Righteousness by the Law ?

Written by Robert Trail.
Adapted from  6 Sermons on Galatians 
Edited for thought and sense.

tenCommandmentsB“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.   But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—…”  Romans 3:19-21 ESV

He that seeks righteousness by the law, is a man that never saw his need of grace…

…and you may be well assured that man will frustrate the grace of God, who never saw his utter need of it. He was never so far emptied, but he expects and imagines that he shall be able to work out a righteousness for himself, and so is not brought under any conviction of his utter need of the grace of God; whereas he that is for the grace of God in Christ alone, is a man that hath a great need of the grace of God, and sees himself undone without it.

This self-righteous man sees no glory in the grace of God shining through the righteousness of Christ…

…there is no excellency in it to him. Every natural man is in this mind; he sees a great deal of glory in his own doings: in a beautiful conversation, in brave gifts, and in a shining walk before men; he sees a great deal of beauty and glory here. Every natural man thinks there is a great deal of glory in his own performances. The self-righteous Pharisee came boasting in his own performances; “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican: I fast twice a week, and I give tithes of all that I possess,” (Luke 18:11, 12). These were great things in the man’s esteem, and so they are in the eyes of every natural man. But for that righteousness that is lodged in Christ, that is wrought out by a man without him, by one that came down from heaven, and is gone up thither again; that hath all this righteousness seated in him, and gives it forth to us by mere grace; no natural man thinks any thing of this. But the believer is a man that hath a high esteem of the righteousness of Christ. How doth the apostle Paul speak of this? “I count all things but dung, that I may win Christ; and be found in him, not having on mine own righteousness,” (Phil. 3:8, 9).

Every natural man is averse from the grace of God…

…and therefore he must needs frustrate the grace of God. He is averse from it: but every believer is just of another mind. Sirs, if all men’s hearts were known to us, as they are to God, here is one thing that would determine every man’s state, What way do you best like to go to heaven in? “I would gladly be very holy,” saith the poor man, “that I may be very happy when I die.” Saith the believer, “I would gladly be clothed with Christ’s righteousness, and get eternal life as the gift of his grace; and I know that by being in Christ I shall be sanctified.”

But no believer seeks sanctification as his righteousness, and title to glory…

…it is a preparation for glory, and the way that leads to glory, to all them that are saved according to that blessed method, “Whom he justified, them he also glorified,” (Rom. 8:30); and by glorification there, both sanctification and eternal life are well understood by most.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Robert Trail (1642–1716), Presbyterian divine, was born at Elie in Fifeshire in 1642. His father, Robert (1603–1678), was son of Colonel James Trail of Killcleary in Ireland, and grandson of Trail of Blebo in Fifeshire. He became chaplain to Archibald Campbell, first marquis of Argyll [q.v.], and in 1639 was presented to Elie. He was translated to the Greyfriars church, Edinburgh, in 1648, and became a zealous Covenanter. In 1644 he was a chaplain with the Scottish army in England, and was present at the battle of Marston Moor. He was one of the ministers who visited the Marquis of Montrose in prison and attended him on the scaffold. He afterwards joined the protesters, and was one of the party who reminded Charles II at the Restoration of his obligation to keep the covenants, for which he was banished for life. He sailed for Holland in March 1662–3, but returned to Edinburgh, where he died on 12 July 1678. A portrait of him is given in Smith’s ‘Iconographia Scoticana’ (Hew Scott, Fasti, i. 40–1, and authorities there cited). He left an autobiography in manuscript. He married, on 23 Dec. 1639, Jean Annand, daughter of the laird of Auctor-Ellon, Aberdeenshire. She was imprisoned in June 1665 for corresponding with her exiled husband.
Robert Trail’s early education was carefully superintended by his father, and at the university of Edinburgh he distinguished himself both in the literary and theological classes. At the age of nineteen he stood beside James Guthrie, his father’s friend, on the scaffold. He was for some time tutor or chaplain in the family of Scot of Scotstarvet, and was afterwards much with John Welch, the minister of Irongray, who was the first to hold ‘armed conventicles.’ In a proclamation of 1667 he was denounced as a ‘Pentland rebel’ and excepted from the act of indemnity. It is uncertain whether he was present at that engagement or not; but he fled to Holland, where he joined his father and other Scottish exiles. There he continued his theological studies, and assisted Nethenius, professor at Utrecht, in preparing for the press S. Rutherford’s ‘Examen Arminianismi.’ In 1669 he was in London, and in 1670 was ordained to a presbyterian charge at Cranbrook in Kent. He visited Edinburgh in 1677, when he was arrested by the privy council and charged with breaking the law. He admitted that he had preached in private houses, but, refusing to purge himself by oath from the charge of taking part in holding conventicles, he was sent as a prisoner to the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. Having given a promise which satisfied the government, he was liberated a few months afterwards and returned to his charge in Kent. He afterwards migrated to a Scots church in London, where he spent the rest of his life.
In 1682 he published a sermon, ‘By what means can ministers best win souls?’ and in 1692 a letter to a minister in the country—supposed to be his eldest brother, William (1640–1714), minister of Borthwick, Midlothian—entitled ‘A Vindication of the Protestant Doctrine concerning Justification and of its Preachers and Professors from the unjust Charge of Antinomianism.’ This ‘angry letter,’ as Dr. Calamy calls it, was occasioned by the violent controversy which broke out among the dissenting ministers of London after the republication in 1690 of the works of Dr. Tobias Crisp. Charges of Antinomianism were made on the one side and of Arminianism on the other, and Trail was distinguished for his zeal against Arminianism. A somewhat similar controversy followed in Scotland, and as Boston of Ettrick and others took the same side as Trail, his works became very popular among them and their adherents. He afterwards published ‘Sermons on the Throne of Grace from Heb. 4:16Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)’ (3rd edit. 1731), and ‘Sermons on the Prayer of Our Saviour, John 17:24Open in Logos Bible Software (if available).’ These works were devout, plain, and edifying, and were in great favour with those who were attached to evangelical religion.
Trail died unmarried on 16 May 1716 at the age of seventy-four. His brother William, the minister of Borthwick, has had many clerical descendants of note, both in the church of Scotland and in the church of Ireland—among the latter James, bishop of Down and Connor (Hew Scott, Fasti, i. 266).

Character excerpts from Wikipedia