By Richard Watson
BENEFITS DERIVED TO MAN FROM THE ATONEMENT-JUSTIFICATION.
WHEN we speak of benefits received by the human race, in consequence of the atonement of Christ, the truth is, that man, having forfeited good of every kind, and even life itself, by his transgression, all that remains to him more than evil in the natural world, and in the dispensations of general and particular providence, as well as all spiritual blessings put within his reach by the Gospel, are to be considered as the fruits of the death and intercession of Christ, and ought to be gratefully acknowledged as such. We enjoy nothing in our own right, and receive all from the hands of the Divine mercy. We now, however, speak in particular of those benefits which immediately relate to, or which constitute what in Scripture is called our sALVATION; by which term is meant the deliverance of man from the penalty, dominion, and pollution of his sins; his introduction into the Divine favour in this life; and his future and eternal felicity in another.
The grand object of our redemption was to accomplish this salvation; amid the first effect of Christ's atonement, whether anticipated before his coming, as "the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world," or when effected by his passion, was to place God and man in that new relation, from which salvation might be derived to the offender.
The only relation in which an offended sovereign and a guilty subject could stand, in mere justice, was the relation of a judge and a criminal capitally convicted. The new relation effected by the death of Christ, is, as to God, that of an offended sovereign having devised honourable means to suspend the execution of the sentence of death, and to offer terms of pardon to the condemned; and, as to man, that as the object of this compassion, he receives assurance of the placableness of God, and his readiness to forgive all his offences, and may, by the use of the prescribed means, actually obtain this favour.
To this is to be added another consideration. God is not merely disposed to forgive the offences of men upon their suit and application; but an affecting activity is ascribed in Scripture to the compassion of God. The atonement of Christ having made it morally practicable to exercise mercy, annul having removed all legal obstructions out of the way of reconciliation, that mercy pours itself forth in ardent and cease less efforts to accomplish its own purposes, and not content with waiting the return of man in penitence amid prayer, "God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself;" that is to say, he employs various means to awaken men to a due sense of their fallen and endangered condition, and to prompt and influence them (sometimes with mighty efficacy) to seek his favour and grace, in the way which he limes himself ordained in his revealed word.
The mixed and chequered external circumstances of men in this present life is a providential arrangement which is to be attributed to this design; and, viewed under this aspect, it throws an interesting light upon the condition of mankind, unknown to line wisest among those nations which have not had the benefits of revealed religion, except that some glimpses, in a few cases, may have been afforded of this doctrine by the scattered and broken rays of early tradition. Nor has this been always adverted to by those writers who have enjoyed the full manifestations of Divine truth in the Scriptures. By many, flee infliction of labour, and sorrow, and disappointment upon fallen man, and the shortening of the term of human life, are considered chiefly, if not exclusively, as measures adopted to prevent evil, or of restraining its overflow ill society. Such ends rare, doubtless, the wisdom of God, thus effected to a great and beneficial extent; but there is a still higher design. These dispensations are not only instruments of prevention, but designed means of salvation, Preparatory to, and co-operative with those agencies, by which that result can only be directly produced. The state of man shows, that he is under a chequered dispensation, in which justice and forbearance, mercy and correction, have all their place, and in which there is a marked adaptation to his state as a reprieved criminal; a being still guilty, but within the reach of hope. The earth is cursed; but it yields its produce to man's toil; life is prolonged in some instances and curtailed in others, and is uncertain to all; we have health and sickness; pleasures and pains; gratifications amid disappointment; but as to all, in circumstances however favoured, dissatisfaction and restlessness of spirit are still felt; a thirst which nothing earthly can allay, a vacuity which nothing in our outward condition came supply. There is a manifestation of mercy to save, as well as of wisdom to prevent, and the great end of the whole is explained by the inspired record. "Lo all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to keep back his soul from the pit." His "goodness" is designed to lead us "to repentance," his rod to teach us wisdom. " In the day of adversity consider."
Another benefit granted for the same end, is the revelation of the will of God, and the declaration of his purposes of grace as to man's actual redemption. These purposes have been declared to man, with great inequality we grant, a mystery which we are not able to explain; but we have the testimony of God in his own word, though we cannot in many cases trace the process of the revelation, that in no case, that in no nation, "has he left himself without witness." Oral revelations were made to the first men; these became the subject of tradition, and were carried into all nations, though the mercy of God, in this respect, was abused by that wilful corruption of his truth of which all have been guilty. To the Jews he was pleased to give a written record of his will; and the possession of this, in its perfect evangelical form, has become the distinguished privilege of all Christian nations, who are now exerting themselves to make the blessing universal, a result which probably is not far distant. By this direct benefit of the atonement of Christ, the law under which we are all placed is exhibited in its full, though reproving, perfection; the character of "Him with whom we have to do" is unveiled; the history of the redeeming acts of our Saviour is recorded; his example, his sufferings, his resurrection, and intercession, the terms of our pardon, the process of our regeneration, the bright and attractive path of obedience, are all presented to our meditations, and, surmounting the whole, is that " immortality which has been brought to light by the Gospel." Giving the revelation, also, in this written form, it is guarded against corruption, and, by the multiplication of copies in the present day, it has become a book for family reading, and private perusal and study; so that neither can we, except wilfully, remain ignorant of the important truths it contains, nor Can they be long absent from the attention of the most careless; from so many quarters are they obtruded upon them.
To this great religious advantage we are to add the institution of the Christian ministry, or the appointment of men, who have been themselves reconciled to God, to preach the word of reconciliation to others; to do this publicly, in opposition to all contempt and persecution, in every place where they may be placed, and to which they can have access: to study the word of God themselves; faithfully and affectionately to administer it to persons of all conditions; and thus, by a constant activity, to keep the light of truth before the eyes of men, and to impress it upon their consciences.
These means are all accompanied with the influence of the Holy Spirit ; for it is the constant doctrine of the Scriptures, that men are not left to the mere influence of a revelation of truth, and the means of salvation; but are graciously excited and effectually aided in all their endeavours to avail themselves of both. Before the flood, the Holy Spirit is represented as "striving" with men, to restrain them from their wickedness, and to lead them to repentance. This especially was his benevolent employ, as we learn from St. Peter, during the whole time that "the ark was preparing," the period in which Noah fulfilled his ministry as "preacher of righteousness" to the disobedient world. Under the law, the wicked are said to "grieve" anti "resist" the Holy Spirit; and good men are seen earnestly supplicating his help, not only in extraordinary cases, and for some miraculous purpose, but in the ordinary course of religious experience and conflict. The final establishment and the moral effects flowing from Messiah's dominion, are ascribed, by the prophets, to the pouring out of the Spirit, as rain upon time parched ground, and as the opening of rivers in the desert; and that the agency of the Spirit is not confined, in the New Testament, to gifts and miraculous powers, and their effects in producing mere intellectual conviction of the truth of Christianity, but is directed to the renovation of our nature, and the carrying into full practical effect the redeeming designs of the Gospel, is manifest from numerous passages and arguments to be found in the discourses of Christ and the writings of his apostles. In our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus, lie declares that the regenerate man is " born of the Spirit." He promises to send the Spirit "to convince (or reprove) the world of sin." It is by the Spirit that our Lord represents himself as carrying on the work of human salvation, after his return to heaven, and in this sense promises to abide with his disciples for ever, and to be with them "to the end of the world." In accordance with this, the apostles ascribe the success of heir preaching, in producing moral changes in the hearts of men, to the influence of the Spirit. So far from' attributing this to the extraordinary gifts with which the Spirit had furnished them, St. Paul denies that this efficacy was to be ascribed either to himself or Apollos, though both were thus richly endowed; and lie expressly attributes the "in. crease," which followed their planting and watering, to God. The Spirit is, therefore, represented as giving life to the dead souls of men; the moral virtues are called "fruits of the Spirit;" and to be "led by the Spirit," is made the proof of our being the sons of GOD.
Such is the wondrous and deeply affecting doctrine of Scripture. The fruit of the death and intercession of Christ, is not only to render it consistent with a righteous government to forgive sin, but to call forth the active exercise of the love of God to man. His "good Spirit," the expressive appellation of the third person of the blessed trinity in the Old Testament, visits every heart, and connects his secret influences with outward means, to awaken the attention of man to spiritual and eternal things, and win his heart to GOD.
To this operation, this "working of God in man," in conjunction with the written and preached word, and other means of religious instruction and excitement, is to be attributed that view of the spiritual nature of the law under which we are placed, and the extent of its demands, which produces conviction of the fact of sin, and at once annihilates all self righteousness, and all palliations of offence; which withers the goodly show of supposititious virtues, and brings the convicted trangressor, whatever his character may be before men, and though, in comparison of many of his fellow creatures, he may have been much less sinful, to say before God, "Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer thee." The penalty of the law, death, eternal death, being at the same time apprehended, and meditated upon, the bondage of fear, and the painful anticipations of the consequences of sin follow, and thus he is moved by a sense of danger, to look out for a remedy; and this being disclosed in the same revelation, and unfolded by the same Spirit, from whose secret influence he has received this unwonted tenderness of heart, this "broken and contrite spirit," he confesses his sins before God, and appears like the publican in the temple, smiting upon his breast, exclaiming, "God be merciful to me a sinner :"-thus at once acknowledging his own offence and unworthiness, and flying for refuge to the mercy of his offended God proclaimed to him in Christ. That which every such convinced and awakened man needs is mercy, the remission of his sins, and consequent exemption from their penalty. It is only this which can take him from under the malediction of the general law which he has violated; only this which can bring him into a state of reconciliation and friendship with time Lawgiver, whose righteous displeasure he has provoked. This act of mercy is, in the New Testament, called justification, and to the consideration of this doctrine we must now direct our attention.
On the nature of justification, its extent, and the mode in which it is attained, it is not necessary to say, that various opinions have been asserted and defended by theologians; but before we advert to any of them, our care shall be to adduce the natural and unperverted doctrine of Scripture on a subject which it is of so much importance to apprehend clearly, in that light in which it is there presented.
The first point which we find established by the language of time New Testament is, that justification, the pardon and remission of sins, the non-imputation of sin, and the imputation of righteousness, are terms and phrases of time same import. The following passages may be given in proof:- Luke xviii, 13, 14, "1 tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other." Here the term "justified" must mean pardoned, since the publican confessed himself "a sinner," and asked 'mercy" in that relation.
Acts xiii, 38, 39, "Be it known unto you, men and brethren; that 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." Here, also, it is plain that forgiveness of sins and justification mean the same thing, one term being used as explanatory of the other.
Romans iii, 25, 26, "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." To remit sins and to justify are here also represented as the same act; consequent upon a declaration of the righteousness of God, and upon our faith.
Horn. iv, 4-8, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness; even as David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom GOD imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the LORD will not impute sin." The quotation from David, introduced by time apostle, by way of illustrating his doctrine of the justification of the ungodly, by "counting his faith for righteousness," shows clearly, that he considered "justification," "the imputing of righteousness," "the forgiveness of iniquities," the" covering of sin," the "non imputation of sin," as of the same import; acts substantially equivalent one to another, though under somewhat different views, and therefore expressed by terms respectively convertible ;-this variety of phrase being adopted, probably, to preserve the idea which runs throughout the whole Scripture, that in the remission or pardon of sin, Almighty God acts in his character of Ruler and Judge, showing mercy upon terms satisfactory to his justice, when he might in rigid justice have punished our transgressions to the utmost. The term justification especially is judiciary, and taken from courts of law and the proceedings of magistrates; and this judiciary character of the act of pardon is also confirmed by the relation of the parties to each other, as it is constantly exhibited in Scripture. GOD is an offended Sovereign; man is an offending subject. He has offended against public law, not against private obligations; and the act therefore by which he is relieved from the penalty, must be magisterial and regal. It is, also, a farther confirmation that in this process Christ is represented as a public Mediator and Advocate.
The importance of acquiring and maintaining this simple and distinct view of justification, that it is the remission of sins, as stated in the pas sages above quoted, will appear from the following considerations :-
1. We are taught that pardon of sin is not an act of prerogative, done above law; but a judicial process, done consistently with law. For in this process there are three parties. God, as Sovereign; "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? it is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth ?" Christ, as Advocate; not defending the guilty, but interceding for them; "It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us," Rom. viii, 33, 34. "And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father," 1 John ii, 1. The third party is man, who is, by his own confession, "guilty," "a sinner," "ungodly ;" for repentance in all cases precedes this remission of sins, and it both supposes and confesses offence and desert of punishment. God is Judge in this process, not, however, as it has been well expressed "by the law of creation, and of works, but by the law of redemption and grace. Not as merely just, though just; but as merciful. Not as merciful in general, and ex muda voluntate, without any respect had to satisfaction; hut as propitiated by the blood of Christ, and having accepted the propitiatiori made by his blood. Not merely propitiated by his blood, but moved by his intercession, which lie makes as our Advocate in heaven; not only pleading the propitiation made and accepted, but the repentance and faith of the sinner, and the promise of time Judge before whom he pleads." (Lawson's Theo-politica.) Thus as pardon or justification does not take place but upon propitiation, the mediation and intercession of a third party, amid on the condition on the part of the guilty, not only of repentance, but of " faith" in Christ's "blood," which, as before established, means fitith in his sacrificial death, it is not an act of mere mercy, or of prerogative; but one which consists with a righteous government, and proceeds on grounds which secure the honours of the Divine justice.
2. We are thus taught that justification has respect to particular individuals, amid is to be distinguished from "that gracious constitution of God, by which, for the sake of Jesus Christ, he so far delivers all mankind from the guilt of Adam's sin, as to place them, notwithstanding their natural connection with time fallen progenitor of the human race, in a salvable state. Justification is a blessing of a much higher and more perfect character, amid is not common to the human race at large, but experienced by a certain description of persons in particular." (Bunting's Sermon on Justification.) Thus some of our older divines properly distinguish between sententia legis and sententia judicis, that is, between legislation and judgment; between the constitution, whatever it may be, under which the sovereign decides, whether it be rigidly just or softened by mercy, and his decisions in his regal and judicial capacity themselves. Justification is, therefore, a decision under a gracious legislation, "time law of faith;" but not this legislation itself. "For if it be an act of legislation, it is then only promise, and that looks toward none in particular; but to all to whom the promise is made, in general, and presupposeth a condition to be performed. But justification presupposeth a particular person, a particular cause, a condition performed, and the performance, us already past, pleaded; amid the decision proceeds accordingly." (Lawson's Theo.politica.) Justification becomes, therefore, a subject of personal concern, personal prayer, and personal seeking, and is to be personally experienced; nor can any one be safe in trusting to that general gracious constitution under which lie is placed by the mercy of God in Christ, since that is established in order to the personal and particular justification of those who believe, but must not be confounded with it.
3. Justification, being a sentence of pardon, the Antinomian notion of eternal justification becomes a manifest absurdity. For if it be a sentence, a decision on the case of the offender, it must take place in time; for that is not a sentence which is conceived in the breast of the Judge. A sentence is pronounced, and a sentence pronounced and declared from eternity, before man WAS created, when no sin had been committed, no law published, no Saviour promised, no faith exercised, when, in a word, no being existed but Cod himself, is not only absurd, but impossible, for it would have been a decision declared to none, and therefore not declared at all: and if, as they say, the sentence was passed in eternity, but manifested in time, it might from thence be as rightly argued that the world was created from eternity, and that the work of creation in time beginning of time, was only a manifestation of that which was from everlasting. It is the guilty who are pardoned- "he justifieth the ungodly;" guilt, therefore, precedes pardon: while that remains, so far are any from being justified, that they are "under wrath," in a state of "condemnation," with which a state of justification cannot consist, for the contradiction is palpable; 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 time former, they contradict common sense; if they deny time latter, they deny time Scriptures.
4. Justification, being the pardon of sin, this view of time doctrine guards us against the notion, that it is an act of GOD by which we are made actually just and righteous. "This is sanctification, which is, indeed, the immediate fruit of justification; but, nevertheless, is a distinct gift of GOD, and of a totally different nature. The one implies what GOD does for us through his Son; time other, what GOD works in us by his Spirit. So that, although some rare instances may be found, wherein the terms justified and justification are used in so wide a sense as to include sanctification also, yet in general use they arc sufficiently distinguished from each other both by St. Paul and time other inspired writers." ('Wesley's Sermons.)
5. Justification, being the pardon of sin by judicial sentence of the offended Majesty of heaven, under a gracious constitution, the term affords no ground for the notion, that it imports time imputation or accounting to us the active and passive righteousness of Christ, so as to make us both relatively and positively righteous.
On this subject, which has been fruitful of controversy, our remarks must be somewhat more extended.
The notion, that justification includes not only lime pardon of sin, but the imputation to us of Christ's active personal righteousness, though usually held only by Calvinists, has not been received by all divines of this class; but, on time contrary, by some of them, both in ancient and modern times, it has been very strenuously opposed, as well as by the advocates of that more moderate scheme of election defended by Camero in France, and by Baxter in England. Even Calvin himself has said nothing on this subject, but which Arminius, in his Declaration before time States of Holland, declares his readiness to subscribe to; and Mr. Wesley, in much the same view of the subject as Arminius, admits the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to us upon Our believing, provided it be soberly interpreted.
There are, in fact, three opinions on this subject, which it is necessary to distinguish in order to obtain clear views of the controversy.
The first is a part of the high Calvinistic scheme, and lays at the foundation of Antinomianism and is, in consequence, violently advocated by those who adopt that gross corruption of Christian faith. It is, that Christ so represented the elect that his righteousness is imputed to us as ours; as if we ourselves had been what he was, that is, perfectly obedient to the law of GOD, and had done what he did as perfectly righteous.
The first objection to this opinion is, that it is nowhere stated in Scripture that Christ's personal righteousness is imputed to us. Not a text can be found which contains any enunciation of this doctrine; and those which are adduced, such as "the Lord our righteousness," and "Christ. who is made unto us righteousness," are obviously pressed into the service of this scheme by a paraphrastic interpretation, for which there is no authority in any other passages which speak of our redemption. But to these texts we shall return in the sequel.
2. The notion here attached to Christ's representing us is wholly gratuitous. In a limited sense it is true, that Christ represented us; that is, suffered in our stead, that we might not suffer; "but not absolutely as our delegate," says Baxter justly; "our persons did riot, in a law sense, do in and by Christ what he did, or possess the habits which he possessed, or suffer what he suffered." (Gospel Defended.) The Scripture doctrine is, indeed, just the contrary. It is never said, that we suffered in Christ, but that he suffered for us; so also it is never taught that we obeyed in Christ, but that, through his entire obedience to a course of subjection and suffering, ending in his death, our disobedience is forgiven.
3. Nor is there any weight in the argument, that as our sins were accounted his, so his righteousness is accounted ours. Our sins were never so accounted Christ's as that he (lid them, and so justly suffered for them. This is a monstrous notion, which has been sometimes pushed to the verge of blasphemy. Our transgressions are never said to have been imputed to him in the fact but only that they were laid upon him in the penalty. To be God's "beloved Son in whom he was always well pleased," and to be reckoned, imputed, accounted a sinner, de facte, are manifest contradictions.
4. This whole doctrine of the imputation of Christ's personal moral obedience to believers, as their own personal moral obedience, involves a fiction and impossibility inconsistent with the Divine attributes. "The judgment of the all-wise God is always according to truth; neither can' it ever consist with his unerring wisdom to think that I am innocent, to' judge that I am righteous or holy, because another is so. He can no more confound me with Christ than with David or Abraham." (Wesley.) But a contradiction is involved in another view. If what our Lord was and did is to be accounted to us in the sense just given, then we must be accounted never to have sinned, because Christ never sinned, and yet we must ask for pardon, though we mire accounted from birth to death, to have fulfilled God's law in Christ; or if they should say, that when we ask for pardon we ask only for a revelation to us of our eternal justification or pardon, the matter is not altered, for what need is there of pardon, in time or eternity, if we are accounted to have perfectly obeyed God's holy law; and why should we be accounted also to have suffered, in Christ, the penalty of sins which we are accounted never to have committed?
5. Another objection to the accounting of Christ's personal acts as done by us is, that they were of a loftier character than can be supposed capable of being accounted the acts of mere creatures; that, in one eminent instance, neither the act could be required of us, nor the imputation of the act to us; and, in other respects, and as to particular duties, Christ's personal obedience is deficient, and cannot be therefore reckoned to our account. For the first, Christ was God and man united in one person, a circumstance which gave a peculiar character of fulness and perfection to his obedience, which not even man, in his state of innocence, can be supposed capable of rendering. "He, then, that assumeth this righteousness to himself," says Goodwin, "and apparelleth himself with it, represents himself before GOD, not in the habit of a just or righteous man, but in the glorious attire of the great Mediator of the world, whose righteousness bath heights and depths in it, a length and breadth which infinitely exceed the proportions of all men whatever. Now, then, for a silly worm to take this robe of immeasurable majesty upon him, and to conceit himself as great in holiness and righteousness as Jesus Christ, (for that is the spirit that rules in this opinion, to teach men to assume all that Christ did unto themselves, and that in no other way, nor upon any lower terms, than as if themselves had personally lone it,) whether this be right, I leave to sober men to consider." (Treatise on Justification.) For the second, I refer to our Lord's baptism by John. His submission to this ordinance was a part of his personal righteousness, and it is strongly marked as such in his own words addressed to John, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." But no man now is bound to submit to the baptism of John, and the righteousness of doing so, whether personally or by imputation, is superfluous. This may also be applied to many other of the acts of Christ; they were never obligatory upon us, and their imputation to us is impossible or unnecessary. For the third case, the personal obedience of Christ is, as to particular acts, deficient, and our condition could not, therefore, be provided for by this imputation. Suppose us guilty of violating the paternal or the conjugal duties, the duties of servants, or of magistrates, with many others, this theory is, that we are justified by the imputation of Christ's personal acts of righteousness to us, and that they are reckoned to us, as though we had ourselves performed them. But our Lord, never having stood in any of these relations, never acquired a personal righteousness of this kind to be reckoned as done by us. That which never was done by Christ cannot be imputed, and so it would follow that we can never be forgiven such delinquencies. If it be said, that the imputation of particular acts is not necessary, but that it ms sufficient if men have a righteousness imputed to them, which is equivalent to them, it is answered, the strict and peremptory nature of law knows nothing of this doctrine of the equivalency of one act to another. The suffering of an unobliged substitute, where such a provision is admitted, may be an equivalent to the suffering of time offender; but one course of duties cannot be accepted in the place of another when justification is placed on the ground of the actual fulfilment of the law by a delegate in the place of the delinquent, whelm is the ground on which the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's active righteousness for justification places it. The law must exact conformity to all its precepts in their place and order, and he that "offends in one is guilty of all."
6. A crowning and most fatal objection is, that this doctrine shifts the meritorious cause of man's justification from Christ's "obedience unto death," where the Scriptures place it, to Christ's active obedience to the precepts of the law: and leaves no rational account of time reason of Christ's vicarious sufferings. To his "blood" the New Testament writers ascribe our redemption, and "faith in his blood" is as clearly held out as the instrumental cause of our justification; but by this doc. trine the attention and hope of men are perversely turned away from his sacrificial death to his holy life, which, though necessary, both as an example to us, and also so to qualify his sacrifice, that his blood should be that of "a lamb without spot," is nowhere represented as that on account of which men are pardoned.
Piscator, though a Calvinist, thus treats the subject in scholastic form. "If our sins have been expiated by time obedience of the life of Christ, either a perfect expiation has been thus made for all of them, or aim imperfect one for some of them. The first cannot be asserted, for then it would follow that Christ had died in vain; for as he died to expiate our sins, he would not have accounted it necessary to offer such an expiation for them, if they had been already expiated by the obedience of his life. And the latter cannot be maintained, because Christ has yielded perfect obedience to the law of God, where fore, if he have per. formed that for the expiation of our sins, he must necessarily, through that obedience, have expiated all of them perfectly." Again, "If Christ, by the obedience of his life, had rendered satisfaction to God for our sins, it would follow, as a consequence, that God is unjust, who has made an additional demand to receive satisfaction through the obedience of death, and thus required to have the same debt paid twice." Again, "If Christ, by his obedience to the law, has merited for us the forgiveness of sins, the consequence will be, that the remission of sins was effected without the shedding of blood; but without shedding of blood no remission is effected as appears from Heb. ix, 22; therefore Christ has not merited for us the remission of sins by the obedience which he performed to the law." To the same effect, also, is a passage in Goodwin's Treatise on Justification, written while he was yet a Calvinist. "If men be as righteous as Christ was in his life, there was no more necessity of his death for them, than there was either of his own death, or the death of any other, for himself. If we were perfectly just or righteous in him, or with him, in his life, then time just would not have died for the unjust, but he would have died for the just, for whom there was no necessity he should die. This reason the apostle expressly delivers, Gal. ii, 21, 'If righteousness be by the law, then Christ died in vain.' I desire the impartial reader to observe narrowly the force of this inference made by the Holy Ghost. If righteousness, or justification, be by the law, then Christ died in vain. Men cannot here betake themselves to their wonted refuge, to say, ti-mat by the law, is to be understood the works of the law as performed by a man's self in person. For if by the word law in this place, we understand the works of the law as performed by Christ, the consequence will rise up with the greater strength against them if righteousness were by the works of the law, as performed by Christ, that is, if the imputation of them were our complete righteousness, the death of Christ for us had been in vain, because the righteousness of his life imputed, had been a sufficient and complete righteousness for us."
The same writer, also, powerfully argues against the same doctrine from its confounding the two covenants of works and grace. "It is true, many that hold the way of imputation are nothing ashamed of this consequent, the confounding the two covenants of God with men, that of works with that of grace. These conceive that God never made more covenants than one with man; and that the Gospel is nothing else but a gracious aid from God to help man to perform the covenant of works: so that the life and salvation which are said to come by Christ, in no other sense come by him, but as he fulfilled that law of works for man which men themselves were not able to fulfil: and by imputation, as by a deed of gift, he makes over his perfect obedience and fulfilling of the Jaw to those that believe; so that they, in right of this perfect obedience, made theirs by imputation, come to inherit life and salvation, according to the strict tenor of the covenant of works- 'Do this and live.'
"But men may as well say, there was no second Adam, really differing from the first; or that the spirit of bondage is the same with the Spirit of adoption. If the second covenant of grace were implicitly contained in the first, then the meaning of the first covenant, conceived in those words, 'Do this and live,' must be, do this, either by thyself, or by another, and live. There is no other way to reduce them to the same covenant.
"Again, if the first and second covenant were in substance the same, then must the conditions in both be the same. For the conditions in a covenant are as essential a part of it as any other belonging to it. Though there be the same parties covenanting, and the same things covenanted for; yet if there be new articles of agreement, it is really another covenant. Now if the conditions be the same in both those covenants, then to do this, and to believe, faith and works, are the same; whereas the Scripture, from place to place, makes the most irreconcilable opposition between them. But some, being shy of this consequence, hold the imputation of Christ's righteousness (in the sense opposed) and yet demur upon an identity of the two covenants. Wherefore, to prove it, I thus reason: Where the parties covenanting are the same, and the things covenanted for the same, and the conditions the same, there the covenants are the same. But if the righteousness of the law imputed to us, be the condition of the new covenant, all the three, persons, things, conditions, are the same. Therefore the two covenants, first and second, the old and the new, are the same; because as to the par. ties covenanting, and the things covenanted for, it is agreed, on both sides, they are the same.
"If it be objected, that the righteousness of the law imputed from another, and wrought by a man's self, are two different conditions; and that, therefore, it doth not follow, that time covenants are the same: to this I answer, the substance of the agreement will be found the same notwithstanding; the works, or righteousness of the law are the same, by whomsoever wrought. If Adam had fulfilled the law, as Christ did, he had been justified by the same righteousness, wherewith Christ himself was righteous. If it be said, that imputation in the second covenant, which was not in the first, makes a difference in the condition; I answer, 1. Imputation of works, or of righteousness, is not the condition of the new covenant, but believing. If imputation were the condition, then the whole covenant would lie upon God, and nothing he required on the creature's part; for imputation is an act of God, not of men. 2. If it were granted, that the righteousness, or the works of the law imputed from Christ, were that whereby we are justified, yet they must justify, not as imputed, but as righteousness, or works of the law. Therefore imputation makes no difference in this respect imputation can be no part of that righteousness by which we are justified, because it is no conformity with any law, nor with any part or branch of any law, that man was ever bound to keep. Therefore it can be no part of that righteousness by which he is justified. So that the condition of both covenants will be found the same, (and consequently both covenants the same,) if justification be maintained by the righteousness of Christ imputed."
To the work last quoted the reader may be referred as a complete treatise on the subject, and a most masterly refutation of a notion, which he and other Calvinistic divines, in different ages, could not fail o perceive was most delusive to the souls of men, directly destructive of moral obedience, and not less so of the Christian doctrine of the atonement of Christ, and justification by "faith in his blood." It is on his ground that men who turn the grace of God into licentiousness, contend, that being invested with the perfect righteousness of Christ, God cannot see any sin in them; and, indeed, upon their own principles, they reason conclusively. Justice has not to do with them, but with Christ; it demands perfect obedience, and Christ has rendered that perfect obedience for them, and what he did is always accounted as done by them. They are, therefore, under no real obligation of obedience; they can fear no penal consequences from disobedience; and a course of the most flagrant vice, may consist with an entire confidence in the indefensible favour of God, with the profession of sonship and discipleship, and the hope of heaven. These notions many shamelessly avow; and they have been too much encouraged in their fatal creed, by those who have held the same system substantially, though they abhor the bold conclusions which the open Antinomian would draw from it.
The doctrine on which the above remarks have been made, is the first of the three opinions which have been held on the subject of the imputation of righteousness in our justification. The second is the opinion of Calvin himself, and those of his followers, who have not refined so much upon the scheme of their master as others, and with them many Arminians have also, in some respects, agreed; not that they have approved the terms in which this opinion is usually expressed; but because they have thought it, under a certain interpretation, right, and one which would allow them, for the sake of peace, to use either the phrase, "the imputation of the righteousness of Christ," or "the imputation of faith for righteousness," which latter they consider more Scriptural, and therefore interpret the former so as to be consistent with it.
The sentiments of Calvin on this subject may be collected from the following passages in the third book of his Institutes:--
"We simply explain justification to be an acceptance, by which GOD receives us into his favour and esteems us as righteous persons, and we say it consists in the remission of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ "He must certainly be destitute of a righteousness of his own, who is taught to seek it out of himself. This is most clearly asserted by the apostle when he says, 'He hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.' We see that our righteousness is not in ourselves but in Christ. 'As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.' What is placing our righteousness in time obedience of Christ, but asserting that we are accounted righteous only because his obedience is accepted for us as if it were our own.
In these passages, the wording of which seems at first sight to favour the opinion above refuted, there is, however, this marked difference, that there is no separation made between the active and passive righteousness of Christ, his obedience to the precepts of the moral Jaw, amid his obedience to its penalty; so that one is imputed in our justification for one purpose, and the other for another; one to take the place of our obligation to obey, the other of our obligation to suffer; hut the obedience of Christ is considered as one, as his holy life and sacrificial death considered together, and forming that righteousness of Christ which, being imputed to us, we are "reputed righteous before God, and not of ourselves." This is farther confirmed by the strenuous manner in which Calvin proves, that justification is simply the remission, or non-imputation of sin, "Whom, therefore, the Lord receives into fellow ship with him, him he is said to justify, because he cannot receive any one into fellowship with himself without making him from a sinner to be a righteous person This is accomplished by the remission of sins. For if they whom the Lord hath reconciled to himself be judged according to their works, they will still be found actually sinners, who, not. withstanding, must be absolved and free from sin. It appears, then, that those whom God receives, are made righteous no otherwise than as they are purified by being cleansed from all their defilements by the remission of sins; so that such a righteousness may, in one word, he denominated a remission of sins. Both these points are fully established by the language of Paul, which I have already cited. 'God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and bath committed to us the word of reconciliation.' Then he adds, ' He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.' The terms righteousness and reconciliation are here used by St. Paul indiscriminately, to teach us that they are mutually comprehended in each other. And he states the manner of obtaining this righteousness to consist in our transgressions not being imputed to us; wherefore we can no longer doubt how God justifies, when we hear that he reconciles us to himself by not imputing our sins to us." "So Paul, in preaching at Antioch, says, 'Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by him all that believe are justified.' Time apostle thus connects 'forgiveness of sins' with 'justification,' to show that they are identically the same." (Institutes, lib. 8, cap. xi.)
This simple notion of justification as the remission of sins, could not have been maintained by Calvin had he held the notion of a distinct imputation of Christ's active righteousness; for it has always followed from that notion, that they who have held it represent justification as consisting of two parts, first, the forgiveness of sins, and then the imputation of Christ's moral obedience, so that he who is forgiven may be considered personally righteous, and thus, when both meet, he is justified.
The view taken by Calvin of the imputation of Christ's righteousness in justification, is obviously, that the righteousness of Christ, that is, his entire obedience to the will of his Father both in doing and suffering, is, as he says, "accepted for us, as though it were our own;" so that, in virtue of it upon our believing, we are accounted righteous, not personally, but by the remission, or non-imputation of our sins. Thus, he observes on Acts xiii, 38, 39, "The justification which we have by Christ in the Gospel, is not a justification with righteousness, properly so called, but a justification from sin, and from the guilt of sin and condemnation due to it. So when Christ said to men and women in the Gospel, 'Thy sins are forgiven thee,' then he justified them-the forgiveness of their sins was their justification."
Calvin, however, like many of his followers, who adopt no views on this subject substantially different from their master, uses figurative terms and phrases, which somewhat obscure his real meaning, and give much countenance to the Antinomian doctrine; but then, so little, it has been thought, can be objected to the opinion of Calvin, in the article of imputed righteousness, in the main, that many divines, opposed to the Calvinian theory generally, have not hesitated, in substance, to assent to it, reserving to themselves some liberty in the use of the terms in which it is often enveloped, either to modify, explain, or reject them.
Thus Arminius :-" I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers, and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude, that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness, through grace, because God hath set forth his Son Jesus Christ to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood. Whatever interpretation may be put upon these expressions, none of our divines blame Calvin, or consider him to be heterodox on this point; yet my opinion is not so widely different from his, as to prevent me employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has delivered on this subject, in the third book of his Institutes." (Nicholl's Arminius.)
So also Mr. Wesley, in his sermon, entitled, "The Lord our Righteousness," almost repeats Arminius's words; but though these eminent divines seem to agree substantially with Calvin, it is clear that, in their interpretation of the phrase, the "imputed righteousness of Christ," he would not entirely follow them. "As the active and passive righteousness of Christ were never in fact separated from each other, so we never need separate them at all. it is with regard to both these conjointly, that Jesus is called 'the Lord our righteousness.' But when is this righteousness imputed? When they believe. In that very hour then righteousness of Christ is theirs. It is imputed to every one that believes, as soon as he believes. But in what sense is this righteousness Imputed to believers? In this; all believers are forgiven and accepted, not for the sake of any thing in them, or of any thing that ever was, that is, or ever can be done by them, but wholly for the sake of what Christ hath done and suffered for them. But perhaps some will affirm, that faith is imputed to us for righteousness. St. Paul affirms this, therefore I affirm it too. Faith is imputed for righteousness to every believer, namely, faith in the righteousness of Christ; but this is exactly the same thing which has been said before; for by that expression 1 mean neither more nor less than that we are justified by faith, not by works, or that every believer is forgiven and accepted, merely for the sake of what Christ had done and suffered." (Sermons.)
In this sermon, which is one of peace, one in which he shows how near he was willing to approach those who held the doctrine of Calvin on this subject, the author justly observes, that the terms themselves, in which it is often expressed, are liable to abuse, and intimates, that they. had better be dispensed with. This every one must feel; for it is clear that such figurative expressions, as being clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and appearing before God as invested in it, so that no fault can be laid to our charge, are modes of speech, which, though used by Calvin and his followers of the moderate school, and by some evangelical Arminians, who mainly agree with them on the subject of man's justification, are much more appropriate to the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's active righteousness, as held by the higher Calvinists, and by Antinomians, than to any other. The truth of the case is, that the imputation of Christ's righteousness is held by such Calvinists in a proper sense, by evangelical Arminians in an improper or accommodated sense; and that Calvin and his' real followers, though nearer to the latter than the former, do not fully agree with either. If the same phrases, therefore, be used, they are certainly understood in different senses, or, by one party at least, with limitations; and if it can be shown, that neither is the "imputation of Christ's righteousness," in any good sense expressed or implied in Scripture, and that the phrases, being clothed and invested with his righteousness, are not used with any reference to justification, it seems preferable, at least when we are investigating truth, to discard them at once, and fully to bring out the testimony of Scripture on the doctrine of imputation.
The question then will be, not whether the imputation of Christ's righteousness is to be taken in the sense of the Antinomians, which has been sufficiently refuted; but whether there is any Scripture authority for the imputation of Christ's righteousness as it is understood by Calvin, and admitted, though with some hesitancy, and with explanations, by Arminius and some others.
With Calvin the notion of imputation seems to be, that the righteousness of Christ, that is, his entire obedience to the will of his Father, both in doing and suffering, is, upon our believing, imputed, or accounted to us, or accepted for us, " as though it were OUR OWN." From which we may conclude, that he admitted some kind of transfer of the righteousness of Christ to our account, and that believers are considered so to be in Christ, as that be should answer for them in law, and plead his righteousness in default of theirs. All this, we grant, is capable of being interpreted to a good and Scriptural sense; but it is also capable of a contrary one. The opinion of some professedly Calvinistic divines; of Baxter and his followers; and of the majority of evangelical Arminians. is, as Baxter well expresses it, that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us in the sense "of its being accounted of God the valuable consideration, satisfaction, and merit, (attaining God's ends,) for which we are (when we consent to the covenant of grace) forgiven and justified, against the condemning sentence of the law of innocency, and accounted and accepted of God to grace and glory." (Breviate of Controversies.) So also Goodwin: "If we take the phrase of imputing Christ's righteousness improperly, viz, for the bestowing, as it were, of the righteousness of Christ, including his obedience, as well passive as active, in the return of it, i. e. in the privileges, blessings, and benefits purchased by it, so a believer may be said to be justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed. But then the meaning can be no more than this: God justifies a believer for the sake of Christ's righteousness, and not for any righteousness of his own. Such an imputation of the righteousness of Christ as this, is no way denied or questioned." (On Justification.)
Between these opinions, as to the imputation of the righteousness of Christ it will be seen, that there is a manifest difference, which difference arises from the different senses in which the term imputation is taken. The latter takes it in the sense of accounting or allowing to the believer the benefit of the righteousness of Christ, the other in the sense of reckoning or accounting the righteousness of Christ as ours; that is, what he did and suffered is regarded as done and suffered by us. "It is accepted," says Calvin, "as though it were our own; so that though Calvin does not divide the active and passive obedience of Christ, nor make justification any thing more than the remission of sin, yet his opinion easily slides into the Antinomian notion, and lays itself open to several of the same objections, and especially to this, that it involves the same kind of fiction, that what Christ did or suffered, is, in any sense whatever, considered by him who knows all things as they are, as being done or suffered by any other person, than by him who did or suffered it in fact.
For this notion, that the righteousness of Christ is so imputed as to be accounted our own, there is no warrant in the word of God; and a slight examination of those passages, which are indifferently adduced to support either the Antinomian or the Calvinistic view of the subject, will suffice to demonstrate this.
Psalm xxxii, 1 : "Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." The covering of sin here spoken of, is by some considered to be the investment of the sinner with the righteousness or obedience of Christ. But this is entirely gratuitous, for the forgiveness of sin, even by the legal atonements, is called, according to the Hebrew idiom, (though another verb is used,) to cover sin; and the latter part of the sentence is clearly a parallelism to the former. This is the interpretation of Luther arid of Calvin himself. To forgive sin, to cover sin, and not to impute sin, are in this psalm all phrases obviously of the same import, and no other kind of imputation but the non-imputation of sin is mentioned in it. And, indeed, the passage will not serve the purpose of the advocates of the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's active righteousness, on their own principles; for sin cannot be covered by the imputation of Christ's active righteousness, since they hold that it is taken away by the imputation of his death, and that the office of Christ's active righteousness is not to take away sin; but, to render us personally and positively holy by imputation and the fiction of a transfer. :Jer. xxiii, 6, and xxxiii, 16 : " And this is the name whereby he be called, The Lord our Righteousness." This passage also prove nothing to the point, for it is neither said that the righteousness of the Lord shall be our righteousness, nor that it shall be imputed to us for righteousness, but simply, that the name by which he shall be called, or acknowledged, shall be the Lord our Righteousness, that is, the Author and Procurer of our righteousness or justification before (on. So he is said to be "the Resurrection," "our Life," "our Peace," &c, as the author of these blessings; for who ever dreamt that Christ is the life, the resurrection, the peace of his people by imputation? or that we live by being accounted to live in him, or are raised from the dead by being accounted to have risen in him?
"Some," says Goodwin, "have digged for the treasure of imputation in Isaiah xlv, 24, 'Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength.' But, first, neither is there here the least breathing of that imputation so much wandered after, nor do I find any intimation given of any such business by any sound expositor. Secondly, time plain and direct meaning of the place is, that when GOD should communicate the knowledge of himself; in his Son, to the world, his people should have this sense of the means of their salvation and peace, that they receive them of the free grace of God, and not of' themselves, or by time merit of their own righteousness. And Calvin's exposition is to this effect :-' Because righteousness and strength are the two main points of our salvation, the faithful acknowledge God to be the author of both.'"
With respect to all those passages which speak of the Jewish or Christian Churches, or their individual members being "clothed with garments of salvation," "robes of righteousness," "white linen, the righteousness of' the saints," or of "putting on Christ;" a class of texts on which, from their mere sound, time advocates of imputed righteousness ring so many changes, the use which is thus made of them shows either great inattention to time context, or great ignorance of the principles of criticism :-the former, because the context will show that either those passages relate to temporal deliverances, and external blessings; or else, not to justification, but to habitual and practical sanctification, and to the honours and rewards of the saints in glory :-the latter, be-cause nothing is more common in language than to represent good or evil habits by clean or filthy, by soiled or resplendent vestments, by nakedness or by clothing; and this is especially the case in the Hebrew language, because it was the custom of the Jews, by changing their garments to express the changes in their condition. They put on sackcloth, or laid aside their upper robe, (which is, in Scripture style, called making themselves naked,) or rent their garments, when personal or national afflictions came upon them; and they arrayed themselves in white and adorned apparel, in seasons of festivity, and after great deliverances. in all these figurative expressions there is, however, nothing which countenances the notion that Christ's righteousness is a robe thrown upon sinful men, to hide from the eve of justice their natural squalidness and pollution, and to give them confidence in the presence of GOD. No interpretation can he more fanciful and unfounded.
Romans iii, 21, 22, "But now the righteousness of God, without the law, is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God which is by the faith of Jesus Christ." The righteousness of' God here is, by some, taken to signify the righteousness of Christ imputed to them that believe. But time very text makes it evident, flint by "the righteousness of God," time righteousness of the Father is meant, for he is distinguished from " Jesus Christ," mentioned immediately afterward; and by the righteousness of God, it is also plain, that his rectoral justice in the administration of pardon, is meant, which, of course, is not thought capable of imputation. This is made idubitable by the verse which follows, "to declare at this time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of him that believeth on Jesus."
The phrase, the righteousness of God, in this and several other passages in St. Paul's writings, obviously means God's righteous method of justifying sinners through the atonement of' Christ, and instrumentally, by faith. This is the grand peculiarity of the Gospel scheme, the fulness at once of its love and its wisdom, that "the righteousness of God is manifested without law;" and that without either an enforcement of the penalty of the violated law upon the personal offender; which would have cut him off from hope; or without making his justification to depend upon works of obedience to the law, (which was the only method of justification admitted by the Jews of St. Paul's day,) and which obedience was impossible, and therefore hopeless; he can vet, in perfect consistency with his justice and righteous administration, offer pardon to the guilty. No wonder, therefore, that time apostle, who discourses professedly on this subject, should lay so great a stress upon it, and that his mind, always full of a subject so great and glorious, should so often advert to it incidentally, as well as in his regular discourses on the justification of man in the sight of GOD. Thus lie gives it as a reason why he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, that "therein is the righteousness of GOD revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith," Rom. i, 17. Thus, again, in contrasting God's method of justifying the ungodly with time error of the Jews, by whom justification was held to he the acquittal of the righteous or obedient, he says, "for they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of GOD," Rom. x, 3. The same contrast we have in Phil. iii, 9, "Not having mine own righteousness which is of time law, but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." In all these passages the righteousness of God manifestly signifies, his righteous method of justifying them that believe in Christ. No reference at all is made to the imputation of Christ's righteousness to such persons, arid much less is any distinction set up between his active and passive righteousness.
1 Cor. i, 30, "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption." Here, also, to say that Christ is "made unto us righteousness," by imputation, is to invent and not to interpret. This is clear, that be is made unto us righteousness only as he is made unto us "redemption," so that if we are not redeemed by imputation, we are not justified by imputation. The meaning of the apostle is, that Christ is made to us, by the appointment of God, the sole means of instruction, justification, sanctification, and eternal life. 2 Cor. v, 21, "For he bath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." To be made sin, we have already shown, signifies to be made an offering for sin; consequently, as no imputation of our sins to Christ is here mentioned, there is no foundation for the notion, that there is a reciprocal imputation of' Christ's righteousness to us. The text is wholly silent on this subject, for it is wholly gratuitous to say, that we are made the righteousness of God in or through Christ, by imputation or reckoning to us what he (lid or suffered as our acts or sufferings. The passages we have already adduced will explain the phrase, "the righteousness of God" in this place. This righteousness, with respect to our pardon, is GOD'S righteous method of justifying, through the atonement of Christ, and our being made or becoming this righteousness of God in or by Christ, is our becoming righteous persons through the pardon of our sins in this peculiar method, by renouncing our own righteousness, and by "submitting to this righteousness of GOD."
Rom. v, 18, 19, "As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's dis. obedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." That this passage, though generally de. pended upon in this controversy, as the most decisive in its evidence in favour of the doctrine of imputation, proves nothing to the purpose may be thus demonstrated. It proves nothing in favour of the imputation of Christ's active righteousness. For,
1. Here is nothing said of the active obedience of Christ, as distinguished from his obedient suffering, amid which might lead us to attribute the free gift of justification to the former, rather than to the latter.
2. If the apostle is supposed to speak here of the active obedience of Christ, as distinguished from his sufferings, his death is of course excluded from the work of justification. But this cannot he allowed, because the apostle has intimated, in the same chapter, that we are "justified by his blood," Rom. v, 9, and, therefore, it cannot be allowed that he is speaking of time active obedience of Christ, as distinguished from his passive.
3. As the apostle has unequivocally decided, that we are justified by the blood of Christ, or, in other words, "that we are justified through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth a Propitiation, through faith in his blood," (a thing which the doctrine under examination supposes to be impossible,) there reason to conclude that he speaks lucre of his passive, rather than of his active obedience. "If, indeed, his willingness to suffer for our sins were never spoken of as an act of obedience, such an observation might have the appearance of a mere expedient to get rid of a difficulty. But if, on the other hand, this should prove to be the very spirit and letter of Scripture, the justness of it will be obvious. Hear, then, our Lord himself on this subject. 'Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to lake it again. This commandment have I received of my Father,' John x, 17, 18. This, then, was the commandment to which he rendered willing obedience, when lie said, '0 my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done,' Matt. xxvi, 42. 'The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?' John xviii, 11. In conformity with this, the apostle applies to him the following words: 'Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me. Then said I, Lo I come to do thy will, 0 Cod. By (his performance of) which will we are sanctified ; through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,' Heb. x, 5, 10. 'Being found in fashion as a man, (says St. Paul,) he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,' Phil. ii, 8. Such was his obedience, an obedience unto the death of the cross. And by this his obedience unto the death of the cross, shall many be constituted righteous, or be justified. Where, then, is the imputation of his active obedience for justification ?" (Hare on Justification.)
It proves nothing in favour of the imputation of Christ's righteousness considered as one, and including what he did and suffered, in the sense of its being reputed our righteousness, by transfer or by fiction of law. For though the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity is supposed to be taught in this chapter, and the imputation of Christ's obedience in one or other of time senses above given, is argued from this particular text, the examination of the subject will show that the right understanding of the imputation of Adam's sin wholly overthrows both the Antinomian and Calvinistic view of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. This argument is very ably developed by Goodwin. (Treatise on Justification.)
"Because the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, is frequently produced to prove the imputation of Christ's righteousness; 1 shall lay down, with as much plainness as I can, in what sense time Scriptures countenance that imputation. The Scriptures own no other imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, than of Christ's righteousness to those that believe. The righteousness of Christ is imputed, or given to those, that believe, not in the letter or formality of it, but in blessings, privileges, and benefits purchased of God by the merit of it. So the sin of Adam is imputed to his posterity, not in the letter and formality of it, (which is the imputation commonly urged,) but in the demerit of it, that is, in the curse or punishment due to it. Therefore, as concerning this imputation of Adam's sin, I answer,
First, the Scripture nowhere affirms, either the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, or of the righteousness of Christ to those that believe; neither is such a manner of speaking any ways agreeable to the language of the Holy Ghost: for in the Scriptures, wheresoever the term IMPUTING is used, it is only applied to, or spoken of something of the same persons, to whom the imputation is said to be made, and never, to my remembrance, to, or of any thing of another's. So, Rom. iv, 3, 'Abraham believed God, and it was IMPUTED to him for righteousness,' that is, his own believing was imputed to him, not another man's. So, verse 5, but 'to him that worketh not, but belies eth, his faith is IMPUTED to him for righteousness.' So, Psalm cvi, 30, 31, 'Phineas stood up and executed judgment, and that' (act of his) 'was IMPUTED to him for righteousness,' that is, received a testimony from Cod of being a righteous act. So again, 2 Cor. v, 19, ' not IMPUTING their trespasses,' (their own trespasses,) ' unto them.'
Secondly, When a thing is said simply to be imputed, as sin, folly, and so righteousness, the phrase is not to be taken concerning the bare acts of the things, as if (for example) to impute sin to a man, signified this, to repute the man, (to whom sin is imputed,) to have committed a sinful act, or, as if to impute folly, were simply to charge a man to have done foolishly : but when it is applied to things that are evil, and attributed to persons that have power over those, to whom the imputation is made, it signifieth, the charging the guilt of what is imputed upon the head of the person to whom the imputation is made, with an intent of inflicting some condign punishment Upon him. So that to impute sin (in Scripture phrase) is to charge the guilt of sin upon a man with a purpose to punish him for it. Thus Rom. v, 13, sin is said, ' not to be IMPUTED where there is no law.' The meaning cannot be, that the act which a man cloth, whether there be a law or no law, should not be imputed to him. The law doth not make any act to be imputed, or ascribed to a man, which might not as well have been imputed without it. But the meaning is, that there is no guilt charged by God upon men, nor any punishment inflicted for any thing done by them, but only by virtue of time law prohibiting. In which respect time law is said to be the strength of sin, because it gives a condeming power against the doer, to that which otherwise would have had none, 1 Cor. xv, 56 So again, Job xxiv, 12, when it is said, 'God doth not lay folly to the charge of them, (i. e. impute folly to them,) that make the souls of the slain to cry out,' the meaning is, not that Cod doth not repute them to have committed the acts of oppression, or murder. For supposing they did such things, it is impossible but God should repute them to have done them: but that God doth not visibly charge the guilt of these sins upon them, or inflict punishment for them. So, 2 Sam. xix, 19, when Shimei prayeth David not to IMPUTE wickedness unto him, his meaning is, not to desire David not to think he had done wickedly in railing upon him, (fbr himself confesseth this in the very next words,) but not to inflict the punishment which that wickedness deserved. So when David himself pronounceth the titan blessed to whom the Lord IMPUTETH not sin, his meaning is, not that there is any man, whom the Lord would not repute to have committed those acts of sin, which he has committed; but that such are blessed on whom God will not charge the demerit of their sins in the punishment due to them. So yet again, (to forbear farther citations,) 2 Cor. v, 19, when God is said, ' not to IMPUTE their sins unto men,' the meaning is, not that God should not repute men to have committed such and such sins against him; but that he freely discharges them from the punishment due to them. By all which testimonies from Scripture, concerning the constant use of the term imputing, or imputation, it is evident that proposition, 'that the transgression of the law is imputable from one person to another,' hath no foundation in Scripture.
And, therefore, thirdly and lastly, to come home to the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, I answer,
"First, that either to say that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to his posterity (of believers) or the sin of Adam to his, are both expressions, at least, unknown to the Holy Ghost in the Scriptures. There is neither word, nor syllable, nor letter, nor tittle of any such thing to be found there. But that the faith of him that believeth, is imputed for righteousness, are words which the Holy Ghost useth.
"But, secondly, because I would make no exceptions against words, farther than necessity enforceth, I grant, there are expressions in Scripture concerning both the communication of Adam's sin with his posterity, and the righteousness of Christ with those that believe, that wilt fairly enough bear the term of imputation, if it be rightly understood, and according to the use of it in Scripture upon other occasions. But as it is commonly taken and understood by many, it occasions much error and mistake.
Concerning Adam's sin or disobedience, many are said to be 'made sinners by it,' Rom. v, 19. And so 'by the obedience of Christ,' it is said (in the same place) 'that many shall be made righteous.' But if men will exchange language with the Holy Ghost, they must see that they make him no loser. If, when they say, 'Adam's sin is imputed to all unto condemnation,' their meaning be the same with the Holy Ghost's, when he saith, 'that by the disobedience of one, many were made sinners,' there is no harm done: but it is evident by what many speak, that the Holy Ghost and they are not of one mind, touching the imputation or communication of Adam's Sin with his posterity, but that they differ as much in meaning, as in words. If when they say, 'Adam's sin is imputed to all unto condemnation,' their meaning be this, that the guilt of Adam's sin is charged upon his whole posterity, or that the punishment of Adam's sin redounded from his person to his whole posterity, a main part of which punishment lieth in that original defilement wherein they are all conceived and born, and whereby they are made truly sinners before God; if this be the meaning of the term imputation, when applied to Adam's sin, let it pass. But if the meaning be, that that sinful act, wherein Adam transgressed when he ate the forbidden fruit, is, in the letter and formality of it, imputed to his posterity, so that by this imputation all his posterity are made formally sinners: his is an imputation which the Scripture will never justify."
The last text necessary to mention is Rom. iv, 6, "Even as David declareth the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteous ness without works." Here again the expositors of this class assume, even against the letter of the text and context, that the righteousness which God is said to impute is the righteousness of Christ. But Calvin himself may here be sufficient to answer them. "In the fourth chapter of the Romans the apostle first mentions an imputation of righteousness, and immediately represents it as consisting in remission of sins. David, says he, describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom GOD imputeth righteousness without works, saying, 'Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,' &c. lIe there argues, not concerning a branch, but the whole of justification; he also adduces the definition of it given by David, when he pronounces those to be blessed who receive the free forgiveness of their sins, whence it appears that this righteousness is simply opposed to guilt." (Institute b. iii, cap. 11.) The imputation of righteousness in this passage is, in Calvin's view, therefore, the simple, non-imputation of sin, or, in other words, the remission of sins.
In none of these passages, is there, then, any thing found to countenance even that second view of imputation, which consists in the accounting the righteousness of Christ in justification to be our righteousness. It is only imputed in the benefit and effect of it, that is, in the blessings and privileges purchased by it; and though we may use the phrase, the imputed righteousness of Christ, in this latter sense, qualifying our meaning like Paroeus, who says, 'In this sense imputed righteousness is called the righteousness of Christ, by way of merit or effect, because it is procured for us by the merit of Christ, not because it is subjectively or inherently in Christ;" yet since this manner of speaking has no foundation in Scripture, and must generally lead to misapprehensions, it will be found more conducive to the cause of truth to confine ourselves to the language of the Scriptures. According to them, there is no fictitious accounting either of what Christ (lid or suffered, or of both united, to us as being done and suffered by us, through our union with him, or through his becoming our legal representative; but his active and passive righteousness, advanced in dignity by the union of the Divine nature and perfection, is the true meritorious cause of our justification. It is that great whole which constitutes his "merits;" that is the consideration, in view of which the offended but mercifil Governor of the world, has determined it to be a just and righteous, as well as a merciful act, to justify the ungodly; and, for the sake of this perfect obedience of our Lord to time will of the Father, an obedience extending unto "death, even the death of the cross," to every penitent sinner who believes in him, but considered still in his own person as "ungodly," and meriting nothing but punishment, "his faith is imputed for righteousness ;" it is followed by the remission of his sins and all the benefits of the evangelical covenant.
This imputation of FAITH for righteousness is the third opinion which we proposed to examine.
That this is the doctrine taught by time express letter of Scripture no one can deny, and, as one well observes, " what that is which is imputed for righteousness in justification, all the wisdom and learning of men is not so fit or able to determine, as the Holy Ghost, speaking in Scripture, he being the great secretary of heaven, and privy to all the counsels of GOD." "Abraham believed GOD and it was imputed unto him for righteousness," Rom. iv, 3. "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to hint for righteousness," verse 5. "We say that this was imputed to him for righteousness," verse 9. "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him, but for us to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe in him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead," verses 22-24.
The testimony of the apostle, then, being so express on this point, time imputation of faith for righteousness must be taken to be the doctrine of the New Testament, unless, indeed, we admit, with the advocates of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, that faith is here used metonymically for the object of faith, that is, the righteousness of Christ. The context of the above passages, however, is sufficient to refute this, and makes it indubitable that the apostle uses the term faith in its proper and literal sense. In verse 5, he calls the faith of him that believeth, and which is imputed to him for righteousness, "His faith;" but in what sense could this be taken if St. Paul meant by "his faith," the object of his faith, namely, the righteousness of Christ? And how could that be his before the imputation was made to him? Again, in verse 5, the faith spoken of is opposed to works: "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness." Finally, in verse the faith imputed to us is described to be our "believing in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus from the dead:" so that the apostle has, by these explanations, rendered it impossible for US to understand him as meaning any thing else by faith, but the act of believing. To those who will, notwithstanding this evidence from the context, still insist upon understanding faith, in these passages, to mean the righteousness of Christ, Baxter bluntly observes, "If it be not faith indeed that the apostle meaneth, the context is so far from relieving our understandings, that it contributed to our unavoidable deceit or ignorance. Read over the texts, and put but 'Christ's righteousness' every where instead of the word 'faith,' and see what a scandalous paraphrase you will make. The Scripture is not so audaciously to be corrected." Some farther observations will, however, be necessary for the clear apprehension of this doctrine.
We have already seen, in establishing the Christian doctrine of the atonement, that the law of God inflicts the penalty of death upon every act of disobedience, and that all men have come under that penalty. That men, having become totally corrupt, are not capable of obedience in future. That if they were, there is nothing in the nature of that future obedience to be a consideration for the forgiveness of past offences, under a righteous government. It follows, therefore, that, by moral obedience, or attempted and professed moral obedience, there can be no remission of sins, that is, no deliverance from the penalty of offences actually committed. This is the ground of the great argument of the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans. lie proves both Jews and Gentiles under sin; that the whole world is guilty before God; and by consequence under his wrath, under condemnation, from which they could only be relieved by the Gospel.
In his argument with the Jews the subject is farther opened. They sought justification by "works of law." If we take "works" to mean obedience both to the moral and ceremonial law it makes no difference; for, as they hind given up the typical character of their sacrifices, and their symbolical reference to the death of Messiah, the performance of their religious rites was no longer an expression of faith; it was brought down to the same principle as obedience to the moral law, a simple compliance with the commands of God. Their case, then, was this, they were sinners on conviction of their law, and by obedience to it their sought justification, ignorant both of its spiritual weaning and large extent, and unmindful, too, of this obvious principle, that no acts of obedience, even if perfect, could take away past transgression. The apostle's great axiom on this subject is, that "by works of law, no man can be justified," and the doctrine of justification, which he teaches, is time opposite of theirs. It is, that men are sinners; that they must confess themselves such, and join to this confession a true repentance. That justification is a gratuitous act of God's mercy, a procedure of pure "grace," not of " debt." That in order to the exercise of this grace, on the part of God, Christ was set forth as a propitiation for sin; that his death, under this character, is a "demonstration of the righteousness of God" in the free and gratuitous remission of sins; and that this actual remission or justification, follows upon believing in Christ, because faith under this gracious constitution and method of justification, is accounted to men for righteousness; in other words, that righteousness is imputed to them upon their believing, which imputation of righteousness is, as he teaches us, in the passages before quoted, the forgiveness of sins; for to have faith counted or imputed for righteousness is explained by David, in the psalm which the apostle quotes, (Rom. iv,) to have sin forgiven, covered, and not imputed. That this was no new doctrine, he shows also from the justification of Abraham. "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness," Rom. iv, 3. "Know ye, therefore, that they which are of the faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So these which are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham," Gal. iii, 7-9.
On the one hand, therefore, it is the plain doctrine of Scripture that man is not, and never was in any age, justified by works of any kind, whether moral or ceremonial; on the other, that he is justified by the imputation and accounting of "faith for righteousness." On this point, until the Antinomian corruption began to infest time reformed Churches, the leading commentators, from the earliest ages, were very uniform and explicit. That when faith is said to be imputed to us for righteousness, the word is taken literally, "and not tropically, was," says Goodwin, "the common interpretation anciently received and followed by the principal lights of the Church of God; and for fifteen hundred years together (as far as my memory will assist me) was never questioned or contradicted. Neither did the contrary opinion ever look out into the world, till the last age. So that it is but a calumny brought upon it, (unworthy the tongue or pen of any sober man,) to make either Arminius or Socinus the author of it. And for this last hundred years and upward, from Luther's and Calvin's times, the stream of interpreters agrees therewith.
"Tertullian, who wrote about the year 194, in his fifth book against Marcion, says, 'But how the children of faith? or of whose faith, if not of Abraham's? For if Abraham believed God, and that was imputed unto him for righteousness, and he thereby deserved the name of a father of many nations, we, also, by believing God, are justified as Abraham was.' Therefore Tertullian's opinion directly is, that the faith which is said to be imputed to Abraham for righteousness, is faith properly taken, and not the righteousness of Christ apprehended by faith.
"Origen, who lived about the year 203, in his fourth book upon the Romans, chap. iv, verse 3, says, 'It seems, therefore, that in this place also, whereas many faiths (that is, many acts of believing) of Abraham had gone before, now all his faith was collected and united together, and so was accounted unto him for righteousness.'
"Justin Martyr, who lived before them both, and not long after the Apostle John's time, about the year 130, in his disputation with Trypho the Jew, led them both to that interpretation. 'Abraham carried not away the testimony of righteousness, because of his circumcision, but because of his faith. For before he was circumcised, this was pronounced of him, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.'
"Chrysostom, upon Gal. iii, says, 'For what was Abraham the worse for not being under the law? Nothing at all. For his faith was sufficient unto him for righteousness.' If Abraham's faith was sufficient unto him for righteousness, it must needs be imputed by God for righteousness unto him; for it is this imputation from God that must make that sufficiency of it unto Abraham. That which will not pass in account with God for righteousness, will never be sufficient for righteousness unto the creature.
"St. Augustine, who lived about the year 390, gives frequent testimony to this interpretation. Upon Psa. cxlviii, 'For we by believing have found that which they (the Jews) lost by not believing. For Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.' Therefore his opinion clearly is, that it was Abraham's faith, or believing properly taken, that was imputed unto him for righteousness, and not the righteousness of Christ. For that faith of his, which was so imputed, he opposeth to the unbelief of the Jews, whereby they lost the grace and favour of God. Now the righteousness of Christ is not opposed to unbelief, but faith properly taken. Again, writing upon Psalm lxx, 'For I believe in him that justifieth the ungodly, that my faith may be imputed unto me for righteousness.' The same father yet again, in his tract of Nature and Grace: 'But if Christ died not in vain, the ungodly is justified in him alone: to whom, believing in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.'
"Primasius, about the year 500, writes upon Romans iv, verse 3 'Abraham's faith by the gift of God was so great, that both his former sins were forgiven him, and this faith of his alone preferred in acceptation before all righteousness.'
"Bede, who lived somewhat before the year 700, upon Romans iv. verse 5, observes, 'What faith, but that which the apostle in anotimer place fully defineth? neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision, availeth any thing, but faith which worketh by love; not any faith, but that faith which worketh by love.' Certainly that faith, which Paul defineth to be a faith working by love, cannot be conceived to be the righteousness of Christ; and yet this faith it was, in the judgment of this author, that was imputed unto Abraham for righteousness.
"Haymo, about the year 840, on Rom. iv, 3, writes, 'Because he believed God, it was imputed unto him for righteousness, that is, unto remission of sins, because by that faith, wherewith he believed, he was made righteous.'
"Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, about the year 1090, upon Rom. iv, 3, 'That he (meaning Abraham) believed so strongly, was by God imputed for righteousness unto him; that is, &c, by his believing he was imputed righteous before God.'
"From all these testimonies it is apparent, that the interpretation of this scripture which we contend for, anciently obtained in time Church of God, and no man was found to open his mouth against it, till it had been established for above a thousand years. Come we to the times of reformation; here we shall find it still maintained by men of the greatest authority and learning.
"Luther on Gal. iii, 6, 'Christian righteousness is an affiance or faith in time Son of God, which affiance is imputed unto righteousness for Christ's sake.' And in the same place, not long after, 'God for Christ's sake, in whom I have begun to believe, accounts this (my) imperfect faith, for perfect righteousness.'
"Bucer, upon Rom. iv, 3, 'Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness, that is, he accounted this faith for righteous. ness unto him. So that by believing he obtained this, that God esteemed him a righteous man.'
"Peter Martyr declares himself of the same judgment, upon Rom. iv, 3, 'To be imputed for righteousness in another sense, that by which we ourselves are reckoned in the number of the righteous. And this Paul attributes to faith only.'
"Calvin has the same interpretation upon Rom. iv, 3, 'Wherefore Abraham, by believing, doth only embrace time grace tendered unto him, that it might not be in vain. If this be imputed unto him for righteousness, it follows, that he is no otherwise righteous, but as trusting or relying upon the goodness of God, he hath boldness to hope for all things from him.' Again, upon verse 5, 'Faith is imputed for righteousness, not because it carrieth any merit from us, hut because it apprehends the goodness of God.' Hence it appears, that he never thought of a tropical or metonymical sense in the word faith; hut that he took it in the plain, ready, and grammatical signification.
"Musculus contends for this imputation, also, in his common place of justification, sect. 5, ' This faith should be in high esteem with us; not in regard of time proper quality of it, but in regard of the purpose of God, whereby he hath decreed, for Christ's sake, to impute it for righteousness unto those that believe in him.' The same author upon Gal. iii 6 'What did Abraham that should be imputed unto him for righteousness, but only this, that he believed God?' Again, 'But when he firmly believed God promising, that very faith was imputed to him, in the place of righteousness, that is, he was of God reputed righteous for that thith, and absolved from all his sins.'
"Bullinger gives time same interpretation, upon Romans iv, 'Abraham committed himself unto God by believing, and this very timing was imputed unto him for righteousness." And so, upon Gal. iii, 6, 'It was imputed unto him for righteousness, that is, that very faith of Abraham was imputed to him for righteousness, while he was yet uncircumcised.'
"Gaulter comes behind none of the former, in avouching the grammatical against the rhetorical interpretation, upon Romans iv, 3, 'Abraham believed God, and he, viz. God, imputed unto him this faith for righteousness.'
"Illyricus forsakes not his fellow interpreters in this point, upon Romans iv, 3, 'That same believing was imputed unto him for righteousness.'
"Peilicanus, in like manner, says, upon Gen. xx, 6, 'Abraham simply believed the word of God, and required not a sign of the Lord, and God imputed that very faith unto Abraham himself for righteousness.'
"Hunnius, another divine, sets to his seal, on Romans iv, 3, 'The faith whereby Abraham believed God promising, was imputed unto him for righteousness.'
"Beza, upon the same scripture, says, 'Here the business is, concerning that which was imputed unto him, viz, his faith.'
"Junius and Tremellius are likewise of the same mind, on Gen. xv, 6, 'God esteemed (or accounted) him for righteous though wanting righteousness, and reckoned this in the place of righteousness, that he embraced the promise with a firm belief." (Vide Goodwin on Justification.)
Our English divines have generally differed in their interpretations, as they have embraced or opposed the Calvinistic system; but among the more moderate of that school there have not been wanting mammy who have bound their system to the express letter and obvious meaning of Scripture, on this point; not to mention either those who have adopted that middle scheme generally, but not with exactness attributed to Baxter, or the followers of the remonstrants.
When, however, we say, that faith is imputed for righteousness, in order to prevent misapprehension, and folly to answer time objections raised on the other side, the meaning of the different terms of this proposition ought to be explained. They are RIGHTEOUSNESS, FAITH, and
To explain the first, reference has sometimes been made to time three terms used by the Apostle Paul, dicaiwma, dixaiwsi~, and dicaiosunh; of which, says Baxter, "the first usually signifies the practical or preceptive matter, that is, righteousness; the second, active, efficient justification; the third, the state of the just, qualitative or relative, or ipsam justitiam." Others have made these distinctions a little different; but not much help is to be derived from them, and it is much more important to observe, that the apostle often uses the term dicaiosunh, righteousness, in a passive sense for justification itself. So in Gal. ii, 21, "If righteousness (justification) come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Gal. iii, 21, "For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness (justification) should have been by the law." Rom. ix, 30, "The Gentiles have attained to righteousness, (justification,) even the righteousness (justification) which is by faith." And in Rom. x, 4, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth;" where, also, we must understand righteousness to mean justification. Rom. v, 18, 19, will also show, that with the apostle, "to make righteous," and "to justify," signify the same thing; for "justification of life," in the 18th verse, is called in the 19th, being "made righteous." To be accounted righteous is, then, in the apostle's style, where there has been personal guilt, to be justified; and what is accounted or imputed to us for righteousness, is accounted or imputed to us for our justification.
The second term of the above proposition which it is necessary to explain, is FAITH. The true nature of justifying faith will be explained below; all that is here necessary to remark is, that it is not every act of faith, or faith in the general truths of revelation, which is imputed for righteousness, though it supposes them all, and is the completion of them all. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God; but it is not our faith in creation, which is imputed to us for righteousness. So in the case of Abraham; he not only had faith in the truths of the religion, of which he was the teacher and guardian, but had exercised affiance, also, in some particular promises of God, before he exhibited that great act of faith, which was "counted to him for righteousness," and which made his justification the pattern of the justification of sinful men in all ages. But having received the promise of a son, from whom the Messiah should spring, in whom all nations were to be blessed; and, 'being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, nor yet the deadness of Sarah's womb; he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform, and therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness," Rom. iv, 19-23. His faith had Messiah for its great and ultimate object, and in its nature it was an entire affiance in the promise and faithfulness of God, with reference to the holy seed. So the object of that faith which is imputed to us for righteousness is Christ; Christ as having made atonement for our sins, (the remission of our sins, as expressly taught by St. Paul, being obtained by "faith in his blood;") and it is in its nature an entire affiance in the promise of God to this effect, made to us through his atonement, and founded upon it. Faith being thus understood, excludes all notion of its meritoriousness. It is not faith, generally considered, which is imputed to us for righteousness; but faith (trust) in an atonement offered by another in our behalf; by which trust in something without us, we acknowledge our own insufficiency, guilt, and unworthiness, and directly ascribe the merit to that in which we trust, and which is not our own, namely, the propitiation of the blood of Christ.
The third term is IMPUTATION. The original verb is well enough translated to impute, in the sense of to reckon, to account; but, as we have stated above, it is never used to signify imputation in the sense of accounting the actions of one person to have been performed by another.
A man's sin or righteousness is imputed to him, when he is considered as actually the doer of sinful or of righteous acts, in which sense the word repute is in more general use; and he is, in consequence, reputed a vicious or a holy man. A man's sin or righteousness is imputed to him in its legal consequence, under a government by rewards and punishments; and then to impute sin or righteousness, signifies, in a legal sense, to reckon and to account it, to acquit or condemn, and forthwith to punish, or to exempt from punishment. Thus Shimei entreats David, that he would "not impute folly to him." that is, that be would not punish his folly. in this sense, too, David speaks of the blessedness of the man, to whom the Lord " imputeth not sin," that is, whom he forgives, so that the, legal consequence of his sin shall not fall upon him. This non-imputation of sin, to a sinner, is expressly called the "imputation of righteousness, without works;" the imputation of righteousness is, then, the non-punishment, or pardon of sin; and if this passage be read in its connection, it will also be seen, that by "imputing" faith for righteousness, the apostle means precisely the same thing. "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness;" even as David, also, describeth the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered, blessed is the man to whom the Lord "imputeth not sin." This quotation from David would have been nothing to the apostle's purpose, unless he had understood the forgiveness of sins, and the imputation of righteousness, and the nonimputation of sin, to signify the same thing as" counting faith for righteousness," with only this difference, that the introduction of the term "faith," marks the manner in which the forgiveness of sin is obtained. To impute faith for righteousness, is nothing more than to be justified by faith, which is also called by St. Paul, "being made righteous," that is, being placed by an act of free forgiveness, through faith in Christ, in the condition of righteous men, in this respect, that the penalty of the law does not lie against t hem, and that they are restored to the Divine favour.
From this brief, but, it is hoped, clear explanation of these terms, righteousness, faith, and imputation, it will appear, that it is not quite correct in the advocates of the Scripture doctrine of the imputation of faith for righteousness, to say, that our faith in Christ is accepted in the place of personal obedience to the law, except, indeed, in this loose sense, that our faith in Christ as effectually exempts us from punishment, as if we had been personally obedient. The Scriptural doctrine is rather, that the death of Christ is accepted in the place of our personal punishment, on condition of our faith in him; and, that when faith in him is actually exerted, then comes in, on the part of God, the act of imputing, or reckoning righteousness to us; or, what is the same thing, accounting faith for righteousness, that is, pardoning our offences through faith, and treating us as the objects of his restored favour.
To this doctrine of the imputation of faith fir righteousness, the principal objections which have been made, admit of an easy answer.
The first is that of the papists, who take the term justification to signify the making men morally just or righteous; and they, therefore, argue. that as faith alone is not righteousness in the moral sense, it would be false, arid, therefore, impossible, to impute it for righteousness. But, as we have proved from Scripture, that justification simply signifies the pardon of sin, this objection has no foundation.
A second objection is, that if faith, that is, believing, is imputed for righteousness, then justification is by works, or by somewhat in ourselves. In this objection, the term works is equivocal. If it mean works of obedience to the moral law, the objection is unfounded, for faith is not a work of this kind; and if it mean the merit of works of any kind, it is equally without foundation, for no merit is allowed to faith, and faith, in the sense of exclusive affiance, or trusting in the merits of another, shuts out, by its very nature, all assumption of merit to ourselves, or there would be no need of resorting to another's merit; hut if it mean, that faith or believing is the doing of something. in order to our justification, it is, in this view, the performance of a condition, a sine qua non, which is not only not forbidden by Scripture, but required of us,-" this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent ;" "he that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned." And so far is this considered by the Apostle Paul, as prejudicing the free grace of God in our justification, that he makes our justification by faith, the proof of its gratuitous nature, " for by grace are ye saved, through faith." "Therefore, it is by faith, that it might be through grace."
A third objection is, that the imputation of faith for righteousness gives occasion to boasting, which is condemned by the Gospel. The answer to this is, 1. That the objection lies with equal strength against the theory of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, since faith is required in order to that imputation. 2. Boasting of our faith is cut off by the consideration, that this faith itself is the gift of God. :3. If it were not, yet the blessings which follow upon our faith, are not given with reference to any worth or merit which there may be in our believing, but are given with respect to the death of Christ, from the bounty and grace of God. 4. St. Paul was clearly of the contrary opinion, who tells us that " boasting is excluded by the law of faith:" the reason of which has been already stated, that trust in another for salvation, does, ipso facto, attribute the power, and consequently the honour of saving, to another, and denies both to ourselves.
Since, then, we are "justified by faith," our next inquiry must be, somewhat more particularly, into the specific quality of that faith, which by the appointment of God, leads to this important change in our relations to the Being, whom we have offended, so that our offences are freely forgiven, and we are restored to his favour.
On the subject of justifying faith, so many distinctions have been set up, so many logical terms and definitions are found in the writings of systematic divines, and often, as Baxter has it, "such quibbling and jingling of a mere sound of words," that the simple Christian, to whom this subject ought always to be made plain, has often been grievously perplexed, and no small cause has been given for the derision of infidels. On this, as on other points, we appeal "to the law and testimony," to Christ and his apostles, who are, at once, the only true authorities, and teachers of the greatest simplicity.
We remark, then, 1. That in Scripture faith is presented to us under two leading views. The first is that of assent or persuasion; the second, that of confidence or reliance. That the former may be separated from the latter, is also plain, though the latter cannot exist without the former. Faith, in the sense of intellectual assent to truth, is allowed to be possessed by devils. A dead inoperative faith, is also supposed, or declared, to be possessed by wicked men, professing Christianity; for our Lord represents sons coming to him at the last day, saying, "Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name," &c, to whom he will say, "Depart from me, I never knew you," and yet the charge, in this case, does not lie against the sincerity of their belief, but against their conduct as "workers of iniquity." As this distinction is taught in Scripture, so it is also observed in experience, that assent to the truths of revealed religion may result from examination and conviction, while yet the spirit and conduct may be unrenewed and wholly worldly.
On the other hand, that the faith which God requires of men always comprehends confidence or reliance, as well as assent or persuasion, is equally clear. The faith by which " the elders obtained a good report," was of this character; it united assent to the truth of God's revelations, to a noble confidence in his promises. "Our fathers trusted in Thee, and were not confounded." We have a farther illustration in our Lord's address to his disciples upon the withering away of the fig tree, "Have faith in God." He did not question whether they believed the existence of God, but exhorted them to confidence in his promises, when called by him to contend with mountainous difficulties. "Have faith in God, for verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that these things which he saith shall come to pass, lie shall have whatsoever he saith." It was in reference to his simple confidence in Christ's power, that our Lord so highly commended the centurion, Matt. viii, 10, and said, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." And all the instances of faith in the persons miraculously healed by Christ, were also of this kind: it was belief in his claims, and confidence in his goodness and power.
The faith in Christ, which in the New Testament is connected with salvation, is clearly of this nature; that is, it combines assent with reliance, belief with trust. "Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name," that is, in dependence upon my interest and merits, "he shall give it you." Christ was preached both to Jews and Gentiles as the object of their trust, because he was preached as the only true sacrifice for sin; and they were required to renounce their dependence upon their own accustomed sacrifices, and to transfer that dependence to his death and mediation,-and "in his name shall the Gentiles trust." He is set forth as a propitiation, "through faith in his blood;" which faith can neither merely mean assent to the historical fact that his blood was shed by violent death, nor mere assent to the general doctrine that his blood had an atoning quality; but as all expiatory offerings were trusted in as the means of propitiation both among Jews and Gentiles, that faith or trust was now to be exclusively rendered to the blood of Christ, heightened by the stronger demonstrations of a Divine appointment.
To the most unlettered Christian this then will be most obvious, that that faith in Christ which is required of us, consists both of assent and trust; and the necessity of maintaining these inseparably united will farther appear by considering, that it is not a blind and superstitious trust in the sacrifice of Christ, like that of the heathens in their sacrifices, which leads to salvation; nor the presumptuous trust of wicked and impenitent men, who depend on Christ to save them in their sins; but such a rust as is exercised according to the authority and direction of the word of God ; so that to know the Gospel in its leading principles, and to have a cordial belief in it, is necessary to that more specific act of faith which is called reliance, or in systematic language, fiducial assent, of which cometh salvation. The Gospel, as the scheme of man's salvation, supposes that he is under law; that this law of God has been violated by all; and that every man is under sentence of death.- Serious consideration of our ways, confession of the fact, and sorrowful conviction of the evil and danger of sin, will follow the gift of repentance, and a cordial belief of the testimony of God, and we shall thus turn to God with contrite hearts, and earnest prayers and supplications for his mercy. This is called "repentance toward God;" and repentance being the first subject of evangelical preaching, and then the belief of the Gospel, it is plain that Christ is only immediately held out in this Divine plan of our redemption as the object of trust in order to forgiveness to persons in this state of penitence, and under this sense of' danger. The degree of sorrow for sin, and alarm upon this discovery of our danger as sinners, is nowhere fixed in Scripture; only it is supposed every where, that it is such as to lead men to inquire earnestly "what shall I do to be saved 1" and to use all the appointed means of salvation, as those who feel that their salvation is at issue; that they are in a lost condition, and must be pardoned or perish. To all such persons, Christ, as the only atonement far sin, is exhibited as the object of their trust, with the promise of God, "that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." Nothing is required of such but this actual trust in, and personal apprehension or taking hold of the merits of Christ's death as a sacrifice for sin; and upon their thus believing they are justified, their faith is "counted for righteousness."
This appears to be the plain Scriptural representation of this doctrine, and we may infer from it, 1. That the faith by which we are justified is not a mere assent to the doctrines of the Gospel, which leaves the heart unmoved and unaffected by a sense of the evil and danger of sin, and the desire of salvation, though it supposes this assent: nor, 2. Is it that more lively and cordial assent to, and belief in the doctrine of the Gospel, touching our sinful and lost condition, which is wrought in the heart by the Spirit of God, and from which springeth repentance, though this must precede it; nor, 3. Is it only the assent of the mind to the method by which God justifies the ungodly by faith in the sacrifice of' his Son, though this is an element of it; but it is a nearly concurrence of "the will and affections with this plan of salvation, which implies a renunciation of every other refuge," "and an actual trust in the Saviour, and personal apprehension of his merits: such a belief of the Gospel by the power of the Spirit of God as leads us to come to Christ, to receive Christ, to trust in Christ, and to Commit the keeping of our souls into his hands, in humble confidence of his ability and his willingness to save us." (Bunting's Sermon on Justification.)
This is that qualifying condition to which the promise of God annexes justification; that without which justification would not take place; and in this sense it is that we are justified by faith; not by the merit of faith, but by faith instrumentally as this condition, for its connection with the benefit arises from the merits of Christ, and the promise of God. "If Christ had not merited, God had not promised; if God had not promised, justification had never followed upon this faith; so that the indissoluble connection of faith and justification is from God's institution, whereby he hath bound himself to give the benefit upon of the condition. Yet there is an aptitude in this faith to be made a condition, for no other act can receive Christ as a priest propitiating, and pleading the propitiation, and the promise of God for his sake to give the benefit. As receiving Christ and the gracious promise in this manner, it acknowledgeth man's guilt, and so man renouncetith all righteousness in himself, and honoureth God the Father, and Christ the Son, the only Redeemer. It glorifies God's mercy and free grace in the highest degree. It acknowledgeth on earth, as it will be perpetually acknowledged in heaven, that the whole salvation of sinful man, from the beginning to the last degree thereof; whereof there shall be no end, is from God's freest love, Christ's merit and intercession, his own gracious promise, and the power of his own Holy Spirit." (Lawson.)
Justification by faith alone is thus clearly the doctrine of' the Scriptures; and it was this great doctrine brought forth again from the Scriptures into public view, and maintained by their authority, which constituted one of the main pillars of the reformation from popery; and on which no compromise could be allowed with that corrupt Church which had substituted for it the merit of works. Merlancthon, in his Apology for the Augsburg Confession, thus speaks :-" To represent justification by faith only has been considered objectionable, though Paul concludes that 'a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law ;' 'that we are justified freely by his grace,' and 'that it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.' If the use of the exclusive term only is deemed inadmissible, let them expunge from the writings of' the apostles the exclusive phrases, 'by grace,' 'not of works,' 'the gift of God,' and others of similar import." "We are accounted righteous before God," says the eleventh Article of the Church of England, oni for the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith, not for our works and deservings;" and again, in the Homily on Salvation, "St. Paul declares nothing upon the behalf of man, concerning his justifiestion, but only a true and lively faith, which, nevertheless, is the gift of God and not man's only work without God. And yet that faith doth not shut out repentance, hope. love, dread, and the fear of God, to be joined with faith in every man that is justified ; but only shutteth them out from the office of justifying. So that although they be all present together in him that is justified, Yet they justify not altogether."
It is an error, therefore, to suppose, as many have done, that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, is peculiarly a Calvinistic one. It has, in consequence, often been attacked under this mistake, and confounded with the peculiarities of that system, by writers of limited reading, or perverting ingenuity. It is the doctrine, as we have seen, not of the Calvinistic confessions only, but of the Lutheran Church, and of the Church of England. It was the doctrine of the Dutch Remonstrants, at least of the early divines of that party; and though among many divines of the Church of England, the errors of popery on the subject of' justification have had their influence, and some, who have contended for justification by faith alone, have lowered the Scriptural standard of' believing, the doctrine itself has often been Very ably maintained by its later non-Calvinistic divines. Thus justification by faith alone: faith which excludes all works, both of the ceremonial and moral law; all works performed by Gentiles under the law of nature; all works of evangelical obedience, though they spring from faith; has been defended by Whitby, in the preface to his notes on the Epistle to the Galatians though he was a decided anti-Calvinist. The same may be said of many others; and we may, finally, refer to Mr. Wesley, who revived, by his preaching and writings, an evangelical Arminianism in this country; and who has most clearly and ably established this truth in connection with the doctrine of general redemption. and God's universal love to man.
By affirming that faith is the term or condition of justification, I mean, first, that there is no justification without it. 'He that believeth not is condemned already,' and so long as lie believeth not, that condemnation cannot be removed, but the 'wrath of God abideth on him.' As 'there is no other name given under heaven, than that of Jesus of Nazareth,' no other merit whereby a condemned sinner c-an ever be saved from the guilt of sin; so there is no other way of obtaining a share in his merit, than by faith in his name. So that, as long as we are Without this faith, we are 'strangers to the covenant of promise, we are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and without God in the world.' Whatsoever virtues (so called) a man may have, I speak of those unto whom the Gospel is preached; for 'what have I to do to judge them that are without?' Whatsoever good works (so accounted) he may do, it profiteth not; he is still a child of wrath, still under the Curse, till he believe in Jesus.
"Faith, therefore, is the necessary condition of justification. Yea, and the only necessary condition thereof. This is the second point carefully to be observed; that the very moment God giveth faith (for it is the gift of God) to the 'ungodly, that worketh not,' that 'faith is counted to him far righteousness.' He hath no righteousness at all antecedent to this, not so much as negative righteousness, or innocence. But 'faith is imputed to him for righteousness,' the very moment that he believeth. Not that God (as was observed before) thinketh him to be what he is not. But as 'he made Christ to be a sin offering for us,' that is, treated him as a sinner, punished him for our sins; so he counteth us righteous, from the time we believe in him; that is, he doth not punish us for our sins, yea, treats us as though we were guiltless and righteous.
"Surely the difficulty of assenting to the proposition, that faith is the only condition of justification, must arise from not understanding it.- We mean thereby this much, that it is the only thing, without which no one is justified; the only thing that is immediately, indispensably, absolutely requisite in order to pardon. As, on the one hand, though a man should have every thing else, without faith, yet he cannot be justified; so on the other, though he be supposed to want every thing else, yet if he hath faith, he cannot but be justified. For suppose a sinner of any kind or degree, in a full sense of his total ungodliness, of his utter inability to think, speak, or do good, and his absolute meetness for hell fire: suppose, I say, this sinner, helpless and hopeless, casts himself wholly on the mercy of God in Christ, (which indeed he cannot do but by the grace of God,) who can doubt but he is forgiven in that moment? Who will affirm, that any more is indispensably required, before that sinner can be justified ?" (Wesley's Sermons.)
To the view of justifying faith we have attempted to establish, namely, the entire trust and reliance of an awakened and penitent sinner, in the atonement of Christ alone, as the meritorious ground of his pardon, some objections have been made, and some contrary hypotheses opposed, which it will be necessary to bring to the test of the word of God.
The general objection is, that it is a doctrine unfavourable to morality. This was the objection in St. Paul's day, and it has been urged through all ages ever since. It proceeds, however, upon a great misapprehension of the doctrine; and has sometimes been suggested by that real abuse of it, to which all truth is liable by men of perverted minds and corrupted hearts. Some of these have pretended, or deceived themselves into the conclusion, that if the atonement made for sin by the death of Christ only be relied upon, however presumptuously, the sins which they commit will be forgiven; and that there is no motive, at least from fear of consequences, to avoid sin. Others observing this abuse, or misled, probably, by incautious statements of sincere persons this point, have concluded this to be the logical consequence of the doctrine, however innocently it may sometimes be held. Attempts have, therefore, been made to guard the doctrine, and from these, on the other hand, errors have arisen. The Romish Church contends for justification by inherent righteousness, and makes faith a part of that righteousness. Others contend, that faith signifies obedience; others place justification in faith and good works united; others hold that faith gives us an interest in the merit of Christ, to make up the deficiency of a sincere but imperfect obedience; others think that true faith is in itself' essentially, and, per se, the necessary root of obedience.
The proper answer to the objection, that justification by faith alone leads to licentiousness, is, that "though we are justified by faith alone," the faith by which we are justified is not alone in the heart which exercises it. In receiving Christ, as the writers of the reformation often say, "faith is cola, yet not solitaria." It is not the trust of a man asleep and secure, but the trust of one awakened and aware of the peril of eternal death, as the wages of sin; it is not the trust of a man ignorant of the spiritual meaning of God's holy law; but of one who is convinced and "slain" by it; not the trust of an impenitent, but of a penitent man; the trust of one, in a word, who feels, through the convincing power of the word and Spirit of God, that he is justly exposed to wrath, and in whom this conviction produces a genuine sorrow for sin, and an intense and supreme desire to be delivered from its penalty and dominion. Now that all this is substantially, or more particularly, in the experience of all who pass into this state of justification through faith, is manifest from the seventh and eighth chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, in which the moral state of man is traced in the experience of St. Paul as an example, from his conviction for sin by the law of God, revealed to him in its spirituality, to his entrance into the condition and privileges of a justified stale. We see here, guilt, fear, a vain struggle with bondage, poignant distress, self despair, readiness to submit to any effectual mode of' deliverance which may be offered, acceptance of salvation by Christ, the immediate removal of condemnation, dominion over sin, with all the fruits of regeneration, and the lofty hopes of the glory of GOD. So far then, is the doctrine of justification by faith alone from leading to a loose and careless conduct, that that very state of mind in which alone this faith can be exercised, is one which excites the most earnest longings and efforts of mind to be free from the bondage of sin, as well as from its penalty; and to be free from its penalty in order that freedom from its bondage may follow. As this is proved by the seventh chapter of the epistle referred to, so the former part of the eighth, which continues the discourse, (unfortunately broken by the division of the chapters,) shows the moral state which is the immediate result of" being in Christ Jesus," through the exercise of that faith which alone, as we have seen, can give us a personal interest in him. "There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." This is the first result of the pardon of sin, a consequent exemption from condemnation. The next is manifestly concomitant with it,-" who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit," which is now in its fulness imparted to them; and by which, being regenerated, they are delivered from the bondage before described, and "walk" after his will, and under his sanctifying influence. This brings us precisely to the answer which the apostle himself gives to the 'objection to which we are referring, in the sixth chapter-" What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid; how shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?" The moral state of every man who is justified, is here described to be, that he is "dead to sin." Not that justification strictly is a death unto sin, or regeneration; but into this state it immediately brings us, so that, though they are properly distinguished in the order of our thoughts, and in the nature of things, they go together; he to whom "there is no condemnation," walks not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and lie who experiences the "abounding of the grace of God" in his pardon, is "dead to sin," and cannot, therefore, continue therein. This is the effect of the faith that justifies; from that alone, as it brings us to Christ our deliverer, our entire deliverance from sin can follow; and thus the doctrine of faith becomes exclusively the doctrine of holiness, and points out the only remedy for sin's dominion.
It is true, that some colour would be given to the contrary opinion, were it to be admitted, that this act of faith, followed by our justification, did indefeasibly settle our right to eternal blessedness by a title not to be vitiated by any future transgression; but this doctrine, which forms a part of the theory of the Calvinists, we shall, in its place, show to be unscriptural. It is enough here to say, that it has no connection with the doctrine of justification by faith alone, though so often ignorantly identified with it. Our probation is not terminated by our pardon. Wilful sin will infallibly plunge us again into condemnation, with heightened aggravations and hazards; and he only retains this state of favour who continues to believe with that same faith which brings back to him, not only the assurances of God's mercy, but the continually renewing influences of the Holy Spirit.
The doctrine of justification by faith alone, as stated in the Scriptures, needs not, therefore, any of those guards and cautions which we have enumerated above, and which all involve serious errors, which it may not be useless to point out.
1. The error of the Romish Church is to confound justification and sanctification. So the council of Trent declares, that "justification is not
only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification of the inner man; and that the only formal cause of justification is the righteousness of God, not that whereby he is just, but that by which he makes us just ;" that is, inherently so. That justification and sanctification go together, we have seen; but this is not what is meant by the council. Their doctrine is, that man is made just or holy, and then justified. The answer to this has been already given. God "justifieth the ungodly;" and the Scriptures plainly mean by justification, not sanctification, but simply the remission of sin, as already established. The passages, also, above quoted, show that those who hold this doctrine reverse the order of the Scriptures. The sanctification which constitutes a man inherently righteous, is concomitant with justification, but does not precede it. Before "condemnation" is taken away, he cries out, "0 wretched man that 1 am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death;" when "there is now no condemnation," he "walks not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." In the nature of things, too, justification and sanctification are distinct. The active sanctification of the Spirit, taken in itself, either habitually or actually, and as inherent in us, can in nowise be justification, for justification is the remission of sins. God gave this Spirit to angels, he gave it to Adam in the day of creation, and this Spirit did sanctify, and now doth sanctify the blessed angels, yet this sanctification is not remission. Sanctification cannot be the formal cause of justification, any more than justification can be the formal cause of glorification; for however all these may be connected, they are things perfectly distinct and different in their nature. "There be two kinds of Christian righteousness," says Hooker, "the one without us, which we have by imputation; the other in us, which consisteth of faith, hope, and charity, and other Christian virtues. God giveth us both the one justice and the other; the one by accepting us for righteous in Christ, the other by working Christian righteousness in us." (Discourse of Justification.)
2. To the next opinion, that justifying faith, in the Christian sense, includes works of evangelical obedience, and is not, therefore, simple affiance or fiducial assent, the answer of Whitby is forcible :-" The Scripture is express and frequent in the assertion, that believers are justified by faith, in which expression either faith must include works, or evangelical obedience, or it doth not: if it doth not, we are justified by faith alone; and that it doth not formally include works of evangelical righteousness appears, 1. From the plain distinction which the Scripture puts between them, when it informs us that faith works by love, is shown forth by our works, and exhorts us to add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge; and, 2. Because it is not reasonable to conceive, that Christ and his apostles, making use of a word which had a known and fixed import, should mean more by this word than what it signified in common use, as sure they must have done, had they included in the meaning of the word the whole of our evangelical righteousness." (Preface to Galatians.) To this we may add, that in every discourse of St. Paul, as to our justification, faith and works are opposed to each other; and farther, that his argument necessarily excludes works of evangelical obedience. For as it clearly excludes all works of ceremonial law, so also all works of obedience to the moral law; and that not with any reference to their degree, as perfect or imperfect, but with reference to their nature as works; so then, for this same reason must all works of evangelical obedience be excluded from the office of justifying, for they are also moral works, works of obedience to the same law, which is in force under the Gospel; and however they may be performed; whether by the assistance of the Spirit, or without that assistance; whether they spring from faith or any other principle, these are mere circumstances which alter not the nature of the acts themselves, they are works still, aid are opposed by the apostle to grace and faith. "And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace; but if it be of works, then is it no more (of) grace, otherwise work is no more work," Rom. xi, 6.
3. A third notion which has been adopted to guard the doctrine of justification by faith is, that faith apprehends and appropriates the merits of Christ to make up for the deficiency of our imperfect obedience. There must, therefore, be a sincere endeavour after obedience, and in this the required guard is supposed to lie; but to secure justification where obedience is still imperfect though sincere, requires faith.
It is a sufficient refutation of this theory, that no intimation is given of it in Scripture, and it is indeed contradicted by it. Either this sincere and imperfect obedience has its share in our justification, or it has not; if it has, we are justified by works and faith united, which has just been disproved; if it has not, then we are justified by faith alone, in the manner before explained.
4. The last error referred to is that which represents faith as, per se, the necessary root of obedience: so that justification by faith alone may be allowed; but then the guard against abuse is said to lie in this, that true faith is itself so eminent a virtue, that it naturally produces good works.
The objection to this statement lies not indeed so much to the substantial truth of the doctrine taught by it, or to what is perhaps intended by most of those who so speak, for similar modes of expression we find in the writings of many of the elder divines of the reformation, who most strenuously advocated justification by faith alone; but to the view under which it is presented. Faith, when genuine, is necessarily the "root and mother of obedience;" good works of every kind, without exception, do also necessarily spring from it but though we say necessarily, yet we do not say naturally. The error lies in considering faith in Christ as so eminently a virtue, so great an act of obedience, that it must always argue a converted and renewed state of mind wherever it exists, from which, therefore, obedience must flow. We have, however, seen that regeneration does not precede justification; that till justification man is under bondage, and that he does not "walk after the Spirit," until he is so "in Christ Jesus;" that to him "there is now no condemnation ;" yet faith, all acknowledge, must precede justification, and it cannot, therefore, presuppose a regenerate state of mind. The truth, then, is, that faith does not produce obedience by any virtue there is in it, per se; nor as it supposes a previous renewal of heart; but as it unites to Christ, gives us a personal interest in the covenant of God's mercy, and obtains for us, as an accomplished condition, our justification, from which flow the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the regeneration of our nature. The strength of faith lies not, then, in what it is in itself, but in what it interests us in; it necessarily leads to good works, because it necessarily leads to justification, on which immediately follows our "new creation in Christ Jesus to good works, that we may walk in them."
There are yet a few theories on the subject of justification to be stated and examined, which, however, the principles already established will enable us briefly to dismiss.
That of the Romish Church, which confounds sanctification with justification, has been already noticed. The influence of this theory may be traced in the writings of some leading divines of the English Church, who were not fully imbued with the doctrines of the reformers on this great point, such as Bishop Taylor, Achbishop Tillotson, and others, who make regeneration necessary to justification; and also in many divines of the Calvinistic nonconformist class, who make regeneration, also, to precede justification, though not like the former, as a condition of it.
The source of this error appears to be twofold.
It arises, first, from a loose and general notion of the Scriptural doctrine of regeneration; and, secondly, from confounding that change which true evangelical repentance doubtless implies, with regeneration itself. A few observations will dissipate these erroneous impressions.
As to those previous changes of mind and conduct, which they often argue from, as proving a new state of mind and character, they are far from marking that defined and unequivocal state of renovation, which our Lord expresses by the phrases "born again," and "born of the Spirit," and which St. Paul evidently explains by being "created anew," "a new creation;" "living after the Spirit," and "walking in the Spirit." In the established order in which God effects this mighty renovation of a nature previously corrupt, in answer to prayers directed to him, with confidence in his promises to that effect in Christ Jesus, there must be a previous process, which divines have called by the expressive names of" awakening," and "conviction;" that is, the sleep of indifference to spiritual concerns is removed, and conviction of the sad facts of the case of a man who has hitherto lived in sin, and under the sole dominion of a carnal and earthly mind, is fixed in the judgment and the conscience. From this arises an altered and a corrected view of things; apprehension of danger; desire of deliverance; abhorrence of the evils of the heart and the life; strong efforts for freedom, resisted however by the bondage of established habits and innate corruptions; and a still deeper sense, in consequence, of the need not only of pardon, but of that almighty and renewing influence which alone can effect the desired change. It is in this state of mind, that the prayer becomes at once heartfelt and appropriate, "Create in me a clean heart, 0 God, and renew a right spirit within me."
But all this is not regeneration; it is rather the effect of the full and painful discovery of the want of it; nor will "fruits meet for repentance," the effects of an alarmed conscience, and of a corrected judgment; the efforts to be right, however imperfect; which are the signs, we also grant, of sincerity, prove more than that the preparatory process is going on under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Others may endeavour to persuade a person in this state or mind that he is regenerate, but the absence of love to God as his reconciled Father; the evils which he detests having still, in many respects, the dominion over him; the resistance of his heart to the unaccustomed yoke, when the sharp pangs of his convictions do not, for the moment, arm him with new powers of contest; his pride; his remaining self righteousness; his reluctance to be saved wholly as a sinner, whose repentance and all its fruits, however exact and copious, merit nothing; all assure him, that even should he often feel that he is "not far from the kingdom of God," he has not entered it; that his burden is not removed; that his bonds are not broken; that he is not " walking in the Spirit ;" that he is at best but a struggling slave, not "the Lord's free man." But there is a point which, when passed, changes the scene. lie believes wholly in Christ; he is justified by faith; he is comforted by (lie Spirit's "witnessing with his spirit," that he is now a child of God; he serves God from filial love; he has received new powers; the chain of his bondage is broken, and he is delivered; he walks not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; he is "dead to sin, and cannot continue longer therein;" and the fruits of the Spirit are in him-" love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, temperance." He is now, and not till now, in A REGENERATE STATE, as that state is described in the Scriptures. Before he was a seeker, now he has obtained what he sought; and be obtains it concomitantly with justification.
Still indeed it may be said, that, call this previous state what you will, either regeneration or repentance, it is necessary to justification; and, therefore, justification is not by faith alone. We answer, that we cannot call it a regenerated state, a being "born of the Spirit," for the Scriptures do not so designate it; and it is clear, that the fruits of the Spirit do not belong to it; and, therefore, there is an absence, not of the work of the Spirit, for all has its origin there, but of that work of the Spirit by which we are "born again" strictly and properly. Nor is the connection of this preparatory process with justification of the same nature as that of faith with justification. It is necessary, it is true, as hearing the word is necessary, for "faith cometh by hearing;" and it is necessary as leading to prayer, and to faith, for prayer is the language of discovered want, and faith in another, in the sense of trust, is the result of self diffidence, and self despair; but it is necessary remotely, not immediately. This distinction is clearly and accurately expressed by Mr. Wesley. (Farther Appeal, &c.) "And yet I allow you this, that although both repentance and the fruits thereof, arc, in some sense, necessary before justification, yet neither the one nor the other is necessary in the same sense, nor in the same degree with faith. Not in the same degree; for in whatever moment a man believes, in the Christian sense of the word, he is justified; his sins are blotted out; his faith is counted to him for righteousness. But it is not so at whatever moment he repents, or brings forth any or all the fruits of repentance. Faith alone, therefore justifies, which repentance alone does not; much less any outward work; and consequently none of these are necessary to justification in the same degree as faith. Nor in the same sense; for none of these has so direct and immediate relation to justification as faith. This is proximately necessary thereto; repentance and its fruits, remotely, as these are necessary to the increase and continuance of faith. And even in this sense, these are only necessary on supposition that there is time and opportunity for them; for in many instances there is not; but God cuts short his work, and faith prevents the fruits of repentance. So that the general proposition is not overthrown, but clearly established by these concessions, and we conclude still, both on the authority of Scripture and the Church, that faith alone is the proximate condition of justification." (Sermons.)
If regeneration, in the sense in which it is used in Scripture, and not loosely and vaguely, as by many divines, both ancient and modern, is then a concomitant of justification, it cannot be a condition of it; and as we have shown, that all the changes which repentance implies, fall short of regeneration, repentance is not an evidence of a regenerate state; and thus the theory of justification by regeneration is untenable. A second theory, not indeed substantially different from the former, but put into different phrase, and more formally laboured, is that of Bishop Bull, which gave rise to the celebrated controversy of his day, upon the publication of his Harmonia Apostolica; and it is one which has left the deepest impress upon the views of the clergy of the English Church, and contributed more than any thing else to obscure her true doctrine, as contained in her articles and homilies, on this leading point of experimental theology. This theory is professedly that of justification by works, with these qualifications, that the works are evangelical, or such as proceed from faith; that they are done by tile assistance of the Spirit of God; and that such works are not meritorious, but a necessary condition of justification. To establish this hypothesis, it was necessary to avoid the force of the words of St. Paul, and the learned prelate just mentioned, therefore, reverses the usual practice of commentators, which is to reconcile St. James to St. Paul on the doctrine of justification; and assuming that St. James speaks clearly and explicitly, and St. Paul, on this point, things "hard to be understood ;" he interprets the latter by the former, and reconciles St. Paul to St. James. According then to this opinion, St. James explicitly asserts the doctrine of justification of sinful men before God by the works which proceed from faith in Christ: St. Paul, therefore, when he denies that man can be justified by works, refers simply to works of obedience to the Mosaic law; and by the faith which justifies, he means the works which spring from faith. Thus the two apostles are harmonized by Bishop Bull.
The main pillar of this scheme is, that St. James teaches the doctrine of justification before God by works springing from faith in Christ; and as it is necessary in a discourse on justification, to ascertain the meaning of this apostle, in the passages referred to, both because his words may appear to form an objection to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which we have established; and, also, on account of the misleading statements which are found in many of the attempts which have been made to reconcile the two apostles, this may be a proper place for that inquiry; the result of which will show, that Bishop Bull and the divines of that school, have as greatly mistaken St. James as they have mistaken St. Paul.
We observe then, 1. That to interpret St. Paul by St. James, involves this manifest absurdity, that it is interpreting a writer who treats professedly, and in a set discourse, on the subject in question, tile justification of a sinful man before God, by a writer who, if he could be allowed to treat of that subject with the same design, does it but incidentally. This itself makes it clear, that the great axiomata, the principles of this doctrine, must be first sought for in the writer who enters professedly and by copious argument, into the inquiry.
But, 2. The two apostles do not engage in the same argument, and for this reason, that the are not addressing themselves to persons in the same circumstances. St. Paul addresses the unbelieving Jews, who sought justification by obedience to the law of Moses, moral and ceremonial; proves that all men are guilty, and that neither Jew nor Gen tile can be justified by works of obedience to any law, and that therefore justification must be by faith alone. On the other hand, St. James, having to do, in his epistle with such as professed the Christian faith and justification by it, but erring dangerously about the nature of faith, affirming that faith, in the sense of opinion or mere belief of doctrine, would save them, though they should remain destitute of a real change in the moral frame and constitution of their minds, and give no evidence of this in a holy life, it became necessary for him to plead the renovation of man's nature, and evangelical obedience, as the necessary fruits of real or living faith. The question discussed by St. Paul is, whether works would justify; that by St. James is, whether a dead faith, the mere faith of assent would save.
3. St. Paul and St. James do not use the term justification in the same sense. The former uses it as we have seen, for tile pardon of sin, the accepting and treating as righteous one who is guilty but penitent. But, that St. James does not speak of this kind of justification is most evident, from his reference to the case of Abraham. "Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar ?" does St. James mean, that Abraham was then justified in the sense of being forgiven? Certainly not; for St. Paul, when speaking of the justification of Abraham, in the sense of his forgiveness before God, by the imputation of his faith for righteousness~ fixes that event many years previously, even before Isaac was born, and when the promise of a seed was made to him; for it is added by Moses when he gives an account of this transaction, Gen. xv, 6, "And he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness." If then, St. James speaks of the same kind of justification, he contradicts St. Paul and Moses, by implying that Abraham was not pardoned and received into God's favour, until the offering of Isaac. If no one will maintain this, then the justification of Abraham, mentioned by St. James, it is plain, does not mean the forgiveness of his sins, and he uses the term in a different sense to St. Paul.
4. The only sense, then, in which St. James can take the term justification, when he says that Abraham was "justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar," is, that his works manifested or proved that he was justified, proved that he was really justified by faith, or, in other words, that the faith by which he was justified, was not dead and inoperative, but hiving and active. This is abundantly confirmed by what follows. So far is St. James from denying that Abraham was justified by the imputation of his faith for righteousness, long before he offered up his son Isaac, that he expressly allows it by quoting the passage, Gen. xv, 6, in which this is said to have taken place at least twenty-five years before; and he makes use of his subsequent works in the argument, expressly to illustrate the vital and obedient nature of the faith by which he was at first justified. "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was his faith made perfect, and the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, 'Abraham believed God,' (in a trans action twenty-five years previous,) 'and it was imputed to him for righteousness', and he was called the friend of God.'" This quotation of James, from Gen. xv, 6, demands special notice. "And the scripture," he says, " was fulfilled, which saith," &c. Whitby paraphrases, again fulfilled;" some other commentators say it "was twice fulfilled," in the transaction of Isaac, and at the previous period to which the quotation refers. These comments are, however, hasty, darken the argument of St. James, and have, indeed, no discernible meaning at all. For do they mean that Abraham was twice justified, in the sense of being twice pardoned; or that his justification was begun at one of the periods referred to, and finished twenty-five years afterward? These are absurdities; and if they will not maintain them, in what sense do they understand St. James to use the phrase, "and the scripture was fulfilled?" The scripture alluded to by St. James is that given above, "and he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness." When was the first fulfilment of this scripture, of which they speak? It could not be in the transaction of Abraham's proper justification, through his faith in the promise respecting " his seed," as mentioned, Gen. xv, 6, for that scripture is an historical narration of the fact of that, his justification. The fact, then, was not a fulfilment of that part of Scripture, but that part of Scripture a subsequent narration of the fact. The only fulfilment, consequently, that it had, was in the transaction adduced by St. James, the offering of Isaac ; but if Abraham had been, in the proper sense, justified then, that event could be no fulfilment, in their sense, of a scripture which is a narrative of what was done twenty-live years before, and which relates only to what God then did, namely, "count the faith of Abraham to him for righteousness." The only senses in which the term " fulfil" can be taken in this passage are, that of accomplishment, or that of illustration and establishment. The first cannot apply here, for the passage is neither typical nor prophetic, and we are left, therefore, to the second; " and the scripture was fulfilled," illustrated and confirmed, which saith, " Abraham believed in God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness." It was established and confirmed that he was, in truth, a man truly justified of God, and that the faith by which he was justified was living and operative.
5. As St. James does not use the term justification in the sense of the forgiveness of sin, when he speaks of the justification of Abraham by works, so neither can he use it in this sense in the general conclusion which he draws from it; "Ye see, then, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." The ground on which be rests this general inference is the declarative justification of Abraham, which resulted from his lofty act of obedience, in the case of Isaac, and which was eminently itself an act of obedient faith; and the justification of which lie speaks in the general conclusion of the argument, must, therefore, be taken in the same sense. He speaks not of the act of being justified before God, and the means by which it is effected; but of being proved to be in a manifest and Scripturally approved state of justification. "Ye see, then, that by works a man is" shown to be in a "justified" state; or how his profession of being in the Divine favour is justified and confirmed "by works, and not by faith only," or mere doctrinal faith; not by the faith of mere intellectual assent, not by the faith which is dead, and unproductive of good works.
Lastly, so far are the two apostles from being in opposition to each other, that, as to faith as well as works, they most perfectly agree. St. James declares, that no man can be saved by mere faith. But, then, by faith lie means, not the same faith to which St. Paul attributes a saving efficacy. His argument sufficiently shows this. He speaks of a faith which is " alone" and "dead," St. Paul of the truth which is never alone, though it alone justifieth; which is not solitaria, though it is sola in this work, as our old divines speak; the faith of a penitent, humbled man, who not only yields speculative assent to the scheme of Gospel doctrine, but flies with confidence to Christ, as his sacrifice and Redeemer, for pardon of sin and deliverance from it; the faith, in a word, which is a fruit of the Spirit, and that by which a true believer enters into and lives the spiritual life, because it vitally unites him to Christ, the fountain of that life-" the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
There is then no foundation in the Epistle of St. James for the doctrine of justification by works, according to Bishop Bull's theory. The other arguments by which this notion has been supported, are refuted by the principles which have been already laid down, and confirmed from the word of GOD.
A third theory has, also, had great influence in the Church of England, and is to this day explicitly asserted by some of its leading divines and prelates. It acknowledges that, provided faith be understood to be sincere and genuine, men are justified by faith only, and in flits they reject the opinion just examined ; hut then they take faith to be mere belief, assent to the truth of the Gospel, and nothing more. This is largely defended by Whitby in his preface to the Galatians, which, in other respects ably shows that justification is in no sense by works, either natural, Mosaic, or evangelical. The faith by which we are justified, he describes to be "a full assent to, or firm persuasion of mind concerning the truth of what is testified by God himself respecting our Lord Jesus Christ," and in particular, "that he was Christ the Son of GOD." "This was the faith which the apostles required in order to baptism ;" "by this faith men were put into the way of salvation, and if they persevered in it, would obtain it."
Nearly the same view is taught by the present bishop of Winchester, in his Refutation of Calvinism, and his Elements of Theology, and it is, probably, the opinion of the great body of the national clergy, not distinguished as evangelical, though with many it is also much mingled with the scheme of Bishop Bull. "Faith anti belief," says Bishop Tomline, "strictly speaking mean the same thing." If, then, a penitent heathen or Jew, convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised Saviour of the world, "having understood that baptism was essential to the blessings of the new and merciful dispensation, of the Divine authority of which he was fully persuaded, would eagerly apply to some one of those wino were commissioned to baptize; his baptism, administered according to the appointed form to a true believer, would convey justification; or in other words, the baptized person would receive remission of his past sins, would be reconciled to God, and be accounted just and righteous in his sight." (Refutation of Calvinism, chap. iii.) "Faith, therefore, in. eluding repentance for former offences, was, as far as the person him. self was concerned, the sole requisite for justification; no previous work was enjoined; but baptism was invariably the instrument, or external form by which justification was conveyed." (Refutation of Calvinism, chap. iii.)
The confusedness and contrariety of this scheme will be obvious to the reader.
It will not be denied to Dr. Whitby, that the apostles baptized upon the profession of a belief in the Messiahship and Sonship of our Lord; nor is it denied to Bishop Tomline, that when baptism, in the case of true penitents, was not only an outward expression of the faith of assent; but accompanied by a solemn committal of the spiritual interests of the baptized to Christ, by an act of confidence, the power to do which, was, no doubt, often given as a part of the grace of baptism, justification would follow; the real question is, whether justification follows mere assent. This is wholly contradicted by the argument of St. James; for if dead faith, by which he means mere assent to doctrine, is no evidence of a justified state, it cannot be justifying; which I take to be as conclusive an argument as possible. For St. James does not deny faith to him who has faith without works; if then he has faith, the apostle can mean by faith nothing else certainly than assent or belief: "Thou believest there is one God, thou doest well;" and as this faith, according to him is "alone," by faith he means mere assent of the intellect. This argument shows, that those theologians are unquestionably in error, who make justification the result of mere assent to the evidence of the truth of the Gospel, or doctrinal belief. And neither Dr. Whitby nor Bishop Tomline are able to carry this doctrine throughout. The former contends, that this assent, when firm and sincere, must produce obedience; but St. James denies neither firmness of conviction, nor sincerity to his inoperative faith, and yet, he tells us, that it remained "alone," and was "dead." Beside, if faith justifies only as it produces obedience, it does not justify alone, and the justifying efficacy lies in the virtual or actual obedience proceeding from it, which gives up Whitby's main position, and goes into the Scheme of Bishop Bull. Equally inconsistent is Bishop Tomline. He acknowledges that "belief, or faith, may exist, unaccompanied by any of the Christian graces;" and that "this faith does not justify." How then will he maintain that justification is by faith alone, in the sense of belief? Again he tells us, that the faith which is the means of salvation, "is that belief of the truth of the Gospel which produces obedience to its precepts, and is accompanied by a firm reliance upon the merits of Christ." Still farther, that "baptism is the instrument invariably by which justification is conveyed." (Refutation of Calvinism, chap. iii.) Thus, then, we are first told, that justifying faith is belief or assent; then that various other things are connected with it to render it justifying, such as previous repentance, the power of producing obedience, reliance on the merits of Christ, and baptism! All this confusion and contradiction shows, that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, in the sense of belief or intellectual assent only, cannot be maintained, and that, in order to avoid the worse than Antinomian consequence, which would follow from the doctrine, its advocates are obliged so to explain, and qualify, and add, as to make many approaches to that true doctrine against which they hurl both censure arid ridicule.
The error of this whole scheme lies in not considering the essence of justifying faith to be trust or confidence in Christ as our sacrifice for sin, which, though Whitby and others of his school, have attempted to ridicule by calling it "a leaning or rolling of ourselves upon him for salvation," availing themselves of the coarse terms used by scoffers, is yet most manifestly, as we have indeed already seen, the only sense in which faith can be rationally taken, when a sacrifice fir sin, a means of reconciliation with God, is its object, and indeed when any promise of God is made to us. It is not surely that we may merely believe that the death of Christ is a sacrifice for sin, that he is "set forth as a propitiation," hut that we may trust in its efficacy; it is not that we may merely believe that God has made promises to us, that his merciful engagements in our favour arc recorded; but that we may have confidence in them, and thus be supported by them. This was the faith of the saints of the Old Testament. "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went." His faith was confidence. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." "Who is among you that feareth the Lord? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God."
"Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is." It is under this notion of trust that faith is continually represented to us also in tine New Testament. " In his name shall the Gentiles trust." "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of them that believe." "For I know whom I have believed, (trusted,) and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." "If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end."
The fourth theory which we may notice, is that which rejects justification in the present life, arid defers its administration to the last day. This has had a few, and but a few abettors, and the principal arguments for it are, 1. That all the consequences of sin are not removed from even believers in the present life, whereas a full remission of sin necessarily implies the full and immediate remission of punishment. 2. That if believers are justified, that is judged in the present life, they must be judged twice, whereas there is but one judgment, which is to take place at Christ's second coming. 3. That the Scriptures speak of justification at the last day, as when our Lord declares "that every idle word that men shall speak they shall give an account thereof in time day of judgment," and adds, "by thy words thou shalt (then) be justified, and by thy words shalt thou be condemned."
To all these arguments, which a few words will refute, time general, and, indeed, sufficient answer is, that justification in the sense of tine forgive ness of sins, tine only import of the term in question, is constantly and explicitly spoken of as a present attainment. This is declared to be the case with Abraham and with David, by St. Paul ; it was surely the case with those to whom our Lord said, "thy sins are forgiven thee ;" and with her of whom he declared, that having "much forgiven she loved much." " We have," says St. Paul, writing to the Colossians, " redemption through his blood, time forgiveness of sins." So plain a point needs no confirmation by more numerous quotations; and time only means which time advocates of the theory have resorted to for explaining such passages consistently with their own views, is absurdly, and we may add audaciously, to resolve them into a figure of speech which speaks of a future thing when certain, as present; a mode of interpretation which sets all criticism at defiance.
As to the first argument, we may observe that it assumes, that it is essential t(r tine pardon of sin, that all its consequences should be immediately removed, or otherwise they assert it is no pardon at all. This is to affirm, that to be freed from punishment in another life, and finally, and indeed in a short time, to be freed from the afflictions of this is not a pardon; which no one earn surely deliberately affirm. This notion, also, loses sight entirely of the obviously wise ends which are answered by postponing the removal of affliction and diseases from those who are admitted into tine Divine favour, till another life ; and of the sanctification of all these to their benefit, so that they entirely lose, when they are not the consequence of new offences, their penal character, and become parts of a merciful discipline, "working together for good."
The second argument assumes, that because there is but one general judgment, there can be no acts of judgment which are private and personal. But time one is in no sense contrary to the other. Justification may, therefore, be allowed to be a judicial proceeding under a merciful constitution, as before explained, and yet offer no obstruction to a general, public, and final judgment. The latter indeed grows out of the former; for since this offer of mercy is made to all men by the Gospel, they are accountable for the acceptance or refusal of it, which it is a part of the general judgment to exhibit, that the righteousness of God, in the punishment of them "that believe not the Gospel," may be demonstrated and the ground of the salvation of those who have been sinners, as well as the rest of mankind, may be declared. We may also farther observe, that so far is the appointment of one general judgment from interfering with acts of judgment in the proceedings of the Most High as the governor of men, that he is constantly judging men, both as individuals and nations, and distributing to them both rewards and punishments.
The argument from the justification of men at the last day, proceeds, also, upon a false assumption. It takes justification then and now for the same act; and it supposes it to proceed upon the same principle; neither of which is true.
1. It is not true that it is the same act. The justification of believers in this life, is the remission of sins; but where are we taught that remission of sins is to lie attained in the day of judgment? Plainly nowhere, and the whole doctrine of Scripture is in opposition to this notion, for it confines our preparation for judgment to the present life only. When our Lord says, "by thy words thou shalt be justified," he does not mean "by thy words thy sins shall be forgiven;" and if this is not maintained the passage is of no force in the argument.
2. Justification at the last day, does not proceed upon tine same principle, and, therefore, is not to be concluded to be the continuance of the same act, commenced on earth. Justification at time last clay is, on all hands, allowed to be by works; but, if that justification mean the pardon of sin, theme the pardon of sin is by works and not by faith, a doctrine we have already refuted from the clear evidence of Scripture itself. The justification of the last day is, therefore, not the pardon of sin; for if our sins are previously pardoned, we then need no pardon; if they are not pardoned, no provision for their remission their remains. And as this justification is not pardon, neither is it acquittal; for, as to those sins of which the wicked have not been guilty, they will not be acquitted of them, because an all wise God will not charge them with those of which they have not been guilty, and there can be no acquittal as to those they have committed. Believers will not be acquitted of the sins for which they have obtained forgiveness, because they will not be charged upon them: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." So far from their being arraigned as sinners, that their justification on earth may be formally pleaded for their acquittal at the last day, that the very circumstances of the judgment will be a public recognition, from its very commencement, of their pardon and acceptance upon earth. "The dead in Christ shall rise first." "They rise to glory, not to shame," their bodies being made like unto Christ's "glorious body." Those that sleep in Christ shall "God bring with him," in his train of triumph; they shall be set on his "right hand," in token of acceptance and favour; and of the books which shall be opened, one is "the book of life," in which their names have been previously recorded. It follows, then, that our justification at (hub last day, if we must still use that phrase, which has little to support it in Scripture, and might be well substituted for others less equivocal, can only be declaratire, approbatory, and remunerative. Declarative, as recognizing, in the manner just stated, the justification of believers on earth; approbatory of their works of faith and love; and remunerative of them, as made graciously rewardable, in their different measures, by the evangelical constitution.
And here it may not be amiss to notice an argument against the doc trifle of justification by faith alone, and in favour of justification by faith and works, which is drawn from the proceedings of the last day :-" If works wrought through faith are the ground of the sentence passed upon us in that day, then they are a necessary condition of our justification." This is an argument which has been built much upon, from Bishop Bull to the present day. Its fallacy lies in considering the works of believers as the only, or chief ground of that sentence; that is, the administration of eternal life to them in its different degrees of glory at the coming of Christ. That it is not so, is plain from those express passages of Scripture, which represent eternal life as the fruit of Christ's atonement, and the gift of God through him. "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works," &c. "Why," says an old writer, "might he not have said, by grace are ye saved, through faith and works; it were as easy to say the one as the other." If our works arc the sole ground of that sentence of eternal life, then is the reward of righteousness of debt according to the law of works, and not of grace; but if of grace, then works are not the sole or chief ground of our final reward. If of debt, we claim in our own right; and the works rewarded must be in every sense our own; but good works are not our own works; we are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works;" and derive all the power to do them from him. If, then, we have not the right of reward in ourselves, we have it in another; and thus we again come to another and higher ground of the final sentence than the works wrought even by them that believe, namely, the covenant right which we derive from Christ-right grounded on promise. If then it is asked, in what sense good works are any ground at all of the final sentence of eternal life, we answer, they are so secondarily and subordinately, 1. As evidences of that faith and that justified state from which alone truly good works can spring. 2. As qualifying us for heaven; they and the principles from which they spring constituting our holiness, our "meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light." 3. As rewardable; but still of grace not of debt, of promise not of our own right, since after all we have done, though we had lived and suffered as the apostles to whom the words were first addressed, we are commanded to confess ourselves "unprofitable servants." In this sense good works, though they have no part in the office of justifying the ungodly, that is, in obtaining forgiveness of sin, are necessary to salvation, thought they are not the ground of it. As they arc pleasing to God, so arc they approved and rewarded by God. "They prevent future guilt, but take away no former guilt, evidence our faith and title to everlasting glory, strengthen our union with Christ because they strengthen faith, confirm our hope, glorify God, give good example to men, make us more capable of communion with God, give some content to our consciences, and there is happiness in the doing of them, and in the remembrance of them when done. Blessed are they who always abound in them, for they know that their labour is not in vain in the Lord. Yet Bellarmin, though a great advancer of merit, thought it the safest way to put our sole trust not in these good works, but in Christ. It is, indeed, not only the safest, but the only way so to do, if we would be justified before God. True, we shall be judged according to our works, but it doth not follow that we shall be justified by our works. God did never ordain good works, which are the fruits of a sincere faith in Christ, to acquire a right unto the remission of sin and eternal life; but to be a means by which we may obtain possession of the rewards he hath promised." (Lawson's Theo-politica.)
The last theory of justification to which it is necessary to advert, is that comprised in the scheme of Dr. Taylor, of Norwich, in his Key to the Apostolic Writings. It is, that all such phrases as to elect, call, adopt, justify, sanctify, &c, are to be taken to express that Church relation into which, by the destruction of the Jewish polity, believing Jews and Gentiles were brought; that they are "antecedent blessings," enjoyed by all professed Christians, though, unless they avail themselves of these privileges for the purposes of personal holiness, they cannot be saved.
Thus scheme is, in many respects, delusive amid absurd, as it confounds collective privileges with those attainments which from their nature can only be personal. If we allow that with respect to "election," for instance, it may have a plausibility, because nations of men may be elected to peculiar privileges of a religious kind; yet with respect to the others, as "justification," &c, the notion requires no lengthened refutation. Justification is, as the Apostle Paul states it, pardon of sin; but are the sins of nations pardoned, because they are professedly Christian? This is a personal attainment, amid can be no other, mind collective justification. by Church privileges, is a wild dream, which mocks and trifles with the Scriptures. According to this scheme, there is a Scriptural sense in which the most profane and immoral man, provided he profess himself a Christian, may be said to be justified, that is, pardoned; sanctified, that is, made holy; and adopted, that is, made a child of God!
 "Illius esse duritiem humani cordis emollire, cum ant per salutiferam praedicationem Evangelii, ant alia quacunque ratione in pectora hominum recipitur : illum eos illuminare et in agnitionem Dei atque in omnem viam veritatis et in totius vitae novitatem, et perpetuam salutis spem perducere." (Bishop Jewe.)
 See note in Nichol's translation of the works of Arminius, vol. i, p. 634.
 "To be released from the damnatory sentence is one thing, to be treated as a righteous person. is evidently another." (Hervey's Theron and Aspasio.)
 The reader will also recollect Rom. vi, 23, "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ." The following passages expressly make time atonement of Christ the ground of our title to eternal life. "By his own blood he referred in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." "He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that, by means of death, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance," Heb. ix, 12-15. "Christ died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him," 1 Thess. v, 10.