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CHRIST AS THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
“ This is the name whereby he shall be called, the LORD OUR
RIGHTEOUSNESS."-JER. xxiii. 6.
In the preceding part of this chapter, the Lord by the mouth of his prophet, having denounced awful judgments against the evil governors of Judah, for their violence and oppression, by which they scattered his people, and forced many of them to seek places of residence at a distance from them, where they might dwell quietly and safely, and for their sins in general, which had been the cause of their having been carried into captivity; he takes occasion, from his having promised that he would gather a remnant of them out of the countries whither they were driven, and that he would set up shepherds or governors over them, who should protect them, to declare an illustrious prophecy of Messiah, who was to reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and to feed his hock like a shepherd. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” verse 5. The Jewish doctors, and almost all the Christian interpreters, consider this as an illustrious prophecy of the Messiah. He is here said to be raised David, intimating, that though God, in the promise of Messiah, had a regard to his people in general, yet he had a higher regard to David his servant, and to his covenant confirmed with him. “ I will raise unto David a righteous Branch,” or, as it is in chap. xxxiii. 15. “I will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David.” Thus also Zechariah speaks of him, “Behold the Man whose name is the Branch ;
and he shall grow up out of his place.” This name is assigned him with the strictest propriety ; for as to his human nature, he came forth as a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and as a branch he grew out of his roots. Besides, his human nature has no personality of its own, but subsists as an ingrafted branch in his Divine person. He is also called the Branch, because he covers, protects, and refreshes his people with his shadow, and brings forth the fruits of honour to God and of happiness to men. He is called a righteous Branch ; for he is infinitely righteous in himself, and is the Author of all that imputed righteousness which is necessary to justify, and of all that inherent holiness which is requisite to beautify, his people. Messiah is here also styled a King. About the time this prophecy was written, Jeconiah was king over Judah, and God declared that he should not prosper. But this King shall reign and prosper.
He shall exercise spiritual dominion over his people in all generations. He shall reign and prosper : he shall prosper himself, and his true subjects shall prosper under him, notwithstanding all the efforts of their enemies to destroy them. It is added, he “shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” He shall judge the prince of this world, and punish with dreadful calamities those who oppress his people. He shall execute justice, by making all believers righteous and holy,-- by giving them rewards of debt to their imputed, and of grace to their inherent, righteousnes. • In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely:" in his days, that is, during his dominion, which is an everlasting dominion, the true seed of Abraham, typified by Judah and Israel, shall be saved from all their spiritual enemies, and shall dwell safely. Accordingly, we read, that “in his days shall the righteous fourish ; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.” In the text we have a most significant appellation given to him : “ This is his name whereby he shall be called, Jehovah our righteousness.”. The incommunicable name, Jehovah, denotes that he is
the eternal and self-existent God; that he possesses, by an original and underived right, all the glorious perfections of the Divine essence; and that he is Lord of all, having dominion over all things, not only by a new covenant right as Mediator, to subserve his mediatorial glory and the good of his Church; but by a natural right, as the most High God, by whom all things were created which are in heaven and in earth, and by whom they all consist. This Jehovah, in the person of the Son, possessing every Divine excellence, and shining in all the splendour of uncreated glory, is here said to be our right
He engaged in the everlasting covenant to fulfil all righteousness in our nature, in order to justify our persons, and to render our persons and performances acceptable in the sight of God. And seeing he is Jehovah as well as man, his righteousness is of infinite value, and is meritorious of eternal life in the full enjoyment of God. This then is the name whereby he shall be called, not indeed by all men, but by all who believe in him. These appropriate Christ to themselves as Jehovah their righteousness,--their's in particular.
In further discoursing on this delightful subject, it is proposed, through Divine aid, First, To make some observations for illustrating the doctrine in the text; Secondly, To show how the Lord Jesus Christ is the Righteousness of his people ; and, Thirdly, To point out what is implied in their appropriating of him as such, or in their calling him Jehovah their Righteousness.
I. I am to offer some observations for illustrating the doctrine in the text. And,
1. It may be remarked, that the term righteousness rerefers to a law. When a man wants to try whether such and such a thing be straight or not, he not only looks at it, but applies to it a plane or straight rule, and if from the one end to the other it lies close to, or touches the plane, he pronounces that it is straight and conformed to the rule ; but if not, he pronounces that it is crooked. In like manner, the moral law, in all its perfection and extent, is the great standard of rectitude according to which the principles and actions of men are to be regulated. When God compares them with this law, and sees that from the beginning to the end of life, they perfectly agree with it, he pronounces that such and such a man is right or righteous, or is possessed of righteousness; but if he finds, upon comparison, that he deviates from it in the smallest degree, he declares him to be unrighteous. Accordingly, we are informed by Him who searches the heart and tries the reins, and who is not liable to the smallest deception, that men by nature are filled with all unrighteousness,—that they have turned aside to crooked ways,--and that there is none righteous, no, not one; that is, none whose nature and
practice agree with the Divine law, the sole standard of moral rectitude.
2. The moral law, or law of the ten commandments, is in Scripture taken in a twofold sense ; either as a rule of life, or as a covenant of works. The law as a rule of life is the Divine precept considered simply as in itself, with. out relation to any covenant form. In this sense, it was written in the heart of man at his creation, before any covenant was made with him ; and the obligation upon man to yield perfect obedience to it, being founded in the nature of God the Creator, and of man the creature, is indispensably necessary, and cannot be dissolved as long as God continues to be God, and man to be man. Man would have been bound to obey the law in this view of it, though no covenant of works had ever been made with him; and believers in Christ, though they are dead to it as a covenant, are nevertheless bound, and will to all eternity be bound perfectly to obey it. Upon their union with Christ, they receive it from his hand as Mediator. Hence it is in Scripture called the law of Christ. “ Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” On the other hand, the law as a covenant is the same moral law in the form of the covenant of works, proposed to the first Adam, and accepted by him as the public representative of all mankind, and is called by the apostle Paul, “the law of works.” Now every descendant of fallen
Adam, by ordinary generation, is bound to obey the law perfectly as a covenant of works, and that in his own strength, and upon pain of death in all its dreadful extent ; or else to betake himself to a sufficient Surety to obey it for him. It it true, no surety, how sufficient soever he may be, can free him from his obligation to obey it in his own person as a rule ; for this obligation, as was already observed, is indispensable: and therefore those who are personally interested in the surety righteousness of Jesus Christ, are, notwithstanding, firmly bound to yield even perfect obedience to it in this view. But a responsible Surety may deliver from an obligation to obey it as a covenant. Accordingly, true believers are said in Scripture to be “dead to the law by the body of Christ ;” that is, to be freed from the obligation of it as a covenant of works. But all unregenerate persons, while they continue to reject him as a Surety, are, as the apostle says,
- debtors to do the whole law;" that is, they keep themselves under an obligation to yield perfect obedience to it as a covenant, and that in their own strength, and upon pain of eternal wrath. This is the dreadful condition of every descendant of the first Adam who is not vitally united to Christ, the second Adam.
3. The law, as a covenant of works, requires three things from every son and daughter of Adam who is under it, viz. perfect holiness of nature, perfect righteousness of life, and complete satisfaction for sin. It required only two of these from man in his state of innocence, namely, holiness of nature, and righteousness of life. It required, that from the first moment of his existence in this world to the last, he should retain the perfect holiness, or original righteousness of his nature, inviolate. It also demanded perfect righteousness of life, or perfect conformity of all the thoughts, words, and actions of the life, to the Divine precept. The law in this form required not only habitual righteousness or holiness of nature, but actual righteousness, or righteousness of life, and that without the smallest intermission of obedience. As a covenant of works, it required