Pride of Grace Is To Trust In The Worth of Our Grace
Second. The second way a Christian may be proud of his grace, is by trusting on the worth of his grace—resting on it for his acceptance with God. The Scripture calls inherent grace ‘our own righteousness’ —though God indeed be the efficient of it—and opposeth it to the righteousness of Christ, which alone is called ‘the righteousness of God,’ Rom. 10:1-4. Now, to rest on any grace inherent, is to exalt our own righteousness above the righteousness of God; and what pride will this amount to? If this were so, then a saint when he comes to heaven might say, ‘This is heaven which I have built—my grace hath purchased;’ and thus the God of heaven should become tenant to his creature in heaven. No, God hath cast the order of our salvation into another method —of grace, but not of grace in us, but grace to us. Inherent grace hath its place and office to accompany salvation, Heb. 6:9, but not [to] procure it. This is Christ’s work, not grace’s. When Israel waited on the Lord at Mount Sinai they had their bounds. Not a man must come up besides Moses to treat with God; no, not touch the mount, lest they die. Thus all the graces of the Spirit wait on God, but none come up to challenge any acceptance of God besides faith, which is a grace that presents the soul not in its own garments. But you will say, ‘What needs all this? where is the man that trusts in his grace?’ Alas, where is the Christian that doth fully stand clear, and freely come off his own righteousness? He is a rare pilot, indeed, that can steer his faith in so direct a course, as not now and then knock upon this duty, and run on ground upon that grace. Abraham went in to Hagar, and the children of Abraham’s faith are not perfectly dead to the law, and may be found sometimes in Hagar’s arms. Witness the flux and reflux of our faith, according to the various aspect of our obedience. When this seems full, then our faith is at a spring-tide, and covers all the mountains of our fears; but let it seem to wane in any service or duty, then the Jordan of our faith flies back, and leaves the soul naked. The devil’s spite is at Christ, and therefore, since he could not hinder his landing—which he endeavoured all he could—nor work his will on his person when he was come, he goes now, in a more refined way, to darken the glory of his sufferings, and the sufficiency of his righteousness, by blending ours with his. This doctrine of justification by faith hath had more works and batteries made against it, than any other in the Scripture. Indeed many other errors were but his sly approaches to get nearer to undermine this. And lastly, when he cannot hide this truth —which now shines in the church like the sun in its strength—then he labours to hinder the practical improvement of it, that we (if he can help it) shall not live up to our own principles—making us, at the same time that, in our judgment, we profess acceptance only through Christ, in our practice confute ourselves.
Now there is a double pride in the soul he makes use of for this end—the one I may call a mannerly pride, the other a self-applauding pride.
First. [There is] a mannerly pride, which comes forth in the habit and guise of humility, and that discovers itself, either at the soul’s first coming to Christ, and keeps him from closing with the promise; or afterward in the daily course of a Christian’s walking with God, which keeps him from comfortable living on Christ.
When a poor soul is staved off the promise by the sense of his own unworthiness and great unrighteousness. Tell him of a pardon, alas! he is so wrapped up with the thoughts of his own vileness, that you cannot fasten it upon him. What, will God ever take such a toad as he is into his bosom, discount so many great abominations at once, and receive him into his favour, that hath been so long in rebellious arms against him! He cannot believe it; no, though he hears what Christ hath done and suffered for sin, he refuseth to be comforted. Little doth the soul think what a bitter root such thoughts spring from. Thou thinkest thou doest well thus to declaim against thyself, and aggravate thy sins. Indeed, thou canst not paint them black enough, or entertain too low and base thoughts of thyself for them; but what wrong hath God and Christ done thee, that thou shouldst so unworthily reflect upon the mercy of the one, and merit of the other? Mayest thou not do this, and be tender of the good name of God also? Is there no way to show the sense of thy sin, except thou asperse thy Saviour? Canst thou not charge thyself, but thou must condemn God, and put Christ and his blood to shame before Satan, who triumphs more in this than all thy other sins? In a word, though thou, like a wretch, hast undone thyself, and damned thy soul by thy sins, yet art thou not willing God should have the glory of pardoning them, and Christ the honour of procuring the same? or art thou like him in the gospel, who could not dig, and to beg was ashamed? Luke 16:3. Thou canst not earn heaven by thy own righteousness; and is thy spirit so stout that thou wilt not beg it for Christ’s sake? yea, take it at God’s hands, who, in the gospel, comes a begging to thee, and beseecheth thee to be reconciled to him? Ah, soul! who would ever have thought there could have lain such pride under such a modest veil? and yet none like it. It is horrible pride for a beggar to starve rather than take an alms at a rich man’s hands—[for] a malefactor rather to choose his halter than a pardon from his gracious prince’s hand; but here is one infinitely surpassing both—a soul pining and perishing in sin, and yet rejecting the mercy of God, and the helping hand of Christ to save him! Though Abigail did not think herself worthy to be David’s wife, yet she thought David was worthy of her, and therefore she humbly accepted his offer, and makes haste to go with the messengers. That is the sweet frame of heart indeed—to lie low in the sense of your own vileness, yet to believe; to renounce all conceit of worthiness in ourselves, yet not therefore to renounce all hope of mercy, but the more speedily to make haste to Christ that woos us. All the pride and unmannerliness lies in making Christ stay for us, who bids his messengers invite poor sinners to come and tell them ‘all things are ready.’ But, may be thou wilt say still, it is not pride that keeps thee off, but thou canst not believe that ever God will entertain such as thou art. Truly thou mendest the matter but little with this. Either thou keepest some lust in thy heart, which thou wilt not part with, to obtain the benefit of the promise, and then thou art a notorious hypocrite, who under such an outcry for thy sins, canst drive a secret trade with hell at the same time; or if not so, thou dost discover the more pride in that thou darest stand out, when thou hast nothing to oppose against the many plain and clear promises of the gospel but thy peremptory unbelief. God bids the wicked forsake his ways, and turn to him, and he will abundantly pardon him; but thou sayest thou canst not believe this for thy own self. Now who speaks the truth? One of you two must be the liar; either thou must take it with shame to thyself, for what thou hast said against God and his promise—and that is thy best course; or thou must proudly, yea, blasphemously cast it upon God, as every unbeliever doth, I John 5:10. Nay, thou makest him foresworn, for God—to give poor sinners the greater security in flying for refuge to Christ, who is that ‘hope set before them,’ Heb. 6:17,18—hath sworn they should have strong consolation. ‘O happy we, for whose sake God puts himself under an oath: but O miserable we, who will not believe God, no, not when he swears!