By Aaron Hills
Job's question, "How shall man be just with God?" (9: 2) has perplexed the reflecting minds of all the ages. More perplexing is it, still, since God Himself, hath said: "I will not justify the wicked," and "By the works of the law, shall no flesh be justified in His sight" (Rom. 3: 20; Ps. 143: 2). And yet we must be justified in order to be saved.
Thus this question we are to discuss is of the deepest interest to all mankind. How may a fallen sinner recover from the miseries of his fallen state? "What must I do to be saved?" is the agonizing inquiry that comes to us from all nations and all ages. It shows that the universal human heart is instinctively seeking some satisfactory knowledge of a certain and adequate remedy for the evils of Conscious sin.
Every human scheme, as all history shows, has terminated in failure and disappointment and despair. If there is any solution of the question or any remedy, it must come from God.
I. Consider the Nature of Justification.
1. The Greek word in the New Testament rendered "justification" is dikaiosis, which means "A declaration of right or justice, a judicial sentence, in New Testament acquittal, acceptance, and justification." The verb means to justify, to absolve, to clear from any charge; and then to pronounce upright, righteous. Good; then to acknowledge and vindicate, to honor, to glorify." Justification, then, is the pronouncing of one just, and in some sense must be an act of the divine government.
2. The question now arises whether it is a judicial act of God as supreme Judge; or whether it consists in pardon, or the setting aside of the execution of an incurred penalty, and is therefore an act, of God as Chief Executive. This is an important question and will shape our whole theology on this subject. This cannot be a judicial or court phrase. The power to pardon is never exercised by the judicial department of a government. The ground of a judicial or forensic justification invariably is, and must be, that the party arraigned at the bar is innocent. If one crime or breach of the law is alleged and proved, the court must inevitably condemn, and can in no such case justify, or pronounce the convicted person just, But Gospel justification is the justification of sinners; it is therefore naturally impossible, and a palpable contradiction, to affirm that the justification of a sinner is a judicial justification, which could only be the case if he were guiltless, or has not violated the law. The law condemns the sinner, and in his case a judicial justification is impossible. This is expressly affirmed by the Bible: "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." It is the executive department of a government that pardons, not the judicial; so, if God pardons it must be done by Him as an executive or governor, and not as a judge.
3. Calvinistic theologians, who hold to the imputation of our sin to Christ, and of his righteousness to us, treat justification as a judicial act, a pronouncing of a sinner just before the law. As they hold, it is on this wise. "The obedience TO the law which Christ rendered when on earth is set down to the credit of elect sinners, and imputed to them. The law regards them as having rendered perfect obedience in Him. They have perfectly obeyed by proxy: and they are pronounced just. Christ has taken the place of the sinner, has borne his sins, and has wrought out for him a righteousness. The law is satisfied; it has no other or further claim upon him. He is now acquitted, as innocent." This, Calvinists insist, is properly a forensic or judicial justification.
4. But we have previously shown that there can be no such thing as a transfer, or imputation, either of guilt or of righteousness. Character must be forever personal and private. The sinner must be forever guilty before the law; and "Justification is an act of God's sovereign grace, setting aside the penalty, on the conditions of repentance and faith in the Atoning Savior, which make it safe and right. We sometimes loosely say that Justification is treating the sinner as if he had not sinned. No: there are two ways of treating a sinner as a sinner; one is to punish him, the other to pardon. An innocent man can neither be punished nor pardoned (Fairchild). Finney observes that the Calvinistic doctrine of an imputed righteousness, or that Christ's obedience to the law was accounted as our obedience, is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption; to wit, that Christ owed no obedience to the law in His own person, and that therefore His obedience was altogether a work of supererogation, and might be made a substitute for our own obedience; that it might be set down to our credit, because He did not need to obey for Himself. Justification respects the moral law, and it must be intended that Christ owed no obedience to the moral law, being wholly a work of supererogation, is set down to our account, as the ground of our justification upon condition of faith in Him, Surely this is an obvious mistake. We have seen that the Spirit of the law required good will to God and the universe. Was Christ under no obligation to do this? Nay, was He not under infinite obligation to be perfectly benevolent? Was it possible for Him to be more benevolent than the law requires God and all beings to be? Did He not owe entire consecration of heart and life to the highest good of universal being? If not, then benevolence in him were no virtue, for it would not be a compliance with moral obligation. It was naturally impossible for Him, and it is naturally impossible for any being to perform a work of supererogation; that is, to be more benevolent than the moral law requires him to be. This is and must be as true of God as of any other being. Would not Christ have sinned had he not been perfectly benevolent? If He would, it follows that He owed obedience to the law as really as any other being. Indeed, a being that owed no obedience to the moral law must be wholly incapable of virtue; for what is virtue but obedience to the moral law?
But if Christ owed personal obedience to the moral law, then His obedience could no more than justify Himself. It can never be imputed to us. He was bound for Himself to love God with all His heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and His neighbor as Himself. He did (and could do) no more than this. It was naturally impossible, then, for Him to obey in our behalf" (Theology, p. 385). We have previously shown that this doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us, and of our sins to Christ is a theological fiction, utterly unreasonable, and without support in Scripture. The above quotation only shows more clearly how absurd the doctrine of imputation is, in all its several parts.
5. We are now ready to state formally what Scriptural justification is. Definition: Justification is that governmental act of God, by which, on condition of the sinner's repentance and faith in the atoning Savior, God pardons his sins, remits the penalty, restores him to the divine favor, and thereafter treats him as if he had never sinned. The sinner having turned from sin becomes a recipient of the favor of God: he is accepted and forgiven. "This act of God in relieving the sinner from the consequences of his sin, and from the penalty of the law, is called justification. This is the theological term used to express the divine act. It is used also in the Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testament. Isa. 53: 11, "By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities." Acts 13: 38, 39, "Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified, from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses."
It is clear from the Scripture presentation and from the nature of the case that this justification, or pronouncing just, is simply an act of pardon (in its largest meaning)-a remittance of the penalty of the law. The usual expression in the Old Testament is pardon, forgiveness. The same terms are used abundantly in the New Testament; but the term justification is used, especially by Paul. Indeed the term is almost confined to him, especially as referring to the forgiveness of sin (Fairchild's Theology, p. 276).
Aside from Christ, God is an offended Sovereign, and man is a guilty subject. But a new relation is effected by the death of Christ. The offended Sovereign has devised honorable means to suspend the execution of the penalty of death, and to offer terms of pardon to the assurance of the willingness of God to forgive all his offenses, and that he may, by the use of the prescribed means, actually obtain the loving favor of God. If the conditions are complied with, amicable relations are restored between the Sovereign and the subject, the record of sin is cancelled, the penalty is set aside, and relations of friendship and fellowship are restored. The prodigal son sits again at his Father's table, enjoys His bounty, wears the apparel He furnished, and rejoices in His benignant smile.
II. Let us consider what justification is not.
1. The pardon of sin is not an act of mere prerogative, done above law, but an executive act done consistent with law and justice. In this transaction there are three parties: 1. God as a Sovereign. "It is God that justifieth." 2. Christ as Advocate, not to defend the guilty sinners, but to intercede for them. "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). 3. The third party is man, who, by his own confession is guilty, sinful, and deserving of the wrath of God. The repentance which always accompanies faith, and really precedes it, is a confession of sin and desert of punishment. But as justification does not take place except through the propitiation of Jesus Christ, and on condition of faith in His Atoning blood on the part of the sinner, it is not an arbitrary act of mere mercy, or prerogation, but one, as we have already shown, which is perfectly consistent with a righteous government, and with the justice of God, and the good of all His subjects.
2. Justification does not save all men en masse. It has respect to particular individuals. As we have seen, a provisory atonement has been made for all men, and all are placed in a savable state before God. But whether any are saved or not, depends upon what individual sinners do with the offer of salvation; that is, whether they comply with the conditions announced by God, Justification is not, therefore, common to the race at large, but only to the individuals who comply with the terms. It is, therefore, a matter of personal concern, personal prayer, personal effort to meet the conditions, and an earnest seeking of the grace of God. It is a special favor of heaven bestowed upon the individual soul.
3. In the light of the above facts, justification cannot be eternal. "The Antinomian notion of eternal justification becomes a manifest absurdity. It supposes the grant of pardon before man was created, when no sin had been committed, no law published, no Savior promised, no faith exercised, which is not only absurd, but impossible. ... It is the ungodly who are justified; and therefore guilty; so that the advocates of this wild notion must either give up justification in eternity, or a state of condemnation in time. If they hold the former, they contradict common sense; if they deny the latter, they contradict the Scriptures (Wakefield's Theology, p. 408).
4. Justification is not an act of God by which we are made actually just and righteous. This is brought about by regeneration and sanctification. These are distinct and entirely different works of the Spirit. Justification is what God does for us through His Son; the others are what God works in us by His Spirit. There are occasionally times when the term "justification" is used to include the works of grace that follow, but it is not usual. By justification we are saved from the penalty of sin and restored to the favor of God; by sanctification we are saved from the power and root of sin and restored to the image of God.
5. The justification of a sinner does not in the least degree alter or diminish the evil nature and ill-desert of sin. "It is God that justifieth, and we know that He can never regard sin, on any consideration or under any circumstances, with less than infinite hatred. Sin therefore, is not changed in its nature, so as to be less ''exceedingly sinful," or less worthy of wrath, by the pardon of the sinner. The sinner must be forever guilty before the law; but the penalty is remitted, by an act of sovereign grace, on condition of the atonement and repentance and faith, and the obligation to suffer that penalty is set aside; but it is still deserved, and naturally due, though graciously remitted. "Hence appear the propriety and duty of continuing to confess and lament even pardoned sin with a lowly and contrite heart. Nor will even the redeemed in heaven forget the humiliating fact that they are sinners saved by grace. Their songs and services will ever be dedicated unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father (Wakefield's Theology, p. 409).
III, We now will consider the conditions of justification, and how it is obtained. On this important subject men have widely differed in opinion. It has led to wars between nations, and civil wars. It has divided Christendom. It has formed different denominations of Christians; it has aroused heated passion and angry debate.
1. We may say, the ground of justification, or the moving, procuring cause, was the benevolence, and merciful disposition of the whole Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This love made the atonement (John 3: 16); but the atonement did not beget the love. The Triune God desired to save sinners, but could not do so without danger to the government of God, unless something was done to meet the requirements of public justice. The atonement was resorted to, to meet that need. It reconciled forgiveness with the wholesome administration of government. The forgiving merciful love of God was the ground of all grace toward sinners, the source of every offer of pardon ever made.
2. The conditions of justification are of two kinds: governmental on the part of God, and personal on the sinner's part. The governmental conditions are met in the atonement, which provides such moral forces, in the government of God, that it is safe to offer pardon to the penitent. The personal conditions are repentance, a turning from sin to righteousness, and faith in the atoning Savior. These are necessary conditions, because salvation is impossible without them, and unsafe if it were possible. Sin must be forsaken, and God and His government and law must be honored, if rebel sinners are safely forgiven (see Fairchild, p. 277).
3. Five different methods or plans of obtaining justification have been named by theologians.
(1) By the imputation of Christ's active righteousness or obedience to sinners.
(2) By the imputation of Christ's active and passive obedience to sinners.
(3) By works alone.
(4) By works and faith.
(5) By faith. (1)Justification by the imputation of Christ's active obedience. This is the high Calvinistic, Antinomian scheme. It teaches that the active obedience or righteousness of Christ is so imputed to the elect, as to render them as legally righteous as if they had never sinned. To this is objected:
(a) That it is a fiction of theology wholly unsupported by Scriptures, No text can be found in which it is taught, either expressly or by logical inference, that Christ's active obedience ever was, or ever will be, imputed to any man for justification.
(b) The doctrine involves a falsehood inconsistent with the divine attributes. The judgment of God must be according to truth. Nor can His unerring wisdom think that I am innocent, or judge that I am righteous or holy, because another at some time lived a holy life. "He can no more confound me with Christ," said Wesley, "than with David or Abraham." Moreover, "If the obedience of Christ is to be accounted ours in the sense of this theory, then it must be supposed that we never sinned, because Christ never sinned; and if we are accounted to have perfectly fulfilled the whole law in Christ, why are we required to ask for pardon? Should it be said that when we ask for pardon, we only ask for a revelation of our eternal justification, the matter is not altered, for what need is there of pardon, either in time or eternity, if we are accounted to have perfectly obeyed God's law? And why should we be regarded as having suffered, in Christ, the penalty of sins which we are accounted never to have committed?" (Wakefield).
(c) The doctrine lessens the sense of obligation to keep the moral law of God, and tends directly to antinomian carelessness in living. Why should man be conscientiously careful about his conduct, when he has the spotless conduct of Christ set down to his credit? So the carnal heart will reason, and as a historic fact, has reasoned. The theory tends directly to immorality, and encourages ungodliness. So far is it from being a demonstration of God's righteousness, that it transfers the obligation of obedience from the subjects of the Divine government to Christ, and thus leaves man without law, and God without dominion."
(d) A more fatal objection to this theory is that it grounds our salvation on the active obedience of Christ instead of conditioning it on His atoning death, and thus leaves no reason for Christ's vicarious suffering. It thus flies in the face of Scripture. For "If the active obedience of Christ is imputed for justification to all for whom He died, then it will follow, 1. That He died for the just and not for the unjust, as the Scriptures declare. 2. That His death was unnecessary; for those for whom He died are perfectly righteous without it. "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Gal. 2:21). And, 3. That men are still under the covenant of works, and are justified by an obedience to the law; though St. Paul declared that "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Rom, 3:20) (Wakefield's Theology, p. 411).
(2) Justified by the imputation of the Active and passive obedience of Christ. This theory was held by Calvin, who wrote, "We simply explain justification to be an acceptance by which God receives us into His favor, and esteems us as righteous persons; and we say it consists in the remissions of sins, and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. But this is a wonderful method of justification, that sinners being invested with the righteousness of Christ dread not the judgment which they have deserved. Man is righteous, not in himself, but because the righteousness of Christ is communicated to him by imputation." "What is placing our righteousness in the obedience of Christ, but asserting that we are accounted righteous only because His obedience is accepted for us as if it were our own" (Institutes, Book 3, chap. 11). Calvin does not divide the active and passive obedience of Christ. But his views are open to the same objections. His imputation is without any foundation in Scripture. There is no transfer of character from one person to another in the Bible; no impossible thinking by God that what Christ did when on earth we did before we were born! But the strongest objection to this theory of imputation, and if this righteousness includes both His active and passive obedience to the law of God, then these consequences will follow: 1. That in our justification there is no room for pardon; for it is absurd to suppose that pardon and perfect obedience can meet in the same person. 2. That we are furnished with both an active and a passive obedience in our justification, which is more than the case demands. How can it be made to appear, that we rendered a perfect obedience to the divine law, and suffered its penalty also? This would be both unjust and absurd (Wakefield). Look at this subject in which ever way one will, the theory of imputation runs into absurdities and fooleries of thought. "It is only an idle dream without reason or Scripture for its support, involving an absurd fiction, irreconciliable with the divine character" (Ralston).
(3) Justified by works is the third scheme.
It may mean several different things.
For instance, it may mean in the minds of some, perfect obedience to the original law of God. But this is quite impossible to a sinner. Again it may mean perfect conformity to the moral law, by which also, no one who has ever voluntarily diverged from the perfect law of rectitude can ever be justified. "By the law," written in every human heart, is the knowledge of sin. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3: 23).
Again justification by works may be understood to mean evangelical works under the Gospel, which spring from faith, and are the fruit of the Spirit of God. These are the works advocated by James. But they follow salvation, and are the fruit and evidence of it. We are discussing how pardon and salvation are obtained, the initial justification which inducts the soul into the Christian life. "It is not by works lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:9).
(4) The fourth scheme of justification is that which teaches that we are justified by faith and works taken together. Dr. Macknight says: "God hath actually made faith and works, not separately, but jointly, the condition of justification, as St. Paul and St. James declared." But Dr. Macknight uses justification to mean, not the pardon of sin in this world, but the sentence of acquittal to be pronounced upon the righteous at the day of final judgment. Let it be here observed that St. Paul talked about that justification which was synonymous with the forgiveness of sin, the divine act which brings peace with God (Rom. 5:1). But St. James was writing about the approval of Christians at the bar of God. They were not writing about the same thing, or the same act of God. So there was no conflict between them, as Luther supposed.
But there is another class who hold that we are not saved by faith alone, but by faith and the performance of a rite. To this class belonged the Judaizers who taught that faith in Christ must be supplemented by the rite of circumcision. These people made trouble for St. Paul as long as he lived, and well nigh ruined whole churches. They "bewitched" the Church at Galatia, which fact called out the Epistle to the Galatians.
We have representatives of that same class today in the "Disciples of Christ" who teach the necessity of immersion in order to salvation. One of their writers says: "In reference to regeneration the Disciples teach that an individual, who is first begotten of God, is enabled to enjoy the life thus bestowed when immersed into Christ, as it gives him an introduction to the happiness of the pardoned and the spiritual. Baptism, succeeding faith and repentance, consummates regeneration. The new birth as a change of state is a formal ingress of a penitent believer, a prior spiritual creation, into the family and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, formed for a new state by faith and repentance, he enjoys its heavenly adaptations, the moment he enters the kingdom by being baptized into the name of Christ. The waters of baptism in connection with the death of Jesus, afford him an assurance of safety, as did the waters of the Reel Sea, to the redeemed Israelites, when they engulfed Pharaoh and his hosts, Thus we are taught that penitent believers are born the children of God by baptism, that salvation is connected with baptism when accompanied by faith; that remission of sins is to be enjoyed by baptism, through the blood of Christ; that persons having previously believed and repented, wash away their sins in baptism, calling on the name of the Lord; that they profess to be dead to sin and alive to God in the action of baptism: that believers put on Christ when baptized into Christ; that the Church is cleansed by baptism and belief of the Word: that men are saved by baptism in connection with the renewing of the Holy Spirit; and that the answer of a good conscience is obtained in baptism through the resurrection of Christ" (quoted from Disciple Theology, by Milner, in Religious Denominations, pp. 154, 155).
This deluded writer only mentions "believers" and "faith" seven times, while his precious immersion is mentioned thirteen times in this single quotation. He thinks that neither the death of Christ nor the renewing of the Spirit, nor anything else will avail to save without immersion. Just substitute "immersion" for "circumcision" in the Epistle to the Galatians, and it would fit their case exactly. St. Paul would say today, "neither immersion availeth nor a want of immersion, but faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6). It is a historical fact that baptism took the place of circumcision in the Christian church. And just as circumcision was not necessary to salvation in St. Paul's day, so neither is immersion essential now. But these Disciples contend that without immersion there can be no remission of sin, an utterly unscriptural notion, as we shall hereafter show. The Roman Catholics hold to a similar notion about baptism, penance, etc. They teach that certain works or rites or performances, are essential to the complete remission of sin, and are meritorious in the sight of God. But there is no such phrase or teaching in the Bible as justification by faith and works, and no passage that by fair interpretation conveys any such idea.
(5) The fifth Scheme is Justification by Faith only.
Let it be remembered that saving faith is preceded by repentance. This is a necessary order of Spiritual exercises, because the soul cannot put forth a true act of saving faith while it is consciously clinging to known sin. Jesus preached: "Repent ye, and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1: 15, also Acts 20: 21).
In a separate chapter we have already discussed the nature of saving faith. It will suffice here to observe that in the approach to its exercise there is a profound sense of spiritual need, a sense of sin, and peril, and utter helplessness. In the stress of this need the soul looks to Christ and apprehends in Him the salvation it needs. It sees the fullness and freeness of His grace. His infinite power to save and His infinite willingness to do it. It beholds in Jesus a most engaging and assuring trustworthiness. In this apprehension of an all-sufficient Savior, the soul is moved to a self-committal to Christ, and to trustingly rest in Him for the needed salvation. This is saving faith and God responds to it with the bestowment of pardon, and the divine favor. This is justification by faith. This faith derives its chief efficacy from the appointment of God though it is a natural condition of salvation. In his sovereignty, he prescribed it as the condition of salvation. It is so, in such a sense that none can be saved without it, and all who have it are at that moment justified. It necessarily follows that nothing else can be the condition, in the same sense, without a contradiction. The following texts will verify this statement:
Luke 7: 50: "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."
John 1: 12: "As many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God, to them that believe on His name."
John 3:16: "That whosoever believeth on Him should not perish."
John 3: 36: "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life." John 20:31: "And that believing ye may have life in His name."
Acts 16: 31: "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved."
Acts 15: 9: "Cleansing their hearts by faith." Rom. 1:16: "It is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth."
Rom. 3: 26: "The justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus."
Rom. 3: 28: "Man is justified by faith."
Rom. 3: 30: "God shall justify by faith, and through faith."
Rom. 4: 3: "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness."
Rom. 4: 5: "His faith is reckoned for righteousness."
Rom. 4:16: "The promise may be sure to all the seed which is of the faith of Abraham."
Rom. 4: 24: "It (faith) shall be reckoned (for righteousness) who believe on him."
Rom. 5:1: "Being therefore justified by faith."
Rom. 9: 30: "Righteousness which is of faith."
Rom. 9: 33: "He that believeth on Him shall not be put to shame."
Rom. 10: 4: "Righteousness to every one that believeth."
Rom. 10:9: "If thou shalt believe-thou shalt be saved."
Rom. 10: 10: "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness."
Rom. 10: 11: "Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be put to shame."
Gal. 3:6: "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned for righteousness."
Gal. 3: 26: "Ye are all sons of God through faith in Jesus."
Gal. 3:8: "God would justify the Gentiles by faith."
Gal. 3:9: "They which be of faith are blessed."
Gal. 5:6: "Faith working through love (availeth)."
Acts 10:43: "Every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins."
Phil. 3:9: "The righteousness which is of God by faith."
Eph. 2:8: "By grace have ye been saved through faith."
2 Tim. 3:15: "Salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
Heb. 11:7: "Righteousness which is according to faith."
1 John 5: 10: "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness."
Now here are thirty-three texts telling how people are justified and saved, and there is not a drop of water in one of them. Whenever Baptism is named in connection with salvation, it is referred to simply as a rite of public confession, and initiation into the brotherhood of disciples. Jesus demands that we shall confess Him before man. "Baptism is the external act and manifestation of the conditional faith, baptism is mentioned before that remission which follows the internal faith, although the instant divine act of remission has actually preceded the baptism. Internal faith precedes the divine act of remission" (Whedon's commentary on Acts 2: 38).
We cannot confess justification by baptism until we have it: therefore adults are baptized not to be saved but because they are saved, and wish to openly confess Christ as Savior and Lord. Probably no one thing has brought more peril to souls, or more degradation to the Church of Christ, than the deluding notion of baptismal regeneration. Mark 16: 16, is no part of the Bible: the epistle ends at verse 8 (see Revised Version note).
We will consider the results of justification, and how they are preserved.
1. We have already seen in our definition that justification puts the believing sinner into a new category. He is a sinner no longer. He is a rebel against God no longer. He is an alien from God's spiritual Israel no longer. He had to renounce sin and turn away from it by a sincere and hearty repentance, before faith could lay hold of the promise for justification, so both repentance and justification involve a renunciation of the sinning business. God has His eternal quarrel with sin and sinning; and the sinner who wishes to be saved must take sides with God on the sin-question. God then welcomes him as a recruit to the divine army, gives him the sunshine of His favor, the smile of His recognition and the kiss of His peace, and gives him a seat at the table of His bounty among His recognized friends.
2. Now it costs as much to keep justified as it does to get justified. President Fairchild well says: "As repentance is the condition (preliminary antecedent) to (saving faith and) justification, so a continued repentance or penitence, or continued obedience is a condition of continued justification. A lapse into sin must bring condemnation, and repentance of sin alone can restore the pardon. A different view is held by those who regard justification as a judicial act (irreversible) an acquittal of the sinner before the law. Such an acquittal, it is said, can never be revoked; the sinner can never again come under condemnation. He may fall into sin; indeed he is supposed to be continually in sin, to a greater or less extent; but the condemnation of the law cannot rest upon him. "Once in grace, always in grace," is a maxim which grows out of this view. The regenerate sinner in sin is only a sinning child.
"We may accept the fact that a sinning Christian (?) is in a different relation to God's promises from one who has never believed. But he is a sinner, and it is just as necessary that he should repent and turn from sin as that any sinner should. This is the doctrine of the Scriptures. Ezek. 18: 24, "When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations which the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die." 1 Cor. 11: 30-32, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." Justification is an essential fact, and not merely a technical or formal one. It depends on the moral attitude of the sinner himself, and cannot exist while he is in a state of sin. The doctrine that justification is not invalidated by a lapse into sin is naturally connected with the idea of mixed action and mixed character-that there can be genuine righteousness in a Christian even in sin; that the sinner is justified without being free from sin; and a little more or a little less of sin can make no difference in the result. One who holds this view of character does not regard a full turning from sin as a condition of justification" (Theology, pp. 278, 279).
3. There is an objection to this doctrine of justification that it favors immorality and encourages sin. This criticism may be valid against the Calvinistic doctrine described above, that it is impossible to forfeit justification by any lapse into sin. Such a doctrine does tend to antinomianism, and to make the Church "a hospital for invalids and a refuge for scoundrels." What could do more to insure in every newborn soul a backslidden life, than to require of it an absolute belief that it cannot receive grace sufficient to obey God. but must "Daily sin in thought, word, and deed; sin nobody knows in what form and to what extent, but that, no form or degree of sin it can possibly commit will imperil its immortal interests?" (Mahan).
But the true scriptural doctrine of justification has no such tendency. It is only shallow thinking that can object to such a doctrine as we have set forth on the ground that it is opposed to morality. With the Scripture, we have advocated a justification which demands the abandonment of all sin to get it, and a life of obedience to keep it. The deep sense of sin, the genuine repentance, the spirit of consecration to a good life in the service of God as the prerequisite of forgiveness, the known necessity of a good life in order to the retention of a justified state, the grateful love for the great salvation graciously provided and conferred, - all combine in the enforcement of the highest form of Christian morality. The question of practical results is confidently appealed to the history of the evangelical churches, wherein great prominence is given to the doctrine of justification by faith. No system of ethics apart from Christianity nor any unevangelical form of Christianity, lifts up so many into a truly good life (Miley's Theology, Vol. II, p. 325).