The Imputed Righteousness of Christ in the Complete Salvation of Man

Taken, edited and adapted from, “Sermons, Fragments of Sermons, And Letters”
Written by William Gadsby, Of Manchester.

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The Christ of God, who is “come in the flesh,” is not only come to represent his people who are in union to him, but he is come to accomplish a complete salvation for them…

Not come to make it possible for them to save themselves; not come to open a way whereby, through their exertions, they may secure their own salvation. A Christ of that nature is one of the devil’s inventing. It is antichrist. It is not the Christ of God. No, no. The Christ of God is come “to put away sin,” “to finish transgression and to make an end of sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,” to “redeem from all iniquity,” and to “redeem unto God.” So we find, when the Holy Ghost is speaking upon the subject, he says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Do you not see, beloved, how it is? Has God made you to feel it? If this little word it gets into your conscience, it is a blessed thing, if God the Spirit puts it there. He gave himself for it. Not “gave himself” indefinitely “for all sin of all men,”—the doctrine of the day, to accomplish a great salvation, and make it possible for those who please to save themselves; that is antichrist; I do not care who preaches it, nor who believes it; it is not the Christ of God. No, no. God’s Christ has finished transgression, and made a complete atonement for sin; such an atonement that, as the Holy Ghost solemnly declares, “the redeemed of the Lord shall come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Now the Christ that you believe in and have felt in your soul, is it a Christ of this nature? Or is it a Christ that you say gives all men a chance of being saved, has done the best he can to save them, has made it possible for them to accomplish the conditions of salvation and so to save themselves? That is antichrist; as the living God is in heaven, that is not his Christ. God’s Christ has so completed the work that all the perfections of the Eternal Jehovah harmonize in it, to the complete salvation of God’s people. Hence it is said that “Israel shall be saved in the Lord;” not have a chance of being saved.

A chance of being saved?

Why, bless you, when I hear men talk about a chance of being saved, I am led to reflect— Then the declarative glory of the Eternal Trinity hangs upon a chance; the honor of God the Father hangs upon chance; the honor and effect of the work of God the Son hangs upon chance; the honor of God the Spirit, in his quickening, enlightening, sanctifying power, hangs upon chance! And that chance, too, to be accomplished by man—a poor, dying, crawling reptile! —the eternal Trinity having to wait in heaven to see if perchance we will let him work! Talk of Christ! It is antichrist. It is an insulting of God’s Christ; a despising of the Christ God has revealed in his Word and makes known in the hearts and consciences of his people.

If we believe that God’s Christ “is come in the flesh,” then, we believe that he has come as the Head and Representative of his people, and that he has completed their salvation and entirely finished the work. Yea, bless his holy name, we are brought to believe and feel in our souls that he has accomplished such a work that it can neither be mended nor marred. The manifestation of it may go through a variety of changes, and we through a variety of changes under it; but the work is as firm as the throne of God, and it shall stand forever. “His work is perfect; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he.” The Christ of God that has “come in the flesh” is one that has accomplished this blessed, this God-glorifying work. Any other Christ is not the Christ of God, but it is antichrist, another Jesus, one of those “false Christs” that the Lord said should arise, and should deceive many; and so, God knows, there are many who are deceived.  

But, then, we observe further. the Lord Christ that is “come in the flesh” is that blessed Christ that has wrought out a complete righteousness for the justification of his people; not only atoned for their sins, but wrought out a righteousness, to present them just and perfect and righteous in his blessed and pure obedience. 

I know some people say, “O yes; we have a righteousness through Christ; he has accomplished such a work that if we are faithful and add our faithfulness to his work, we shall obtain righteousness and holiness too; but not without.” Why, then, the Christ that has done that is not God’s Christ; it is antichrist. The Christ of God that has “come in the flesh,” is emphatically called “The Lord our righteousness;” and God tells us plainly that it is not through, but “in the Lord,” that “all the seed of Israel shall be justified.” And this is the reason why an inspired Paul was anxiously concerned “to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness.” “Not having your own righteousness,” Paul? Why, you were a very zealous man, a pious man, a suffering man, a man led to undergo a great deal for Christ, in shipwrecks, and prisons, and stripes, and perils, and after all cannot you wear your own righteousness? No, says Paul; do not let me have that on! Well, but what righteousness could Paul wish to appear in then? “Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” And here it is, that the poor child of God is brought, in solemn silence sometimes and in solemn awe, to bow before God, when “clothed and in his right mind,” and to see that he is “complete in Christ;” complete in him, who is “Head over all principalities and powers,” “God blessed forever.”

I know, antichrist mocks at the idea of looking for imputed righteousness, or depending upon imputed righteousness. Imputed righteousness, some say, is imputed nonsense. Now, so charitable am I, that I believe that a man who lives and dies declaring the imputed righteousness of Christ to be nonsense, dies to be damned, as sure as God is in heaven. I do not care who he is, nor what he is; the spirit by which he is guided is antichrist. It is not “the Spirit of God;” for God’s Christ is Christ “our righteousness” “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” Of God’s Christ it is said, that “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,” and that we are “justified freely through the redemption that is in him.” And when the Lord the Spirit brings this solemn mystery into the conscience of a poor, burdened, dejected, drooping sinner, O what glory teems into his heart!

To be led in faith and feeling to see that he stands before God in the spotless, pure, perfect obedience of Christ; his righteousness justifying him so fully and completely that God himself, by the apostle, challenges all creation to “lay anything to his charge,” this is Christ!

Hence, says the apostle, “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus;” not to them that talk about, nor to them that bring forth a false Christ, but to them that are really in God’s Christ. Why, that poor soul is so wrapped up in God’s Christ that in the sight of God it is Christ that is seen, and the man is seen in Christ; and therefore he is just and righteous and complete. This is the Christ that is “come in the flesh,”—Christ “our righteousness;” and we in his righteousness are brought to stand “complete in him.” “But then,” say some of you, “we must have holiness. Talk what you will about being righteous in Christ, we must have personal holiness. Except we have personal holiness, and are made pure and sanctified, what will the righteousness of Christ do for us? It will not save us.” Well, where will you look for personal holiness? In your Christ, which is a Christ that has done something for you, and leaves you to complete the work, by your penitence and mortification and alms-deeds and wonders that you are to manufacture? Is that what you mean by personal holiness? If it is, I hope you will keep it to yourselves. I hope God will not suffer me to be plagued with it; I have plague enough without it. But if, by personal holiness, you mean being made a partaker of the divine nature, by the quickening, enlightening power and divine communications of God the Holy Ghost, having Christ formed in the soul the hope of glory, being saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, all centering in and proceeding from Christ, then you have a holiness that will stand the test of God’s Word: “For Christ is made of God unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” And when his blessed Majesty is being spoken of under the Old Testament dispensation, this is his language: “I am like a green fir-tree; from me is thy fruit found.”

What is the holiness of a child of God, then—his real personal holiness? It is couched in this one blessed thing, in all the manifested bearings of it—Christ in you.