“The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” Isaiah 32.17.
The light of this day assures us that the sun has risen upon the earth. This is not a more evident truth in nature than this in reason -that righteousness, once lost, can never be regained by all that sinful man can do. Consequently, no peace can subsist between a holy, righteous God, and guilty, unrighteous man. ‘There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.’ But who are the wicked? Even all who, through unbelief, reject the truth as it is in Jesus. It is the essence of wickedness to oppose a righteous God, reject Christ’s righteousness, go about to establish our own righteousness, and not submit to the righteousness of God. Hence the conscience is defiled with guilt, the heart impure, and the life unholy. Yet pride blinds men’s eyes, and self-righteousness deludes their hearts with a false peace. For as there is but one atonement by which guilty sinners are pardoned, so there is but one righteousness, even Christ’s perfect righteousness, by which alone unrighteous sinners are made just in God’s holy sight. He accepts no other. His law is honoured by no other. The Spirit bears witness to no other. Sinners have no other to stand in before God, and enjoy peace with Him. But possessing His righteousness by faith, we enjoy a peace which passeth all understanding. There are many things from a sinful nature, Satan, and the law, to disquiet our minds daily. But the blessed effect of Jesus’ righteousness is quietness to the conscience. This comforting thought: I am righteous; my Father has put on me that best robe which Jesus, my Elder Brother, wrought out for me, quietens my mind. I am satisfied. I seek no better. I dare trust in no other. And this righteousness is presented with the clearest evidence, the strongest confidence, the fullest assurance. The triumphs of Jesus’ resurrection proclaim its acceptance with God. The Spirit testifies of it in the Word, and gives assurance of salvation by it in believing hearts. Hence the holy boldness and happy rejoicing of faith before a righteous God in David’s addresses to Jesus, ‘My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day;… I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only’ (Ps. 71.15,16). As there is but one faith, so saints in all ages have had but one object to look to for righteousness, even Jesus. Therefore with Paul we pray that we may be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness (Phil. 3.9).
William Mason (1719-1791)