The Difference Between a Legalist and an Evangelical Christian

John Fonville posted an excellent quote to help us distinguish between legalists and Gospel-believers. The only thing I would change is the phrase "evangelical"---I've known many people who are both evangelical and legalistic.

Ralph Erskine on the difference between a legalist and an evangelical (”gospel-believing”) Christian:

(1.) They differ in their complaints. The legalist will complain more for want of holiness than for want of Christ; seeing he hath taken up with self-righteousness, it is his all, it is his happiness, it is his husband, it is his God. But the language of the evangelical Christian, who is dead to the law, is, O for Christ! O for a day of power! O to be wrapt up in the covenant of grace! to get an omnipotent power, determining me to comply with the gospel-offer.

(2.) They differ as to their comforts, - the legalist finds comfort in law-works, even in all his extremities. In the prospect of trouble, who comforts him? Even this, that he hath done many good duties. He wraps himself in a garment of his own weaving. Upon challenges of conscience, what comforts him, and gives him peace? He even covers himself with the same robe. In the prospect of judgment, what comforts him, and gives him peace? Why, he hopes God will be merciful to him, because he hath had a good profession, and said many good prayers, and done many good duties; but a sorry peace-maker. The only thing that gives a believer peace and ease in these cases, is the law-abiding righteousness of Christ, under which he desires to shrowd himself. He flees to the blood of Jesus Christ, saying, O I am undone, unless my soul be wrapt up in the mantle of Christ’s perfect righteousness; upon this righteousness of Jesus, I venture my soul.

(Gospel Truth, pp. 292-293)

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