alien righteousness

Taken from The Marrow of Modern Divinity – Edward Fisher with the notes of Thomas Boston

neophytus – a  Young Christian

evangelista – a Minister of the Gospel


neophytus: Indeed sir, if I were holy and so righteous as some men are, and had such power over my sins and corruptions as some men have, then I could easily believe it; but alas! I am so sinful and so unworthy a wretch, that I dare not presume to believe that Christ will accept of me, so as to justify and save me.

evangelista: Alas! man, in this saying, you seem to contradict and gainsay both the apostle Paul, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself; and  that against your own soul: for whereas the apostle Paul says, ‘that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), and doth justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5), why, you seem to hold, and do in effect say, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save the righteous, and to justify the godly. And whereas our Saviour says, the whole need not a physician but the sick; and that he came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:12); why you seem to hold, and do in effect say that the sick need not a physician, but the whole: and  that he came not to call sinners, but the righteous to repentance. And indeed, in so saying, you seem to conceive, that Christ’s spouse must be purified, washed, and cleansed from all her filthiness, and adorned with a rich robe of righteousness, before he will accept her; whereas he himself said unto her, ‘As for nativity, in the day that thou wast born, thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed with water to supple thee; thou wast not swaddled at all, nor salted at all. No eye pitied thee to do any of these things unto thee; but when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold thy time was a time of love. And I spread my skirt over thee, and covered they nakedness; yea, and I sware unto thee, and entered into covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine (Ezek. 16:4-8). ‘And I will marry thee unto me for ever; yea, I will marry thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgement, and in mercy, and compassion (Hos. 2:19).

Wherefore I beseech you, revoke this your erroneous opinion, and contradict the word of truth no longer; but conclude for a certainty, that it is not the righteous and godly man, but the sinful and ungodly man, that Christ came to call, justify, and save: so that if you were a righteous and godly man, you were neither capable of calling, justifying, or saving by Christ; but being a sinful and ungodly man, I will be bold to say unto you as the people said unto blind Bartimaeus, ‘Be of good comfort; arise, he calleth thee’ (Mark 10:49) and will justify and save thee. Go then unto him, I beseech you; and if he come and meet thee, (as his manner is) then do not you unadvisedly say, with Peter, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ (Luke 5:8); but say, in plain terms, O come unto me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord! Yea, go on further, and say, as Luther bids you, Most Gracious Jesus and sweet Christ, I am a miserable, poor sinner, and, therefore, do judge myself unworthy of thy grace; but yet I, having learned from thy word that thy salvation belongs unto such a one, therefore do I come unto thee, to claim that right which, through thy gracious promise, belong unto me.

Assure yourself man, that Jesus Christ requires no portion with his spouse; no verily, he requires nothing with her but mere poverty: ‘the rich he sends empty away’ (Luke 1:53); but the poor are by him enriched. And, indeed, says Luther, ‘the more miserable, sinful, and distressed a man doth feel himself, and judge himself to be, the more willing is Christ to receive him and relieve him.’ So that, says he, in judging thyself unworthy, thou dost thereby become truly worthy; and so indeed, hast gotten a greater occasion of coming to him. Wherefore, then, in the words of the apostle, I do exhort and beseech you to ‘come boldly to the throne of grace, that you may obtain mercy, and fin grace to help in time of need’ (Heb. 4:16).

neophytus: But truly, si, my heart, as it were, trembles within me, to think of coming to Christ, after such a bold manner; and surely sir, if I should so come unto him, it would argue much pride and presumption in me.

evangelista: Indeed, if you should be encouraged to come unto Christ and to speak thus unto him, because of any godliness, righteousness, or worthiness, that you conceive to be in you; that, I confess, were proud presumption in you. But to come to Christ, by believing that he will accept of you, justify, and save you freely by his grace, according to his gracious promise, this is neither pride nor presumption (see Thomas Boston’s note): for Christ having tendered and offered it to your freely, believe it, it is true humility of heart to take what Christ offers you. (148-150)

Thomas Boston’s note: It is to believe the offer of the gospel, with particular application; to embrace it, and therein to receive Christ. And no man can ever receive and rest on Christ for salvation, without believing, in greater, or lesser measure, that Christ will accept of him to justification and salvation. Remove that gospel truth, that Christ will accept him, and his faith has no ground left to stand upon. (150)

Let’s pray that the Lord may raise up many, many evangelistas.

Readers let me know if there are any typos.

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