Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Review: Everlasting Righteousness

Everlasting Righteousness. Horatius Bonar. 1872. 114 pages.

From the preface:
The awakened conscience of the sixteenth century betook itself to "the righteousness of God." There it found refuge, at once from condemnation and from impurity. Only by "righteousness" could it be pacified; and nothing less than that which is divine could meet the case. At the cross this "righteousness" was found; human, yet divine: provided for man, and presented to him by God, for relief of conscience and justification of life. On the one word τετέλεσται, "It is finished," as on a heavenly resting-place, weary souls sat down and were refreshed. The voice from the tree did not summon them to do, but to be satisfied with what was done. Millions of bruised consciences there found healing and peace. The belief of that finished work brought the sinner into favour with God; nor did it leave him in uncertainty as to this. The justifying work of Calvary was God's way, not only of bringing pardon, but of securing certainty. It was the only perfect thing which had ever been presented to God in man's behalf; and so peculiar was this perfection, that it might be used by man in his transactions with God, as if it were his own. The knowledge of this sure justification was life from the dead to multitudes.
From chapter one:
How may I, a sinner, draw near to Him in whom there is no sin, and look upon His face in peace? This is the great question which, at some time or other, every one of us has asked. This is one of the awful problems which man in all ages has been attempting to solve. There is no evading it: he must face it.
I really LOVED reading this short but oh-so-beneficial little book on the "everlasting righteousness" of Christ. This is a book about justification and sanctification, imputation and the atonement. The chapter titles include, "God's Answer To Man's Question," "God's Recognition of Substitution," "The Completeness of the Substitution," "The Declaration of the Completeness," "Righteousness for the Unrighteous," "The Righteousness of God," "Not Faith, But Christ," "What the Resurrection of the Substitute Has Done," "The Pardon and the Peace Made Sure," and "The Holy Life of the Justified."

The Everlasting Righteousness was my introduction to the work of Horatius Bonar. He's definitely an author I'm going to want to read again! I found the book to be quite accessible. (Definitely more accessible than A.W. Pink and J.C. Ryle. And perhaps slightly more accessible than some of Spurgeon's works.) The subject is an ESSENTIAL one. He's writing on something of great foundational importance. More people need to be aware of this doctrine; it is a life-changing doctrine. If you want to better understand--better GRASP--the gospel, read this book!!!

Favorite quotes:
Man has always treated sin as a misfortune, not a crime; as disease, not guilt; as a case for the physician, not for the judge. Herein lies the essential faultiness of all mere human religions or theologies. They fail to acknowledge the judicial aspect of the question, as that on which the real answer must hinge; and to recognise the guilt or criminality of the evil-doer as that which must first be dealt with before any real answer, or approximation to an answer, can be given. God is a Father; but He is no less a Judge. Shall the Judge give way to the Father, or the Father give way to the Judge? God loves the sinner; but He hates the sin. Shall He sink His love to the sinner in His hatred of the sin, or His hatred of the sin in His love to the sinner? God has sworn that He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner (Eze 33:11); yet He has also sworn that the soul that sinneth, it shall die (Eze 18:4). Which of the two oaths shall be kept? Shall the one give way to the other? Can both be kept inviolate? Can a contradiction, apparently so direct, be reconciled? Which is the more unchangeable and irreversible, the vow of pity or the oath of justice? Law and love must be reconciled, else the great question as to a sinner's intercourse with the Holy One must remain unanswered. The one cannot give way to the other. Both must stand, else the pillars of the universe will be shaken.
The reconciliation God has accomplished; and, in the accomplishment, both law and love have triumphed. The one has not given way to the other. Each has kept its ground; nay, each has come from the conflict honored and glorified. Never has there been love like this love of God; so large, so lofty, so intense, so self-sacrificing. Never has law been so pure, so broad, so glorious, so inexorable. There has been no compromise. Law and love have both had their full scope. Not one jot or tittle has been surrendered by either. They have been satisfied to the full; the one in all its severity, the other in all its tenderness. Love has never been more truly love, and law has never been more truly law, than in this conjunction of the two. It has been reconciliation, without compromise. God's honour has been maintained, yet man's interests have not been sacrificed. God has done it all; and He has done it effectually and irreversibly. Man could not have done it, even though he could have devised it. But truly he could do neither. God only could have devised and done it. He has done it by removing the whole case into His own courts of law, that it might be settled there on a righteous basis. Man could not have gone into court with the case, save in the certainty that he would lose it. God comes into court, bringing man and man's whole case along with Him, that upon righteous principles, and in a legal way, the case may be settled, at once in favour of man and in favour of God. It is this judicial settlement of the case that is God's one and final answer to man's long unanswered question, "How shall man be just with God?" "Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God?" (Micah 6:6). God provides the basis of the reconciliation; a basis which demonstrates that there is no compromise between law and love, but the full expression of both; a basis which establishes both the authority and the paternity of Jehovah, as Lawgiver and Father; a basis which reveals in infinite awfulness the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the spotless purity of the statute, the unbending character of God's governmental ordinances; and which yet secures, in and by law, the righteous overflow of His boundless love to the lost sons of Adam. This basis of reconciliation between law and love God has Himself not only provided, but brought into His own courts of law; proposing to the sinner that all the questions between Himself and the sinner should be settled on this basis ,-so equitable, so friendly, so secure; and settled in judicial form, by a legal process, in which verdict is given in favour of the accused, and he is clean absolved, -"justified from all things."
Sin is too great an evil for man to meddle with. His attempts to remove it do but increase it, and his endeavours to approach God in spite of it aggravate his guilt. Only God can deal with sin, either as a disease or a crime; as a dishonour to Himself, or as a hinderer of man's approach to Himself. He deals with it not in some arbitrary or summary way, by a mere exercise of will or power, but by bringing it for adjudication into His own courts of law. As judge, seated on His tribunal, He settles the case, and settles it in favour of the sinner, -of any sinner on the earth that will consent to the basis which He proposes. Into this court each one may freely come, on the footing of a sinner needing the adjustment of the great question between him and God. That adjustment is no matter of uncertainty or difficulty; it will at once be granted to each applicant; and the guilty man with his case, however bad, thus legally settled, retires from court with his burden removed and his fears dispelled, assured that he can never again be summoned to answer for his guilt. It is righteousness that has reconciled God to him, and him to God. As sin is too great an evil for any but God to deal with, so is righteousness too high for man to reach; to high for any but God to bring down and place at our disposal. God has brought down, and brought nigh, the righteousness. Thus the guilt which we have contracted is met by the righteousness which God has provided; and the exclusion from the divine fellowship, which the guilt produced, is more than reversed by the new introduction which the righteousness places at our disposal.
The history of six thousand years of evil has been lost on man. He refuses to read its awful lesson regarding sin, and God's displeasure against the sinner, which that history records. The flood of evil that has issued forth from one single sin he has forgotten. The death, the darkness, the sorrow, the sickness, the tears, the weariness, the madness, the confusion, the bloodshed, the furious hatred between man and man, making earth a suburb of hell,-all this is overlooked or misread; and man repels the thought that sin is crime, which God hates with an infinite hate, and which He, in His righteousness, must condemn and avenge... The world has grown old in sin, and has now more than ever begun to trifle with it, either as a necessity which cannot be cured, or a partial aberration from good order which will rectify itself ere long. It is this tampering with evil, this refusal to see sin as God sees it, as the law declares it, and as the story of our race has revealed it, that has in all ages been the root of error, and of wide departure from the faith once delivered to the saints. Admit the evil of sin, with all its eternal consequences, and you are shut up to a divine way of dealing with it. Deny the evil of sin, and the future results of that evil, and you may deny the whole revelation of God, set aside the cross, and abrogate the law.
Stripe for stripe is human law; "by His stripes we are healed" is superhuman, the result of a legislation as gracious as it is divine.
What God is, and what Christ has done, make up one gospel. The belief of that gospel is eternal life. "All that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:39).
With a weak faith and a fearful heart many a sinner stands before the altar. But it is not the strength of his faith, but the perfection of the sacrifice, that saves; and no feebleness of faith, no dimness of eye, no trembling of hand, can change the efficacy of our burnt-offering. The vigor of our faith can add nothing to it, nor can the poverty of it take anything from it. Faith, in all its degrees, still reads the inscription, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin"; and if at times the eye is so dim that it cannot read these words, through blinding tears or bewildering mist, faith rests itself on the certain knowledge of the fact that the inscription is still there, or at least that the blood itself (of which these words remind us) remains, in all its power and suitableness, upon the altar unchanged and uneffaced. God says that the believing man is justified; who are we, then, that we should say, "We believe, but we do not know whether we are justified"? What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. The question as to the right way of believing is that which puzzles many, and engrosses all their anxiety, to the exclusion of the far greater questions as to the person and work of Him who is the object of their believing. Thus their thoughts run in a self-righteous direction, and are occupied, not with what Christ has done, but with what they have yet to do, to get themselves connected with His work...The quality or quantity of faith is not the main question for the sinner. That which he needs to know is that Jesus died and was buried, and rose again, according to the Scriptures. This knowledge is life everlasting.
Our burden He assumed when He entered the manger, and laid it aside only at the cross. The utterance, "It is finished,' pointed back to a whole life's sin-bearing work.
Not resurrection, but crucifixion, is the finishing of transgression and the making of an end of sin.
To be entitled to use another's name, when my own name is worthless; to be allowed to wear another's raiment, because my own is torn and filthy; to appear before God in another's person,-the person of the Beloved Son ,-this is the summit of all blessing. The sin-bearer and I have exchanged names, robes, and persons! I am now represented by Him, my own personality having disappeared; He now appears in the presence of God for me (Heb 9:24). All that makes Him precious and dear to the Father has been transferred to me. His excellency and glory are seen as if they were mine; and I receive the love, and the fellowship, and the glory, as if I had earned them all. So entirely one am I with the sin-bearer, that God treats me not merely as if I had not done the evil that I have done; but as if I had done all the good which I have not done, but which my Substitute has done. In one sense I am still the poor sinner, once under wrath; in another I am altogether righteous, and shall be so for ever, because of the Perfect One, in whose perfection I appear before God. Nor is this a false pretense or a hollow fiction, which carries no results or blessings with it. It is an exchange which has been provided by the Judge, and sanctioned by law; an exchange of which any sinner upon earth may avail himself and be blest.
The knowledge of Christ is that which secures our justification; the knowledge of Christ as the sin-bearer: for it is added, as the justifying thing in this knowledge, "He shall bear their iniquities"; thus again linking justification with the cross, and the finished work there.
The first note of that gospel was sounded at Bethlehem, from the manger where the young child lay; the last note came from the throne above, when the Son of God returned in triumph from His mission of grace to earth, and took His seat upon the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Between these two extremities, the manger and the throne, how much is contained for us! All the love of God is there. The exceeding riches of divine grace are there. The fullness of that power and wisdom and righteousness, which have come forth, not to destroy, but to save, is there. These are the two boundary walls of that wondrous storehouse out of which we are to be filled throughout the eternal ages. Of what is contained in this treasure-house we know something here, in some small measure; but the vast contents are beyond all measurement and all conception. The eternal unfolding of these to us will be perpetual gladness. Apart from the excellency of the inheritance, and the beauty of the city, and the glory of the kingdom, which will make us say, "Truly the lines have fallen unto us in pleas-ant places," there will be, in our ever-widening knowledge of "the unsearchable riches of Christ," light and replenishment and satisfaction, which, even were all external brightness swept away, would be enough for the soul throughout all the ages to come. The present glory of Christ is the reward of His humiliation here. Because He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, therefore God hath highly exalt-ed Him, and given Him the name that is above every name. He wears the crown of glory, because He wore the crown of thorns. He drank of the brook by the way, therefore he has lifted up the head (Psa 110:7). But this is not all. That glory to which He is now exalted is the standing testimony before all heaven that His work was finished on the cross. "I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do," He said; and then He added, "Now, O Father, glorify Thou me with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (John 17:4,5). The proofs of the completeness of the sacrificial work upon the cross are very full and satisfying. They assure us that the work was really finished, and, as such, available for the most sinful of men. We shall find it good to dwell upon the thought of this completeness, for the pacifying of the conscience, for the satisfying of the soul, for the removal of all doubt and unbelief, and for the production and increase of faith and confidence. There are degrees of rest for the soul, and it is in proportion as we comprehend the perfection of the work on Calvary that our rest will increase. There are depths of peace which we have not yet sounded, for it is "peace which passeth all understanding"; and into these depths the Holy Spirit leads us, not in some miraculous way, or by some mere exertion of power, but by revealing to us more and more of that work, in the first knowledge of which our peace began. We are never done with the cross, nor ever shall be. Its wonders will be always new, and always fraught with joy. "The Lamb as it had been slain" will be the theme of our praise above. Why should such a name be given to Him in such a book as the Revelation, which in one sense carries us far past the cross, were it not that we shall always realize our connection with its one salvation; always be looking to it even in the midst of glory; and always learning from it some new lesson regarding the work of Him "in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace"? What will they who here speak of them-selves as being so advanced as to be done with the cross, say to being brought face to face with the Lamb that was slain, in the age of absolute perfection, the age of the heavenly glory? Thou fool! Dost thou not know that the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ endureth for ever, and that thou shalt eternally glory in it, if thou are saved by it at all? Thou fool! Wilt thou not join in the song below, "To Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood"? Wilt thou not join in the song above, "Thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood"? And dost thou not remember that it is from "the Lamb as it had been slain" that "the seven spirits of God are sent forth into all the earth"? (Rev 5:6). (2It is the Lamb who stands in the midst of the elders (Rev 5:6), and before whom they fall down. "Worthy is the Lamb" is the theme of celestial song. It is the Lamb that opens the seals (Rev 6:1). It is before the Lamb that the great multitude stand clothed in white (Rev 7:9). It is the blood of the Lamb that washes the raiment white (Rev 7:14). It is by the blood of the Lamb that the victory is won (Rev 12:11). The book of life belongs to the Lamb slain (Rev 13:8). It was a Lamb that stood on the glorious Mount Zion (Rev 14:1). It is the Lamb that the redeemed multitude are seen following (Rev 14:4); and that multitude is the first-fruits unto God and unto the Lamb (Rev 14:4). It is the song of the Lamb that is sung in heaven (Rev 15:3). It is the Lamb that wars and over-comes (Rev 17:14). It is the marriage of the Lamb that is celebrated, and it is to the marriage-supper of the Lamb that we are called (Rev 19:7,9). The church is the Lamb's wife (Rev 21:9). On the foundations of the heavenly city are written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Rev 21:14). Of this city the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple (Rev 21:23). Of that city the Lamb is the light (Rev 21:23). The book of life of the Lamb, and the throne of the Lamb (Rev 21:27; Rev 22:1,3), sum up this wondrous list of honors and dignities belonging to the Lord Jesus as the crucified Son of God. Thus the glory of heaven revolves round the cross; and every object on which the eye lights in the celestial city will remind us of the cross, and carry us back to Golgotha. Never shall we get beyond it, or turn our backs on it, or cease to draw from it the divine virtue which it contains.
It is in righteousness and by righteousness that God saves the sinner. He justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5); but He does it in and by RIGHTEOUSNESS. For "the righteous Lord loveth righteousness" (Psa 11:7). He "justifies freely by His grace" (Rom 3:24); but still it is "in and by righteousness." His grace is righteous grace; it is grace which condemns the sin while acquitting the sinner; nay, which condemns the sin by means of that very thing which brings about the acquittal of the sinner. His pardon is righteous pardon, and therefore irreversible. His salvation is righteous salvation, and therefore everlasting. It is as the righteous Judge that God justifies. He is "faithful and just" in forgiving sin (1 John 1:9). By His pardons He magnifies His righteousness; so that he who goes to God for forgiveness can use as his plea the righteousness of the righteous Judge, no less than the grace of the loving and merciful Lord God. God loves to pardon because He is love; and He loves to pardon because He is righteous, and true, and holy. No sin can be too great for pardon, and no sinner can be too deep or old in sin to be saved and blest; because the righteousness out of which salvation comes is infinite. 
From the moment that we receive the divine testimony to the righteousness of the Son of God, all the guilt that was on us passes over to Him, and all His righteousness passes over to us; so that God looks on us as possessed of that righteousness, and treats us according to its value in His sight. Men may call this a mere "name" or "legal fiction"; but it is such a "name" as secures for us the full favor of the righteous God, who can only show favor to us in a righteous way; and it is such a "fiction" as law recognizes and God acts upon in dealing with the unrighteous as if they were righteous,-supremely, divinely righteous, in virtue of their connection with Him, who, "though He knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in Him" (2 Cor 5:21).
The righteous God receives unrighteous man, if man presents himself in his own true character as a sinner, and does not mock God by pretending to be something less or better than this. For then the divinely provided righteousness comes in to cover the unrighteous, and to enable God to receive him in love, and justify him before earth and heaven. 
Jehovah is satisfied, more than satisfied, with Christ's fulfilling of the law which man had broken. For never had that law been so fulfilled in all its parts as it was in the life of the God-man.
In His name we carry on all our transactions with God, and obtain all that we need by simply using it as our plea. The things that He did not do were laid to His charge, and He was treated as if He had done them all; so the things that He did do are put to our account, and we are treated by God as if we had done them all.
If God is willing that Christ should represent us, who are we, that we should refuse to be represented by Him? If God is willing to deal with us on the footing of Christ's obedience, and to reckon that obedience to us as if it had been our own, who are we, that we should reject such a method of blessing, and call it unjust and impossible?
He who refuses to be represented by another before God, must represent himself, and draw near to God on the strength of what he is in himself, or what he has done. How he is likely to fare in such an approach, let his own conscience tell him, if he will not believe the explicit declaration of the Holy Spirit, that "through Him (Christ) we have access by one Spirit to the Father" (Eph 2:18); or Christ's own affirmation concerning this: "I am the way," and "I am the door" (John 10:9, 14:6).
Yet such is the power of sin, that it took thirty-three years of righteousness to undo what one act of unrighteousness had done. One act of disobedience to one statute had done the evil; a lifetime's obedience to the whole law of God is required for the undoing. Only by this can man be replaced in that condition of righteousness in which God can accept him, and the law recognize him as entitled to blessing. Our characters are not transferred to Christ, but our liabilities are; and in our acceptance of God's mode of transference, we make the complete exchange by which we are absolved from all guilt, and enter into a state of "no condemnation." Sin reckoned to Christ as our substitute, and righteousness reckoned to us as the acceptors of that substitute: this is deliverance, and peace, and life eternal.
The believed gospel saves; but it is the believed promise that assures us of this salvation.
By a natural figure of speech, faith is often magnified into something great; whereas it is really nothing but our consenting to be saved by another: its supposed magnitude is derived from the greatness of the object which it grasps, the excellence of the righteousness which it accepts. Its preciousness is not its own, but the preciousness of Him to whom it links us... Faith is not our savior. It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Savior is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to the Son of the Living God.
For the cross saves completely, or not at all. Our faith does not divide the work of salvation between itself and the cross. It is the acknowledgment that the cross alone saves, and that it saves alone. Faith adds nothing to the cross, nor to its healing virtue. It owns the fullness, and sufficiency, and suitableness of the work done there, and bids the toiling spirit cease from its labors and enter into rest. Faith does not come to Calvary to do anything. It comes to see the glorious spectacle of all things done, and to accept this completion without a misgiving as to its efficacy. It listens to the "It is finished!" of the Sin-bearer, and says, "Amen." Where faith begins, there labor ends,-labor, I mean, "for" life and pardon. Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that good will to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. 
 Faith is the acknowledgment of the entire absence of all goodness in us, and the recognition of the cross as the substitute for all the want on our part. Faith saves, because it owns the complete salvation of another, and not because it contributes anything to that salvation. There is no dividing or sharing the work between our own belief and Him in whom we believe. The whole work is His, not ours, from the first to last. Faith does not believe in itself, but in the Son of God. Like the beggar, it receives everything, but gives nothing. It consents to be a debtor for ever to the free love of God. Its resting-place is the foundation laid in Zion. It rejoices in another, not in itself. Its song is, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy He saved us." 
Christ crucified is to be the burden of our preaching, and the substance of our belief, from first to last. At no time in the saint's life does he cease to need the cross.
At every turn of the way, resurrection meets us in the person of the Lord Jesus, and says to us, "Because I live, ye shall live also." For the life that is in Him is resurrection-life. 
The oftener that we visit His empty tomb, and see for ourselves that He is not here, He is risen, the more shall we be penetrated by that wondrous truth that we are risen with Him, and that this fellowship in resurrection is as truly the source of spiritual life, health, and holiness, as of joy unspeakable and full of glory. 
We do not live a holy life in order to be justified; but we are justified that we may live a holy life.
We are forgiven, that we may be like Him who forgives us.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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