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ROMANS iii. 24.
Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.
THE transgressors of human laws, subjected to the avenging sentence of a human Judge, would inquire with eagerness concerning the means of escaping punishment, and listen with solicitude and with transport to the tidings of pardon. Brethren -we are all transgressors of the laws of the Sovereign of the universe. We have violated the. commands of Him, whose authority over us is. supreme, founded on his power, and guided by his wisdom and his goodness. We are exposed to the penalties of a law proclaimed by this dread Sovereign, and denouncing woe eternal on its violators. Our condemnation has passed the lips of the Almighty Judge-and our sentence is"indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish" -"the worm that never dies-the fire which is
never quenched." With what eager solicitude should we inquire-what shall we do to be saved?
Our release from condemnation, and our restoration to favour, are acts of the unmerited goodness, and the voluntary mercy of God. For in the language of the text-we are "justified freely by his grace.
I. What is the nature of our justification?
III. What is its meritorious cause?
IV. What are its conditions?
V. What are the external means of its conveyance?
These are the inquiries which will afford a full view of this important subject *.
As our justification involves interests of infinite moment, it is not to be viewed as a speculative inquiry. It should excite our warmest feelings, and engage our most vigorous and patient research.
I. What does our justification imply?
It is a term taken from legal proceedings; and it implies an accusation; and an acquittal, or a
2 Rom. ii. 8, 9. Mark ix. 44, 46, 48.
*This subject is discussed with admirable clearness and precision in a treatise by Dr. Waterland. The Lord Bishop of Llandaff has rendered an essential service to the interests of religious truth, by the republication of the works of this eminently learned and orthodox divine; and by an interesting view of his life and comprehensive analysis of his writings,
pardon; a declaration of innocence, or a remission of guilt, restoring the pardoned offender to full favour. The accusation that meets man at the bar of his judge, is-his having transgressed the righteous laws of his Maker; and thus defied the authority, and justice, and contemned the goodness of his Almighty Sovereign and gracious Benefactor. Against the sentence of condemnation, man has no plea to urge. "All have sinned"-" every mouth should be stopped""all are guilty before God;" and therefore all are exposed to his just wrath. Here interposes mercy; and at the moment, when the criminals at the tribunal of Heaven were convicted of rebellion against their Maker and Sovereign, and the sentence of destruction going forth against them, they are justified their sins are cancelled; their punishment is remitted; they are restored to favour.
II. Who are the agents in the justification of sinful man?
Behold engaged in it the adorable Godhead.
God the Father, so loving the world "→ a guilty and condemned world, "as to give his only begotten Son, that the world through him might be saved";""laying help on one who is mighty, exalting one chosen out of the people→ commending his love towards us, in that while
Rom. iii. 23.
d John iii. 16.
we were yet sinners, he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us; rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, sending his Son to be the propitiation for our sins, to redeem us who were under the law, to give us eternal life, according to the exceeding riches of his grace, justifying us." Blessed then be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us and chosen us in him, reconciling us to himself by Jesus Christ.
Behold too, engaged in the work of our justification, God the Son; saying to his Almighty Father, "Lo I come to do thy will; assuming the body prepared for him, made a curse for us, enduring for us ignominious sufferings and death; giving himself for our sins; delivered for our offences, and raised for our justification. Blessing and honour therefore be unto him, that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood f."
Behold too, the agency of the Holy Spirit in our justification-that " Spirit which maketh intercession for us; by whom we have access unto the Father; whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption "." Behold then, in the Father
* See Rom. viii. 32. Rom. iii. 25. Eph. i. 7. 2 Cor. v. 19. &c. &c. &c.
f See Heb. x. 2 Cor. v. 21. &c. * See Rom. viii. 26. Eph. ii. 18.
Rom. iv. 25. Rev. i. 5.
devising, in the Son executing, in the Holy Ghost completing, the plan of salvation, the agency of the adorable persons of the Godhead, in the justification of the sinner.
III. What is its meritorious cause?
What is it which procures to man this exalted benefit? By his transgressions he had forfeited the divine favour, and become obnoxious to divine wrath. Can his own works, his own performances, merit pardon, or procure a reinstatement in the blessings which were forfeited? Then indeed he would have cause to glory. No -his own works, even were they so pure as to sustain the scrutiny of divine holiness and justice, can neither merit pardon for the past, nor procure favour for the future. They are only the service which he is bound to render; the debt of gratitude which is due to the Author and the Benefactor of
his being. But alas! man's best performances are stained with imperfection. Man's most holy works need repentance. Not then by works of righteousness are we saved. "By the deeds of the law," saith an inspired Apostle, "can no flesh be justified "." An atonement for man's transgressions appears necessary to vindicate the justice of God, and to establish the authority of the divine government. This atonement was made by the sufferings and death of the Son of God in
Rom. iii. 20.