Glorying in the Lord
Here two ends must be kept specially in view—namely, that the glory of God be maintained unimpaired, and that our consciences, in the view of his tribunal, be secured in peaceful rest and calm tranquillity. When the question relates to righteousness, we see how often and how anxiously Scripture exhorts us to give the whole praise of it to God. Accordingly, the Apostle testifies that the purpose of the Lord in conferring righteousness upon us in Christ, was to demonstrate his own righteousness. The nature of this demonstration he immediately subjoins—viz. “that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. iii. 25). Observe, that the righteousness of God is not sufficiently displayed, unless He alone is held to be righteous, and freely communicates righteousness to the undeserving. For this reason it is his will, that “every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. iii. 19). For so long as a man has anything, however small, to say in his own defence, so long he deducts somewhat from the glory of God. Thus, we are taught in Ezekiel how much we glorify his name by acknowledging our iniquity: “Then shall ye remember your ways and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight, for all your evils that ye have committed. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have wrought with you for my name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings” (Ezek. xx. 43, 44). If part of the true knowledge of God consists in being oppressed by a consciousness of our own iniquity, and in recognising him as doing good to those who are unworthy of it, why do we attempt, to our great injury, to steal from the Lord even one particle of the praise of unmerited kindness? In like manner, when Jeremiah exclaims, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory” in the Lord (Jer. ix. 23, 24), does he not intimate, that the glory of the Lord is infringed when man glories in himself? To this purpose, indeed, Paul accommodates the words when he says, that all the parts of our salvation are treasured up with Christ, that we may glory only in the Lord (1 Cor. i. 29). For he intimates, that whosoever imagines he has anything of his own, rebels against God, and obscures his glory.
We never truly glory in him until we have utterly discarded our own glory. It must, therefore, be regarded as an universal proposition, that whoso glories in himself glories against God. Paul indeed considers, that the whole world is not made subject to God until every ground of glorying has been withdrawn from men (Rom. 3:19). Accordingly, Isaiah, when he declares that “in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified” adds, “and shall glory” (Isa. 45:25 ), as if he had said that the elect are justified by the Lord, in order that they may glory in him, and in none else. The way in which we are to glory in the Lord he had explained in the preceding verse, “Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear;” “Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength, even to him shall men come.” Observe, that the thing required is not simple confession, but confession confirmed by an oath, that it might not be imagined that any kind of fictitious humility might suffice. And let no man here allege that he does not glory, when without arrogance he recognizes his own righteousness; such a recognition cannot take place without generating confidence, nor such confidence without begetting boasting. Let us remember, therefore, that in the whole discussion concerning justification the great thing to be attended to is, that God’s glory be maintained entire and unimpaired; since as the Apostle declares, it was in demonstration of his own righteousness that he shed his favor upon us; it was “that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” (Rom. 3:26). Hence, in another passage, having said that the Lord conferred salvation upon us, in order that he might show forth the glory of his name (Eph. 1:6), he afterwards, as if repeating the same thing, adds, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Eph. 2:8). And Peter, when he reminds us that we are called to the hope of salvation, “that ye should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,” (1 Pet. 2:9), doubtless intends thus to proclaim in the ears of believers only the praises of God, that they may bury in profound silence all arrogance of the flesh. The sum is, that man cannot claim a single particle of righteousness to himself, without at the same time detracting from the glory of the divine righteousness.
(Institutes of the Christian Religion [Beveridge translation], III:xiii:1,2)