The life of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High may be called a Hidden Life, because the animating principle, the vital or operative element, is not so much in itself as in another. It is a life grafted into another life. It is the life of the soul, incorporated into the life of Christ; and in such a way, that, while it has a distinct vitality, it has so very much in the sense, in which the branch of a tree may be said to have a distinct vitality from the root.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Justification and Self-Renunciation

But justification by faith involves one important mental element, which has sometimes been overlooked. We cannot better describe it, than by calling it the feeling of self-renunciation. A willingness to acknowledge our nakedness, blindness, and want; and to receive, with the helplessness of little children, whatever may be necessary for us from another. This feeling of self-renunciation is involved in the act of faith; or more properly and truly, it is antecedent and prerequisite to it. In other words, we must cease to believe in ourselves as a ground of hope, we must cease to believe in our own merits and our own strength as a source of salvation, before it is possible for us to believe, in a scriptural manner, in Christ as a source of salvation and as a ground of hope.

The feeling of personal renunciation is a mental element in the process of justification, which, as we have already intimated, has sometimes been overlooked. But we cannot hesitate in saying, that it is an element, which cannot be dispensed with, consistently with realizing the great spiritual result, which the term justification expresses. It is of the nature of a contradiction in terms, to say that a man can be justified by faith, and at the same time be justified by any way or method besides faith. Justification by faith negatives and denies, in the necessary import of the expressions themselves, any and every other method of justification. When we are justified by faith, we not only have faith in Christ, as the propitiation for sins in general; but, appropriating this propitiation to our own necessities, we believe in him as a Savior from our own sins. But it is obvious, that, if we believe in Christ as our Savior, we do not believe in ourselves as our Savior, nor in our own efforts as our Savior, nor in any system of human effort and instrumentality, nor in any saving efficacy whatever out of him. That is to say, it is obviously implied in the very act of faith, that we renounce ourselves; that we feel, in respect to our salvation, that in ourselves we are nothing.

And this feeling of self-renunciation, as we shall have occasion to notice more particularly in the succeeding chapter, which is antecedent to the faith that justifies, is also antecedent and prerequisite to the faith which sanctifies; and perhaps we may add, is prerequisite to every gracious exercise, which is involved in sanctification. The truly holy soul, that has renounced the falsity and the bitterness of self-reliance, understands this. Such a soul feels itself to be, because it is so in fact, under the inspiration and movement of a power out of itself and above itself; although it may be said, at the same time, to be a power dwelling within it. In the spirit and in the language of a devout person, who had known what it was to renounce self in order to receive God, it would rather be lost than be saved, would rather be cast out than received into favor, by any means which would exclude the divine operation, and which would not give God all the glory.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 8.

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