The righteousness of God by faith is so far from being a thing built on the rubbish heap of legal fiction called vicarious sacrifice, or its shadow called imputed righteousness, that only the child with the child-heart, so far ahead of and so different from the wise and prudent, can understand it. The wise and prudent interprets God by himself, and does not understand him; the child interprets God by himself, and does understand him. The wise and prudent must make a system and arrange things to his mind before he can say, I believe. The child sees, believes, obeys—and knows he must be perfect as his father in heaven is perfect. If an angel, seeming to come from heaven, told him that God had let him off, did not require so much of him as that, because it was so hard for him to be quite good, and he loved him so dearly, the child of God would at once recognize, woven with the angel’s starry brilliance, the flicker of the flames of hell, and would say to the shining one, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Nor would there be the slightest wonder or merit in his doing so, for at the words of the deceiver, if but for briefest moment imagined true, the shadow of a rising hell would gloom over the face of creation; hope would vanish; glory would die out of the face of God—until the groan of a thunderous no burst from the caverns of the universe, and the truth, flashing on his child’s soul from the heart of the Eternal, withered up the lie of the messenger of darkness.
by Jolyn Canty
MacDonald frequently asserts that we must have childlike minds to understand the greatness of the Father. This is especially true when he talks about vicarious sacrifice and imputed righteousness. (Imputed righteousness meaning to designate any action or word or thing as reckoned to a person, our sins are imputed to Christ and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them that believe in Him. Vicarious sacrifice means acting or suffering for another, or in the place of another. The reconciliation which God desires to effect is accomplished by the vicarious sacrifice of Christ.)
Only a childlike mind can follow Him out of the darkness of unbelief into the light of hope and joy in Christ. Only with a childlike mind, in the hour of our death, can we look up and know with surety and joy, “Christ is my righteousness; my righteousness is in heaven; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Whether my faith is strong or weak, it doesn’t matter, because it is all Christ. I can rest in Him alone.”
John Bunyan, the writer of Pilgrim’s Progress, struggled terribly before he came to a settled faith in Christ. He describes his awakened understanding of imputed righteousness and how God’s own righteousness is credited and imputed, not imparted to us:
“One day as I was passing into the field…this sentence fell upon my soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And methought, withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he wants [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before [in front of] him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, ‘The same yesterday, today and, and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8).
Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.”
John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners