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The Lord Our Righteousness
I. You must have some righteousness, or you will not be saved. The Bible says plainly, 'The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God'; 'The righteous hath hope in his death'; 'Thy people,'says Isaiah, 'shall be all righteous'. Many often say they know they are not what they should be, but 'God is merciful '. Their religion goes no further; this is the first and last of all their Christianity. This will not stand before the Bible. God is a God of perfect holiness, and 'without holiness no man shall see the Lord'; God is a God of perfect justice, Whose laws may not be broken without punishment (Deuteronomy 32:4 ; St. Matthew 5:17-18 ). God's mercy and justice must be reconciled. God is indeed all love: He willeth not the death of a sinner, but 'the wages of sin is death,' and God will have His demands paid in full. By some means, then, you must have righteousness or you cannot be saved. But
II. You have no righteousness of your own of any sort, and therefore by yourself you cannot be saved. Look at the law of God, and measure its requirements. Does it not ask of every man a perfect, unsinning obedience from first to last, in thought, word, and deed; and who can say 'All this have I performed'?
a. Some tell us that repentance and amendment will enable us to stand in the great day, and no doubt without them none will enter the kingdom of heaven above. But they cannot put away your sins; they cannot blot out a single page of that book in which your iniquities are written. John the Baptist preached repentance, but he never told his hearers it alone would save them.
b. Some put their trust in well-spent lives: they have always done their best, and so hope they shall be accounted righteous. This is miserable trifling. Let them mention a single day in which they have not broken the spiritual law laid down in the Sermon on the Mount. What! never an unkind thought, an unchaste look, no covetous feelings? nothing left undone which was in their power to do?
c. Some say they hope sincerity will carry them through: they have always meant well. St. Paul, before his conversion, was zealous towards God; he thought he ought to do many things contrary to Jesus of Nazareth. Here was sincerity and earnestness; yet we find him, when his eyes were opened, saying, 'I was a blasphemer the chief of sinners'.
d. Some build their claim to righteousness on religious forms and ordinances alone. The Jews had ceremonies and observances in abundance. Men may pay attention to these, and yet be abominable in the sight of God (1 Samuel 15:22-23 ).
III. 'But what are we to do?' 'You seem to have shut us up without hope.' 'You said we must have some righteousness; and now you say that we have none of our own; what are we to do?' Beloved, God can be a just God, and yet show mercy and justify the most ungodly. 'The Lord' is, and must be, 'our righteousness.' Here is a mystery of wisdom and love. The Lord Jesus has done and suffered what we ought to have done and suffered. He has taken our place, and become our Substitute, both in life and death. Is not His Name then rightly called 'The Lord our Righteousness?'
References. XXIII. 6. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 395. "Plain Sermons" by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. vii. p. 261. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii. p. 214. S. R. Driver, Sermons on Subjects Connected With the Old Testament, p. 204. Bishop Hampden, Sermons at Oxford, p. 109. Bishop Andrewes, Sermons, vol. v. p. 104. Philip Henry in Matthew Henry's Works, Appendix, p. 24. Whitefield's "Sermons," Works, vol. v. p. 216. Wesley's "Sermons," Works, vol. v. p. 234. Simeon, Works, vol. ix. p. 166. Bishop Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. ii. p. 437. Lord Arthur Hervey, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 345. Dean Alford, ibid. vol. ii. p. 214. Bishop Bickersteth (the late), Clerical World, vol. i. p. 117. Saphir, "Jehovah Tsidkenu," Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii. p. 104; and see Geikie's Hours With the Bible, vol. vi. p. 63 (note). XXIII. 7, 8. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxv. 1904, p. 204; see also Church Times, vol. li. 1904, p. 50. XXIII. 8. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. ii. p. 9. G. W. Herbert, Notes of Sermons, p. 202. XXIII. 24. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 97. P. McAdam Muir, Modern Substitutes for Christianity, p. 65. XXIII. 28. J. Guinness Rogers, ibid. vol. xliv. 1903, p. 392. G. Lorimer, ibid. vol. lix. 1901, p. 253. J. Tolefree Parr, ibid. vol. lix. 1901, p. 267. XXIII. 28, 29. C. Holland, Gleanings from a Ministry of Fifty Years, p. 71. XXIII. 29. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2460. XXIV. 6, 7. C. Holland, Gleanings from a Ministry of Fifty Years, p. 264. XXIV. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1206. XXV. 8, 9. Newton H. Marshall, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 33. XXVI. 8. A. Ramsay, Studies in Jeremiah, p. 115. XXVI. 11. J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 233. XXVIII. 10, 11. A. Ramsay, Studies in Jeremiah, p. 199. XXVIII. 13. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii. No. 1032. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 322. XXVIII. 16. T. De Witt Talmage, Sermons, p. 309. XXIX. 7. "Plain Sermons" by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. i. p. 236. XXIX. 11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1965. XXIX. 13. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. i. p. 144. Lieut.-Col. J. Barnsley, A Book of Lay Sermons, p. 207. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii. No. 1313; vol. xxv. No. 1457. XXX. 1-22. Ibid. vol. xlv. No. 2654. XXX. 7. Ibid. vol. xlv. No. 2645. XXX. 17. Ibid. vol. xxxix. No. 1753. XXX. 21. Ibid. vol. xxviii. No. 1673. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. ii. p. 15. J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (9th Series), p. 219.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 23". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19