The Holy Spirit’s Work in the Soul

“But am I not to be indebted to the Holy Spirit’s work in my soul?”

“Undoubtedly; for what hope can there be for you without the
Almighty Spirit, who quickeneth the dead?”

“If so, then ought I not to wait for His impulses, and having got
them, may I not present the feelings which He has wrought in me as
reasons why I should be justified?”

“No, in no wise. You are not justified by the Spirit’s work, but by
Christ’s alone; nor are the motions of the Spirit in you the grounds
of your confidence, or the reasons for your expecting pardon from
the Judge of all. The Spirit works in you, not to prepare you for
being justified, or to make you fit for the favour of God, but to bring
you to the cross, just as you are. For the cross is the only place
where God deals in mercy with the transgressor.”

It is at the cross that we meet God in peace and receive His favour.
There we find not only the blood that washes, but the righteousness
which clothes and beautifies, so that henceforth we are treated by
God as if our own unrighteousness had passed away, and the
righteousness of His own Son were actually ours.

This is what the apostle calls “imputed” righteousness, or
righteousness so reckoned to us by God as that we are entitled to all
the blessings which that righteousness can obtain for us.

Righteousness got up by ourselves, or put into us by another, we
call infused, or imparted, or inherent righteousness; but
righteousness belonging to another reckoned to us by God as if it
were our own, we call imputed righteousness. It is of this that the
apostle speaks when he says, “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Thus Christ represents us: and God deals with us as represented by
Him. Righteousness within will follow necessarily and inseparably:
but we are not to wait in order to get it before going to God for the
righteousness of His only begotten Son.

Imputed righteousness must come first. You cannot have the
righteousness within till you have the righteousness without; and to
make your own righteousness the price which you give to God for
that of His Son, is to dishonour Christ, and to deny His cross. The
Spirit’s work is not to make us holy, in order that we may be
pardoned, but to show us the cross, where the pardon is to be found
by the unholy; so that having found the pardon there, we may begin
the life of holiness to which we are called.

That which God presents to the sinner is an immediate pardon, “not
by works of righteousness which we have done,” but by the great
work of righteousness finished for us by the Substitute. Our
qualification for obtaining that righteousness is that we are
unrighteous, just as the sick man’s qualification for the physician is
that he is sick.

Of a previous goodness, preparatory to pardon, the gospel says
nothing, Of a preliminary state of religious feeling as a necessary
introduction to the grace of God, the apostles never spoke. Fears,
troubles, self-questionings, bitter cries for mercy, forebodings of
judgment, and resolutions of amendment, may, in point of time,
have preceded the sinner’s reception of the good news; but they did
not constitute his fitness, nor make up his qualification. He would
have been quite as welcome without them. They did not make the
pardon more complete, more gracious, or more free. The sinner’s
wants were all his arguments;—”God be merciful to me a sinner.”
He needed salvation, and he went to God for it, and got it just
because he needed it, and because God delights in the poor and
needy. He needed pardon, and he went to God for it, and obtained it
without merit or money. “When he had NOTHING TO PAY, God
frankly forgave.” It was the having nothing to pay that drew out the
frank forgiveness.

Horatius Bonar, How Shall I Go to God?