These works of yours
Philip Doddridge replies to those who present their own morality and righteous works as justification before God.
Had your obedience to the law of God been complete, the plea might be allowed as important and valid. . . . I add farther, had these works of yours, which you now urge, proceeded from a sincere love to God, and a genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you would not have thought of pleading them any otherwise than as an evidence of your interest in the gospel covenant and in the blessings of it, procured by the righteousness and blood of the Redeemer; and that faith, had it been sincere, would have been attended with such deep humility, and with such solemn apprehensions of the divine holiness and glory, that, instead of pleading any works of your own before God, you would rather have implored his pardon for the mixture of sinful imperfection attending the very best of them. Now, as you are a stranger to this humbling and sanctifying principle, (which here in this address I suppose my reader to be) it is absolutely necessary you should be plainly and faithfully told, that neither sobriety, nor honesty, nor humanity will justify you before the tribunal of God, when he “lays judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, Isa. xxviii. 17.” and examines all your actions and all your thoughts with the strictest severity. You have not been a drunkard, an adulterer, or a robber. So far it is well. You stand before a righteous God, who will do you ample justice, and therefore will not condemn you for drunkenness, adultery, or robbery; but you have forgotten him, your Parent and your Benefactor; you have “cast off fear, and restrained prayer before him, Job xv. 4.” you have despised the blood of his Son, and all the immortal blessings that he purchased with it. For this, therefore, you are judged, and condemned. And as for any thing that has looked like virtue and humanity in your temper and conduct, the exercise of it has in great measure been its own reward, if there were any thing more than form and artifice in it; and the various bounties of divine Providence to you, amidst all your numberless provocations, have been a thousand times more than an equivalent for such defective and imperfect virtues as these. You remain therefore chargeable with the guilt of a thousand offences, for which you have no excuse, though there are some other instances in which you did not grossly offend. And those good works in which you have been so ready to trust, will no more vindicate you in his awful presence, than a man’s kindness to his poor neighbors would be allowed as a plea in arrest of judgment, when he stood convicted of high treason against his prince.
—Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 52–53.
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