Ebenezer Erskine: Christ And The Idol Of Self Will Never Cement

Others rely upon a mixed kind of righteousness: they will freely own, that their duties and performances will never exalt them into favour and acceptance with God; but, O, say they, it is Christ and our duties, Christ and our prayers, He and our tears and repentance, that must do it. But believe it, Sirs, Christ and the idol of self will never cement; these old rotten rags will never piece in with the white and new robe of righteousness of the Son of God: and if you adventure to mingle them together, ‘Christ shall profit you nothing,’ Gal. v. 2, 3, 4. Other’s again, they will pretend to renounce all their works and duties, and own, with their own mouth, yet still their hearts cleave fast unto a covenant of works; they were never through the law, dead to the law; and when nothing else will do, they will make their own act of believing the righteousness on which they lean for acceptance, which is still a seeking righteousness in themselves: whereas, if ever we be justified before God, we must have it in the Lord Jesus, saying, ‘In Him will we be justified and in Him alone will we glory.’ Faith carries the soul quite out of itself; yea, faith renounces its own act in the point of justification. All these, and many other rooms and lying refuges, hath the devil and our own hearts devised, to lead us off from Christ. But, O Sirs, believe it, these are but imaginary sanctuaries , and the hail will sweep them away. Nothing but the doing and dying of the Surety, apprehended by faith, will ever exalt you unto favour and fellowship with God, or acquit you from the curse and condemnation of the broken law.

Rev. Ebenezer Erskine (1680–1754), The Whole Works of the Late Rev. Ebenezer Erskine, 1:105–06 (Sermon on Psalm 89:16).
(HT: Inwoo Lee)

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  • Inwoo Lee
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    Inwoo Lee (BA, UCSD) earned his MA (Historical Theology) in 2020 from Westminster Seminary California and is author of “Righteous Before God: William Perkins’ Doctrine of Justification in Elizabethan England” (MA Thesis, Westminster Seminary California, 2020). He lives in the Great Seoul area, in South Korea with his wife Holly.

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6 comments

  1. “Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God—for then it would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Saviour. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.” Belgic 22

  2. AND yet that little Lawyer inside still nags and picks at us anyway.
    The Enemy is at it as well. THX Angela for that reminder.
    I am not very articulate but I try to put in my 2cents once in awhile.
    BUT: How many Authors with their books are Not satisfied with a
    statement like this. That they just gotta keep telling us what to do and
    IF your not – one has to question whether he/she is a Xtian. Wow.
    The weird thing is: As much as I love reading DM Lloyd-Jones
    I have found him saying things like that. But then I wonder IF he is
    saying so to wake me up and with fear and trembling, to look, see, reassess.
    Yet I find that at times that can be an open door for trouble. Doubt, Am I really…
    maybe not for me but others who are weak in the faith.
    He didn’t hold to RMS 7 as it being a Xtian. I find then, that a person must not have
    the troubles that RMs 7 states for Xtians. Must have their act together. Rms 7 is me!.
    Anyway, How actual is what Erskine states as being TRUE today I wonder.
    I Printed this out and taped it on the board. Great article
    Hope this make sense. The LORD IS keeping care of us in this disaster. Peace.
    Stay safe everyone – In Christ Alone.

    • Mike, when it comes to our acceptance, our right standing before God, it is by the righteousness of Christ alone, without the deeds of the law. That is justification. Period, full stop!

      A person who has been freely justified by the unspeakably, tremendous sacrifice of the Son of God feels gratitude and love to God. In love and thankfulness they now want to please this God. Jesus said, “if you love me, keep my commandments.” That is sanctification, our response to the amazing fact that we are completely accepted by God, now and forever, because of what Christ has done for us. And when we are born again, or regenerated, by the Holy Spirit we believe that this is true and now want to please God, the God we love. Rom. 13:10 Love is the fulfilling of the law. Although we are still sinners in ourselves, accepted by God through Christ’s merits alone, we now want to please God by obeying the law. We stumble and fall, see Rom. 7, but our acceptance with God is based on the righteousness of Christ, not our righteousness, so we never fear that God will reject us because of our failings. This knowledge, that we are unconditionally accepted in Christ, only increases our love, so we strive, all the more, to please God by obeying Him. That is our sanctification. I think that is what M. L. J. is trying to say. “Perfect love casteth out fear…we love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4: 18-19

    • Mike, I think Paul, in Romans 7 is clearly a Christian because he repents and expresses sorrow over his sin. That is the mark of a Christian, repentance and sorrow for offending God. That is the work of the Holy Spirit, that is a heart that has been circumcised. The unregenerate does not express sorrow for his sin but thinks he is good enough and does not need Christ for acceptance with God.

    • Mike, see M. L. Jones Exposition of Romans 7: 21-23 conclusion p. 224, “we are NOT looking at an unregenerate man. We have seen something else equally clearly; that it is the picture of a man who has come to see the spiritual nature and character of the Law.”

      I believe it was Martin Luther who said that we are at once sinners and yet fully righteousness before God. Romans 7: 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
      Romans 8 describes the victory that we have in the righteousness of Christ. Not in our sinless perfection but in Christ’s imputed righteousness. That is the deliverance. So when that prosecuting lawyer confronts you, tell him the law has been perfectly satisfied, you have been fully acquitted, the court has found you righteous in Christ who has paid for all your sins and obeyed the law perfectly on your behalf. There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8: 1 As M. L. Jones puts it on page 279:

      “So never allow yourself to go, even in thought, under condemnation again; that is to sin, because it is failure to believe the Word of God. Answer the accuser, the devil, with Romans 8. Tell him that you know what you have done, that you have grieved your Lord and disappointed Him; but that you also know that it is nothing to do with Law, and that therefore there is ‘no condemnation’. You are like a child who has sinned against his parents, and you know what to do, and to whom to go. But it has nothing to do with the Law. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them to them which are in Christ Jesus.’ “

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