The Matter, Manner, Time And Effects of It.
Mr. Thomas Dutton
Late Minister in London, and Author of the Discourse
on the New Birth, and Religious Letters.
Printed by William Smith
For Archibald Coubrough, Bookseller; and
sold at his Shop, above the choss.
In the justification of a sinner in the sight of God I shall consider four things, principally.
FIRST. The Matter of it. SECONDLY. The Manner of it. THIRDLY. The Time of it. And
FOURTHLY. The Effect of it, with respect to the soul. And then
FIFTHLY. In the last place I shall add something by way of Use. I shall consider,
FIRST. The Matter of justification, or the matter of that righteousness whereby a sinner is made righteous in the sight of God. And this, according to the Scriptures of truth, is the complete obedience of Jesus Christ; exclusive of all the creature's works, whether before or after its regeneration by the Spirit of God. The complete obedience of Jesus Christ to the divine Law has two branches which are commonly styled His active and passive obedience; which consist in His fulfilling all the Law's requirements, and enduring all its penalties. The righteousness which God's Law requires has two parts, viz., a negative part and a positive part. The negative part of righteousness consists in abstaining from, or the not doing of those things which the Law forbids. And the positive part of righteousness consists in the doing of those things which the Law requires. 'And sin is the transgression of the law (1 John. 3:4) in both these respects; on which account the Law's penalty becomes righteously due to every transgressor. And these two parts of the Law's righteousness, though they may be distinguished, yet not divided. For whoever wants that conformity to the Law which it requires, is likewise a transgressor of it in doing what it forbids; and whoever does what the Law forbids, wants that conformity to its precepts which the Law requires, so that they cannot be divided; but yet they may be distinguished. And the transgressor of the Law is an unrighteous person in the eye of the Law in both these respects. And answerably, it was necessary that the righteousness of Christ should consist of two parts. As,
1. His active obedience, to answer to the positive part of the Law's righteousness. And this consists in that perfect, universal and perpetual obedience which He yielded to the requirements of God's holy Law, both internally and externally in heart, lip and life from His birth to His death. Whereby He gave the Law its due, even all that obedience which its extensive precepts demanded; and so fulfilled it as to the positive part of its righteousness. For being made of a woman, He was made under the law (Galatians. 4:4). And what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law (Romans. 3:19). Christ was under the Law, and what things soever it says in its requirements, it said to Him; and He yielded a perfect obedience thereto on purpose to fulfill it. Thus He says of Himself, Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil (Matthew. 5:17). And thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness (Matthew. 3:15); And He that sent Me is with Me, says our Lord, the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him (John. 8:29). He did all the things which God's Law required; He did them perfectly; He did them constantly, or always did them in such a manner that God the Father was well pleased with His obedience. By this He satisfied the Law's requirements and gave it all that it demanded. Yea, let me say, He gave it more than it could demand. All that the Law demanded, as it was given out to Adam, and in him, to all his posterity, was no more than the perfect obedience of the creature that was under it. And this Christ yielded in His human nature-that nature being personally united to His divine was the obedience of His person; and so had an infinite worth and glory in it; whereby He gave the Law more than it could demand. As was foretold of Him, The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness' sake; He will magnify - the law and make it honourable (Isaiah. 42:21). 0 how was the divine Law magnified by so great a Person's being made under it! How honorable was it made by His great obedience! Let me say, the Law could not have been so magnified, nor have had so much honor given it by the most perfect obedience of all the creatures to eternity, as it had by the obedience of this one Lord Jesus! If sin had never entered, the creatures would have obeyed the Law perfectly and perpetually. But their obedience could have rose no higher than their beings, which were finite; and so the Law could have had but a finite honor. But the Person of Christ being infinite, His obedience was such, and so the Law had an infinite honor given it. Oh the transcendent glory of Christ's obedience! And how well pleased was the Lord for His righteousness' sake! How well pleased was He with this righteousness! And for this righteousness' sake, how well pleased was He with all those for whom it was wrought out. For as our Lord yielded a complete obedience to all the precepts of the moral Law; whereby He wrought out a perfect righteousness, so He did it not for Himself, but for us. As He was born for us, so He was made under the Law for us, and obeyed it for us; and thereby He wrought out a righteousness for us. He needed it not for Himself, no, it was to cover His naked children. All mankind had a perfect robe of moral righteousness in their representative head, Adam, while he stood in the state of innocence. But upon his first sin they lost it and became naked; and as such, were exposed to the wrath of a sin-revenging God. And this was the case of the elect of God as well as others, as they stood related to the first Adam and considered in the Fall. But these being of old ordained to eternal life (Acts. 13:48), it was necessary that they should be completely righteous, that so the Law and justice of God might not oppose their enjoyment of eternal salvation. And in order to make them so, Christ, the Second Adam, obeys the Law perfectly for them in such a manner as they, by reason of sin, were utterly incapable of. Whereby He made them a righteousness that was every way as large and spotless as that which they had in their first Adam-head before his fall. Yea, in such a manner as to make them a righteousness that is every way answerable to His own superior glory as the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven; and to their transcendent relation unto Him, their heavenly Head, as such. The first Adam's righteousness was a bright garment that was every way fitted to make creatures stand before God with acceptance in the enjoyment of Eden's bliss, or the natural happiness of an earthly paradisiacal state; but the Second Adam's righteousness is an outshining, glorious robe that is every way fitted to make all those who are clothed with it to stand before the face of God, or in His immediate presence, with the highest acceptance in the enjoyment of the heavenly paradise, or third heaven's glory. The finite glory of the first Adam's righteousness was changeable in itself and might be lost; and accordingly it was. But the infinite glory of the righteousness of the Second Adam is absolutely unchangeable in itself, can never fade or be lost, but endures forever. It is a durable and everlasting righteousness that will abide the same in all the immense glories of it through all the successive ages of eternity. Riches and honour are with Me, says our Lord, yea, durable riches and righteousness (Proverbs. 8:18). And, Lift up your eyes to the heavens, says He, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but My salvation shall be for ever, here is salvation in this righteousness, and there is none in any other, and My righteousness shall not be abolished (Isaiah. 51:6). How well then are they dressed who are clothed with this glorious, unchangeable, everlasting robe! And how miserably apparelled are those wretched souls who seek to adorn themselves with the filthy rags of their own righteousness; which can never make any soul righteous in the sight of God! For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous (Romans. 5:19). As by the disobedience of one man, Adam, many, i.e., all his posterity, were made sinners, so by the obedience of one, the Lord Jesus Christ, shall many, i.e., all His seed, be made righteous. But thus much shall suffice as to the first branch of Christ's obedience, or His active obedience to the Law's requirements; whereby He makes all His positively righteous to the utmost perfection and highest glory in the eye of the holy Law and strict justice of God.
2. The passive obedience of Jesus Christ is another part of His righteousness which was absolutely necessary to make us completely righteous in the sight of God, with respect to the negative part of the Law's righteousness. Which, as was said, consists in that not doing of those things which the Law forbids. And as we were transgressors of the Law, we had done those things which were forbidden by the Law; and on this account justly deserved its penalty. And therefore it was necessary in order to set us free from guilt, condemnation and wrath, that He should be made sin and a curse for us, and die in our stead; which, in infinite grace, He submitted to. And in these sufferings of His, His passive obedience consisted: He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians. 2:8); He was made . . . sin for us (2 Corinthians. 5:21); and a curse for us (Galatians. 3:13); and died in our stead (1 Peter. 3:18). And being an infinite person, He was able by Himself-the sacrifice of Himself-to purge away our sins, to overcome the curse, to endure all that wrath which was due to us, till He had drank off that bitter cup even to the last drop of it; and then the Law and justice of God being fully satisfied, He was judicially raised from the dead-God the great Creditor set Him free when He sent an angel from heaven as the messenger of justice, to roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre. For as He had made peace by His blood, so God, as the God of peace, brought Him again from the dead ... through the blood of the everlasting covenant (Hebrews. 13:20); and thereby openly acquitted Him as the great Representative of His people, in their name and room. For as He was delivered for our offences, so He was raised again for our justification (Romans. 4:25). And thus by His passive obedience He made us completely righteous in the sight of God and in the eye of His holy Law with respect to the negative part of its righteousness, or the not doing of those things which it forbids; and as spotless as if sin had never entered. He loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood (Revelations. 1:5); His blood. .. cleanseth us from all sin (1 John. 1:7); and hence we are said to be justified by His blood (Romans. 5:9); and to have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians. 1:7). In as much as the Law and justice of God being fully satisfied by His blood, here was a way opened in which the exceeding riches of divine grace might be extended unto us in the forgiveness of all our sins, with honor to all the divine perfections. In this God can be just in forgiving of sins (1 John. 1:9). And, with reverence be it spoken, God could not forgive sin without a satisfaction to His Law and justice, to the injury of His infinite holiness, His unchangeable truth and strict justice. No; the glory of infinite grace and boundless mercy might not be advanced to the eclipsing of any of the divine perfections. If it had been possible that all the perfections of God could have been glorified in the salvation of sinners without the blood of Christ's cross, He had never given up the darling of His soul unto the stroke of His justice. But it was not possible; and therefore the cup might not pass from Him without His drinking it. The kings of the earth, indeed, to show their royal grace, do sometimes pardon malefactors who are justly condemned by the laws of the kingdom; and herein it is true the clemency of the prince is displayed, but still the law suffers and the prince's honor too, in relation to it. And this, because it is impossible for them to find out an expedient whereby the law's penalty might be endured and the life of the transgressor saved. But this kind of proceeding was altogether incompatible with the honor of the divine Lawgiver and with the dignity of His righteous Law. And therefore His infinite wisdom interposed and found out a way to punish sin and yet to save the sinner to the harmonious glory of all His attributes. And this is the great salvation we have by Christ's cross. By the cross of Christ we are forever delivered from all that wrath that was due to us on account of our sin; and that in such a way which makes us spotless creatures in the eye of the Law; so that it has nothing to charge us with, as washed in Christ's blood, nor can thunder out any of its curses against us. For being washed in this Fountain we are white as snow, yea, whiter than snow (Psalms. 51:7), and have a negative righteousness as large as all the prohibitions of God's extensive Law. And an unspeakable privilege this is unto us who are sinners, as considered in ourselves.
But then, if this negative righteousness which we have by the passive obedience of our Lord, whereby we are freed from the Law's curse, was all the righteousness we had, we should not be completely righteous with respect to the Law's requirements, or the positive part of the Law's righteousness; and so could not have a right to the blessings thereof. And therefore the active obedience of our Lord, or that perfect obedience which He yielded to the Law's requirements through the whole course of His life, is an essential part of His righteousness; which was absolutely necessary to make us perfectly righteous, and so fully blessed, according to the utmost latitude of the Law. It is this that makes us positively righteous. Yea, it is this that I look upon to be, in the most strict and proper sense, His righteousness. It is this that makes us beautiful, glorious creatures in the eye of God and of His holy Law. As beautiful and bright as righteous Adam was in his paradisiacal state; yea, transcendently more beautiful and glorious. For, as was said, that great obedience which our Lord yielded to the divine Law was every way answerable to the transcendent dignity of His Person as God-Man; and so must needs have a transcendency of glory in it infinitely beyond what was possible to be found in the most perfect obedience of all the creatures. Does the Law require us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and strength? Does it require us always thus to do? We are just such in Christ-as it requires us to be; and have such a conformity thereto that it can find no fault with, but every way approves of and is satisfied with. Yea, such a conformity that not only pays the Law its due and whatever it can demand of the most perfect creatures; but that has a redundancy and overplus, or more than enough in it. So that in this righteousness of Christ we are not only made perfectly righteous, in a Law sense, according to the glory of the first Adam's state; but superlatively righteous, every way answerable to the superior dignity of the new Adam's Person and the transcendent glory of His heavenly state. And we being fore-ordained to a participation hereof, it was necessary that we should have such a righteousness that would fit us to stand forever in the presence of Jehovah, with the highest acceptance as the objects of His eternal complacency.
Thus it appears that the active and passive obedience of our Lord, or both these branches of His righteousness, were absolutely necessary to make us completely righteous in the sight of God and of His holy Law. And though these two parts of His obedience cannot be divided, yet they may be distinguished: divided they cannot be, inasmuch as that soul who is washed from sin in His blood (Revelation. 1:5), or by His passive obedience, is also made righteous by His active obedience; and whoever is made righteous by His active obedience is likewise made spotless by His blood. On which account the blessedness of a justified state is sometimes expressed by one part of His righteousness, and sometimes by the other. But though they cannot be divided, yet they may and must be distinguished: forasmuch as by His passive obedience we are more properly discharged from guilt and freed from the curse; and by His active obedience we are more properly made righteous and inherit the blessing. And both these parts of our Lord's obedience make up that one righteousness of His whereby we are justified in the sight of God; or, which is the matter of a sinner's justification before God.
And as the complete obedience of Christ in both its parts is the matter of justification, or of the justifying righteousness of a sinner before God; so it stands alone, as such, in its own comprehensive glory, exclusive of all the creature's works, whether before or after is regeneration by the Spirit of God. As, Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works (Romans. 4:6). This righteousness which is here said to be without works, is the obedience of Jesus Christ; which is the justifying righteousness of a sinner; and is so complete in itself that nothing can be added to it to make it more so. All the works of the creature since the Fall are imperfect; and therefore utterly unfit to be its justifying righteousness before God, either in whole or in part. It is impossible that an imperfect obedience can make the person that performs it perfectly righteous; and such is the infinite purity of God's nature and the strictness of His justice, that He can accept nothing for righteousness that is not perfectly conformed to the rule of it in His holy Law. And therefore our own obedience cannot be the whole of our righteousness before God. Nor can it be any part of it; because that which is wholly imperfect can be no part of perfection.
The best moral performances that a person is capable of while in an unregenerate state fall far short of that perfect righteousness which the Law requires; and therefore cannot be pleasing unto God and accepted by Him as such; and so they cannot make the person acceptable in His sight that performs them. Whence it is, that the), that are in the flesh, (or in a state of unregeneracy) cannot please God (Romans. 8:8).
For without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews. 11:6). The chief end of every natural man in doing good works is to make himself righteous in the sight of God; and as he brings his own righteousness to make him accepted, which falls so far short of what God's Law requires, it is impossible that he should be pleasing to Him, or justified by Him. So that the works of the creature, while in an unregenerate state, can be no part of that righteousness which makes a sinner just in the sight of God.
And as for those works of the creature which are done after it is born from above; though they are indeed pleasing and acceptable unto God, by Christ, in point of filial obedience, yet not in point of justifying righteousness. Nor does such a soul perform them for that end. No; the soul that is born again, that has faith in Jesus, brings nothing for its acceptance with God and justification in His sight but the righteousness of Christ: and with this God the Father is so well pleased-as it answers the glorious perfections of His nature and all the requirements of His holy law-that He cannot but accept such a soul; and pronounce it righteous to the utmost perfection in that glorious righteousness its faith lays hold of and pleads before Him. Thus its person is accepted. And where God accepts the person, He accepts the works of that person. As, And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering (Genesis. 4:4). First to Abel's person, and then to his offering. And the reason why God had respect unto him and to his offering was because he had faith in the Messiah who was to come; and looked for all his acceptance with God in Christ, the promised Seed. As, By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain (Hebrews. 11:4). His faith brought Christ, typed out in that offering, for the acceptance of his person in point of righteousness with God; and that sacrifice, to be accepted by Christ, in point of filial obedience. And so both found the highest acceptance with God. And thus all the good works of the new born, being done in faith, are acceptable unto God by Christ, but not in point of righteousness; nor do they perform them for that end. The good works of a regenerate person are indeed of a more excellent kind than can possibly be performed by any natural man; inasmuch as they spring from a principle of true love to God in the heart, have a higher conformity to the perfect rule of His holy Law, and the end of them is the glory of God in Christ. But yet, they are not without sin; they have much imperfection in them; and need washing in the blood of Christ in order to their acceptance with God, in point of obedience. And being thus imperfect in themselves, they can be no part of that perfect righteousness which is the matter of a sinner's justification in the sight of God.
Thus it appears that all the works of the creature, both in a regenerate, as well as in an unregenerate state, are altogether unfit to be the matter of its righteousness before God; and therefore must needs stand excluded from being any part thereof.
Besides, it was not becoming the infinite wisdom of Jehovah to appoint any other obedience for a justifying righteousness than that which is absolutely perfect, which His holy Law can approve of and His strict justice accept; and accordingly, He has appointed no other. And on this account also all the works of the creature stand excluded from being any part of its justifying righteousness. As they are altogether unfit in themselves to be the matter of it; so they were never appointed for this end. No; God has appointed the obedience of His Son to be the only justifying righteousness of a sinner; and this, as was said, is so complete in itself that nothing can be added to it to make its glory more full.
It is impossible that our imperfect obedience should make Christ's more perfect. Yea, was ours absolutely perfect, yet could it add no perfection to His. Christ's righteousness has all perfections in it, both created and uncreated! And what can be added to that which is infinite? And such is the glory of Christ's righteousness! Would it not then be a disgrace to this full, this glorious robe, to tack any part of the creature's obedience to it, was it ever so perfect? How much more then is it so to join our imperfect obedience, the filthy rags of a sinner's righteousness, to the spotless obedience, the infinitely glorious righteousness of the Son of God! Would it not be a disgrace to the creature-sun to pretend to set a candle by its bright body to make its light more glorious? Much more is it so to Christ, the Sun of Righteousness (Micah. 4:2), to pretend to join the dim light of our obedience with His as if this could add to its infinite glory! No, no; let Christ stand alone in that exalted sphere where His Father has placed Him and forever shine forth in the peculiar glory of His own great name, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jeremiah. 23:6; 33:16)! While all the innumerable multitude of the saved ones forever bow down with the deepest adoration; rejoicing to be made perfectly glorious and everlastingly blessed by the resplendent rays of His infinite brightness cast upon them! While wondering angels assist the joy and join the praise to the endless ages of a blessed eternity!
But stay, my soul, you are yet in the body; and must wait a while for the glory of that bright day when, in heavenly raptures and endless praises, you shall sing the Lamb's new song; proclaiming Him worthy to have all the glory of your salvation; who has loved you, and washed you from your sins in His own blood (Revelation. 1:5); and made you splendidly glorious by the refulgent rays of His own infinite righteousness! which He has cast upon you, and with which He surrounds you! And meanwhile, though you are overspread with sin, death and darkness in yourself yet lift up your head, rejoice in your Saviour, and praise THE LORD YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS to the utmost of your present ability, your little strength; and humbly make your boast in Him all the day long; even all this short space of your mortal life until the days of eternity come on; and then you shall see Him as He is (1 John. 3:2), and praise Him as you would in those heights of glory and bliss which are yet unknown! in that Mount of Vision from whence you shall never come down! But, to return from this digression.
The obedience of Christ, as the justifying righteousness of a sinner, being so perfect in itself that nothing can be added to it by any of the creature's obedience to make its glory more full; yea, so perfect that the highest obedience of a creature, were it possible that it could be joined with it, would be but a disgrace to its infinite glory. What saint then is there that would desire to be found in any other righteousness for his justifying dress before God? I am sure, to a man of them, they are all of Job's mind who, though he were perfect, yet would not know his soul: but despise his life (Job. 9:21). He saw such a transcendent glory in His Redeemer's righteousness, that though his own were perfect, he would not know his soul; that is, he would not approve of his own obedience as his justifying dress before God; but would despise his life, or those, his supposed perfect works, to which the Law's promise of life is annexed; and choose to be found in Christ's righteousness for all his acceptance with God; that so he might enjoy that superior life, glory and blessedness which are only to be had in and through Christ. And of this mind was the Apostle Paul (Philippians. 3:7, etc.). He counted all his birth privileges and his legal performances, both before and after his regeneration, to be but loss and dung, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ; that so he might be found in Him and His righteousness, not having on his own. And all the saints are of this mind; they are such that rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians. 3:3).
And as the complete obedience of Jesus Christ is the matter of a sinner's justification before God, exclusive of all its own works; so, all along, throughout the whole Gospel, it stands opposed to the works of the law, or our own obedience to the Law; this alone having the broad seal of Heaven, the stamp of divine authority upon it, for this end. And had it not been thus, there could have been no salvation for any one soul. And therefore the Apostle Paul, when he professes himself not to be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans. 1:16), gives the righteousness of Christ as the reason of all that salvation which this powerful Gospel brings to poor sinners (Romans. 1:17): For therein (i.e., in the Gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. This righteousness which is here spoken of is the righteousness of Jesus Christ; and is styled the righteousness of God: 1. Because it was of God the Father's contriving for the justification and salvation of His people. 2. Of His appointing for that end. 3. Of His revealing. And, 4. Of His accepting. Again, it is styled the righteousness of God, because the Lord Jesus Christ, the Person who wrought it out, is God equal with the Father and has all the essential perfections of the Godhead in Him. And thus, in all respects, it denotes the glory and excellency of this righteousness, and the sufficiency of it, for the justification of a sinner. Thus, Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans. 3:20). In this verse all the creature's obedience stand forever excluded as its justifying righteousness before God; and therefore if there had not been a better righteousness provided there could have been no salvation for one sinner. But in the next verse the salvation of God revealed in the glorious Gospel is brought in with an adversative, a But. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets (Romans. 3:21). This righteousness is said to be manifested, and now to be manifested: that is, by the blessed Gospel and the dispensation thereof, which brought life and immortality to light thereby for poor sinners. And this righteousness of God is said to be without the law; that is, without our obedience to the Law. But though, as if the Apostle should say, This righteousness of God by which a sinner is justified and saved is altogether without the Law, the works of the Law, or the creature's obedience to it; yet is not the Law hereby set aside or made void, but completely fulfilled. It is such a righteousness that though it is not of the Law, nor of the Law's bringing to light; yet now it is manifested by the Gospel, the Law approves of it as that which answers all its demands and satisfies it to the full. The Law bears witness of it as current coin that pays it all its due, even to a mighty overplus. And therefore when free grace justifies a sinner in this righteousness, that person is pronounced righteous, as a doer of the Law; for none but the doers of the law can be justified (Romans. 2:13). And as none can do the Law in their own persons, and so cannot be justified by their own obedience; so those who are justified in Christ's, the righteousness of the law is said to be fulfilled in them (Romans. 8:4). And as this righteousness of God, manifested by the Gospel, is witnessed to by the Law as being every way such that it requires; so likewise, it is no new, strange thing that was never heard of in the world before the Gospel, as a dispensation, entered; for it is witnessed by the . . . prophets (Romans. 3:21). Thus it was foretold what the language of all that are Christ's should be as they came up in the successive ages of time; who, one by one, even every one for themselves, should say, in the LORD have I righteousness (Isaiah. 45:24). And thus the Lord Himself speaks concerning His people, No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of Me, saith the LORD (Isaiah. 54:17). Thus, Hearken unto Me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness: I bring near My righteousness; it shall not be far off, and My salvation shall not tarry (Isaiah. 46:12-13). And, thus it was predicted concerning the Messiah as His peculiar work, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness (Daniel. 9:24). And, to mention no more, this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jeremiah. 23:6). Thus the righteousness of God (the complete obedience of Jesus Christ) without the Law (or exclusive of all the creature's works) being manifest by the Gospel, is witnessed by the Law and the prophets as the only justifying righteousness of a sinner before God. And so much for the first thing proposed, i.e., the Matter of justification.
SECONDLY. The Manner of Justification is likewise to be considered. And this is two-fold, and has respect: 1. Unto God. And, 2. Unto ourselves.
1. With respect unto God, the manner of the justification of a sinner is by imputation. And this stands, in God's reckoning, or accounting and pronouncing of a sinner righteous in the righteousness of His Son. And thus it stands opposed to a person's being righteous by inhesion, and by his own performances; as Adam was before his fall. The Law of God requires perfect righteousness, both in heart and life, in the creature that would be justified by it; and it can justify such an one, and no other. But since the Fall neither Adam nor any of his posterity were legally righteous in themselves; and so could not be justified by their own righteousness. For in this sense there is none righteous, (i.e., legally righteous in themselves, and by their own performances) no not one (Romans. 3:10). And, Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight (Romans. 3:20). For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans. 3:23); and so are shut up under the curses of His righteous Law, and bound over to His wrath in the sentence thereof; and so there is no life for a sinner by the Law: it cannot justify, but must condemn an unrighteous person. But the Gospel reveals a righteousness of God's providing; wherein a sinner may be perfectly righteous in the eye of His holy Law and strict justice; and accordingly justified and saved unto life eternal. And this, as was said, is the righteousness of Christ which God the Father reckons or imputes to a poor sinner as its own. He puts, or places Christ's righteousness to the sinner's account; as He put or placed his sin unto Christ's score. As, For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians. 5:21). Christ knew no sin, either by inhesion or commission; and yet God the Father put, or placed the sins of His people to His account, imputed them unto Him, and so made Him sin for us; that so we who knew no righteousness might be made the righteousness of God in Him by having His righteousness put, or placed to us, as ours, and we pronounced righteous therein; even perfectly so, merely by imputation. And as it was a righteous thing with God to impute the sins of His people unto Christ because of His voluntary undertaking for them as their Surety in the everlasting Covenant, to take their debts upon Himself and pay them to the full; so likewise, it is a just and equitable thing with God to impute the righteousness of His Son to His people; because it was performed by Him for them as their Representative in their room and stead: and accordingly, He imputes it unto them and thereby makes them just, and pronounces them righteous in His sight. And this is the only way whereby a sinner can be made righteous before God, viz., by His imputing a complete righteousness to it, which the soul itself puts not so much as the least finger to the performance of; but is wholly wrought out for it by another. As, Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works (Romans. 4:6).
And as God imputes the righteousness of His Son to poor sinners that have none in or of themselves, and can be just in justifying them in this way; in as much as this righteousness is such an one that every way answers the perfect purity of His nature and righteous Law, and was wrought out on purpose for them; so in justifying a sinner in this way He displays the exceeding riches of His grace (Ephesians. 2:7). It was free grace that contrived and appointed this righteousness for a sinner, free grace that accepted of it for him when performed, and it is free grace that imputes it to him, puts it upon him, or makes him righteous therein. Hence we are said to be justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans. 3:24). And to have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (which is one part of justification) according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians. 1:7). The matter of justification, or of the justifying righteousness of a sinner before God, as was before observed, is the righteousness of Christ, or His active and passive obedience; and the manner of God's justifying a sinner by the imputation of this righteousness regards both. God imputes the passive obedience of Christ unto the soul, or His being obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians. 2:8); whereby He satisfied justice and thereby discharges it from all guilt, and freely forgives all its sins. And He likewise imputes His active obedience, or the obedience of Christ's life, to the soul; whereby He makes and declares it to be righteous in His sight. And in both respects there is the most bright display of the exceeding riches of His grace. And therefore the righteousness of Christ by which a sinner is justified, is said to be a gift, a free gift, and a gift by grace. As, But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in the life by one, Jesus Christ (Romans. 5:15-17). Thus the manner of a sinner's justification with respect unto God is by imputation, or the imputation of Christ's righteousness to it by God the Father, of the freest grace.
2. With respect unto us, the manner of justification is by faith. And here I shall show, briefly: 1. What kind of faith justifying faith is. 2. How this faith acts towards its proper objects. And, 3. How, or in what respects the justification of a sinner is by faith. I shall begin to show,
First, I shall begin to show what kind of faith justifying faith is. And in order hereto, shall observe: 1. What it is not. And, 2. What it is.
1. Justifying faith is not a mere historical faith, or a bare assent to the truth of Christ's coming into the world to be the Saviour of men, of His dying for sinners, of His rising from the grave, and of His coming again at the last day to be the Judge of the quick and dead. This is not more than the devils have who believe, and tremble (James. 2:19); and no more than what thousands may have where the Gospel comes, and yet die in their sins and perish forever.
2. But justifying faith is a special faith that is peculiar to God's elect; and therefore styled the faith of God's elect (Titus. 1:1). And though this faith is called the common faith (Titus. 1:4), yet this phrase denotes no more than that it is common to all the elect of God; and is not to be understood as if it was common to others together with them. It is likewise styled precious faith (2 Peter. 1:1): To them that have obtained like precious faith with us. And it is said to be a gift of God's free grace to the saved ones (Ephesians. 2:8). That same free grace that gives them salvation as the end of their faith, gives them faith as a means to that end. This gift of justifying faith springs out of the grace of election; and therefore it is said, as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Acts. 13:48). And to denote the specialty of its kind, it is said to be the faith of the operation of God, who ... raised Christ from the dead (Colossians. 2:12). And to be effected by the exceeding greatness of God's power, . . . which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead (Ephesians. 1:19-20). But thus much as to the kind of justifying faith.
Secondly, I come to show how this faith acts towards its proper objects. The objects of justifying faith are the Person of Christ in His death and resurrection, His blood and righteousness; and God the Father, in and through Him, as justifying the ungodly. Christ is the immediate object, and God in Him the ultimate object of this justifying faith. And how it acts towards these its objects, I am now to show. But before I speak of its acts, I would just give a hint of it, as it is a principle. For as in nature there must be life before motion, so it is in grace.
Justifying faith, then, as it is a principle, grows not in nature's garden, is not brought into the world with us, nor acquired by human endeavors; but is wrought in the soul by the almighty energy of the Spirit of God at the time of regeneration. And hence, the grace of faith is reckoned up among the rest as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians. 5:22). When I say the principle of faith is wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, I intend thereby His immediate efficiency therein; and not to exclude the Father and the Son from this great work. No; all the three Persons in God have a joint efficiency in the work of faith, and accordingly, it is ascribed to them all: sometimes to the Father, sometimes to the Son, and sometimes to the Spirit; because all have a joint hand therein. The Father works it by Christ, Christ works it from the Father, and the Spirit works it from both. For when the appointed time comes that a vessel of mercy is to be filled with the life of grace; God the Father, the great Husbandman, cuts the soul off from the wild olive tree, its old stock, the first Adam and the Old Covenant, and ingrafts it into Christ, the Second Adam, the good olive tree; and thereby brings it under the New Covenant, and gives it a new life, the life of grace from Christ, its new and living Root. And Christ, at the same instant apprehends, or lays hold on the soul and secretly unites Himself to it; and hereby communicates the Spirit of grace and the spiritual life of grace unto it out of His own fullness. And the Holy Spirit of God, at the same moment, being sent from the Father and the Son, takes possession of the soul for Christ to form His image in it; and instantaneously gives it the life of grace, or a principle of every grace, and so, in particular, of this grace of faith, by His own immediate efficiency. Thus this grace of faith as a principle is created in the soul by Father, Son and Spirit; and with respect to each of the sacred Three is a work of almightiness. But as the Holy Spirit is the immediate efficient hereof, so, as I said, this principle of faith is wrought in the soul by His almighty energy. And this principle of faith wrought in the soul is a spiritual ability to know Christ, and God in Him, to have communion with Him, to receive all grace from Him, and to give all glory to Him.
Hence, in its acts, as it is a Christ-discerning faith, a soul-transforming faith, a heart-purifying faith; so it is a working faith, it worketh by love (Galatians. 5:6); it unites the soul to the objects beheld; it makes Christ, and God in Him, precious to the soul; it makes His promises precious, His ordinances precious, His commandments precious, His people precious; and enables the soul to lay out itself for the glory of God in all holy obedience; and while it thus walks in wisdom's ways, it finds them all to be pleasantness, and all her paths peace (Proverbs. 3:17). But as I am not to speak of the acts of faith comprehensively, but only of those which are peculiar to it as justifying; I shall pass over those of its acts whereby it is more properly called uniting faith; sanctifying faith, and working faith; and shall attend to the proper acts of justifying faith: for in these it works not at all.
Thus having hinted how the principle of faith is wrought in the soul, and that it is a spiritual ability to know and obey God in Christ; I come now to speak of the acts of this principle, as it is styled justifying faith; or to show how justifying faith acts towards Christ, and God in Him, its proper objects. And in order to the actings of faith towards these its objects, there must be first a revelation of them. The principle of faith, as I have said, is a spiritual ability to know and obey Christ and God in Him; and the actings of this principle towards its objects differ from it, just as the actions of the eye in seeing an object differ from its power of sight; and as the action of the hand in receiving a gift differs from its power of reception. And as the eye in nature, though it be ever so good, cannot discern an object unless it is presented before it in light, the proper medium whereby it may be beheld; so, nor can the eye of faith see Christ unless He is revealed to it by His Spirit in His Word. And as the hand in nature cannot receive a gift unless it is exhibited to it; so, nor can the hand of faith receive Christ unless He is held forth thereto, and put into it by His Spirit and Word. And therefore, says our Lord, speaking of the Holy Ghost, He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you (John. 16:14).
And further, in order to the revelation of Christ (for I begin with Christ, because He is the immediate object of faith), the Holy Spirit of God having wrought the principle of faith, discovers to the soul its own miserable and wretched state by nature; as being under the guilt and power of sin, the curse of God's Law, and the due desert of His eternal vengeance. And this He does by bringing the Law home to the conscience in its purity and spirituality; as it requires perfect, universal and perpetual obedience in heart, lip and life; and denounces wrath and death upon every transgressor for the least failure herein whereupon the soul receives a full conviction of its present misery and of its utter inability to help, or deliver itself from it; and so it dies unto all hope of life by the Law. And having such a clear discerning by faith of the depth of its misery as it never before had, nor could have imagined, it cries out as being in the greatest distress, What must I do to be saved?
And now, the soul being sick has a sensible need of the physician. And being hereby prepared for the revelation of Christ, the Holy Spirit reveals Him to the soul and sets Him before the eye of its faith in all His fullness as the great Saviour, as every way suitable to its case as a miserable sinner. And hereby He makes such an alluring display of His glory to it that attracts the whole soul after Him. And as He presents the excellency of Christ to the eye of faith, so He convinces the soul of the absolute necessity of looking unto Him alone for all its salvation (Hebrews. 12:2). As it is the command of God that a perishing sinner made sensible of its misery should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ; and as it is the declaration of Heaven that there is salvation in no other (Acts. 4:12)-either person or thing, nor in any other way than by faith in Him; whereupon, the soul, seeing the misery and damnation that will inevitably be the lot of all unbelievers, and the happiness and salvation of all those who are enabled to believe in Christ; it attempts to put forth an act of faith on Him for itself, being emboldened herein by the command of God and encouraged hereto by the indefinite promises of the Gospel. And though the soul feels its utter inability to put forth an act of faith on Christ for itself by reason of those weights which are upon it, those innumerable sins and fears which drag it downward towards despair; yet it is enabled so to do by the exceeding greatness of God's power, according to the working, the energy, or the present exerting of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand, etc. (Ephesians. 1:19-20). And as the soul is enabled to act faith upon Christ; so it is upon Him, as presented in some promise or declaration of the Gospel. For as the Spirit is the revealing agent and Christ the revealed object, so the Gospel in the hand of the Spirit is the revealing light; in which faith's object being presented, it acts towards Him as such, according to the degree of the revelation made and assistance afforded by that sovereign Lord, who, as He works herein, dividing to every man severally as He will (1 Corinthians. 12:11).
And by the way, this shows the woeful ignorance of those persons who think faith is a light matter: and from thence are apt to say, What, must we do nothing to be saved but just believe? This is an easy thing indeed. But, ah! miserable souls, how wretched is their case who thus argue! This shows them to be yet in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity (Acts. 8:23); that they never knew what the pangs of the new birth, nor soul plunges were. That they never experienced what it is for a soul to have the guilt of sin charged home upon the conscience, to have the curses of the Law roaring out against it, and to be stripped naked of all self-righteousness and strength; and in such a case and time, to be called to put forth an act of faith on Christ for itself; and that they never knew what power is requisite to enable a soul so to do. Will any say it is an easy thing to believe. Aye, say I, so it is with such a faith that thousands have, and yet perish. With such a faith by which the soul shelters itself under the false refuges of its own apprehended righteousness and strength; while it wears its own garment and eats its own bread, i.e., works for life, or thinks to live upon its own earnings; while it only makes mention of Christ, and would be called by His name a Christian, to take away its reproach (Isaiah. 4:1). It is an easy thing to believe with such a faith that can only stand in a calm. But is it an easy thing to believe in a storm? When the storm of God's apprehended wrath beats vehemently against the soul; then for it, in the face of the tempest, to put forth an act of faith on Christ for itself, is this an easy thing? If it is an easy thing for a dead man to act; then it is an easy thing for an unregenerate, unquickened soul to put forth an act of saving faith upon Christ. If it is an easy thing for a creature in the utmost weakness to perform mighty acts; then is it an easy thing even for the newborn soul in all its felt weakness to put forth an act of faith on Christ for itself, in the depth of its distress; which is such a mighty performance. No, this is a thing quite out of the reach of all creature power. It is indeed easy for a soul that has a principle of saving faith wrought in it to put forth an act of faith on Christ when the power of God enables it thereunto; as easy as it is to breathe when respiration is free; as easy as it is for the eye to see a presented object when it has a perfection of light and a plenitude of visive spirits; and as easy as it is for the hand to receive a gift that is put into it; and for the foot to walk unto any designed point of the compass when both have a fullness of life and spirits for those motions. But otherwise, to put forth an act of faith is quite out of the reach of the creature's ability. But to go on.
It is a most certain truth that nothing less than omnipotence is required to enable a soul to put forth an act of faith on Christ according to the degree of the revelation of Him made unto it. If anything less than almightiness could work faith, the power that enables a soul to believe would never have been so aggrandized, as here in this Ephessian text it is. Where it is said to be His, i.e., God's power, and the exceeding greatness of His power; and that souls believe according to His mighty power, and to the working of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, etc.
Our Lord, by the almighty power of God, had a double resurrection from the dead; and so have His people, in conformity to Him. He had first a resurrection of His soul from under all that guilt, wrath and death which He endured for us; when the sufferings of His soul being finished, and divine justice in that regard satisfied, the joys of His Father's favor, and of His being the God of peace both to Him and His, broke out upon His spirit like the sun from under an eclipse; and raised Him up to that life of joy in which He cried out, It is finished! Whereupon He commended His triumphant spirit into the hands of His Father, bowed His head, and gave up the ghost (John. 19:30; Luke. 23:46). And again, He had a resurrection of His body from under the dominion of death and the grave, when in His whole Person He was openly discharged from all the debts which His people owed, and which He had taken upon Himself to pay; and as having done it, was publicly justified, and entered upon endless life and glory in their room and stead. Thus Christ, by the power of God, had a double resurrection; and so have His people: for by virtue of their union with Him they have a conformity to Him.
They have first a resurrection of their souls; when, by the mighty power of God they are raised up from under all guilt, wrath and death in the conscience unto faith in Jesus; whereby they receive a full discharge from all sin, a right and title to endless life and glory, and enter into the perfect life of a joyful persuasion thereof; which is the first fruit of that full harvest of joy and glory, reserved for them when they shall enter into life eternal. And again, they shall have a resurrection of their bodies at Christ's Second Coming; they shall be openly discharged from all sin and publicly pronounced righteous; and as such, called to inherit the kingdom which is prepared for them (Matthew. 25:34). Thus the resurrection of Christ's people, in general, bears an analogy with His; and in particular the resurrection of their souls, when first raised up unto faith in Him, as dying for their sins, and raised again for their justification (Romans. 4:25); and is effected by the same mighty power of God, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead (Ephesians. 1:19-20); according to that proportion which was requisite to raise the Head and the members.
And as the first actings of faith in the same soul pass under various descriptions; such as, looking unto Jesus, coming unto Christ, fleeing unto Him, the city of refuge, running into His name as a strong tower, committing the soul into His hands, and trusting in His name for life and salvation; so the first actings of faith in different souls may in some measure vary, while, as was said, they believe according to the measure of the revelation of Christ made unto them, and to the degree of assistance afforded them; and yet in the main they all agree and may be summed up in this, viz.: The soul's believing on Christ for itself for all life and salvation. Some souls have clearer views of Christ and are enabled to believe on Him more strongly, and others are more weak in faith; but yet all believe truly that have a discerning of Christ as the only Saviour, and trust in Him alone for all their salvation. There were six cities appointed under the Jewish state to be Refuge Cities whither the manslayer might flee and be safe; all which typed out that fullness of refuge and safety that there is our one Lord Jesus for perishing sinners that flee unto Him by faith, as the hope set before them in the Gospel. And as the manslayer, being to haste for his life unto one of the cities of refuge, was ordered to flee unto that city which was nearest to him; so is it the duty and privilege of poor sinners, when they see their miserable condition, to haste immediately unto Christ, the great Saviour; and unto that in Christ which they have the clearest discerning of, and so in that regard is the nearest unto them; as being a suitable relief for that part of their misery which most sensibly affects them. And thus some souls, being most sensibly touched with the guilt and filth of sin, have a more clear revelation of the blood of Christ in its excellency and suitableness to cleanse ... from all sin (1 John. 1:9), and are enabled to haste unto this as the immediate refuge set before them. Other souls are more sensible of their misery, as naked creatures, and have a more clear discovery of Christ as a suitable, glorious remedy in regard to His righteousness! and these are enabled to run into His name, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, as the Refuge that is next, or most immediate, unto them. And others who have a more general sense of their misery have a more general revelation of Christ's excellency; and are enabled to flee unto Him for refuge as a complete Saviour that is every way suitable to their case. And though the distinct actings of faith on Christ in all these vary, yet in the main they agree; inasmuch as it is one Christ that is believed on for justification and life. They all flee unto Christ for refuge, and so are all safe; though one flees unto Him under one consideration, and another under another, according to that revelation they have of Him as suitable to their case. For though the soul's first actings of faith on Christ may more peculiarly respect some one of His distinct excellencies than the rest, yet all are implied: faith acts towards a whole Christ; and those of His excellencies which were not at first so distinctly viewed and acted towards by the soul are afterwards more fully discovered and particularly dealt with. Thus in general, justifying faith acts towards Christ, its object.
But more particularly; the Holy Spirit of God, as the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Ephesians. 1:17), reveals the blood of Christ to a sin-burdened soul in its infinite all-sufficiency to cleanse from all sin in some or other promise or declaration of the Gospel; and enables the soul to act faith therein. Thus, Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood (Romans. 3:25). And the particular actings of justifying faith towards Christ with regard to His blood, are: 1. A discerning of its all-sufficiency to take away sin. 2. An approving of it as such. And, 3. An entire dependence upon it, and recourse unto it for all pardon and peace with God. All which are comprehended in that phrase, faith in His blood.
The soul that acts faith in Christ's blood, as on the one hand it discerns the infinite all-sufficiency thereof to cleanse it from all sin; so on the other it sees an utter insufficiency in everything else, in all its prayers, tears, sufferings, etc. To take away the least sin, or in the leastwise to remove either the guilt or stain of any of its transgressions.
And as such a soul approves of the blood of Christ as sufficient in itself to take away sin, and as it is appointed of God for this end: so it disapproves of the pretended efficacy of everything else for this purpose.
Again, as such a soul has an entire dependence upon the precious blood of Christ for all its pardon and peace with God, and as it has an utter independence upon everything else, either to procure its pardon or make its peace; so it would not, for a world, substitute anything of its own, either doings or sufferings, in the room of Christ's blood, or join them together with it; because it sees that nothing else can take away sin, and also, because it would not derogate from the honor of the Redeemer's blood. No; the soul that acts faith in Christ's blood falls down and adores the Redeemer in the infinite all-sufficiency of His great sacrifice, and depends upon this alone for its justification from all sin in the sight of God. Faith will give none of the glory that is due to Christ's blood, as it cleanses from all sin, to anything done or suffered by the creature; but sets the crown upon the Redeemer's head and proclaims the Lamb worthy to have all the glory of washing His people from their sins in His own blood (Revelation. 1:5). Thus, justifying faith acts towards Christ, its object with regard to His passive obedience, His blood, according to the revealed efficacy thereof, for a full discharge from all sin.
Again, the Spirit of Christ reveals to the soul, in and by the Gospel, His active obedience, His righteousness, strictly so called: and faith acts towards it accordingly. Thus, this righteousness of God is said to be revealed from faith to faith (Romans. 1:17). As the righteousness of Christ is externally revealed in the Gospel, which is the doctrine of faith; so likewise, it is internally revealed by His Spirit to the soul; or set before the eye of its faith in some or other word of the Gospel shining in upon the heart in the Holy Ghost's light. Christ is said to be made of God unto us . . . righteousness as well as redemption (1 Corinthians. 1:30). As He is made redemption to us, both by price and power; for the forgiveness of all our sins and for our deliverance from all enemies; so He is made righteousness to us for the justification of our persons in the sight of God; or, for the making us positively righteous before God to the utmost perfection: whereupon we are declared righteous, have now a title to, and shall ere long inherit eternal life. So likewise, it is said that Christ was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians. 5:21). And that it is by the obedience of one that many shall be made righteous (Romans. 5:19). And when the Spirit of Christ takes the righteousness of Christ and shows it to the soul in these words, or in any other words of the Gospel, He makes such a revelation of it to the mind that it never before saw. The soul had wont to think that that righteousness whereby it might find acceptance with God and be justified before Him was something either in or done by itself. If it had any sight of the need of Christ's blood to cleanse it from sin; (as some sight of this a natural man is capable of, though not of that saving sight of it which is peculiar to the newborn upon the Spirit's revelation) yet still the soul thought that it must endeavor to make itself righteous in the sight of God by its own obedience; and that for this end it must do good works. But when the Spirit shows the righteousness of Christ to the faith of any soul, it is quite of another mind. Now the soul sees that that righteousness which alone can make a sinner just before God is only in the Lord; i.e., in the Lord Jesus, as the representing Head of His people: it sees that Christ is made unto us ... righteousness (1 Corinthians. 1:30); that it is in Him we are made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians. 5:21); and that it is by His obedience that many shall be made righteous (Romans. 5:19). And as by this revelation of the Spirit the soul sees the righteousness of Christ in its reality, and also in its beauty, fullness, excellency and glory; so, by faith, it acts towards it for justification. As this righteousness is revealed ... to faith (Romans. 1:17); so faith acts towards this righteousness, or towards Christ, with regard to His righteousness: 1. By looking unto it. 2. By receiving, or embracing of it. And, 3. By depending upon this alone for its only justifying righteousness before God.
As the righteousness of Christ is revealed in the Gospel unto all nations for the obedience of faith, and revealed by the Spirit unto all those who have faith wrought in their hearts; so faith acts towards this righteousness by submitting to it. As is plainly implied in what is asserted concerning unbelievers, that they being ignorant of God's righteousness, go about to establish their own righteousness, and have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God (Romans. 10:3). If this is the character of an unbeliever, that he is such a one that does not submit to this righteousness of God; then the character of a believer must be just the reverse; and the soul that acts faith in submitting to this righteousness looks unto this alone for its justification in the sight of God. As poor sinners are called to look unto Jesus alone for all that fullness of salvation that is in Him; so, in particular, they are called to look unto Him as THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS; and that when they are far from righteousness, or have none at all of their own to recommend them to God, as Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth (Isaiah. 45:22). And, Hearken unto Me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness.
I bring near My righteousness (Isaiah. 46:12-13). It is as if the Lord should say, "Hear you stout-hearted souls, that in the pride of your spirits, have refused subjection to My righteousness and have gone about making yourselves righteous by the works of your own hands, which yet leave you in a state that is far from righteousness. I bring near My righteousness for you, that you never thought of; a complete glorious robe of My own working out, in which there is a fullness of salvation for you. Look therefore upon this My righteousness and be ye saved." And accordingly, the soul that believes looks away from all its own righteousness, as being fully convinced of the vanity of looking for salvation from thence; and looks unto the Redeemer's righteousness, and to that alone as being infinitely sufficient to justify and save it. And the language of such a soul, when it comes unto Christ for justification of life, is the same with that of the Church, Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains (Jeremiah. 3:23); (from the works of our own hands, which were once high as mountains in our esteem, for security) truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. And thus, Asher shall not save us, we will not ride upon horses, neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, ye are our gods (our deliverers to whom we look for salvation) (Hosea. 14:3). For in Thee the fatherless find mercy: it is as if they should say, "We are such miserable souls that cannot save ourselves, and have none to provide us either bread or clothing in a spiritual respect; but You have all we want; we come to You therefore, in our starving, naked condition, and look to You for that bread, that clothing which You have provided; for in you we shall find the mercy we can want unto eternal life." Thus a poor soul, when stripped naked of all its own righteousness, looks by faith unto Christ's as its only justifying robe. And the eye of a believer is single towards Christ in this respect; it does not look partly to Christ and partly to its own works to make it righteous in the sight of God. No, Christ commends His spouse, as having dove's eyes (Song of Solomon. 4:1) that look singly unto Him, her glorious Mate, for that royal robe of His, that wedding garment which can only fit her to stand with Him in the heights of glory before the face of God with the highest acceptance.
Again, justifying faith acts towards Christ, its object, with regard to His righteousness, by receiving, or embracing of it. This righteousness is styled a gift (Romans. 5:17). And accordingly, the hand of faith receives it as a gift of the Father's free love to a naked sinner, to make it completely righteous in His sight: for in giving Christ to the soul, He gives Him in all His fullness, and so in this, of His glorious righteousness which is infinitely full for its justification. And faith receives Christ, as God gives Him; it receives Christ Jesus the Lord as the Father's gift in all His fullness, in all His glories, and so in this, of His being its complete righteousness before God; and as such it walks in Him in all its approaches to the Father, as the saints are exhorted to do (Colossians. 2:6). As faith's eye looks unto this righteousness; so faith's hand receives it: it brings nothing to buy this righteousness with; nor yet does it bring anything to join with it; but merely receives it in the fullness of its glory and freeness of its bestowment. As this righteousness is a royal grant from the throne to array the bride of Christ, and so every believer, who, in itself is a naked creature; so the soul by faith receives it and puts it on as it were: it puts on the Lord Jesus (Romans. 13:14) as its righteousness before God, enwraps itself herein and adorns itself herewith; and hereby makes itself ready for the marriage of the Lamb. And in this spotless, beauteous, glorious robe it will appear to be made ready indeed for the enjoyment of the marriage-glory with its royal Bridegroom when that happy day comes on (Revelation. 19:8). An unbeliever, as he has no eye of faith, no spiritual ability to see Christ's righteousness, so he has no hand of faith, or spiritual ability to receive it. No; the eye of the natural man looks to his own works to make him righteous: these he admires, bows down to, and idolatrously sets up in the room of Christ's righteousness. And as for his hand, it is a working hand, not a receiving hand; it works for righteousness, not receives righteousness. The natural man is too proud to be beholding to free grace for a righteousness before God that is all of mere gift, and of another's working out; this he understands not, this he approves not, to this he submits not. But to a believer, oh, what a glorious sight is the righteousness of Christ in his eye, as it is the Father's free gift for the justification of a sinner! And with what gladness does the hand of faith receive and embrace this gift of righteousness!
And as the soul by faith looks to and receives this righteousness; so it depends upon this alone for its justification before God. And therefore the Apostle gives this description of believers, that they are such that rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians. 3:3). As they have no confidence in the flesh, in their external privileges, or legal performances as their righteousness before God; so they have all their confidence in Christ and His righteousness for their complete justification in God's sight. Here they confide, on this they depend; and knowing the fullness, glory and excellency of this righteousness appointed of God for such a glorious end, they do it with joy. They rejoice in Christ Jesus as having an exuberant fullness of justification, life and glory in Him; even above what perfect Adam was capable of in innocency. And as the Apostle here describes believers in general; so, in the succeeding verses he gives us an account of himself in particular with regard to his distrusting everything of his own, and his entire confidence in Christ, or the actings of his faith towards Him in respect to his righteousness.
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more (Philippians. 3:4). It is as if he should say, "I have as much of external privilege and legal performance as any of you all; and if these things would stand men in any stead for my righteousness before God, I might trust in them as much as any man, nay, more." And then he proceeds in verses 5-6 to give particular enumeration of his privileges and performances; Circumcised the eighth day, says he, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. It is as if he should say, "Come, you Jews, who rest in the Law and make your boast of God, and see if I am a whit behind you in any of your birth or church privileges and legal performances in which you vainly trust; or rather, whether I have not more of those things than many of you can pretend to. Are you Hebrews, of the seed of Abraham whom God chose to be His peculiar people? So am I. Yea, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; I am so, both by father's and mother's side; which many of you cannot say. Are you of the stock of Israel, who was a prince with God and prevailed with Him for the blessing? So am I. And I can tell you of what tribe too, I am of the tribe of Benjamin; when many of you cannot reckon up your genealogy. Were you circumcised? So was I. And that at the eighth day too, the precise time appointed by God; which many of you cannot say. Have you been observers of the Law? So have I. As touching the Law, a Pharisee; of the strictest sect (Acts. 26:5): and profited more in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation (Galatians. 1:14) who professed themselves to be Pharisees, of the same sect with me. Have you been strenuous maintainers of the Jews' religion and opposers of all you judged innovations, and destructive of the rites and ceremonies thereof? So have I. I was no cold half-hearted professor that cared not what men believed or practiced in religious matters; but was so exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the fathers, that in this my blind zeal, I even persecuted the church of God (Galatians. 1:13), and verily thought ... I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts. 26:9); because I judged that Jesus and His followers taught and practiced things contrary to the Law of Moses, and the religion established by God Himself. And being exceedingly mad against them, I breathed out threatenings and slaughter, haled men and women ... to prison; some I compelled ... to blaspheme, and others I persecuted ... even to strange cities (Acts. 26:11; 9:1; 8:3); so that in this regard I was as great a hero as any of you all, and perhaps there has not a man among you that has been so great a zealot as myself; concerning zeal, persecuting the church. And as for the righteousness which is in the law, take it in the most comprehensive sense which our doctors have given of it, I was blameless. None could charge me with an unrighteous action with any want of conformity to, or transgression of the Law of God, according to the sense of it given by the rabbins; I have been a person of a spotless conversation, of an unblemished character, touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless."
Thus he drew his own picture to the life, and presented it to them in all the beautiful features of his privileges and performances while he remained an unbeliever. "And now, you Jews," as if he should say, "who are fond of your own righteousness and trust in this for your acceptance with God, what think you of such a man as I? Do not you think my righteousness was large enough to cover me all over and to render me acceptable unto God? If any man of you all thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more (Philippians. 3:4). Surely I had righteousness enough to vie with you all, and to outstrip many of you. But come now, you self-righteous creatures, and I will tell you how little worth all your own righteousness is in point of acceptance with God. I once thought as you now do, that I had righteousness sufficient to justify me in the sight of God; but come I will tell you my experience, how insufficient I saw the best righteousness of a fallen creature to be, what little account I made of all my own righteousness; and what great account I made of Christ's when God revealed His Son in me, and wrought faith in my heart. You have seen me exalting myself to the greatest altitude of that pharisaical perfection I had while an unbeliever; and now you shall see me as a believer, laying myself and all my own righteousness down at the feet of Jesus; shrinking into the dust under a sense of all my own nothingness and vileness before this Lord of glory; who is THE LORD MY RIGHTEOUSNESS; upon whom only I now depend, and in whom alone I now rejoice." And so he turns the tables and begins his discourse in the next verses with an adversative, a But.
But what things were gain tome, those I counted loss for Christ (Philippians. 3:7). "And now," as if he should say, "you poor souls that seek to be justified by your works, see how vain a thing it is to trust in your own righteousness which cannot endure the fiery inquisition of the holy Law and strict justice of God. See how it fared with me when God brought home His Law in its spirituality to my conscience; I soon found that none of my eternal privileges and fig-leaf performances could screen me from the storm of His avenging wrath. I then saw that all my goods I had been laying up for many years, and though they would have gained me eternal life, were but mere loss; that these counters would never pass for current coin, and that if I trusted to these I must lose my soul forever; and therefore when my judgment was set right, I counted them loss. And as God showed me the insufficiency of my own righteousness, so likewise, the all-sufficiency of Christ's. I then saw that Christ was the only gain, that it was His righteousness alone that could deliver me from death and give me life; yea, I saw such a superexcellent glory in Christ's righteousness that did infinitely exceed my own, had it been ever so perfect; and that I must part with my own if ever I had Christ's, and therefore I freely cast all my own righteousness overboard and counted it loss for Christ, that glorious object, and those immense treasures of gain I should have in His righteousness. I parted with my own righteousness, indeed, in point of dependence; but then it was for a better: I cast away all my falsely supposed gain and counted it loss for Christ; when once I saw the real, the infinite gain of that glorious object which I then received and embraced. Therefore, be convinced you ignorant souls who would establish your own righteousness, that it cannot stand you in any stead, and that if ever you are saved you must have a better; that you must have a righteousness that shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, or ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew. 5:20)." Thus as if he should say, "I have told you what little account I made of all my pharisaical righteousness and what a high value I had of Christ's in the day when God wrought faith in my heart; I counted it loss for Christ. And as I then did count it, so I now do; Christ has lost no glory in my eye. I will take all my pharisaical righteousness while an unbeliever, and add to it all the righteousness I have wrought since I believed in Jesus, and since I was an Apostle of the Lamb, who have laboured more abundantly than they all (1 Corinthians. 15:10); and tell you even now what little account I make of all these things put together; and what a high esteem, at this time, I have of Christ as my justifying dress before God.
Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, 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 (Philippians. 3:8-9). "I put all things together, all my own righteousness while a Pharisee, and since an Apostle, and tell you I count all things but loss for ... Christ, for the knowledge of Christ, for the excellency of the knowledge of ChristJesus my Lord; that glorious object my faith now deals with, that anointed Saviour whom I adore as THE LORD MY RIGHTEOUSNESS, in whom is all my salvation; for Him I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. I lose all to win all; or rather, I lose an all that is nothing, and worse than nothing, to gain immense treasures, an infinite fullness, a mass of unbounded sweetness and an eternity of life and glory. I joyfully part with all for one Christ; the Father's Christ is infinitely enough for me. I cast away all my own blemished performances for the spotless beauty of my lovely Lord; and count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him. Oh, it is in Christ, not in myself, that I would be found at the awful Day of Judgment. It is as not having on mine own righteousness, which is of the law; I dare trust in none of my own obedience to God's Law, which I love and serve as my righteousness before God; nor would I be found in this garment when I appear before Him: But as having on that righteousness which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. That righteousness which Christ has wrought out, which God has appointed for the justification of a sinner, which faith sees and receives; it is this righteousness I would be found in; it is upon this alone I depend for justification before God and eternal glory with Him."
Thus this great apostle gave an account of the actings of his faith towards Christ with regard to his righteousness for justification. And as all that are justified have the same faith; so it acts in like manner towards the righteousness of Christ for justification of life. It is this righteousness justifying faith looks to, it is this it receives and embraces, and upon this alone it depends. For as all believers debase their own righteousness; so they exalt Christ's: they set the crown upon His head and will forever give Him the glory of all their justification before God. As they give His blood all the glory of cleansing them from sin; so they give His righteousness all the glory of their acceptance with God. And thus justifying faith acts towards Christ, its object.
In the next place, I would show briefly, how justifying faith acts towards God, its object. And this, in short, is the soul's looking unto God, as justifying through the blood and righteousness of His Son; and expecting all its justification from Him, only upon the account of what Christ has done and suffered. And in order hereto, the blessed Spirit makes a revelation of God to the soul, as justifying a poor sinner of the freest grace, and yet according to the strictest justice, through the blood and righteousness of Christ; and enables the soul to look unto God, as so justifying, for
itself, even when it sees nothing but ungodliness in it; and to receive the justifying sentence of God pronounced in the word of the Gospel concerning the soul which believes in Jesus, with respect both to the forgiveness of its sins and acceptation of its person; and this merely upon the truth and faithfulness of that God who makes the declaration. From whence, as the soul receives that present justification given it by the Gospel into its own conscience; so it expects the open promulgation of this sentence, or that open justification which shall be given it at the Day of Judgment in the face of men and angels; when it shall be pronounced blessed of the Father, and called as such, to inherit the kingdom prepared for it, from the foundation of the world (Matthew. 25:34). And as the soul that thus acts faith sees it an impossible thing that God should justify a sinner in any other way than by His free grace through the blood and righteousness of Christ; and so looks to Him as justifying, only in this way, for its own justification and salvation, so it likewise, herein, regards the glory of God. Such a soul brings nothing with it but Christ for all its acceptance with God; nor dare plead anything as a moving cause of its justification and salvation but God's free grace; nor does it bring anything of its own to procure the divine favor; because it would not eclipse the glory of free grace. No; as faith looks for, receives and expects justification and life from the God of all grace through Christ; so it gives the whole glory hereof to Him. Thus, as through the blood and righteousness of Christ, God is declared to be just in His being the
justifier of him which believeth in Jesus (Romans. 3:26). And in this way, to justify a sinner freely by His grace (Titus. 3:3). So faith receives this justifying sentence proclaimed in the Gospel and brought home by the Spirit to the soul; and gives all the glory of justification, both as to forgiveness and acceptance, to the free grace of God from whence alone it is received. And therefore the Apostle, in the triumph of faith, challenges all the enemies of God's people to bring in their accusations if they have ought to say against them, with a Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? And nullifies them all with this one word, It is God that justifieth (Romans. 8:33). And we are justified, says he, freely by His grace (Romans. 3:24). As we have the forgiveness of sins, through Christ's blood, ... according to the riches of His grace; so by the same grace He hath made us accepted in the beloved (Ephesians. 1:6-7). Thus, having shown how justifying faith acts towards Christ-its immediate, and God in, and through Him-its ultimate object, I proceed to the next thing proposed.
Thirdly, To show how, or in what respects the justification of a sinner is by faith. When the Scripture speaks of being justified by faith in some places it is to be taken objectively, and not subjectively; or, for Christ, the object of faith, and not for the grace of faith inherent in and acted by the soul. As, where it is said, But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly; his faith is counted for righteousness (Romans. 4:5). The word faith, here, which is said to be counted for righteousness, is not to be understood of the act of faith, but of Christ the object of faith; for the act of faith is not imputed for righteousness, but that which faith lays hold of, i.e., the obedience of Christ, which is the object about which the act of faith is conversant. And thus it is said, Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Romans. 4:3). Where Christ must necessarily be understood by the it that was counted unto him for righteousness. As is plain from the three last verses of the chapter; where it is said, Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification (Romans. 4:23-25). Since it was the same it that was imputed unto Abraham that shall be imputed unto us; hence it appears that it was not the act of Abraham's faith that was imputed unto him for righteousness; because it is not the act of his faith that is imputed unto us. But it was the object that his faith looked to, the complete obedience of a crucified, risen Jesus, that was imputed unto him for righteousness; and that shall be imputed unto us, if we, having the same faith that he had, believe as he did, in Christ, for justification, and in God as justifying in and through Him. For it is by the obedience of this one that Abraham, and all true believers from the beginning of the world to the end thereof, even all the many that shall be saved, are made righteous (Romans. 5:19). But, as to be justified by faith in this sense is the same as to be justified by the righteousness of Christ, and so respects the matter of justification which I have spoken of under the first general; so I shall pass it here, where I am treating of the manner of justification, which, with respect to ourselves, is by faith, as subjectively and not objectively taken. And shall attend to the manner of justification by faith, as inherent in, and acted by the soul; or show how, or in what respects the justification of a sinner is thus by faith.
1. It is by faith, as it stands opposed to works. As says the Apostle, Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans. 3:28). The justification of a sinner is by faith alone, not by faith and works together; but by faith, exclusive of all works, both before and after faith is wrought in the soul. Works done before faith can have no influence into justification; since by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in God's sight (Romans. 3:20). And works done after believing are done for no such end as to make the person righteous before God; nor do they add a whit to his justification in His sight. So that it is by faith alone that a sinner enters into a justified state. Thus, To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness (Romans. 4:5). It is as if he should say, "That is a justified man that does no good works, nothing at all to obtain it; but believes on Christ for complete pardon, righteousness and life, and on God, as justifying, only in, and through Him, even the ungodly. For, as God in justifying a sinner through the blood and righteousness of Christ considers that soul as in itself ungodly; so the soul when it acts faith for justification, sees nothing in itself but ungodliness; and under this consideration of its being a sinner and ungodly, looks out of itself unto Christ, and unto God in Him for all its justification and salvation. Thus the justification of a sinner is by faith, without works. And the Apostle gives the reasons of it, Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed (Romans. 4:16). It is of faith, i.e., of faith alone; (empty-handed faith that does nothing at all for justification, but merely receives it as a free gift) that it might be by grace; that God's free grace might have the whole glory of justification and all creature-boasting be forever excluded. And it is likewise thus of faith, that the promise might be sure to all the seed. If the promise of justification and life had in the least depended upon the good works of the creature it could never have been sure; but as it stands wholly upon grace, absolute grace, and is merely received by faith alone, so it stands sure, inviolably sure to all the seed, to all the heirs of promise, through all time and to all eternity. Thus the justification of a sinner is by faith, as it stands opposed to works as to the manner of it; or the manner of the soul's possessing Christ's righteousness.
2. It is by faith, as faith is that grace which is appointed of God to receive justification and life from Him. Thus, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark. 16:15-16). And, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (John. 3:36). And, We, says the Apostle, have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ; and this we did, says he, as knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith ofJesus Christ; or, as knowing that faith is that grace which God has appointed to receive justification (Galatians.2:16).
3. The justification of a sinner is by faith, as God imputes the righteousness of His Son and declares the imputation thereof in His Word unto every believer, for his complete justification. Thus the righteousness of Christ is said to be unto ... and upon all them that believe, without difference (Romans. 3:22). And by Him all that believe are (declared to be) justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts. 13:39). There is not a believer in the world that looks to, receives and depends upon the righteousness of Christ alone for justification before God; but God imputes it to him and justifies him completely therein. For it is unto and upon all them that believe without difference. One believer is not more and another less justified; because, though there may be a great deal of difference between the faith of one and of another in respect of degree; yet all that have faith of the right kind, as they receive the same righteousness, the righteousness of Christ, for their whole and entire righteousness before God; so He imputes it to them, as such, and completely justifies them all equally and alike therein. They are all, in this respect, complete in Christ; so complete that nothing can be added to it to make their justification more full (Colossians. 2:10). And as all believers are completely justified in Christ by the free grace, and according to the strict justice of God; so in Him they are everlastingly justified. They stand immovably, unchangeably and eternally in the grace of justification (Romans. 5:2). They are so passed from death to life that they shall never come into condemnation (John. 5:24). Though in themselves they are sinners, both by nature and practice; yet, as God does not impute their sins, but the righteousness of His Son to them for their complete justification, so they have life, everlasting life, in this respect. But as I shall have occasion to speak more fully of this under the next head; so I shall add no more here. But thus much shall suffice for the second general, the Manner of justification: as with respect unto God, it is by imputation; and with respect to ourselves, by faith. The next thing proposed to be considered, was,
THIRDLY. The Time of justification. As justification is God's act, so it is to be considered either as immanent or transient, and timed accordingly.
1. As immanent; or an act of God's will that always abides the same in His divine mind from eternity to eternity. And so it was from everlasting. As, God was in Christ. (Who can tell how early? Surely He was in Him by His eternal counsel, will and covenant), reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them (2 Corinthians. 5:19).
2. The act of justification is to be considered as transient; or as it is an act of God that passes upon the creature in time. And as such it admits of a twofold consideration.
1. As passing upon the whole body of the elect together, and at once, in Christ their Head and Representative. And so, the time of it was when Christ, our Surety, made full payment of all the debts of His people and received a full acquitance, or a full and open discharge, in their name and room. For He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification (Romans. 4:25). As He died as a public person for our sins; so, as a public person, He was raised again for our justification. When God the Father raised Him from the dead, He thereby openly discharged Him from all our sins which before lay upon Him; and in His discharge we were discharged likewise. He was discharged for us, and we were discharged in Him, as He was our great Representative. And thus the Apostle sounds his triumphant challenge to all the enemies of God's people to bring ought against them if they can, 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 (Romans. 8:33-34). As the act of God, justifying gives being to, and is the foundation of our justification; so he first sounds his triumph here, and answers all the charges which might be brought with this, It is God that justifieth. And then he proceeds, It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again. So that by Christ's death and resurrection, and at the time thereof, the whole body of the elect, as such, had a full discharge, a complete justification in Christ their Head. But,
2. Justification, as a transient act, is to be considered as passing upon every individual person of God's chosen; and so the time of it is when the soul is first enabled to believe in Jesus. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness (Romans. 10:10). And God is just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus (Romans. 3:26). For notwithstanding the secret state of an elect person God-ward, before believing, is a state of peace and favor, as he has a secret interest in God's justifying act and in Christ's full discharge; yet his open state, as in himself, related to old Adam and the first covenant, is a state of Law-charge, and so of wrath and condemnation. He is of the works of the law, and as a Law-breaker, is under the curse (Galatians. 3:10); as the wrath of God, in His holy, righteous Law is revealed from heaven against all ... unrighteousness of men (Romans. 1:18). He is in the same common state with all the children of Adam, of whom it is said, There is none righteous, no, not one (Romans. 3:10). And so, a child of wrath by nature, ... even as others (Ephesians. 2:3). And there is no way appointed of God whereby he can pass from his open state of wrath and condemnation by the Law into an open state of justification by grace, but by faith in Christ. For he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life (the life of justification): and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (John. 3:36). So that according to the declaration of God in His Word, by which He will judge all men at the last day, no person is in a justified state but he that believeth in Jesus. And therefore, the time of justification, as applied to a particular person-or as God's justifying act, passes upon a sinner in the declaration of His Word, and is brought home to the conscience-is when the soul believes; or, when being warned of its misery and acquainted with its remedy, it first flees for refuge from the wrath to come to lay hold upon Christ, the hope set before it. And in this sense, all that believe, and none but they, are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the Law of Moses. But the next thing I am to consider is,
FOURTHLY. The Effect of justification, with respect to the soul. And this is three-fold, and has respect: 1. Unto the soul's peace. 2. Unto its state. 3. Unto its obedience. To each of these a little.
1. The effect of justification to a justified soul is peace. As Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans. 5:1). As Christ by His death made peace with God for poor sinners, and as God the Father declared Himself to be the God of peace when He brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant (Hebrews. 13:20); so this complete and everlasting peace is declared, and particularly applied to the soul by the blessed Spirit of God, when it is enabled to believe in Christ for justification. Peace with God was the legacy our departing Lord left with His people, which was confirmed by the death of the Testator. Thus, Peace, says He, I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John. 14:27). It is as if He should say, "My dear disciples, I am just a-going to leave you, just upon the point of finishing all that work which the Father gave Me to do in the world for your salvation. But when I depart I will leave peace with you, My peace; that peace with God I shall make by the blood of My cross I give unto you. I do not give it partially, conditionally and precariously; I do not give, and take as the world does; but My peace I give unto you wholly, absolutely and irreversibly. Therefore, Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Do not be troubled that I am going to leave you as to My bodily presence; for it is expedient for you that I go away (John. 16:7): I go to prepare a place for you (John. 14:2). When as your High Priest I have done the work of making peace for you on earth, I have still another work to do for you in heaven; I must carry My peacemaking blood into the holiest of all (Hebrews. 9:8) and sprinkle it before the face of God; and so reconcile that holy place and make room for you to come thither; or thereby prepare those mansions, those abiding places in glory, which are appointed for you. And therefore, Let not your heart be troubled; since My departure from you is so much for your advantage, neither let it be afraid; for as I made peace for you by My death on the cross, so I will maintain it for you by My life on the throne: you need not be afraid that there should be any afterbreach between God and you, nor fear the least flaw being made in that peace with God which I give unto you." And as this complete and everlasting peace with God was made by Christ and is given to His people; so it is applied by the blessed Spirit to every believer in particular; as our Lord promised in the precedent verse. But, says He, the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John. 14:26). As this verse stands connected with the former, we may take the scope of our Lord's words thus-"Though I am going to leave you, I will not leave you comfortless: I leave peace with you, I give peace to you; and I will give you the Comforter, whom the Father will send in My name, to open this peace to your understandings, to apply it to your hearts and bring it to your remembrance to your unspeakable joy while passing through a world of trials." And accordingly, when the Spirit of God has revealed the obedience of Christ to the soul and enabled it to act faith thereon for justification, He applies the blood of Christ to that soul by bearing witness to it of its own particular interest in the death of Jesus, and in that peace with God made by His blood; and hereby gives it peace of conscience -true, solid, lasting peace-that will abide through life, through death, at judgment, and to eternity. And this peace is peculiar to a justified soul, and a proper effect of justification.
An unjustified soul, indeed, may have some kind of peace of conscience while he works for life, goes about to establish his own righteousness, and quiets his conscience with his own obedience, either present, or resolved on for the future. But this is a false peace; conscience is but lulled asleep and not truly pacified. As many as are of the works of the law (that work to make themselves righteous before God) are under the curse (Galatians. 3:10)-and therefore must be wicked persons in God's account; and there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked (Isaiah. 57:21). The way of peace have they not known (Romans. 3:17). They may cry, Peace, peace, to themselves; but sudden destruction shall come upon them. This miserable, delusive peace cannot stand the test of God's holy Law and strict justice, nor abide the storm of His indignation which shall come down upon every soul of man that doeth evil (Romans. 2:9)-that is in an unrighteous, unjustified state. The storm of God's wrath that will meet such a soul at death will sweep away all this false peace; and nothing but terrors will then surround it. Conscience, that was once lulled asleep by a false apprehension of the creature's goodness-as if sufficient to make its peace with God-will then awake, and like an enraged lion, gnaw and torment the soul forever; when, upon the fullest conviction, though too late for all remedy, it shall see that nothing could make peace with God for a sinner nor give peace to it, but the blood and righteousness of Christ. And thus the poor soul, being stripped naked of all its own righteousness and peace-that hiding place whither it had fled for shelter, that refuge of lies, with which it had been deceived -shall stand exposed to all the curses of God's righteous Law and the amazing storm of His vindictive wrath which shall break forth upon it thereby, and drown it in eternal perdition. For the waters of God's indignation shall overflow the hiding place of a sinner's own righteousness, and sweep away the refuge of lies-its false peace built thereupon -and drive away the naked soul like an irresistible torrent into the bottomless gulf of remediless torment (Isaiah. 28:17-18). But He that believes on Christ, the foundation God has laid in Zion, shall never be confounded (Isaiah. 28:16; 1 Peter. 2:6). He that has Christ for all his righteousness and peace has such a righteousness, such a peace, that shall abide forever. That man that is justified by faith is a perfect man, an upright man, in God's account; and concerning him the Psalmist says, Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace (Psalms. 37:37). And as it is the happiness of the righteous man to enter into peace when he dies (Isaiah. 57:2), so it is his privilege to have peace while he lives, and that even in the midst of tribulation; in the midst of outward troubles he has inward peace (John. 16:33).
As for that false peace which the wicked have in this world-as it shall perish at last-so it is often broken now by the flashes of God's Law in the conscience; which are as so many earnests of that approaching storm of His fiery indignation which shall quickly overtake them. And, alas! for these miserable souls when under pressing afflictions, how are they like the troubled sea, that cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt (Isaiah. 57:20)! But as for the righteous man, he has peace even in the most trying circumstances; such peace that the world can neither give, nor take, nor yet can understand. That peace of God that keeps his heart and mind through Christ Jesus passeth all the understanding of the natural man (Philippians. 4:7). A justified soul, having his feet, his faith, shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians. 6:15), having peace with God through Jesus Christ (Romans. 5:1), is well prepared to pass securely through a thorny world. Such a one may safely tread upon all the briers of the wilderness without fear of danger; since his shoes are like iron and brass, that will even turn a thorn (Deuteronomy. 33:25). And in a word, there is nothing can hurt that soul, who, being justified by faith, has peace with God, neither in this world nor that to come. So great is the privilege of that peace which is the effect of justification!
2. The effect of justification, with respect to the soul, may be considered with regard to its state. And the state of a justified soul is a state of blessedness.
As soon as ever the soul is enabled to believe in Christ for justification, and in God as justifying in and through Him, it passes from death unto life (John. 5:24). It is delivered from the curse of the Law, and all the blessings both of the Law and Gospel come upon it. As Christ has redeemed it from the curse of the law; so the blessing of Abraham comes upon it through faith (Galatians. 3:13-14). And thus the Apostle, speaking of a justified state (Romans. 4:5), calls it a state of blessedness, 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 (w. 6-8). And, Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? (v. 9). Thus it appears that a justified state is a state of blessedness.
The state of an unjustified soul is a state of wrath; and such a one is under the curse, wherever he is, or whatever he does. As Deuteronomy. 28:16-19. The Lord has not only threatened to curse him by sending upon him vexation and rebuke, as (v. 20), but even to curse his blessings, his outward enjoyments, as Malachi 2:2.
But on the contrary, a justified soul is blessed in all conditions; his enjoyments are blessings to him, and so are his afflictions. All things are his: whether comforts or crosses, life or death; all work together for his good and turn to his salvation (1 Corinthians. 3:22; Romans. 8:28). His very sufferings are gifts of divine favor (Philippians. 1:29). And he has reason to rejoice even when he falls into divers temptations; because of that present and eternal advantage he shall reap thereby, and that peculiar blessedness which attends him therein (James. 1:2-3, 12). A justified soul passes on from blessing to blessing in every changing providence; for every change opens to him a new scene of blessedness to make his enjoyment thereof more full. He is blessed in prosperity and blessed in adversity; and God overrules both for His present and eternal advantage, and especially his afflictions to increase his grace and prepare him for his crown. So that his short-lived afflictions are but light; since, as God works upon him by them, they work for him a far more exceeding, and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians. 4:17). A justified soul has a right to all blessedness now; and shall have the full enjoyment of all blessedness hereafter. As he is now delivered from the curse and fully blessed, even in those very afflictions which in their own nature are the fruits of the curse; so, when God has wrought all that good for him which was designed by them, he shall be delivered from the very being of these grieving things. There shall be no grieving brier, nor pricking thorn, no sin, sorrow, nor death to disturb that rest or destroy that life of blessedness which is reserved for him in the state of glory, in the vision of God, and of the Lamb forever. As, And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation. 21:4). And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God, and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever (Revelation. 22:3-5). Thus the justified ones, as they are blessed at all times, shall be blessed to all eternity. And to acquaint them with their state of blessedness, to comfort their hearts under their present troubles and in the expectation of their future bliss, the Lord bid the Prophet: Say ye unto the righteous, that it shall be well with him (Isaiah. 3:10). It shall be well with him in life; well with him at death; well with him at judgment; and it shall be well with him forever. It shall be well with him in life; for Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is (Jeremiah. 17:7). It shall be well with him at death; for Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord (Revelation. 14:13). It shall be well with him at judgment; for then he shall be openly pronounced blessed; and as such admitted into endless life, or into the inconceivable blessedness of eternal life; and so it shall be well with him for ever (Matthew. 25:34-46). Thus blessed is the righteous man! Thus well shall it be with him! But Woe unto the wicked! for it shall be ill with him (Isaiah. 3:11): his state, in all respects, is just the reverse. How distinguishing then is the favor, how great the privilege of that blessedness of state which is the effect of justification! But,
3. In the last place, I am to consider the effect of justification as it respects the soul's obedience. And as a justified soul is saved from wrath and has peace with God-as it is redeemed from the curse and brought into a state of blessedness; so it is delivered from servile -and enabled to yield filial -obedience. It is no more a servant, but a son, and obeys its father, as an heir of God through Christ (Galatians. 4:7). As a dear child, it becomes a follower of God, and walks in love, as Christ also has loved it, and given Himself for it (Ephesians. 5:1-2). The love of God, shed abroad in the heart of a poor sinner justified by His grace, forms its own image there and enables the soul to love God again, who has first loved it; and to show this love in keeping His commandments (Romans. 5:5; 1 John. 4:19; 5:3). The love of Christ constrains it to live unto Him who died for it and rose again for its justification (2 Corinthians. 5:14-15).
An unjustified soul, as it is under the servitude of the Law; so it is acted by the spirit of bondage; and all its obedience to God springs from a slavish fear of His wrath; and the main end thereof is self-preservation and deliverance. And therefore, notwithstanding all that fair show which it makes in the flesh, all its legal obedience which looks so specious in its own and other's eyes, God will call it an empty vine that brings forth no fruit unto Him, but all unto itself (Hosea. 10:1).
But it is quite otherwise with a justified soul; such a one is under grace, and is acted by the Spirit of adoption (Romans. 8:15): which gives him glorious freedom and abundant liberty to worship and serve God as his own Father, in Christ; from a principle of love and gratitude for that great love manifested to him, and that full salvation bestowed upon him; and the main end of his obedience is to glorify his Father which is in heaven. And thus the justified soul, in his obedience, brings forth fruit unto God. As says the Apostle, Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God (Romans. 7:4). To bring forth fruit unto God is such a proper effect of justification, that it is impossible it should be found in an unjustified soul. And therefore the Apostle sets forth the deliverance of the justified ones from the bondage of the Law as a covenant of worksand so from servile obedience to it-by a woman's being freed from the law of her husband when he is dead; and their new obligation to Gospel-obedience-or to serve the Law of God in the newness of the spirit-by the loosed woman's being married to another man (w. 2-3)-as is evident by his applying verse 4 to what he had said in the former: Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, i.e., You are delivered from the bondage and servitude of the Law by Christ's fulfilling its requirement for you and enduring of its penalties; by which the Law is become dead to you, and you to it. The Law, as it is a covenant of works that requires doing for life, and threatens death upon disobedience, has no more obedience to require of you, nor you to yield to it, than a dead man has to require of her that was formerly his wife; nor than she has to yield to him that was formerly her husband when once the relation is broken. And then follows, that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God; i.e., You were thus freed from the Law that you might be married unto Christ, as risen from the dead; that you might be one, everlastingly one with Him, your living Head: and so being completely justified in and through Him you might share with Him in the power of His endless life; and under the plenitude of His life and blessedness be richly influenced to bring forth fruit unto God. Thus the justified ones are fruitful in new obedience: as they now regard the glory of that God that has justified them as the end of all their obedience; so they receive His Law from their Husband, Christ, as the rule of it, and love it as such, exceedingly; and thus serving the law of God in the newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter (v. 6), or in the grace of the Gospel, and not in the terror of the Law, they bring forth fruit unto God.
And by the way, I look upon this to be the discriminating difference between a regenerate and an unregenerate soul. The one obeys as a slave, and mainly regards his own safety therein; the other obeys as a son, and the glory of God is the chief end of his obedience: or, the one lives unto himself, brings forth fruit unto himself; the other lives unto God, and brings forth fruit unto Him. Thus, For none of us liveth to himself-i.e., none of us who have the life of justification bestowed upon us and the life of sanctification, or the new-creature life wrought in us-and no man dieth to himself For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's (Romans. 14:7-8). And thus, when he had said of himself and the rest of the saints whom he stiles they which live (i.e., a life of justification, and a life of sanctification as the effect of Christ's death and resurrection), that the love of Christ constraineth them, that they. .. should not henceforth live unto themselves in their conversation, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again (2 Corinthians. 5:14-15), he adds, Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh (v. 16): that is, we approve of no man, as a living man, as a man in Christ, a justified and sanctified man, after the flesh, or the first life. Yea, says he, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more, i.e., we do not converse with Christ now, as we once did in the days of His flesh; but as risen from the dead to a new life and glory: and those who are risen with Christ live a new life unto God by virtue of His resurrection; and these are the men we know and approve of as living, believing, justified and sanctified men. As it follows, Therefore if any man be in Christ- i.e., a believer in Him, and so a justified man he is a new creature: - i.e., a sanctified man that lives a new life unto God-old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (v. 17). With such a one, old dependencies for life, old enjoyments, and old ends in obedience are passed away; and all things are become new. His dependances for life, upon Christ, and God in Him are new; his enjoyments of God, Christ, His people, Word and ordinances are new; and his life unto God, in obedience is new; or what he never experienced before he was created anew in Christ Jesus. Thus it appears that new obedience, the soul's living unto God, or bringing forth fruit unto Him, is proper unto a justified and regenerate man, and demonstrative of his justified state and of his being a new creature; since all unjustified, unregenerate souls live unto themselves. But, to go on,
As new obedience is a proper effect of justification, and properly belongs to the justified soul, so his privilege, as such, is exceeding great; in that all his works are accepted. Those who are washed from their sins in Christ's blood and clothed with His righteousness, are made kings and priests unto God to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (Revelation. 1:5-6 with 1 Petert. 2:5). The grace of God that bringeth salvation, efficaciously teaches the saved ones, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously; and godly, in this present world (Titus. 2:11-12). They maintain good works for necessary uses, that they may be profitable unto others, and that they themselves, may be not unfruitful (Titus. 3:8, 14), and chiefly, that thereby they might glorify God; to which they are exhorted, Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ (Philippians. 1:27)-i.e., You, saints, have nothing else to do in the world but to live unto God, to glorify Him by a conversation becoming the Gospel of Christ; which declares your complete justification and secures your eternal salvation. Thus the saints are exhorted to do good works, and thus they perform them. And all their service is acceptable to God in point of filial obedience, though not in point of justifying righteousness. As for this end they do not perform good works; so, blessed be God, for this end they do not need them. No; they have a complete justifying righteousness wrought out by Christ, a glorious robe which they themselves have no hand in, nor put the least finger to prepare; and are so completely justified in Christ that nothing can be added to it to make their justification more full. But though none of their good works go to the stock of their justification; yet all of them go to the treasure of their filial obedience; and are acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ, and shall be openly rewarded at His next appearing. And both the acceptableness of the saints' service to God, and the advantage they themselves shall reap thereby, are proposed to them as encouragements to be abundant and constant in the performance of good works.
Thus, By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased Hebrews. 13:15-16). For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God (Romans. 14:18). That is, in point of obedience. And therefore the Apostle, for himself, and in the name of the rest of the apostles, beseeches the saints, the brethren, whose persons were already made accepted in the beloved in point of righteousness before God, and exhorts them by the Lord Jesus, that as they had received of them how they ought to walk, and to please God, i.e., in point of obedience, so they would abound more and more (1 Thessalonians. 4:1)-i.e., Since the good works, the filial obedience of you justified ones, are so acceptable by Christ, unto God your Father, see that you labor to be abundant and constant therein. And as the acceptableness of the saints' service to God is proposed as an encouragement to their filial obedience; so likewise the advantage which they themselves shall reap thereby.
As, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians. 15:58). No; those whose persons are accepted in Christ, and their obedience accepted through Him, shall have all their good works rewarded by the same grace that enabled them to the performance thereof. These shall find that in keeping God's commandments there is great reward (Psalms. 19:11). The service of God carries its own reward in it now-that peace of conscience, that joy in the Holy Ghost, that life in the divine favor, that honor God puts upon His people in His appearances for them, and those foretastes of glory they are favored with while walking with Him in the obedience of children, are a reward so great-that none can either know or enjoy, but those who are brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God (Romans. 8:21). But, oh, the exceeding greatness of that reward that is reserved for them in the Day of Christ! As all their services are now accepted; so they shall then appear to be so by their being openly rewarded. There is none of their service, though so small as the giving of a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of a disciple, that shall in any wise lose its reward (Matthew. 10:41-42). All their obedience, both in heart and life, shall be found unto praise, and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter. 1:7). And all the churches shall know, says our Lord, that I am He that searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works (Revelation. 2:23). To him that overcometh, says He, will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne (Revelation. 3:21). And behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be (Revelation. 22:12). And in short, the chief design of our Lord in what He ordered His servant John to write to the Asiatic churches where He commends their obedience and reproves what was wanting therein was to stir them up to a zealous performance of good works; and the motive He used hereto was that crown of glory which He had given unto them as the reward of their obedience at His appearing and kingdom; which, in greatness, should be proportioned according to the degree of their services done for Him in the present state. He acquaints them with those special favors, those particular honors, which He had in reserve for those of His servants who had most distinguished themselves in His service. And hence will arise all those different degrees of glory in which the saints shall shine at the resurrection of the just. They will all be bright and glorious and shine as the stars for ever, and ever; and yet as one star differeth from another star in glory, so shall it be in the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians. 15:41, 42). As the stars now shine with different glories; so shall the saints then: for those who have done and suffered most for Christ in this life shall have a higher sphere of glory and shine with a superior brightness in the life to come. And while the saints, with Moses, have respect unto the recompence of the reward (Hebrews. 11:26), their filial obedience is quickened thereby. Wherefore we labour, says the Apostle, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him (2 Corinthians. 5:9). They did not labor to be accepted in point of righteousness before God; for so they already had an acceptance in Christ so full that none of their labors could add anything to it. But they labored to be accepted with regard to their obedience; or, they labored in the whole of their conversation to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing; i.e., to walk worthy of their high relation to Him, those great favors they enjoyed from Him, and that eternal interest they had in Him, unto all pleasing; or, unto all acceptable obedience here, and to the open acceptation thereof in the Day of Christ. And the earnestness of their souls herein the Apostle sets forth by running of a race for a prize, or crown, Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible (1 Corinthians. 9:24-25). And as the prize foreviewed quickens the saints in their race; so that crown of righteousness they shall receive when their course is finished will be a rich and abundant reward of all their labors; in which the glory of God's free grace and the greatness of its provision for these favorites of heaven shall forever shine forth. Then they which feared the Lord, that speak often one to another (whose thoughts, words, and works for God He graciously regarded, and accepted here) shall be openly rewarded, and appear to be His by that bright glory He will put upon them in the day when He makes up His jewels. When the wicked to their utmost horror and everlasting confusion shall return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not (Malichi. 3:16-18). It being the peculiar privilege of the justified ones to have all their obedience thus accepted and rewarded. So that though the good works of the saints do not go to the stock of their justifying righteousness; yet as they go to the treasure of their filial obedience which is so acceptable to God, and shall be so rewarded by Him-there is encouragement enough for them to have a universal and constant regard unto all God's commandments.
Thus I have considered the doctrine of justification, or, the justification of a sinner in the sight of God, in the matter of it, i.e., the complete obedience of Jesus Christ exclusive of all the works of the creature; in the manner of it, as, with respect unto God, it is by imputation, and with respect to ourselves, by faith; in the time of it, as it respects the whole body of the elect, and every individual person of God's chosen; and in the effect of it, with respect to the soul, as it regards its peace, its state and its obedience. And what I have briefly said hereon, I take to be the Scripture doctrine of justification; and that which our Protestant reformers earnestly contended for at the time of their first reformation from popery; as the main basis on which it was founded. And this doctrine of justification by the free grace of God through the righteousness of Christ, received by faith alone, was of such great account with Luther that he said of it, "The Church either stood, or fell, as this was maintained, or rejected." But, against what has been said, some may object thus:
Objection. The justification of a sinner is not by faith alone, but by works also, as is plainly implied in that text 1 John 3:7: He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. And fully expressed, Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James. 2:24). To which I answer,
Answer. That the truth laid down of justification by faith alone is not in the least shaken by this objection, founded upon these texts. As to the first, He that doeth righteousness, is righteous; it is not to be understood as if that person was righteous by his doing of righteousness; but that by his doing of righteousness it was manifested that he was a righteous person. And therefore the Apostle begins the verse with a let no man deceive you, i.e., Do not take every man for a righteous man-a justified man in the sight of God-that may pretend thereto; but look into his conversation and see whether his faith in Christ for justification produces fruits of righteousness in his life; if not, you may depend upon it that he is not a righteous man; if he is an unrighteous man in the general course of his conversation, he is certainly such a one that is not righteous by imputation. For, he that doeth righteousness, is righteous; i.e., He is so to begin with, before his doing of righteousness; even perfectly so, as He, i.e., Christ is righteous; the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ being imputed to him for his complete justification before God. And whoever is thus righteous by imputation is likewise righteous by impartation, as having a principle of righteousness imparted to him, and inherent in him; and from thence he is righteous in his conversation. And by his thus doing of righteousness in his conversation before men, it may be fully known that he is such a one that is under the imputed righteousness of Christ for his justification before God. And therefore he says, In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother (1 John. 3:10). He does not say, He that does not righteousness is not of God, because he does it not-as if the not doing of it made him to be not of God; but by his not doing of righteousness it is manifest, or made to appear, that he is not of God. And thus we are to understand him in verse 7. Where by, He that doeth righteousness, is righteous, we are to apprehend that a righteous person's doing of righteousness is only evidential and not constitutive of him as such. And so this text implies no contradiction against the doctrine of a sinner's justification before God by faith alone. And,
As to the other text, that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only; though justification by works be full expressed, yet it is another kind of justification that is here spoken of than that by faith, which I have asserted; and so, is no contradiction to it. The Apostle Paul says that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans. 3:28); and the Apostle James, here, that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. And though there is a contradiction between them in terms; yet there is none in sense. Because the Apostle Paul speaks of the justification of a sinner before God, or his real state of justification God-ward, which is by faith alone; and the Apostle James, of the apparency of the truth of his faith, and so of his justified state before God by his good works before men; by which only it can be known to them. So that while one asserts real justification before God to be by faith alone; and the other, apparent justification before men to be by good works flowing from faith; there is no contradiction, but a glorious harmony between them. Inasmuch as, that faith by which a sinner is justified before God will certainly be productive of good works; which evidence a state of justification before men.
And that the Apostle Paul did speak of a state of real justification before God when he asserts it to be by faith, without the deeds of the law, is evident, where he likewise excludes the deeds of the law from having any hand in the justification of a sinner; and what kind of justification he intends he expresses by those words in His sight. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight (Romans. 3:20); or, before God.
And as for the Apostle James, it is evident that he spoke of a state of justification before men, or, an apparent state of justification before them, when he asserts it to be by works and not by faith only. For he says, Yea, a man may say, thou hast faith, and I have works: to which he replies, shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works (James. 2:18). As he professes to shew his faith, and so his justification by his works, it is plain that he intends an apparent, or manifestative justification before men when he asserts it to be by works. And this will further appear by the instance he gives of Abraham's justification hereby, Was not Abraham our fatherjustified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? (James. 2:21-22). By the word made here, we are to understand manifested, i.e., that by his works his faith was manifested to be perfect; or of that perfect kind, to which the promise of justification is annexed. For the word made in this text is to be understood just in the same sense as it is, My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians. 12:9). As from this text we are not to think that the weakness of the creature can add any perfection to the almighty power of God, in itself, but only in its manifestation, as thereby the power of God appears to be perfect, or stands forth to be beheld in its own almightiness; so, nor from the other are we to apprehend that Abraham's works added any perfection to his faith, in itself, but only in its manifestation; as thereby his faith appeared to be perfect, or stood forth to be beheld by men in its own perfection; as being of that very kind which receives justification from God and accompanies the salvation of the soul. As it follows, And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God (James. 2:23). In the former part of this verse Abraham's justification before God is plainly asserted to be by faith, he believed God, and it (i.e., the obedience of Christ which his faith saw in the promise) was imputed unto him for righteousness. And then, in the latter part of the verse his justification before men is plainly implied to be by works; inasmuch as his faith so worked by love in obedience to God's commands that he was called the Friend of God. And thus the Apostle James, when he speaks of Abraham's justification before God, asserts it to be by faith, as much as Paul; and when he speaks of it by works, he intends that only which he had before men. And in this sense the Apostle Paul asserts justification by works as much as James, For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God (Romans. 4:2). This if, here, is not to be taken for an interrogation, a question, whether he was, or not; but a concession, a grant that he was. And therefore follows, he hath whereof to glory; but (where?) not before God. No, no; says the Apostle, had he been justified by works before God he would have had whereof to glory before God; but since his justification by works extended only to men, his glorying was there limited; and all boasting, both from him and his seed, is forever excluded ... by the law of faith (Romans. 3:27). That is, by the doctrine of faith, the Gospel; which reveals the obedience of Christ to be the only justifying righteousness of a sinner before God as it is imputed to him of the freest grace and received by faith alone.
Thus I have endeavored to answer the objection made against this doctrine I before laid down, by opening the texts on which it was founded; and I have been the larger herein, in order to set them and the truth in a clear light.
And now to show the impossibility of a sinner's being justified before God by the works of the Law-or by his own obedience to the Law-I shall take a little notice what it is that God by His Law requires of man; and also, for what end the Law was given.
First. God, by His Law requires of every man perfect obedience; which is his duty to perform, although he cannot do it. As all men are creatures of God's making and were all at once made representatively in their natural head, Adam; so in him, as their covenant head, they were creatures of God's governing; when He gave him the fundamental Law of nature, commanding him to eat of the trees of the garden, with a particular prohibition of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis. 2:16-17). And it was meet that God should govern the creature He had made, both for His own glory and the creature's good. For, as God's manifestative glory was concerned in His creature's obedience; so it was the happiness of the creature to serve its Creator, and in this way to enjoy Him. God is so great, so good and glorious a Being, that it is the happiness of the angels in heaven to be subject to His commands; and so it was of man in paradise to be subject to this Law given him. In which though the threatening of death upon his disobedience be only expressed; yet the promise of life, or the continuation of that blissful state he was then in possession of for himself and his seed upon his obedience, was implied. And this original Law did summarily contain all the ten words given at Mount Sinai, or the substance of the Moral Law, delivered in the Ten Commandments by the LORD'S audible voice from heaven; and wrote by Him in the two tables of stone when He gave His Law in this peculiar manner unto Israel. And when this moral Law, in the original form of it, was first given to Adam, and in him to all mankind, his heart was perfectly conformed thereto; and he-and so they in him-had power to have kept it; and it would have been his and their happiness so to have done.
But he, being a mutable creature and left to the freedom of his own will, soon hearkened to the temptations of Satan, cast off his loyalty to his Maker and sovereign Lord, and yielded subjection to the prince of darkness in obeying his dictates and eating of the forbidden fruit. In doing which, for himself and his whole posterity, he broke the whole Law at once. From whence the penalty, or threatening, became righteously due to him and them as the just reward of his disobedience, whereby many were made sinners: and so death passed upon all men in him, in whom all had sinned (Romans. 5:12, 19).
And as soon as Adam had sinned, and we in him, there was henceforth no life to be had for a fallen creature by its own obedience to the Law. Because the Law being once broken, Adam and every one of his race were looked upon in the eye of the Law as transgressors; and therefore the righteous Law could do nothing to justify a sinner; it became weak, in this regard, through our flesh, or corrupt nature (Romans. 8:3). But all the power it had, considered as broken, was to thunder out curse and wrath against every soul of man that had done evil.
And besides the guilt of the first transgression on which account Adam and all his posterity were at once laid under the curse; from which they could never deliver themselves, and so no life for them by a broken Law which bound them over to punishment; besides this, I say, there was a universal pollution of nature that overspread the soul of Adam-the curse taking hold upon him in the very instant of his disobedience. The threatening was, in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis. 2:17); or, "in dying thou shalt die." In which was contained death spiritual, temporal, and eternal, as the just wages of sin. And the first of these was instantly executed upon him. In that very day, hour, and moment in which he sinned, he died in his soul, or spirit, with regard to that life of holiness and perfect conformity to the Law, which before he was possessed of. And thereby he lost all his power to fulfil the Law, or to yield such an obedience as the holy Law of God requires, or can accept. The Law requires perfect obedience, and can accept no less; and Adam having lost all his moral rectitude, was utterly incapable to fulfil the Law. And as it was with Adam in this regard on account of his first sin, so it is with every one of his descendants that proceed from him by ordinary generation -as they became guilty in his first transgression, so coming into the world in union to him as their covenant head, standing together with him under the same broken Law-they become filthy likewise; the contagion of sin overspreads the whole soul as soon as ever it informs the body. And thus every child of Adam, being shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, comes forth into this world a sinner with a defiled nature, a carnal mind, or corrupt soul, which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Psalms. 51:5; Romans. 8:7).
And that infants are born sinners appears from Romans 5:14. Where the Apostle, proving that sin was in the world before the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai; in that death reigned from Adam to Moses, gives the death of infants as an instance of their being sinners. Nevertheless, says he, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression. That is, over infants who were not capable of sinning actually, as Adam did; but they being guilty in him and filthy from him, the Law of God finds them sinners, and so death, the wages of sin (Romans. 6:23), seizes upon them.
Thus we are sinners by nature before we are so by practice -and none can bring a clean thing out of an unclean; no not one (Job. 14:4). There can be no pure obedience yielded to God's holy Law, such as it requires, by filthy, abominable man. And as Adam upon his first sin became guilty, and we in him, and as he instantly thereupon became filthy, and we as soon as we have a being; so there can be no life for a fallen creature by the works of the Law. For first, he has already broken the Law, and so is under the curse. And secondly, he has lost his power to obey it, and so cannot obtain the blessing. And therefore, when Adam had sinned, the Lord God drove out the man from the Garden of Eden, and He placed . . . Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life (Genesis. 3:24). Which signified to him and all his posterity that now he had broken the Law there was no life for them by their own obedience; or that it was impossible that fallen man should have life by his obedience to the Law, as Adam was to have had in paradise; and that whoever should attempt it that way must be inevitably destroyed by the flaming sword of God's justice; which turned every waytowards every one of the commandments which man had broken-to keep the sinner from life by the Law. And therefore the Apostle says that as many as, in vain, attempt to obtain life by the Law, are under the curse-For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them (Galatians. 3:10). Thus there is no life for a fallen creature by the works of the Law; because he has lost his power to yield such an obedience as the Law requires. For the eternal Law of God requires the same perfect, perpetual obedience now man is fallen and has lost his strength as it did when he was upright and had power to perform it, and that righteously too. Because when the Law was first given to Adam, and in him to all mankind, he had power to have kept it; and though man, by sin, has lost his power to obey, yet God has not lost His power to command. And therefore every man that comes into this world, notwithstanding his being born a sinner and previously under the curse, is bound to yield a perfect obedience to God's holy Law in thought, word and deed, in heart, lip and life, from his birth to his death, without the least failure or wry step; and upon default hereof, he righteously falls under the condemnation of the Law and the fiery indignation of a sin-revenging God; which must be borne either by himself or his Surety, as, blessed be God, it has been by the Surety; Christ, for all that shall be saved. And as for those that perish, they must bear the weight of their own sins and of God's inexpressible wrath breaking forth upon them through the curses of a broken Law, in the torments of Hell forever.
And this shows the great misery and cruel bondage we are in by nature by reason of sin, as being under the Law, which is the ministration of death (2 Corinthians. 3:7). It commands duty, and that righteously, but can give no strength; and this was shadowed forth by the bondage the children of Israel were in, in Egypt, under Pharaoh and his cruel taskmasters; who commanded the full tale of brick and yet afforded no straw. And though it was an unrighteous thing in them thus to command the Israelites and then to beat them for the non-performance of that which they never had ability to do; yet, as was said, it is a righteous thing with God, according to His Law, to command perfect obedience of fallen man, and to curse him to death upon default hereof; because he once had power to have yielded it, and by his own sin deprived himself hereof. But however righteous it is-as those that perish shall one day own, when every mouth shall be stopped, and all the world ... become guilty before God (Romans. 3:19)yet the misery of man by reason hereof is exceeding great.
Secondly. To show this, i.e., the misery of man by sin, as being under the exacting and condemning Law-and so the need he had of a Saviour was one great end of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. For until the law, says the Apostle, sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law (Romans. 5:13). How is that? Why, it is not to be understood as if God did not impute it; for that He did is evident in that He inflicted the punishment thereof, the wages due to it, death. For death reigned from Adam to Moses, as in the next verse. But the meaning is that during that tract of time from Adam to Moses, the consciences of men were grown in a great measure secure and not having that just sense they ought to have had to the Law's severity (as it was given out to Adam, and to them in him), they did not do their office in condemning for sin. When they did evil they did not impute sin unto themselves; or at least, not in such a manner as they ought, or was agreeable to the strictness of the holy Law; and therefore it amounted to little more, nay no more, in the Holy Ghost's phrase, than a non-imputation of it. And therefore God would have His Law come forth in a new edition, with the tremendous majesty and amazing terror of a GOD, glorious in Holiness; when He came down on Mount Sinai in flaming fire, with thunders and lightnings and a great earthquake; and the voice of a trumpet, sounding exceeding loud to summons the people to hear the voice of their Creator, GOD, in His holy Law which He summed up and gave in ten words, or the Ten Commandments (Exodus. 19:16ff.; 20:1ff.). Whereupon the people removed, and stood afar off (Exodus. 20:18); as struck with the amazing purity of God's nature displayed in His holy Law; while He appeared as a consuming fire to show His just vengeance against all Law-breakers -and they being guilty and self-condemned-began to see their need of a mediator; and said unto Moses (the typical one), Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die (Exodus. 20:19). Thus the law entered, that the offence might abound ... that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful; or appear to be sinful sin indeed (Romans. 5:20; 7:13). The end of the Law's being given on Mount Sinai to fallen men was not that he should obey it for life; but that by the apparent straightness of the rule the crookedness of his ways might be manifest; and that by the strict purity of this holy Law, now drawn out in all its beautiful lineaments, the defilement of man's nature and the odiousness of his features in his disconformity thereto might appear; and that by this Law, in the hand of the Spirit, which was at first ordained unto life, but now by sin, become the ministration of death, the sinner might be killed as to all hopes of life therefrom, the offence thereby abounding in His sight unto death; that so by this he might be prepared to receive the free gift of life in Christ and the superabounding grace of God reigning through righteousness unto eternal life by Him.
Again, the Sinai Law was given that Christ might be made under it to fulfill its requirements and suffer its penalties for His people; to make them righteous by His obedience to it, or the active obedience of His life, and to redeem them from the curse of it by His passive obedience, or His meritorious death. And that thus fulfilling it, He might become the end of it for righteousness unto them (Romans. 10:4), and forever deliver them from it, as it is a covenant of works; that so from Him, their Saviour-King, they might receive this royal law as a rule of life to square their obedience by; which is designed to glorify God, and not to obtain salvation from; and thus in love, serve it in the newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter (Romans. 5:19; Galatians. 3:13 with chapter 4:4-5; Romans. 10:4; 1 Corinthians. 9:21; Romans. 7:6).
Thus it appears that the Law was given for ends subservient to the Gospel; and not to oppose and destroy the Gospel. For which end the corrupt nature of man perversely uses it in endeavoring to obey it for righteousness unto life; when there can be no life had thereby. Not but that the promise of life, upon the creature's obedience, is contained in the Law; as the threatening of death on his disobedience. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man that doeth those things shall live by them (Romans. 10:5)-as the Apostle declares. But then, a sinner has already broken the Law and lost his power to fulfill it; and on both accounts it is impossible for him to obtain life by it. And to attempt the same is a God-dishonoring and soul-destroying thing. The soul that seeks life by the Law dishonors God, in that it does its utmost to oppose the great design of His infinite wisdom and grace in saving sinners by His Son. And it destroys itself in seeking the blessing in such a way, wherein it is impossible to be had, and whereby it must inevitably fall under the curse. And such a soul, in doing for life, runs quite counter to God's way of believing for life; and he that believeth not the Son (living and dying in that state), shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (John. 3:36). Which will sink him into the abyss of unutterable and eternal torment.
But it may be said: You talk of doing for life, and trusting to our own obedience for acceptance with God, and that this is a soul-destroying thing-but who is there that goes about it? Do not all that profess the name of Christ believe that He died to save mankind? But we must not from thence sit still and do nothing ourselves; we must do what we can and what we cannot do Christ will make up by His merit, and God will forgive us our sins.
And so the person that makes this objection would not be thought to seek life by the works of the Law; but is for salvation in a mixed way-partly by works, and partly by grace. But as no such thing can be, for grace and works, in the point of salvation, can no more mix than iron and clay; so the person that seeks life at all by his own works will be found to seek it wholly by the works of the Law if what Paul says is true, And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work (Romans. 11:6). It must be wholly of works, or wholly of grace. And therefore man must stand either on the side of works, or on the side of grace. And as it is God's way to save sinners alone by His free grace; so every soul that shall be saved is made willing to be saved in this way. And that soul that is not willing to have salvation alone by God's free grace in Christ, without the least regard to his own works in point of acceptance, must forever go without it. And as for that soul, whoever he be, that adheres in the least to his own works, he will be found to be of the works of the Law, and as such must inevitably fall under the curse; for he adhering to the Law chooses to stand at its bar; and that requiring of him perfect obedience, which he cannot perform (although it is his duty), ,it will curse him to death for the want of it. Such a soul in attempting to do anything for life tacitly says that he is able to keep the whole Law; and so out of his own mouth will be judged and condemned for the nonperformance of it. Little do souls know what a dreadful task they undertake when they go about working for life, and to establish their own righteousness. They reject the great, full and free salvation of God in the Gospel, and bind themselves over to the condemnation of a broken Law, and to the fiery indignation of a sin-revenging God; and will find it a most fearful thing to fall into His hands (Hebrews. 10:31). And whoever you are, soul, that are for doing for life, you will find enough to do; for no less than to fulfill the whole Law does God require of you thereby.
But it may be further said: Why, then, we may even throw away the Law, cast off subjection to it, and live as we list.
But, hold man, you are under the Law and cannot so easily deliver yourself from its yoke. It bids you do, and do perfectly. And though you cannot yield such an obedience as it requires, yet you are indispensably bound to do what you can; (yea, and infinitely more than is in your power to perform), and you ought to do your utmost, as a creature, in point of obedience to God, your Creator and Preserver. And He will regard the acts of your moral righteousness; and in the bounties of His providence reward your obedience with good things in this present life. So that in this regard you will not serve a hard master. For whatsoever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And hence there is encouragement enough for fallen man to use his utmost diligence to do what God requires of him in His Law. But if he would be saved, he must seek salvation in another way; even in that way wherein God has declared it may be had.
For if a sinful creature will obey the Law with an eye to make himself righteous in the sight of God, and to obtain eternal life thereby; as this was not God's end in giving the Law to fallen man, so He will say to such a one, Who has required these things at your hands? And cast all his obedience as dung and abominable filth into his face to his everlasting shame and utter confusion. For in point of righteousness before God, nothing less than perfect obedience can be accepted; which a fallen creature cannot perform-and God having appointed the obedience of His Son to be the only justifying righteousness of a sinner; if a sinful creature sets aside the perfect obedience of Christ by introducing his own imperfect obedience in the stead thereof; or presents his own filthy rags (Isaiah. 64:6) to join with Christ's spotless, glorious robe in order to obtain life by the works of his own hands, when God has declared that it is only to be had by His free gift; it is a most daring affront to the grace of God in the Gospel, and to the justice of God in the Law. And the condemnation of such a soul will be exceedingly more aggravated, and his punishment more intolerable that thus adheres to the Law under the promulgation of the Gospel; than that of the heathens who perish not having heard of the name of Christ. And thus it is a dreadful thing for a poor sinner to attempt to do anything himself so that he may inherit eternal life. For if he will enter into life that way, he must keep all the commandments in heart, lip and life without the least failure continually. Which he can never do-and so runs himself upon the flaming sword of God's justice in His fiery Law; and dying in that state he must suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (Proverbs. 29:1).
But again, it may be said: If there is no such thing as life to be had for a fallen creature by its own obedience to the Law, then it is made void.
I answer with the Apostle, Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law (Romans. 3:31). It is those destroy the Law who would put it off with their own imperfect obedience. For thereby they tacitly say that the Law is not so strict and holy as it once was; nor so binding to the creature either in its requirements of duty, or obligation to punishment, as it was wont to be. But as for those who assert that the Law of God is an eternal rule of righteousness; and that it indispensably requires of every man that is under it as a covenant of works, perfect and perpetual obedience, which is the creature's duty to perform, although he cannot do it; and that upon default hereof it righteously binds the transgressor over to punishment-and so set it aside and cease to obey it for life; these establish the law. In that they by faith take hold of Christ's perfect obedience, who has fulfilled it perfectly and is become the end of it for righteousness to every one that believeth (Romans. 10:4); and in that to all unbelievers who remain under it, they assert its equity and eternity in requiring of them complete and constant obedience, and binding them over to death, both in soul and body, in time and to eternity, for the non-performance thereof.
Thus, as it is the duty of the creature, man, to do whatever his Creator commands in His holy Law, which yet he cannot do; so it appears to be utterly impossible for him to be justified by his own obedience, and the misery of man with regard to the Law is exceeding great indeed. And therefore, the good news the Gospel brings must needs be glad tidings; as it reveals pardon and life for a sinner through the complete obedience of Jesus Christ imputed to him for his justifying righteousness before God, which is to be received by faith alone.
FIFTHLY. In the last place I shall add something by way of Use from what has been said, as a conclusion of the whole.
1. Since the justification of a sinner is by the complete obedience of Jesus Christ imputed to him, and received by faith, unto such great and glorious effects; we may hence learn what reason we have to admire that infinity of wisdom which shines forth in the contrivance of this wonder; and to adore that immensity of grace which is displayed in this glorious provision made for the favorites of Heaven!
When the beloved John was favored with a visionary sight of the woman-bride, the Lamb's wife, as clothed with Christ, the Sun of righteousness, and shining forth in the resplendent rays of her Bridegroom's glory; he says he saw a WONDER (Revelation. 12:1). And a wonder it is indeed; so great that it calls for the admiration both of men and of angels. This is one of those glorious things that by the Gospel is revealed unto us, which things the angels desire to look into (1 Peter. 1:12). And while sinful men have the forgiveness of their sins through Christ's blood, and the acceptation of their persons in Him-the beloved according to the riches of the Father's grace, wherein He hath abounded towards them, in all wisdom and prudence (Ephesians. 1:6-8); it becomes them to admire and adore the same, and to cry out with the Apostle, 0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! (Romans. 11:33). That the obedience of the Son of God should be made our righteousness -the righteousness of a sinner-to his complete justification before God, is such a project of infinite wisdom, such a provision of infinite grace for the salvation of God's chosen, that this in every way becomes the Great Jehovah! And will be the endless wonder of men and angels!
2. Since the justification of a sinner is wholly by the righteousness of another, which is a way of life above nature, above being discovered by nature's light, and seen by nature's eye, or discovered by the light of the Law and discerned by natural reason; we may learn hence what an absolute necessity there is of a supernatural revelation thereof in order to the soul's receiving of this righteousness, and so, of the grace of justification thereby. This is one of those things that God has prepared for His people that never entered into the heart of the natural man to conceive of, which he has neither known, nor can understand; and therefore deems it foolishness, or a foolish thing for any to think they shall be justified by the obedience of Christ exclusive of all their own works. But the people of God receive not the spirit which is of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that they may know the things which are freely given them of God. And this, of the free gift of righteousness, is revealed unto them by His Spirit, though it is one of those deep things of God which are hidden from the natural man; which are impossible to be known by any but Heaven-born souls, under a special revelation from above (see 1 Corinthians. 2:9-14).
3. Since the justification of a sinner is by the obedience of Christ alone; we may hence learn how greatly important the knowledge thereof is! The knowledge of this righteousness must needs be of the utmost importance, since ignorance of it and non-submission to it-which always go together-leave the soul in an unrighteous state (Romans. 9:31-32; 10:3). All those miserable souls who are ignorant of Christ's righteousness go about to establish their own righteousness; and alas! the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it (Isaiah. 28:20). There is no true rest for a sinner from the works of his own hands; no covering for a naked soul from the fig leaves of its own righteousness, though forever so artfully sewn together. Our Lord told His disciples that except their righteousness did exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, they should in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew. 5:20). These scribes and Pharisees were the zealous, the religious men of that age, the strict observers of Moses' Law, that trusted in themselves that they were righteous by their own legal performances and thought to get to heaven by means thereof. But our Lord declares that none shall ever come there but those who have a better righteousness, a righteousness that exceeds a pharisaical righteousness, i.e., such a righteousness that every way answers to all the extensive requirements of the Law, in heart, lip and life; and this is no other than the righteousness of Christ imputed to poor sinners, or made theirs by imputation; in which being completely justified according to law and justice, they shall, as righteous persons, be admitted into the kingdom of heaven, or into the glory of the heavenly state; while all those who trust in their own righteousness and think they have done many wonderful works, which they dare plead for acceptance with God, shall be sent away from Christ into eternal misery with a depart from Me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew. 7:23).
And as our Lord, in this His Sermon on the Mount had been expounding the Law of God in its spirituality as extending to the heart as well as life; and asserting the necessity of keeping the commandments in the same extensive manner that the Law required in order to make a person righteous; so, in the conclusion thereof He says, Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock (Matthew. 7:24-25). These sayings of our Lord contain the substance of the moral Law, and the doing of them unto righteousness before God is by believing; as faith lays hold on Christ who has obeyed the Law perfectly as the Representative of His people; on which account they may be said to have done, or fulfilled the Law in Him; His obedience being imputed unto them for their complete justification before God. As the surety's payment, among men, is accounted to the debtor and is the same in the eye of the law, and as effectual for his full discharge as if he himself had paid the debt. And he that thus does the Law, or these sayings of Christ, He likens him unto a wise man who built his house upon a rock. It is a piece of natural wisdom to lay a good foundation for a stately structure; and the most firm that any house can be built on is that of a rock. And he that is spiritually wise, wise unto salvation, lays the whole stress of it, and builds all his hope of life upon Christ, the Rock of Ages; in which it appears that he is wise indeed. For as in nature a house that is built upon a rock will stand the storm; so the soul that is built upon Christ shall never be removed; the rain may descend, the floods come, and the winds beat; afflictions, temptations and trials of all kinds may beat vehemently against that soul; but shall never destroy its salvation nor make it ashamed of its hope. No; Christ, the Rock of immutability, will hold it unshaken in a state of salvation through life, through death, at judgment, and forever. Such a soul stands as immovable in the grace of justification and life as the Rock itself on which it is founded. Because I live, says our Lord, ye shall live also (John. 14:19). Christ's life is the life of that soul that depends upon Him alone for all its justification and eternal salvation. And therefore the wisdom of faith is great indeed! in that it foresees the storm and thus provides against it.
But he, says our Lord, that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not (i.e., that hears the Law's requirements and endeavors to obey the same for righteousness before God, and so does them not; because his obedience cannot come up to that perfection which the Law requires), shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it (Matthew. 7:26-27). Oh, the folly of that poor sinner who lays the stress of his salvation and builds his hope of life upon his own righteousness! For this sandy foundation cannot endure the storms of divine wrath which shall be revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men; nor secure the soul from being driven away by the tempest of God's anger and the floods of His indignation into the abyss of eternal misery. The house fell that was thus built upon the sand, and great was the fall of it! Oh, what a miserable disappointment will it be to that soul that goes down to the chambers of eternal death with this lie of his own righteousness in his right hand for which he had all along hoped for eternal life? When this way that seemed right to him in his own eyes, as if it would lead him to everlasting life (by his depending thereon), shall end in eternal death! The hypocrite's hope (or, of him that trusts in himself that he is righteous by his own external performances, when yet his heart is far from that conformity to God which the Law requires) shall perish at the giving up of the ghost. His hope (i.e., his salvation hoped for) shall then be cut off.... He shall lean upon his house (i.e., his own righteousness which he had raised up in his imagination to shelter him from the storm of divine vengeance), but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure (Job. 8:13-15). No, this house of his shall be as soon destroyed by the storm of God's indignation as a spider's web is swept down by the besom that comes against it; and the miserable soul that trusted herein shall be driven away into eternal perdition. Thus, an error in the foundation will prove fatal to the building; and therefore the knowledge of Christ as the alone way of a sinner's justification and life must needs be of the highest importance; since no other refuge can stand the storm but Christ, as THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS-this glorious hiding place which God has prepared for poor sinners whither they may run and be forever safe. And as for those who live and die in ignorance of, and non-submission to the righteousness of Christ, they will certainly die in their sins and perish forever. They will all be found filthy at the Day of Judgment that have not been enabled to believe in Christ's blood for cleansing from all sin; they will all be found unjust at that awful Day that have not believed in the Redeemer's righteousness for their justification before God; and so must remain forever. For concerning them it will be said, He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still (Revelation. 22:11), i.e., let him abide so to an endless eternity.
4. But since there is but one Way for a sinner to be justified before God, and that is by the obedience of Christ alone; this informs us what great folly those persons are guilty of who press poor sinners to obey the Law to make themselves righteous in the sight of God when there is no law given that can give life unto them; and how dangerous it is for souls to sit under such a ministry that naturally misleads them; since while the blind leads the blind, both fall into the ditch (Matthew. 15:14). If there had been a law given which could have given life, says the Apostle, verily righteousness should have been by the law (Galatians. 3:21). But as there is no law given that can give life to a sinner; it is a vain, foolish thing to press such a soul to get a righteousness by his own performances, which was never appointed of God, nor can be obtained by man. No; the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise (of life) by faith of Jesus Christ (as a sinner's righteousness) might be given to them that believe (Galatians. 3:22). And those who receive it not in this way shall never attain it in any other, but must go without it forever. The labour of the foolish, says the wise man, wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city (Eclesiastes. 10:15). A man may labor all his days to make himself righteous before God by his own performances, and to make his peace with Him by his legal repentance and humiliation for sin; and yet lose all his labor at last and so weary himself in vain, being never able to reach that city, that eternal rest, which God has prepared for His people-because he knows not Christ, the only Way that leads thither; and so walks not by faith in Him, as such. All men by nature are ignorant of Christ's righteousness as it is God's way of justifying and saving a sinner; and it is dangerous for souls to sit under such a ministry that presses doing and persuades them their safety lies there instead of believing. For how shall they believe, says the Apostle, in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? (Romans. 10:14-15). How shall poor souls believe in Christ for justification when they have never heard of His righteousness which is the proper object of faith? And how shall they hear without a preacher of that Gospel, that declares it? And how shall they preach the Gospel to others who have never seen that salvation it reveals for sinners by the righteousness of Christ, themselves? How shall they declare the glory and efficacy thereof to others that have never seen nor experienced it themselves? And how does it appear that they are sent by Christ to preach the Gospel who neither know nor proclaim His righteousness for the justification of a sinner; which is such a main doctrine thereof? Have we not reason to fear that many of those who are called ministers of the Gospel are rather preachers of Moses than of Christ? and that their ministry rather tends to lead souls to the bondage and death of the Law than to the liberty and life of the Gospel? But, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans. 10:15). That publish that peace with God which was made for sinners alone by the blood of Christ's cross; and is possessed only by faith in Him! That proclaim the glad tidings of those good things which God has prepared to be enjoyed by sinners through the justifying righteousness of His Son! And how great is the privilege of those souls who sit under a Gospel Ministry; since this is the means appointed of God to work faith in them, and to bring salvation to them!
5. Since the justification of a sinner is by the righteousness of Christ imputed to him and received by faith alone; we may hence learn how great the obligation of the justified ones is to live to the glory of that grace which has so freely and fully justified them in and through Christ unto eternal life by Him! When the Apostle had asserted the justification and salvation of God's people, both Jews and Gentiles, to be wholly of His free mercy in and through Christ (Romans. 11:32), and admired the riches of His wisdom which was so brightly displayed in the dispensations of His mercy towards them (v. 33), he thus concludes his discourse, For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen (v. 36). It is as if he should say, Since all things relating to the justification and salvation of God's people are of Him, and through Him, it is meet that the glory of all should by them be given to Him. And therefore, when he applies this doctrine of God's free mercy in Christ to them who had obtained it, he thus addresses them, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans. 12:1). I beseech you, says he, you that have obtained mercy, therefore, or since it is God's design to glorify His mercy in the salvation of sinners, that you give Him the glory of it; by the mercies of God, those mercies of God which you are partakers of in the forgiveness of all your sins and in the justification of your persons, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, that you continually offer up yourselves as a whole burnt offering in the flames of love unto Him that has loved you, in all holy and acceptable obedience to the glory of that God who has thus had mercy upon you; which is your reasonable service. For it is a most reasonable thing, or a thing for which there is the highest reason, that you should ever serve the Lord to the glory of that grace by which you are freely justified and shall be eternally glorified. And thus the Apostle Peter, But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood (who are washed from all your sins in Christ's blood, and clothed with His righteousness), an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter. 2:9). And ye know, says the Apostle Paul, how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you (i.e., of you justified, saved ones), that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians. 2:11-12). And in short, as it was God's design to get Himself glory in the justification of sinners by the righteousness of Jesus Christ; so the display thereof throughout the whole Gospel lays them under the highest obligation to live to His praise. Does God the Father impute the obedience of His Son to poor sinners? Did God the Son obey in life and in death for them? And does God the Spirit reveal and apply this righteousness to them; and enable them to receive the same as a free gift of grace unto their eternal life in glory? What thanks, what praise, is due to God in each of His glorious Persons for this abundant grace! And let the language of the justified ones, in heart, lip and life, in all kinds of holy obedience, both now and always be, Thanks be unto God, for the grace of JUSTIFICATION! For this, His unspeakable GIFT! (2 Corinthians. 9:15). Amen! Hallelujah!