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Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring na thing of them for their justification, but faith ; which also is his gift; their justification is, to them, of free grace. ITHERTO we have been led to consider that change of
heart and life which is begun in effectual calling; whereby a dead sinner is made alive, and one that was wholly indisposed for, and averse to the performance of good works, is enabled to perform them by the power of divine grace : and now we are to speak concerning that change of state which accompanies it; whereby one, who being guilty before God, was liable to the condemning sentence of the law, and expected no other than an eternal banishment from his presence, is pardoncd, received into favour, and has a right to all the blessings which Christ has, by his obedience and sufferings, purchased for him. This is what we call justification, and it is placed immediately after the head of effectual calling, as being agreeable to the method in which it is insisted on in that golden chain of salvation, as the apostle says, Whom he called, them he also justified, Rom. viii. 30.
This is certainly a doctrine of the highest importance, inasmuch as it contains in it the way of peace, the foundation of all our hope, of the acceptance both of our persons and services, and beholding the face of God, at last, with joy. Some have styled it the very basis of Christianity; and our forefathers thought it so necessary to be insisted on and maintained, according to the scripture-account thereof, that they reckoned it one of the principal doctrines of the reformation. And, indeed, the apostle Paul speaks of it as so necessary to be believed, that he concluded that the denying or perverting of it was the ground and reason of the Jews being rejected ; who being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish a righteousness of their own, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God: and when they shall be called, if their call be intended, in that account which we have, of the marriage of the Lamb, and his wife having made herself ready, Rev. xix. 7. as many suppose, it is worth observing, that she is described as arrayed in fine linen, which is the righteousness of saints, or Christ's righteousness, by which they are justified: this is that in which they glory; and therefore are represented as being convinced of the importance of that doctrine which, before, they were ignorant of. This we have an account of in these two answers, which we are now to explain, and shall endeavour to do it in the following method.
1. We shall consider what we are to understand by the word justify.
11. What are the privileges contained therein, as reduced to
iwo heads, to wit, pardon of sin; and God's accounting them who are justified, righteous in his sight? And,
III. What is the foundation of our justification? namely, a righteousness wrought out for us.
IV. The utter inability of fallen man to perform any righteousness, that can be the matter of his justification in the sight of God.
V. That our Lord Jesus Christ has wrought out this righteousness for us, as our surety, by performing active and passive obedience; which is imputed to us for our justification.
VI. We shall consider it as an act of God's free grace. And,
VII. Shew the use of faith in justification, or in what respects faith is said to justify.
I. We shall consider in what sense we are to understand the word justify. As there are many disputes about the method of explaining the doctrines of justification; so there is a contest between us and the Papists, about the sense of the word; they generally supposing, that to justify, is to make inherently righteous and holy; because righteousness and holiness sometimes import the same thing; and both of them denote an internal change in the person who is so denominated ; and accordingly they argue, that as to magnify signifies to make great ; to fortify, to make strong; so to justify is to make just or holy: and they suppose, that whatever we do to make ourselves so, or whatever good works are the ingredients of our sanctification, these must be considered as the matter of our justification. And some Protestant divines have supposed, that the difference between them and us, is principally about the sense of a word; which favourable and charitable construction of their doctrine, would have been less exceptionable, if the Papists had asserted no more than that justification might have been taken in this sense, when considered, not as giving us a right to eternal life, or being the foundation of that sentence of absolution, which God passes upon us : but since this is the sense they give of it, when they say that we are justified by our inherent holiness, we are bound to conclude, that it is very remote from the scripture sense of the word.
We do not deny that justification is sometimes taken in a sense different from that which is intended by it, when used to signify the doctrine we are explaining. Sometimes nothing more is intended hereby, than our vindicating the divine perfections from any charge which is pretended to be brought against them. Thus the Psalmist says, That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest, Psal. li. 4. And our Saviour is said to be justified, that is, his person or character vindicated or defended from the reproaches that were cast on him; as it is said, Wisdom is justified of her children, Matt. xi. 19. Luke vii. 35. Also we frequently read of the justification of the actions or conduct of persons, in scripture; in which sense their own works may be said to justify or vindicate them from the charge of hypocrisy or unregeneracy. Again, to justify is sometimes taken, in scripture, for using endeavours to turn many to righteousness: and therefore our translators have rendered the words, in the prophecy of Daniel, which signify, they who justify many, they who turn many ta righteousness, shall shine as the stars, Dan. xii. 3.*
There are various other senses which are given of this word, which we pass over as not applicable to the doctrine we are maintaining, and therefore shall proceed to consider the sense in which it is used, when importing a sinner's justification in the sight of God; wherein it is to be taken only in a forensick sense, and accordingly signifies a person's being acquitted or discharged from guilt, or a liableness to condemnation, in such a way as is done in courts of judicature : thus we read in the judicial law, that if there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them, then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked, Deut. xxv. 1. where to justify the righteous, is to be understood for acquitting or discharging one that appears to be righteous, or not guilty, from condemnation; whereas the wicked, that is, they who appear to be guilty, are to be condemned: and in this sense the word is used, when applied to the doctrine of justification, in the New Testament, and particularly in Paul's epistles; who largely insists on this subject.
Now that we may understand how a sinner may expect to be discharged at God's tribunal, let us consider the methods of proceeding used in human courts of judicature: herein, it is supposed, that there is a law that forbids some actions which are deemed criminal; and also, that a punishment is annexed to this law, which renders the person that violated it, guilty ; and then persons are supposed to be charged with the violation thereof; which charge, if it be not made good, they are said to be justified, that is, cleared from presumptive, not real guilt: but if the charge be made good, and he that fell under it, liable to punishment; if he suffer the punishment he is justified, as in crimes that are not of a capital nature; or if he be any otherwise cleared from the charge, so that his guilt be re- ! moved, then he is deemed a justified person : and so the law has nothing to lay to his charge, with respect to that which he was before accused of. Thus when a sinner, who had been charged with the violation of the divine law, found guilty before God, and exposed to a sentence of condemnation, is freed
from it, then he is said to be justified; which leads us to consider,
II. The privileges contained in justification; which are forgiveness of sin and a right and title to eternal life. These are sufficiently distinguished, though never separated; so that when we find but one of them mentioned in a particular scripture, which treats on this subject, the other is not excluded. Førgiveness of sin is sometimes expressed in scripture, by a not imputing sin; and a right to life, includes in it our being made partakers of the adoption of children, and a right to the inheritance prepared for them. The apostle mentions both these together, when he speaks of our having redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of sins; and being made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, Col. i. 12. 14. And elsewhere he speaks of Christ's redeeming them that were under the law; which includes the former branch of justification, and of their receiving the adoption of children, which includes the latter. And again he considers a justified person as having peace with God, which more especially respects pardon of sin, and of their having access to the gruce wherein they stand, and their rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, Rom. v. 1, 2. which is what we are to understand by, or includes in it, their right to life.
That justification consists of both these branches, we maintain against the Papists, who suppose that it includes nothing else but forgiveness of sin, which is founded on the blood of Christ; whereas, according to them, our right to life depends on our internal qualifications, or sincere obedience. And besides these, there are some Protestant divines, who suppose that it consists only in pardon of sin; and this is asserted, by them, with different views; some do it as most consistent with the doctrine of justification by works, which they plead for; whereas, others do it as being most agreeable to another notion which they advance, namely, that we are justified only by Christ's passive obedience ; which will be considered under a following head. Again, there are others, whose sentiments of the doctrine of justification are agreeable to scripture, who maintain, that it includes both forgiveness of sins, and a right to life; but yet they add, that the former is founded on Christ's passive obedience, and the latter on his active: whereas, we cannot but think, that the whole of Christ's obedience, both active and passive, is the foundation of each of these ; which will also be considered, when we come to speak concerning the procuring cause of our justification.
All that we shall observe at present, is, that these two privileges are inseparably connected; therefore, as no one can have a right to life, but he whose sins are pardoned; so do one can obtain forgiveness of sin, but he must, as the conse, quence hereof, have a right to life. As by the fall, man first became guilty, and then lost that right to life which was promised in case he had stood; so it is agreeable to the divine perfections, provided the guilt be removed, that he should be put in the same state as though it had not been contracted, and consequently, that he should not only have forgiveness of sins, but a right to life. Forgiveness of sin, without a right to eternal life, would render our justification incomplete; therefore, when any one is pardoned by an act of grace, he is put in possession of that which, by his rebellion, he had forfeited, he is considered, not only as released out of prison, but as one who has the privileges of a subject, such as those which he had before he committed the crime. Without this he would be like Absalom, when, upon Joab's intercession with David, the guilt of murder, which he had contracted, was remitted so far, as that he had liberty to return from Geshur, whither he was fled: nevertheless, he reckons himself not fully discharged from the guilt he had contracted, and concludes his return to Jerusalem, as it were, an insignificant privilege ; unless, by being admitted to see the king's face, and enjoy the privileges which he was possessed of before, he might be dealt with as one who was taken into favour, as well as forgiven, 2 Sam. xiv. 2. which was accordingly granted. This leads us to consider these two branches of justification in particular. And,
1. Forgiveness of sin. Sin is sometimes represented as containing in it moral impurity, as opposed to holiness of heart and life ; and accordingly is said, to defile a man, Matt. xv. 19, 20. and is set forth by several metaphorical expressions in scripture, which tend to beget an abhorrence of it as of things impure; in which sense it is removed in sanctification rather than in justification; not but that divines sometimes speak of Christ's redeeming us from the filth and dominion of sin, and our deliverance from it in justification : but these are to be understood as rendering us guilty; inasmuch as all moral pollutions are criminal, as contrary to the law of God; otherwise our deliverance from them would not be a branch of justification; and therefore, in speaking to this head, we shall consider sin as that which renders men guilty before God, and sa shew what we are to understand by guilt.
This supposes a person to be under a law, and to have violated it; accordingly sin is described as the transgression of the law, 1 John iii. 4. The law of God, in common with all other laws, is primarily designed to be the rule of obedience ; and in order thereunto, it is a declaration of the divine will, which, as creatures and subjects, we are under a natural obligation to comply with ; and God, as a God of infinite holiness and so