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accepted, acquitted, and made partakers of eternal life and glory.
But, alas! men in general are not disposed to find out this way, or to make any serious inquiries concerning it. And what is the reason ? Our Lord gives an answer to this question : “they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” None will value a remedy until they know they are diseased. To apply this to men in the character of sinners, it may be remarked, that they must be acquainted with their condemnation and misery by sin, before they will welcome deliverance and salvation by Christ. The doctrine of man's condemnation, in
consequence of original sin and actual transgression, is inculcated throughout the scriptures. This is the foundation on which the gospel stands. And the gospel is a dispensation which brings glad tidings of mercy to the miserable, of forgiveness to the guilty, of redemption to the captive, of justification and salvation to the ruined and lost. But it is one of the devices of Satan, the enemy of God and man, to corrupt the gospel ; and this he has effected in a greater or less degree in all ages. In the churches of Galatia there were false teachers, under his influence, who distorted the doctrine of justification by Christ; and thus they perverted the whole gospel, and introduced, in the words of the apostle at the commencement of this epistle, —"another gospel.". His principal objects therefore, in writing to the Galatians, were to oppose these false teachers, to confute their error, and to establish the great and leading truths of the
gospel. This he accomplishes by shewing that the works of the law are to be rejected as to the ground of our acceptance with God; that all men are under sin and the curse; and that justification and salvation are to be procured only by Jesus Christ.–The text is one of the many passages in the word of God which clearly exhibits to us the nature of our justification. “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 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: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” These words will lead me
I. To shew what justification is.
II. To confirm the apostle's assertion that none can be justified by the law. And
III. To illustrate the position, that justification is to be obtained only by faith in Jesus Christ.
I. We are to consider what justification is, or wherein it consists.
Justification implies forgiveness of sin, and deliverance from its consequences.
It is the means of our acceptance with God, as if we were perfectly righteous characters. It is not, however, making us righteous in our persons, but in our state. To be made personally righteous is the work of sanctification. To be considered, by God's grace, relatively righteous in Christ, is justification. Some persons, like the papists, confound these two graces; but the scripture keeps them perfectly distinct. Justification is not
opposed to our personal sin, either original or actual; but to our deliverance from its condemnation. It is said in the context, that "the scripture hath concluded all under sin. It hath shut up all (as the Greek literally signifies) under sin, in a state of condemnation. Justification is deliverance from this state : the term, therefore, is opposed to condemnation through sin, and not to the sin which has occasioned it. But justification will not be publicly and formally announced upon the subjects of it, before the great day of judgment, when the people of God will be acquitted and declared righteous, before angels and men, by the Judge of the whole earth. however, enter a justified state in the present world, or we shall never be thus publicly justified in that day at the bar of God. Previous to death and judgment, every human being is either in a state of justification or of condemnation. There is no middle condition between these two-no neutral ground can be admitted; all who are not interested in God's method of justification are under condemnation. On the other hand, all who have acceded to God's plan of mercy are freed from the charge of sin, and delivered from its curse.
For “ there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus,” and who, as the evidence of their union with him, “ walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” When a sinner is justified, he receives a pardon and is accepted as righteous. But pardon and justification are, in reality, two different things, clearly distinguishable in common language. When a man is pardoned, it supposes that he has
broken the law, but that the law is dispensed with, and that the just and threatened punishment is not put in execution. But when he is justified, it supposes that he has a righteousness equal to the demands of the law, and, therefore, that he may be acquitted on the principles of justice. To be pardoned and to be justified, therefore, in strict and precise language, are two distinct conditions ; although, in the scriptural justification, they are never separated, but always happily united. Justification, in the scriptural sense, includes pardon, and with it the imputation of righteousness. To exemplify this :—The sinner has broken the law, and therefore he cannot answer its demands; but being freed from the guilt and threatened' punishment of sin, in this respect, he obtains a gracious and unmerited pardon. This, however, is not all; for, interested in the Redeemer by faith, he receives a righteousness, which is imputed to him as though it were his own, and this righteousness answers all the requisitions of the law, as if it had been completely and perfectly obeyed; so that the law has no charges against him : in this view, therefore, he is justified or pronounced righteous in the sight of God's holy law. Hence arises the challenge of the apostle : “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? 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.” The manner of our justification is described by the apostle
in few words:-We are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” As we are, confessedly, sinners, we cannot be justified by denying or attempting to disprove our guilt; but the blessing treated of, consists in the non-imputation of sin, and in God's graciously regarding us, through Jesus Christ, as if we were innocent. In this view St. Paul refers to the exulting language of the Psalmist, concerning our justification, which, in fact, has been the same in substance, under every dispensation of religion. "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” With regard to the nature of justification, the scripture will farther bear us out in the following remarks. It is a present blessing; for it is expressly declared—there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus :"-he that believeth “is passed from death unto life:"-
being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” It is a complete benefit , for "all that believe are justified from all things :" "all manner of sin shall be forgiven unto men:
:"“though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” And, once more, it is an irreversible benefit; for, “thus saith the Lord : I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”