " Christ is of God made unto us righteousness." 4. How distinguished is our privilege as believers in Jesus ! O ! it had been much, if, like holy angels, we could have walked in clean garments, in garments which had never received a stain ; but it is more infinitely more to be arrayed in the robe of Jesus' righteousness. So bright a garment angels never wore ; and with adoring love should rebellious mortals wear the righteousness of an incarnate God! 5. How lively should be our gratitude ! When we look at the love thus shown to us, and try with our poor thoughts to measure it, we soon find that it passeth knowledge; but, at least, in the little measure in which it can be known, it should be influential. Does not the consideration of it waken our hearts to thankfulness? What are we going to be, to
CHRIST OUR RIGHTEOUS ESS. 2IQ do, for him who hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us 1 Alas ! our indolence and apathy ! shall they not be crucified at his cross ] Shall we accept so vast a gift, and make no return ?
" In vain <nir mortal voices strive To speak compassion so divine ; Had we a thousand lives to give, A thousand lives should all be thine." Consider, too, dear reader, that out of your very possession of righteousness by Christ springs an obligation of great weight to holiness of life. Your submission to God's method of mercy implies that your heart is no longer at enmity with him, but is reconciled at once to him and to his government. Your faith in Christ is the first expression of your reconciled spirit; but, assuredly, it ought not to be, and it cannot be, the last. It cannot stand by itself, but must be the starting point of a new course of holy living. You must not, cannot, resume your former course of rebellion ; you will rather endeavour to be holy, as God is holy. Herein, indeed, will be the critical test of your faith, which is no faith, but a name only, if it do not purify your heart, and regulate your life. O happy one to whom " Christ is of God made righteousness"! see to it that you have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but that you perfect holiness in the fear of God !
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