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race can be justified, or stand acquitted before God. “ All have sinned, and come short of the glory of Godd.” In themselves, “there is none righteous, no, not one." “ They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no not one.” “Now, what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God'." Thus the whole world, according to the testimony of heaven, is convicted of having transgressed the Divine law, and consequently lies under its awful sentence, which is eternal death". On this ground, every offender is deprived of hope, and sentenced to utter destruction. For as the law will not accept of any but a perfect righteousness, so it certainly inflicts its penalty, which is eternal misery, on those who fall under its curse.
2. The other mode of justification, revealed in the Gospel, is that which suits the case of ruined sinners. This evangelical scheme of mercy justifies the ungodly, not by a personal or inherent, but by an imputed righteousness, wrought out by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. In this way, the justice of God is highly exalted by the full satisfaction of its claims, and there is a rich and boundless display of mercy exercised towards objects wholly undeserying of the inestimable benefit.
To justify in the manner which has been stated, is the high prerogative of heaven. It is God that justifieth "." That glorious Being, whom we have provoked by many foul acts of rebellion, has, in the way of his own appointment, the sole right of acquitting & Rom. ii. 23. . ib. iii. 10-13.
ib.iii. 19. ff Gal, iii. 10.
& Rom. iii. 21--23. ib. viii. 39.
the guilty, on their repentance, and of declaring them righteous. “ God justifies all them that believe in Jesus'.” He has provided the means, appointed the way, imputes the righteousness, and pronounces the penitent sinner forgiven, in entire accordance with the demands of his violated law, and the rights of his injured justice.
Although justification is repeatedly ascribed to the Father, yet it is obvious that each of the three Divine Persons in the Blessed Trinity performs à distinct part in this grand transaction, as well as in the whole economy of our redemption. God the Father devised the astonishing plan, and fixed the conditions on which he was willing to become propitious to his offending creatures." Christ took our nature upon him, that he might sustain the curse of the law, make atonement for transgression, and furnish the righteousness which is requisite for our justification. And the Spirit of holiness, in conformity with his sacred office, reveals to contrite sinners the perfection, suitableness, and freeness of the Saviour's work, as exhibited in the Gospel, and testifies to their consciences complete justification by it in the court of heaven; and “ therefore, being justified by faith, they have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christk."
In this manner God justifies. “And may we not ask, in the triumphant language of Scripture, who is he that condemneth?" If God pronounce a sinner acquitted, who, on earth or in hell, shall reverse the sentence? If the Most High entirely justify, who shall bring in a second charge? There is no superior tribunal at which a complaint can be lodged against any of those happy souls, whose invaluable Rom. ii. 26.
#ib. v. 1.
privilege it is to be justified by the eternal God. Whom he acquits in judgment, he absolves from all guilt, he accepts as completely righteous; otherwise, a person, immediately after he is justified, must be supposed to stand in need of further justification, which is highly absurd. This divine sentence can never be made void, but stands “firmer than the everlasting hills, unshaken as the throne of God.”
3. How glorious and divine is the blessing of justification! It secures every advantage which the covenant of Gospel Grace can confer ;---pardon of all past offences, however numerous, provoking, or longcontinued ; freedom from condemnation; a declaration of righteousness in the justified, who are treated as holy persons that have never sinned; acceptance with God, tokens of his Fatherly regard, the sweetest peace and communion with him, and a happy foretaste of everlasting glory, to be fully enjoyed hereafter these are the invaluable benefits which flow from justification unto life. Can any one; who is conscious of possessing it, cease to exult in God, his justifier, who becomes also the God of his praise? Or who that is convinced of his guilty condition as a sinner, will cease to pray, and most ardently to long for it? May the God of salvation awaken the sleepy consciences of the inconsiderate, into a deep solicitude about it! and may he direct those who are anxiously inquiring “How shall we be just with God?"
4. Those persons to whom the 'surprising favour is vouchsafed, are sinners, ungodly, destitute of any good qualities to merit it. The Apostle thus speaks on the subject : “ To him that worketh is the reward of eternal life not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to himn that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith (in Christ for justification) is counted for righteousness'.” Thus we learn, that they are not persons who are in any sense righteous in themselves, but rebels against the Divine Majesty, who are the peculiar objects of God's undeserved mercy in Christ. Let not this assertion surprise us ; for the Holy Records abundantly confirm the consolatory truth. “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 m!” From this and other passages of Scripture, which speak the same language, it is clear that the partakers of justifying grace have no righteousness to boast of, and have performed no good works at all; on the contrary, at the very time when the blessing is be-. stowed upon thein, they are considered as ungodly.
And hence it is obvious, that mere sinners, the guilty offspring of Adam, are the only subjects towards whom this mercy can be displayed : for righteous characters, who have never sinned, require no justification: their conduct, being fully conformable to the holy law, entitles them to its endless rewards.
But where, amongst the degenerate sons of men, is one to be found, who will rashly assert that he is of himself righteous, in opposition to the voice of God, which loudly proclaims the guilt of the whole human species? "They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable ; there is none that doeth good; no, not one".
“ If we justify ourselves, our own mouth shall condemn us ; if we say we are perfect, it shall prove us perverse°; for, is i Rom. iv. 4, m ib. iv. 6-9.
ib. iii. 12. • Job ix. 20-22.
not our wickedness great ? and are not our iniquities infinite P?”. Justification, therefore, must be entirely of free grace, abounding to the chief of sinners.
5. That justification is not to be attained by works, or by the deeds of the law, is evident from Scripture and reason. No law, human or divine, can permit the violation of itself with impunity. On the contrary, all laws threaten those who transgress them with pains and penalties suited to the offence. The law of God proceeds on the same principle. It requires an exact conformity to its precepts, as the terms on which it dispenses favour; but visits the least breach of its demands with everlasting death. Thus it accosts the transgressor: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them?."
Here we learn, that they who are seeking to be justified by their own performances, must possess a righteousness unsullied by a single defect. If but one sin be committed, the authority of the law is dishonoured, and acceptance by it becomes impossible. The pen of inspiration assures us, “ that whosoever shall keep the whole law, and in one point, he is guilty of all";" and, of course, is exposed to endless ruin.
It is certain, that none ever did merit heaven by works. Even Adam stood convicted of transgressing the holy command, when the Divine law was engraven on his heart; and he did not want the power to obey it. If he, who was so well qualified to keep the law, yielded to temptation, must it not be presumptuous for any of his degenerate offspring to suppose that they can accomplish what he failed to perform? The fact is, the Ten Commandments demand
Job xxii. 5. 1 Gal. iii. 10. r James jii. 10.