It is one of the greatest mysteries in a Christian's practice, to join these two together, which the gospel hath conjoined, -- justification and sanctification, and to place them in their due order. There is much miscarrying in both these, if they are either separated or misplaced. But the truth is, they cannot really be, except they be jointly. Yet, often it falls out, that in men's apprehensions and endeavours, they are disjoined. This, then, were the argument of a living, and believing Christian, -- to join the study of holiness, with the exercise of faith in Christ, for remission of sin and righteousness; and not only to join it, but also to derive it from that principle. There is both an union between these and an order established in Scripture. The most part of those that profess the gospel are of two sorts; they do either divide holiness from imputed righteousness, or Christ's righteousness from holiness. I do not say, that any man truly seeks to be covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and to have his sins freely pardoned, but he will also study to walk before God in all well-pleasing. But the truth is, many do pretend and profess to seek salvation and forgiveness in Christ's blood, and have the mercy of God, and merits of Christ always in their mouth, who yet declare by their conversation that they do not so much as desire or propose to seek after holiness. I do not speak of those who are Antinomians in profession, but of a great multitude in the visible church, who are really more Antinomians, to wit, in practice, than most part of our professed Antinomians. You hear all of free grace, and free redemption in Jesus Christ, of tender and enduring mercies in God, and this you take for the whole gospel; and presently, upon the notion of mercy and grace, you conclude unto yourselves, not only immunity and freedom from all the threatenings of the word, and from hell, but likewise ye proclaim secretly in your own hearts, a liberty to sin so much the more securely. The door of mercy cast open in the gospel, and the free access to Christ manifested therein, through the corruption that is within us, proves the very occasion of many's giving indulgence to their lusts -- of delaying reformation, and turning to God. You all profess, that you seek to be justified and saved by Jesus Christ; yea, you persuade yourselves to have escaped condemnation by Christ. Now then, conjoin that profession and persuasion with your walk, and O how contrary you may find them to one another! "Your faith is vain," for "ye are yet in your sins," 1 Cor. xv.17. The grace of God appearing to some men, effectually teacheth them to deny ungodliness, and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, soberly, and godly, Tit. ii.11, 12. But if we may conjecture your teaching by your walking, it seems the notion of grace and the gospel that is formed in your minds, hath taught you another doctrine, -- to avow ungodliness and follow worldly lusts. Is there so much as a shadow of this spiritual walking in many? I confess, it is natural for every man to seek his own righteousness, and it is the arm of God that must bow men to submit to Christ's imputed righteousness. Yet, the most part of men seem to be so far from seeking any righteousness, that they are rather seeking the fulfilling of their own carnal lusts, working wickedness with greediness, not caring how little they have to put confidence into. And yet, certain it is, that how much soever a man attains to of a form of religion or civil honesty, he is ready to put his trust in it, and to lean the weight of his soul upon it. But seeing this is natural to you all, to seek heaven by doing and working, I wonder that ye do no more. How do you satisfy your consciences in the expectation of heaven, who take so little pains in religion, and are so loose and profane in your conversation? I wonder, seeing ye have it naturally engraven in your hearts to establish your own righteousness, that ye labour not to have more of it to fill your eye withal.
But again, on the other hand, there are some men, who have a form of religion, and labour to be of a blameless conversation among men, that possibly persuade themselves they are seeking holiness, and walking spiritually. But, alas! you may find it but a painted and seeming religion, that is an abomination in the sight of God; because it is to them, all the ground of their acceptation before God. If ever this question was moved in some of you, "What shall I do to be saved?" you have condescended on such a walk, such a profession for the answer of it. It is natural to all, even those who have least appearance of godliness, to seek heaven by doing God's will. Those that have no more to speak of than their baptism, or receiving the Lord's Supper, or attending well the solemn assemblies, will ground their hope of salvation on these things. How much more will the civil and honest men, commonly so called, who pray and read, and profess godliness, -- how much more, I say, will they establish that which they attain to, as the ground of their confidence before God! Now, this is a general unknown ill that destroys the world, and yet few are convinced of it, how hard it is to be driven out of ourselves, and to seek life in another. O know, that it is in a manner the crucifying of a man's self thus to deny himself, -- to have a sort of righteousness, and not to trust in it. Who is he that cannot endure to look upon himself for moral vileness? Alas, men flatter themselves in their own eyes, and look with a more favourable eye on their own actions, than they ought! Who is he that abhors himself even for abominable works? But who shall be found to abhor himself for his most religious and best actions? Who casts these out of his sight as unclean and menstruous things? Therefore, I say, though thy righteousness were equal to, or exceeded any Pharisee's righteousness, thou canst not enter into heaven. The poor publican, that was a vile and profane sinner, yet had a righteousness exceeding the Pharisee's. Though he had none of his own, yet he had a righteousness without blemish, of Christ's purchasing, having by faith fled to the mercy of God, in and through a Mediator. It is not more doing, more praying, more exact walking, that can make you more righteous in God's account, in order to absolution from law-condemnation, than the profanest and most wretched sinner. But the baser and viler thou be in thine own eyes, the more thou hidest thy best doings from thine eyes, and lookest on thy uncleanness, and betakest thyself to Christ, his unspotted and perfect righteousness, the more honourable and precious thou art in his eyes. Therefore, God is said to dwell in the heart of the humble and contrite one, not for the worth of his humility and repentance; no, no, but for the pleasure he hath in the Well-beloved's righteousness. That is the beautiful garment, only in the eye of a humbled soul, that seeth nothing in itself desirable.
Therefore, I wish that this conjunction which is made in the gospel, were also engraven in your hearts, and on your practices, that is, that you would seek after holiness, without which no man shall see God. Seek to perfect it in the fear of God, but not as though ye were to be thereby justified. Seek it with that diligence and earnest study, as if ye were to be saved by it, and yet seek it, so as to be denied to your diligence, or as if ye sought it not at all. How sweet a conjunction were this in the Christian's practice, to walk and run so after the prize, as if his walking did obtain it, and yet to look upon his walking, as if it were not at all. Your diligence and seriousness in godliness should be upon the growing hand, as if doing did save you; yet you ought to deny all that, and look to the righteousness of another, as if nothing were done at all by you. How doth Paul, (Phil. iii.8,) unite these in his practice, "I count all loss and dung to be found in Christ, not having mine own righteousness, and yet I press forward, and follow after perfection, as having attained nothing yet." One of these two is the original of many stumblings and wanderings in our Christian way. Either there is not a necessity and constraint laid upon the souls of many to walk in all well-pleasing, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God, -- we look on it as a thing indifferent, that is to be determined according to the measure of our receivings from God, or we look on it as a thing not urging all, but belonging to ministers, or more eminent professors; and hence there ariseth much carnal liberty, in walking without the line of Christian liberty, because there is an indifference in the spirit that gives that latitude in walking; or else there is not that following of holiness in such a way, as can consist with the establishing of Christ's righteousness, -- no denial of ourselves in our actions. We act as if we were sufficient of ourselves, and walk as if we were thereby justified, and commend ourselves to God in our own consciences, whenever we can have the testimony of our consciences for well-doing. And by this means the Lord is provoked. Because we do not honour the Son, the Father counts himself despised, and the Spirit is grieved and tempted to depart, and leave us to our own imaginations, till our idol which we established fall down, and our understanding return to us.
As it would be of great moment to the peace of Christians, and increase of holiness, to have that union of justification and sanctification stamped on their hearts, so especially to have the due and evangelic method and order of these impressed on their consciences, would conduce exceedingly both to their quickening and comforting. As there is nothing, that either so deadens or darkens, and saddens the spirits of the godly, as darkness in this particular, the ignorance and mistake of the method and order of that well-ordered covenant must certainly be very prejudicial to the life and consolation tendered by the gospel. This spiritual walking flows from the believer's state of non condemnation in Christ. He is once in Jesus Christ, and then he walks after the Spirit of Christ. You may make engines to cause a dead statue walk, but it cannot walk of itself till it have a principle of life in it. Walking is one of the operations of life, that flows from some inward principle, and so this spiritual walk and motion of a Christian in his course, is the proper operation of the new nature that he is a partaker of in Christ Jesus. As, then, you know it is impossible that there can be true and unfeigned walking, where there is no life, no principle within, to put the creature to motion, though a man may by art and some external impulse so act a piece of timber or stone, as it may resemble to you a walking like to living creatures, so it is not possible that any of the sons of Adam, who are by nature dead in sins, can walk spiritually, before they be united to Jesus Christ, by believing in him for righteousness and salvation. There may be such a walking of carnal unregenerate men, as may deceive all the senses and judgments of beholders. Men may be acting from base external principles in matters of religion, so that a beholder shall perceive no difference between them and others in whom Christ lives and walks; but before God it is nothing else but an artificial walk, a painted and dead business, because the Spirit that raised up Christ is not stirring in them. They are not living members of that Head that quickens all, have not been driven out of their own righteousness to Christ, the city of refuge. Their principles are no higher than walking to obtain salvation, and acceptation of God in a legal way, walking to pacify him, walking to please men and their own consciences, walking for gain or credit, or advantage in the way, walking according to custom or education in the way. These are not living principles. But when once a soul hath embraced Christ Jesus within it, he becomes in a manner a soul to actuate and quicken that soul. He animates it, and moves it in God's ways, according to the covenant of grace, -- "I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes." There is first quickening, and then walking. You who were dead in sins, hath he quickened together with Christ, Eph. ii.1, 5; and then it follows in due order, -- "I will cause you to walk in my statutes," Ezek. xxxvi.27. Christ comes into the heart to dwell, and then he walks in it, 2 Cor. vi.16. And what is that, -- Christ to walk in believers? It is nothing else but Christ by his Spirit making them to walk in his way. There is so little in us to principle a spiritual action, even when renewed and quickened, that we should look on ourselves not so much as workers with him, but as being acted by him. We should look on soul and body as pieces of organized clay that cannot move, but as they are moved by him as the soul and life of them; so that, according to the Scripture dialect, a Christian is nothing else, but Christ living and walking in such a person. This is it which Christ, when he is to go out of the world, instructs his disciples into, John xv.1. He is the vine, and we the branches. The branch must be first united to the tree, and implanted into the tree, ere it bring forth fruit. Without the tree it withers. So must a soul be first ingraft in Jesus Christ, implanted in him by faith in his death and sufferings, before it can grow up into the similitude of his resurrection, or "walk in newness of life," as Paul speaks, Rom. vi.4, 5. "Without me ye can do nothing." Ye must first be one with him, by believing in him, and receiving him as a complete Saviour, and then the sap and virtue of the tree flows into the dead branch, and it shoots forth, and blossoms and bears.
Now, if this doctrine of Christ and his apostles were duly pondered and believed, O what a change would it make on the lives and spirits of Christians! Since this is the order established in the gospel, and an order suitable both to his grace and our necessity, (as all that is in it speaketh forth an excellent contriver) -- when we go about to establish our souls in another method, how is it possible that we should not weary and vex our souls in vain? How can we choose but torment ourselves and intricate ourselves still more? Our method and way is just contrary. We perplex our souls how to find the fruits of the Spirit of Christ, how to walk after the Spirit, without first closing entirely with Christ himself. We trouble ourselves to find the operations of a spiritual life, before we lay hold on Christ, who is the life of our souls. It is made an argument by many, to keep them from believing in Christ, because they do not find that spiritual life stirring in them. How cross is this to the declared mind of Christ in the gospel! It cannot choose but both darken the spirit more, and dry up the influences of the Spirit of God, because it keeps thee from the fountain of all consolation. You may disquiet your souls by this means, but you shall never make advantage this way. Without him "ye can do nothing:" and yet ye will not come to him, because ye have done nothing. It is strange how little reason is in it, if your eyes were opened. You refuse or delay to abide in the vine till you bring forth fruit, and fruit ye cannot bring forth till you be in the vine. You would walk, and you will not have the life from which you must walk. Paul lived indeed, but what a life! "The life that I live is by the faith of the Son of God." Faith in Christ transported him out of himself to Christ, or received Christ into the soul, and Christ in the soul was the life of his soul, Gal. ii.20. Your walking is as if a dead man would essay to go. Will one expect figs of thorns, or grapes of thistles? I beseech you, know what wrong ye do to yourselves, and to Christ. Ye wrong yourselves, because ye stand in the way of your own mercy, ye stand aback from your life, -- him that is "the way, the truth, and the life." You would walk in the way, but no man can walk in this way, but by this way. Christ must quicken you to walk in himself. Ye must get life in him, and not bring it. You are in a vain expectation of fruits from yourselves, -- they will never see the sun; and when you have wearied yourselves in such a vain pursuit, you must at length come and begin here. Ye wrong Christ's grace and mercy. This order is suited of purpose for our desperate condition, and yet ye presume to reject it, and seek another. You prescribe to your skilful and tender Physician, that which would undo you. I beseech you, know the original of your miseries, doubts, barrenness, and darkness. Here it is, -- you are still puzzling yourselves about grace and duties, how to fill your eyes with these, and ye neglect Christ as your righteousness, as one dead and risen again, and now sitting at God's right hand for us. You must first close with him, as ungodly men. Though you were godly, you must shut your eyes on any such thing, and lay living Jesus upon your dead and benumbed hearts. Answer all your challenges with his absolution, and stand before God, in his clothing. Put his garment immediately on your nakedness and vileness, and we may persuade you it shall yield you abundant consolation and life. Because he lives, ye shall live, and walk. If you were more frequent and serious in the consideration of his excellent majesty, of his beautiful and lovely qualifications, as the Mediator for sinners, and of the precious promises which are all "yea and amen," confirmed in him, and less in the vain and unprofitable debates of self-interest, and such like, I am persuaded ye would be more fruitful Christians. This is not as the business of a holiday, to be done at your first coming to Christ, and no more. No, it must run alongst, all your life. The aged experienced Christian must come along as an ungodly sinner, to a blessed and living Saviour, and have no other ground of glory or confidence before God, but Christ Jesus crucified.