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JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
“ To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justi
fieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Rom. iv. 5.
1. How a sinner may be justified before God, the Lord and Judge of all, is a question of no common importance to every child of man. It contains the foundation of all our hope, inasmuch as while we are at enmity with God, there can be no true peace, no solid joy, either in time or in eternity. What peace can there be, while our own heart condemns us; and much more, he that is “greater than our heart and knoweth all things?” What solid joy, either in this world or that to come, while “ the wrath of God abideth on us?”
2. And yet how little hath this important question been understood! What confused notions have many had concerning it! Indeed, not only confused, but often utterly false ; contrary to the truth, as light to darkness; notions absolutely inconsistent with the Oracles of God, and with the whole analogy of faith. And hence, erring concerning the very foundation, they could not possibly build thereon ; at least, not “gold, silver, or precious stones," which would endure when tried as by fire ; but only “hay and stubble,” neither acceptable to God, nor profitable to man.
3. In order to do justice, as far as in me lies, to the vast importance of the subject, to save those that seek the truth in sincerity from “ vain jangling and strife of words,” to clear the confusedness of thought into which so many have already been led thereby, and to give them true and just conceptions of this great mystery of godliness, I shall endeavour to show,
First, What is the general ground of this whole doctrine of justification ;
Secondly, What justification is ;
I. I am First to show, what is the general ground of this whole doctrine of justification.
1. In the image of God was man made, holy as he that created him is holy; merciful as the Author of all is merciful ; perfect as his father in heaven is perfect. As God is love, so man, dwelling in love, dwelt in God, and God in him. God made him to be an image of his own eternity," an incorruptible picture of the God of glory. He was accordingly pure, as God is pure, from every spot of sin. He knew not evil in any kind or degree, but was inwardly and outwardly sinless and undefiled. He “ loved the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and soul, and strength."
2. To man thus upright and perfect, God gave a perfect law, to which he required full and perfect obedience. He required full obedience in every point, and this to be performed without any intermission, from the moment man became a living soul, till the time of his trial should be ended. No allowance was made for any falling short. As, indeed, there was no need of any; man being altogether equal to the task assigned, and thoroughly furnished for every good word and work.
3. To the entire law of love which was written in his heart, (against which, perhaps, he could not sin directly,) it seemed good to the sovereign wisdom of God to superadd one positive law: “Thou shalt not eat of the fruit of the tree that groweth in the midst of the garden ;” annexing that penalty thereto, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”
4. Such then was the state of man in Paradise. By the free, unmerited love of God, he was holy and happy : He knew, loved, enjoyed God, which is, in substance, life everlasting. And in this life of love, he was to continue for ever, tinued to obey God in all things; but, if he disobeyed him in any, he was to forfeit all. “In that day," said God, “thou shalt surely die."
5. Man did disobey God. He “ate of the tree, of which God commanded him, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it.” And in that day he was condemned by the righteous judgment of God. Then also the sentence, whereof he was warned before, began to take place upon him. For the moment he tasted that fruit, he died. His soul died, was separated from God; separate from whom the soul has no more life than the body has when separate from the soul. His body, likewise, became cor
if he con
ruptible and mortal; so that death then took hold on this also. And being already dead in spirit, dead to God, dead in sin, he hastened on to death everlasting ; to the destruction both of body and soul, in the fire never to be quenched.
6. Thus“ by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. And so death passed upon all men,” as being contained in him who was the common father and representative of us all. Thus, “ through the offence of one,” all are dead, dead to God, dead in sin, dwelling in a corruptible, mortal body, shortly to be dissolved, and under the sentence of death eternal. For by one man's disobedience,” all “ were made sinners ;' so, by that offence of one,“ judgment came upon all men to condemnation." (Rom. v. 12, &c.)
7 In this state we were, even all mankind, when “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end we might not perish, but have everlasting life.” In the fulness of time he was made Man, another common Head of mankind, a second general Parent and Representative of the whole human race. And as such it was that “ he bore our griefs,” Lord laying upon him the iniquities of us all.” Then was he “ wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities." “ He made his soul an offering for sin :" He poured out his blood for the transgressors: He“ bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” that by his stripes we might be healed: And by that one oblation of himself, once offered, he hath redeemed me and all mankind; having thereby “ made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world."
8. In consideration of this, that the Son of God hath tasted death for every man,” God hath now " reconciled the world to himself, not imputing to them their former trespasses.” And thus, “ as, by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so, by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification.” So that, for the sake of his well beloved Son, of what he hath done and suffered for us, God now vouchsafes, on one only condition, (which himself also enables us to perform,) both to remit the punishment due to our sins, to reinstate us in his favour, and to restore our dead souls to spiritual life, as the earnest of life eternal.
9. This, therefore, is the general ground of the whole doctrine of justification. By the sin of the first Adam, who was not only the father, but likewise the representative, of us all, we all fell short of the favour of God; we all became children of wrath ; or, as the Apostle expresses it, “ judgment came upon all men to condemnation.”
Even so, by the sacrifice for sin made by the Second Adam, as the Representative of us all, God is so far reconciled to all the world, that he hath given them a new covenant; the plain condition whereof being once fulfilled, " there is no more condemnation” for us, but “ we are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ."
II. 1. But what is it to be justified? What is justification ? This was the Second thing which I proposed to show. And it is evident, from what has been already observed, that it is not the being made actually just and righteous. This is sanctification ; which is, indeed, in some degree, the immediate fruit of justification, but, nevertheless, is a distinct gift of God, and of a totally different nature. The one implies, what God does for us through his Son; the other, what he works in us by his Spirit. So that, although some rare instances may be found, wherein the term justified or justification is used in so wide a sense as to include sanctification also ; yet, in general use, they are sufficiently distinguished from each other, both by St. Paul and the other inspired writers.
2. Neither is that far-fetched conceit, that justification is the clearing us from accusation, particularly that of Satan, easily provable from any clear text of holy writ. In the whole scriptural account of this matter, as above laid down, neither that accuser nor his accusation appears to be at all taken in. It cannot indeed be denied, that he is the “ accuser of
men, emphatically so called. But it does in nowise appear, that the great Apostle hath any reference to this, more or less, in all that he hath written touching justification, either to the Romans or the Galatians.
3. It is also far easier to take for granted, than to prove from any clear scripture testimony, that justification is the clearing us from the accusation brought against us by the law : At least if this forced, unnatural way of speaking mean either more or les than this, that, whereas we have transgressed the law of God, and thereby deserved the damnation of hell, God does not inflict on those who are justified the punishment which they had deserved.
4. Least of all does justification imply, that God is deceived in those whom he justifies; that he thinks them to be what, in fact, they are not; that he accounts them to be otherwise than they are. It does by no means imply, that God judges concerning us contrary to the real nature of things; that he esteems us better than we really are, or believes us righteous when we are unrighteous. Surely no. The judgment of the all-wise God is always according to truth. Neither can it ever consist with his unerring wisdom, to think that I am innocent, to judge that I am righteous or holy, because another is so.
He can no more, in this manner, confound me with Christ, than with David or Abraham. Let any man, to whom God hath given understanding, weigh this without prejudice ; and he cannot but perceive, that such a notion of justification is neither reconcilable to reason nor Scripture.
5. The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the forgiveness of sins. It is that act of God the Father, whereby, for the sake of the propitiation made by the blood of his Son, he “ showeth forth his righteousness (or mercy) by the remission of the sins that are past." This is the easy, natural account of it given by St. Paul, throughout this whole epistle. So he explains it himself, more particularly in this, and in the following chapter. Thus, in the next verses but one to the text, “ Blessed are they,” saith he, “ whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” To him that is justified or forgiven, God“ will not impute sin" to his condemnation. He will not condemn him on that account, either in this world or in that which is to come. His sins, all his past sins, in thought, word, and deed, are covered, are blotted out, shall not be remembered or mentioned against him, any more than if they had not been. God will not inflict on that sinner what he deserved to suffer, because the Son of his love hath suffered for him. And from the time we are “ accepted through the Beloved,” “reconciled to God through his blood,” he loves, and blesses, and watches over us for good, even as if we had never sinned.
Indeed the Apostle in one place seems to extend the meaning of the word much farther, where he says, “ Not the hearers of the law, but the doers of the law, shall be justified.” Here he appears to refer our justification to the sentence of the great day. And so our Lord himself unquestionably doth, when he