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ated; that the day of judgment is already come; that all the children of God in the world are now actually. fhining in their robes of glory, and triumphing at the right hand of Christ: Or, if you will, that I wrote this letter to you before the world began ; or at least above seventeen hundred years ago. There is just the same foundation of truth in the one, as in the other. For all these things were as truly the objects of the divine counsel, as our justification, and in that respect as actually true from eternity, or from the time of Christ's death, as that would be.
How inconfiftent and absurd is the strange apprehension, that finners are actually justified, reconciled to God, and instated in his favour, while yet habitually indulging their lulls, and going on boldly and impenitently in fin and enmity against God; as is the case of all men before converfion and faith in Chrift; Are men's hearts and lives contrary to God; and yet God pleased with them at the same time? Are they condemned already, the children of wrath ; and yet recon. ciled to God, and at peace with him ? Are they of their father the devil, whose works they do, and yet the children of God, and heirs of eternal glory? Can hea. ven and hell be blended together? Is the service of Christ and of Belial equally agreeable to a pure and holy God? and the greatest practical, as well as speculative contradictions, reconcileable to truth? What a strange medley is here! What a door to all manner of licentiousness is here fet open !
In short, bow wild and chimerical are their notions on the article of our justification by faith! If we are indeed in the favour of God, our fools are in the fame de gree of safety, wherber we are perfuaded of this, or not. If we are not in the favour of God, our perfuafion of a ftate of safety will not influence him to treat us as his favourites; nor to consider that as true, which in its own nature is false. All therefore that is left for faith to do, according to them, is to give us eafe and comfort in our own minds. And is this all we are to understand by our being justified by faith? Is this all we are to under. ftand by the repeated declarations in holy scripture, that the believer thall be saved; while the unbeliever
shall be damned ? If so, the gospel salvation is no more than merely the comfort flowing from a persuasion of the safety of our present state. But I need not enlarge in opposition to a doctrine so apparently repugnant to the whole delign of the gospel, so manifestly unreaso. nable, and so directly subversive of all practical godliness. Do we then make void the law through faith ? God for bid! Tea, we establish the law, Rom. iii. 31.
It is infinitely your concern, Sir, to experience in your own heart something more than a mere Antinomian or Moravian faith. It is of infinite importance that you receive the Lord Jesus Chrift, and that you walk in him ; that you experience the fanctifying efficacy of faith, and exemplify the obedience of faith, in the exercife of all the graces and fruits of the Holy Spirit; and thereby evidence to yourself, at once, the sincerity of your faith, and the reality of your justification before God.
Now, that the Lord may direct you safe in the way of truth and righteousness, to the kingdom of his glory, is the prayer of
LETTER XII. Wherein the Do&trine of a fine
ner's JUSTIFICATION, by the IMPUTED RighTEOUSNESS of CHRIST, is explained and vins dicated.
T is indeed as you represent it, ' A matter of the
greatest consequence, to have a right view of the way and means by which God will be reconciled to
you, and by which you may have a title to eternal life.' I am glad, that you so kindly accept the pains I have taken, to set the Antinomian doctrine of justification in its
proper colours. For though you did not give me • that trouble (as you are pleased to express it) because
you had any favourable opinion of their schemes, but to know whether I was (as is pretended) of their opi. nion; and to know how I could, consistent with my declared sentiments, steer clear of their wild notions ;
Yet I rejoice, that your desires are gratified, and that
• set right in that matter.' But
you are yet, as you have all along been, in great difficulties on the other side of the question :
and cannot see into the doctrine of a sinner's justifi•cation by the imputed righteousness of CHRIST. You • have been lately reading upon that fubject; and find
many arguments against it, that you cannot get over. • Your author represents it as unscriptural, and unrea« fonable: you therefore desire me to give you a right "view of that doctrine, and to answer your objections
against it.' There is indeed, Sir, no cause for you to fufpect,
you shall wear out my patience. I gladly embrace the opportunity, to do any thing in my power to give you satisfaction ; and to aflift you in your greatest concern, which you have reason to be most follicitous about. I shall therefore, according to your desire, en. deavour in the first place, to give you a brief view of the doctrine of our justification by the imputed righteo ousness of Christ ; before I proceed to consider your objections against it.
I shall firtè consider what we are to understand by jultification, and in what fenfe that expression is used in fcripture. Should I herein follow fome of our wrang. ling disputants, I know not how many distinct meanings of the word Justification I might set before you. But this would be to darken counsel by words without knowledge ; the term having one invariable meaning, throughout the whole Bible. It always (as far as I have been able to observe) constantly fignifies being esteemed, declared, manifested, or pronounced righteous. This is what the original word, both in the Old and New Testament, naturally signifiés : and in this fenfe only, it is always used. I need not therefore undertake, to give instances of the use of the word in this fenfe, fince in all inftances it is used in this fenfe only. This, I be lieve, must be acknowledged by every one, that will thoroughly and impartially examine the cafe. I think, there can no text be found, where justification is used for making us inherently righteous.
But though this word has one invariable fignification,
it is used in scripture in a threefold respect ; either for our present justification in the light of God, for our juftification before men and our own consciences, or for our justification at the tribunal of our judge at the last dav. It is the first of these, that falls under our present confideration : which is to be considered as our acquit. tance from guilt, and our acceptance with God as righteous in his fight. It is to be considered as a sentence of absolution and acceptation, by the great judge of the world. As justification therefore is always confidered in scripture as a forenfick or judicial sentence, it should be carefully distinguished from the infusion of a principle of grace, or inherent righteousness. Justification is usually in scripture opposed to condemnation. As this latter therefore does not imply the rendering men wicked and guilty, but pronouncing them fo; even so the former likewise .cannot mean rendering men righteous, but fententially declaring and pronouncing them fo. Were this duly attended to, many of the objections made against our doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, would vanish of course. You will be pleased therefore all along to carry this in your mind, that I am not considering how we should become inherently righteous, by a renovation of our nature : but how we may be acquitted from guilt, and accepted as righteous, by the sentence of our glorious Judge.
I proceed to consider what we are to understand by the imputation of Christ's righteousness.
To impute, is to judge or esteem any matter, character or quality, whether good or evil, to belong to a person as his. And may either refer to what was originally his, antecedently to such imputation; or to what was not antecedently his, but becomes so by virtue of such imputation only. The scriptures abound with instances of both these forts of imputation.
We have many instances in scripture of imputing that to a person, which was originally his own, and performed by him antecedently to such imputation. Thus fin is said to be imputed to the finner, when he is judged or treated as an offender. Let not my Lord (says Shimei) impute iniquity unto me, 2 Sam. xix. 19. And thus righteousness is imputed to the faint, when he is judged
or acknowledged righteous (in a qualified fense) with relation to a particular fact, done in conformity to the preceptive part of the divine law. Then ftcoil up Phine. has, and executed judgment, and it was imputed to hinz for righteousness, Psalm cvi. 31. But this is not the imputation now to be considered, which refpects a juftification, that is proposed as the relief of a sinful perishing world, against the penalty of the condemning law, and implies a change of the sinner's state from guilt to grace, from death to life, in a relative sense.
I proceed then to observe, that also may be said to be imputed to a person, which was not his own originally or antecedently; but is judged and esteemed to belong to him, and is his on account of such imputation only. Thus, a debt is imputed to a surety ; and the furety's payment of a debt is imputed to the principal debtor, and is pleadable by him in discharge from his creditor's demands.
If he have wronged thee, or oweth thee ought (fags Paul of Onefimus) put that on my account (TOTTO Emon EAAOTEI) impute it unto me. Thus our fins are imputed unto Christ; inasmuch as he in the character of our furety, has undertaken to discharge those debts to the justice of God. And thus his righteoufness is imputed unto us; it having been wrought out in our place and stead, and given to God in payment on our behalf.
These things being premised, we are to understand the imputation in question, to be God's gracious dona. tion of the perfect righteousness of Christ to believers, and his acceptation of their persons as righteous, on the account thereof. Their sins being imputed to him, and his obedience being imputed to them, they are in virtue hereof both acquitted from guilt and accepted as righteous before God.
We are not therefore to understand our justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, as implying and fuppofing, that God does esteem believers to be what indeed they are not. He esteems them to be
finful imperfect men, who have no otherwise satisfied the claims of his justice, and the demands of the law, than by the obedience of their surety: which is really by a