PAUL and James appear to clash with each other; for Paul says we are justified without works and James says we are justified by our works. But the fact is, the one was speaking of what justified us in the sight of God and the other of what justified us in the sight of men; for in the sight of God we are justified freely by grace, but in the sight of men only by our works. We cannot insult God more than by endeavoring to bring something of our own to recommend us to his notice. The very blaze of his transcendently excellent glory is to give us Christ's righteousness. Christ was made sin for us--really made sin. What! Every vile thought, every abominable act that I feel within? Yes; make it as black as you will, and let Satan help you, and yet he was made that; not by actual transgression, but by transfer; just the same as a tradesman is made a debtor by merely putting his name on a piece of paper for another; and he becoming insolvent, the tradesman is made to pay, while the insolvent is set at liberty. And we are made righteous in God's sight through Christ's righteousness, as Christ himself is; not partially, but fully. What can be more blessed than this--the sinner's crimes all transferred to Christ and Christ's righteousness and holiness being imputed to the sinner, and the sinner realizing it in his heart by faith?
There is a deal of talk amongst some people that they fear antichrist will reign. But, bless you, what is antichrist? Creature merit; it is the very soul of it. Take away creature-merit, and the devil himself could not make a pope. A body, you know, without a soul, cannot do much harm. Ye believe in God, says Christ, believe also in me. As though he had said, "Ye believe in a just and holy God, believe also in me, as being all your holiness, righteousness," etc. For whatever beauty, or glory, there is in Christ, believer, God places it all to thy account. One evidence in the heart of a sinner of his being righteous is, when he is brought to loathe himself because of his vileness and wretchedness, and to cry out to be delivered. Some will say, "I have no righteousness of my own to bring before God, and yet I can't believe Christ died for me!" Why can't you? "Because I am such a sinner." There, now; that's it; you want to bring something to God, and that's the very spawn of self-righteousness.
Another evidence is, and this is one that a poor child of God can well understand sometimes, "Now to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Rom. 4:5) That is, to be solemnly persuaded that there is redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, and that you really and truly, in the sight of God, have no power to work; and, therefore, if you are justified, it must be by him that justifieth the ungodly. A hypocrite never felt this, nor ever will, while the world stands. If you could work, you would have no need of Christ's finished work. If you were not dead, you would not need Christ's life. If you were not vile, you would not need his sanctification. If you were not unholy, you would not need his holiness. If you were not blind, you would not need his light. If you were not weak, you would not need his strength. If you were not a fool, you would not need his wisdom. But you being all these things, only shows you are the character fit for believing. "Ah," says one, "I once could say, as I thought, I do believe, and I told the Lord I would never disbelieve again." I dare say you did; just like a little child when its father has been giving it some little present. "O," it will say, "father, I'll always love you now; I'll always do as you tell me." "Ah," says the father, "You don't know what you're talking about." So says the child of God, when his heavenly Father gives him a glimpse of hope, "I'll always praise you now." But, like Gideon with his fleece, he keeps wanting another and another proof; for unbelief gives him a pull-back, and he is once more poor. As the poet says,
I am not talking about those who have faith at their command, and who say it is our duty to believe, and we ought to believe now, and so forth; but about a poor child of God, who has been made to feel what a conflict he has within. Sometimes you feel a little anticipatory faith; that is, you cannot help thinking the time will come when you can call God, Father; as though something within you said, "Who can tell but the time may come?" You can't account for this feeling; but, amidst all your unbelief, it is there. If God has put these things into your heart, he has done more for you than he has for all the kings and emperors in the earth, who have never known him. For what are kingdoms and empires? Ah, bless you; they all vanish away like smoke. You have all God can give. There is not an angel in heaven so highly honored as you; for God will make you shine in the light of Immanuel. Christ says, "I go to prepare a place for you;" as if created heavens were not enough for his dear people. Therefore, he is gone to prepare a place for them, and bespangle it with his blood, and spread a glory through it that never could have been there only through the God-man Mediator. Angels, bless you, if I may so speak, are only the horses that will draw you there; the chariot is the heart of the Son of God, and they and you shall resound it to the glory of God. The Lord's eyes are upon you; his eye of love, and his eye of mercy. Thousands of unhallowed steps we should fall into, did not his eye watch over us. Ofttimes do we lay our plans; but, watching over us, he upsets them, and when he gives us to see a little as he sees, we perceive his eye was upon us. He will guide us with his eye; and O, how blessed it is to have the eye of Almighty God to guide us. It is a thousand times better than if he had sent all the holy angels in heaven to guide us. It is the eye of the great I AM THAT I AM, as he said unto Moses. Do we need omnipotence, do we need omniscience, do we need omnipresence--I am that, I am. And this eye he will never withdraw from them. All their unbelieving fits, all their rebellion, will never make him turn against them. He will use the rod; but this is only a proof that they are children; for if you are without chastisement of which all [children] are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons.