« السابقةمتابعة »
for our salvation is, in a pre-eminent sense, “the righteousness of God"
_" the righteousness of God, even our Savior Jesus Christ”-his “ everlasting righteousness.” Rom. iii. 21. 2 Pet. i. 1. Dan. ix. 24. It is righteousness in a sense superior to the moral law, When the apostle contrasts the two, he calls the law the ministration of death, and the atonement of Christ, applied by the Spirit, “the ministration of righteousness ;” and tells us that it " exceeds in glory.” It exceeds in glory, because it greatly augments the display of God's righteousness. While free justification and imputed righteousness do nothing to lower our views of the mercifulness of God in forgiving our sins, they represent the law as unrepealed, and the holiness of the Lawgiver as unsullied. They show us grace, reigning through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Some have thought that in the different parts of the sacred writings contradictory representations are given of the doctrine which is now under consideration. These apparent contradictions, however, all vanish by giving the subject a careful and unprejudiced examination. In the writings of the apostles there are three justifications spoken of, which all agree in one ; and instead of being contradictory, serve to give us a more full and definite view of the doctrine. Justification is said to be, 1. By the redemption or righteousness of Christ: 2. By faith: 3. By works. Each of the three has its appropriate place in constituting the justification of the believer. The whole meritori. . ous foundation, or procuring cause of justification, is the redemption or righteousness of Christ. Upon this only foundation of the simier's hope we are placed by faith ; and good works evidence the genuine. ness of our faith, and show on what foundation we are built. We may therefore say, concerning every man who is saved from the wrath to come, that he is justified in all these ways; that is, meritoriously, by the righteousness of Christ ;-instrumentally, by faith ;-and eviden. tially, by good works. If the words I use to distinguish the several branches of justification are not the most happily chosen, they will serve at least to mark that difference between them which manifestly exists. I will now refer you to passages of scripture which will show that this distinction is not a human invention.
(1.) The meritorious ground is exhibited in such passages as these: "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” Rom. iii. 24. “ Much more, then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.' Rom. v. 9. “ Eveu so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Rom. v. 18. “ That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. v. 21, This is that ever. lasting righteousness brought in by Messiah the prince, which is spoken of by Daniel the prophet. This is that righteousness of God that is by faith of Jesus Christ, which Paul contradistinguishes from the righteousness of the law; and on which he appears determined to place his whole dependence, in preference to trusting to any righteousness of his own. · When he looked for a foundation on which to rest his hopes, he saw none other than Jesus Christ and him crucified. Every thing of his own, whether done before or after his conversion, appeared wholly insufficient to constitute any part of the meritorious ground of his justification.
(2.) The instrument or means of justification is faith. As the hand is stretched forth to receive a proffered gift, so faith receives the righteousness of God our Savior. On this account we are said to be justi. fied by faith ; as appears in the following passages : “ Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Rom. v. 1. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law.” Gal. ii. 16. * Therefore ve conclude, that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.” Rom. iii. 28. “Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Phil. iii. 9. “By grace are ye saved, through faith.” Eph. ii. 8. These passages, while they show us that faith is necessary to justification, clearly distinguish it from that righteousness which is its foundation ; just as the reception of the gift is to be distinguished from the gift itself. Faith goes out of itself, and receives that righteousness, and on that firm foundation builds all its hopes of heaven. Because justification is by faith, (which is an exer. cise of our own) it is none the less by grace that we are saved. The apostle declares, “ Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace.” Rom. iv. 16.
(3.) The evidence of justification is good works. Where these are not found in a professed believer, there is no justification in the sight of God; hence it is, that we are said to be justified (that is evidential. ly) by our works. As the tree is known to be good by its fruit, and as the body is known to be alive by breathing, pulsation, and voluntary motion ; so is our faith proved to be genuine, even a faith which brings us into a state of justification before God, by its purifying the heart and life, and producing holy activity. In this sense it is, the apostle James asserts, that Abraham was justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar. “Show me," says the apostle, “thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works."
. See James ii. 14-26. Because good works are necessary to prove our faith sincere, the apostle taught us that “ by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” The faith of Jesus Christ, without the works of the law, so much insisted on by Paul, is undoubtedly that holy faith, which, renouncing the righteousness of the law, depends entirely upon the atonement of Christ, as laying the whole foundation of the believ. er's acceptance with God; and the faith without works, condemned by James, is manifestly that which is merely intellectual, and proves itself to be destitute of a holy character, by its being unaccompanied with the fruits of righteousness. Both apostles believed that justification was an act of grace; and that there was no condemnation to them that were in Christ Jesus ; and also, that such as were in Christ Jesus would walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Thus have we seen, that a free justification, through the righteous. ness or redemption of Christ, is a doctrine fully supported by the word of God. There is nothing in all the inspired volume that stands in
opposition to it. When Moses declares, The man that doeth these things shall live by them, he describeth the righteousness which is of the law. Rom. x. 5. And let us remember, when he describes this righteous. ness, he does not do it to induce us to trust in it for justification, but rather for the sake of convincing us of our absolute need of the right. eousness of God that is without the law, and which is witnessed by the law and the prophets, even that which is by the faith of Jesus Christ.
" But do not the scriptures speak very explicitly of God's rewarding the good works of his people; and of his doing it in such a way as to manifest his approbation of their character, as well as of that of their Redeemer ?” They certainly do: but such a reward does not militate against the doctrine of a free justification ; as will be seen by attend. ing to the distinction they make between a reward of debt and a re. ward of grace. Rom. iv. 4. The reward of grace is as real a decla. ration of God's approbation of the actions rewarded, as though it were granted under the covenant of works; and will therefore be as per. fectly proportionate to the moral excellence of the individuals who are rewarded. The servant who gained ten pounds had authority given him over ten cities; and he who gained five pounds, over five cities. Luke xix. 17-19. But since they who receive the reward of grace are at the same time deserving an everlasting punishment for their evil deeds, they cannot deserve a reward of any kind. They must therefore always feel, that their being rewarded for their goodness, instead of being punished for their wickedness, is wholly of grace. And this reward, being a matter of grace, must of necessity be through the mediation of Christ, which is the appointed channel for all gracious communications to the children of men. Believers are accepted in the Beloved, and their sacrifices, when they are of an acceptable character, can be accepted of God only through his Son Jesus Christ. 1 Pet. ü. 5.
While the reward of debt can be claimed by no man, who had in. curred the penalty of the law, which is wrath without mixture, the reward of grace may be claimed by such as would, if they had their just deserts, suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. It was on the foun. dation of grace, not of debt, that Nehemiah urged his plea to have his good deeds rewarded : “ Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God.” Yet when this holy man took a retrospect of his whole life, the evil and the good, and compared his imperfect services with the perfect law of God, his plea is, Spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. Neh. xiii. 14, 22. The very same persons who are rewarded for their good deeds, are spared from suffering eternal pun. ishment, according to mercy, even the greatness of God's mercy in Christ.
It has been shown that justification is subsequent to regeneration; 80 that no one is in a justified state, until he has become a new creature. I am aware, however, that there are some who consider this view of the doctrine as unscriptural. They think the apostle makes a different representation of the matter, when he says, “ But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Rom. iv. 5. This passage, as they un. derstand it, asserts that men are justified before they are converted, while they remain in a state of ungodliness: and some there are who imagine that the justification of believers is from eternity. There seems, however, to be no scriptural foundation for such a sentiment.
а If we are among the number, given to Christ before the foundation of the world, we are nevertheless, while continuing in unregeneracy, children of wrath, even as others; and are under condemnation as much as final reprobates. Eph. ii. 3. John iii. 18. There can be no more propriety in saying, the elect were justified from eternity, than in saying they were renewed from eternity. Both were from eternity in the divine plan, but have their actual existence in time; and it is the province of regeneration to go forward and prepare the way for justi. fication.
But how shall we understand this opposing text ? It concerns us first to ascertain what is meant by ungodly; for a right apprehension of the meaning of this word will prepare us to understand the whole passage. The justified are not here denominated the ungodly, to distinguish them from sinners who are in a converted state, but to distin. guish them from those holy creatures who never needed conversion. Creatures, who have been recovered from a state of depravity, even when their recovery has become perfect, are still, in the view of the law, ungodly, in distinction from such as never departed from God. The law will always thus consider them ; consequently their justifica. tion will never alter its character—they will never be justified as inno. cent, but as guilty creatures. In the passage which we are now considering, "the ungodly," and "the man that worketh not,” is the same character; and yet the man that worketh not is said to believe. Now nothing can be more evident than this, that believing, in the sense of this text, is one of the fruits of regenerating grace.
Faith (which is the same as believing,) “worketh by love”_" purifieth the heart” -"overcometh the world.” Faith is a holy exercise, that qualifies us to please God: but “they that are in the flesh can not please God." Not working (which in this passage is contrasted with believing,) does not stand in opposition to renovated affections, and the consequent works of righteousness; but it implies, that in gospel justification, ceasing to depend on the works of the law, we rely wholly on the atone. ment of Christ. But some will
say, “ If the elect remain in an unjustified state, har. ing no union with Christ until after they are renewed, in what way do they receive the favor of regeneration? Is it not by virtue of a previ. ous union with Christ, that they receive this renovating influence, and all other gifts requisite to their deliverance from the thraldom of sin ?" To this I would reply; It is in consequence of the mediatorial interpo. sition, that the race of Adam enjoy a new and merciful probation ; that they enjoy the means of grace, the offers of salvation, and the influen. ces of the Holy Spirit. These favors, which are enjoyed in common by those who are ordained unto eternal life and those who are not, come through the mediation and death of Christ ; but they do not prove that any union exists between him and those on whom the favors are conferred. Regeneration comes to us through the sacrifice of Christ
and his intercession for transgressors ; but it evinces no antecedent union between him and the sinner who is the recipient of the favor ; for until it is received, no union can exist—“ what concord hath Christ with Belial?” Justification, then, must be subsequent to regeneration, though the latter is procured by the death of Christ, and is granted to sinful men wholly on his account. That renewing grace is given, in consideration of the mediatorial interposition in our behalf, is made evident by the following passage : “ But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righte. ousness which we had done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior: that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Tit. ii. 4—7. The whole mediatorial work is here shown to be an expression of God's kindness and love to man, especially that discriminating part, the washing of regeneration, effected by the power of the Holy Ghost, This influence, it is worthy to be noted, is shed on us through Jesus Christ : and immediately consequent upon this, we are justified by his grace, and made heirs accord. ing to the hope of eternal life.
It is through the righteousness of Christ that we do, in the first instance, receive the gift of faith, even that precious faith, without which we can not be saved, and with which we can not be lost. Peter, in the beginning of his second epistle, thus addresses the Christians to whom he wrote: “ To them that have obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” From this address it appears, it was through the Savior's righteousness they obtained the gift of faith; but this is a gift of such a nature, that it must have been bestowed on them prior to their union with him, because faith is the very thing which constitutes that union.
That free justification by faith in the Redeemer's righteousness, which is the subject matter of this Article, is in sweet harmony with all the other parts of the system of revealed truth. Any other scheme of justification is at war with the whole gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not hesitate to say, that a mistake here is fundamental—it makes another gospel. So the matter was viewed by Paul, as is manifest by his epistle to the Galatians. See chap. i. 6—9.
There are none of our Articles with which this does not accord, and there are some with which its agreement is very apparent; while with these every other plan of justification is seen to be perfectly at variance. Between this Article and the third, fourth, and fifth of the present series, the agreement is very manifest. The third, which ex. hibits the perfection of the law, in its injunctions and penalties, suppo. ses a legal justification to be consistent, in case of a perfect unremitting obedience; but in all other cases to be wholly inconsistent. Every attempt to make the law justify the creature, who has violated its precepts, is calculated to destroy its existence: “For it is written,