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What is all righteousness that men devise,
I HAT good works can have no place in the justification of a sinner before God, was asserted in my last: want of leisure, however, prevented me from attempting to vindicate that assertion. I shall now, therefore, in pursuance of my promise, transmit my thoughts on this highly interesting subject.
Good works, performed by the apostate sons of Adam, have no intrinsick merit. The best performances of the most eminent saint are imperfect. They fall vastly short, both in motive and in practice, of what the moral law, which is the rule of duty, invariably requires : and can therefore have no influence in the article of justification. Every man must see the absurdity of pleading the worth of partial and defective duties in order to answer the demands of a law that enjoins perfect and perpetual obedience. Nay, there never was, in fact, any period or situation in which the works of the first parent of mankind could deserve recompense. For, having received all from God, he could display no excellence, nor communicate any favour, which was not derived from divine bounty. Far from increasing the glory or happiness of his Maker, he could only promote his own felicity and dignity, by exerting his powers in the service of him who gave them.'
Besides, if we hope to obtain compensation in a way of merit, our services must not be a debt previously due to him from whom the compensation is expected. But this is not the case with angels, much less with rebellious man, respecting the insulted Sovereign of hea. ven. We owe him ten thousand talents, and are absolutely insolvent: or, to use the language of scripture, We have nothing to pay. The law of God, which is holy, and just, and good; which was adapted to promote our own happiness and his glory, we have violated in a thousand instances. Nor is this all: sin has not only introduced disorder and misery into the moral world, but it has so far debased human nature, as to render us incapable, without foreign aid, of yielding that obedience which it is at all times, and in all circum-stances, our duty to perform. This incapacity, however, which is purely moral, can by no means be pleaded in extenuation or excuse. Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.' All obedience or disobedience is properly, or at least primarily, in no part but the will ; so that though other faculties of the soul in regeneration are sancti. fied, and thereby made conformable to the will of God, yet obedience and disobedience are formally acts of the will, and according to its qualities, a man is said to be obedient to God or disobedient. If therefore we have lost all inclination to obey the great Legislator of heaven and of earth, he has not lost his right to command universal and perpetual obedia ence. His law, which is the standard of perfection, and the rule of duty to moral agents, cannot, on that account, dispense with partial observance : nay, could we henceforth comply with all its requirements, we should do nothing more than our duty. Instead, therefore, of attempting to palliate the guilt of remissness, we ought to cry with the trembling jailor, What shall I do to be saved? or in the more pertinent language of the publican, God be merciful to me, a sinner!
That good works cannot be profitable to God, nor serviceable to man, in the important affair of justification, is a truth that extends to men of every description. The real christian, who is renewed in the spirit of his mind, and enabled to act on principles very different from men in a state of nature, can claim no exception: nay, it will be the language of his heart, My goodness, O Lord, extendeth not unto thee. Morality, in this case, can have nothing meritorious in it; "it being;' says a celebrated writer, but wisdom, prudence, or good economy, which, like health,