Images de page

enabling him to discharge all the conditions of faith and obedience required of him, &c.

Now all these acts are generally acknowleged and ascribed unto God; but with which of them the act of justification is solely or chiefly coincident, &c. is a question coming under debate. To clear up this, some observations are propounded.

I. We need not search into the primitive sense of the word, since in common use it often declines from that: mere grammar will not here help us.

II. The sense is not to be searched for in extraneous writers; both because no such subject ever came under their consideration, and because they seldom or never use the word in a sense at all congruous with it.

III. In the sacred writings at large, it is commonly applied to persons, according to various senses, some wide and general, others more restrained and particular: these stated.

IV. The word seems somewhat peculiar to St. Paul, and is hardly by the other Apostles applied to that matter which he expresses by it: the right sense of it therefore seems best derivable from considering the nature of his subject, the drift of his discourse and reasoning, and the other equivalent phrases which he uses.

V. With this method of inquiry it may be observed that the notion of the word which is evidently the most usual in Scripture, is best suited to the meaning of St. Paul here, and commonly elsewhere; namely, that God's justifying solely, or chiefly, doth import his acquitting us from guilt, condemnation, and punishment, by free pardon, &c. accounting us, and dealing with us, as righteous, &c.

1. This sense best agrees with the nature of the subject-matter, and the design of St. Paul's discourse; viz., the asserting the necessity, sufficiency, and excellency of the Christian dispensation, in bringing men to happiness, and consequently the

rendering men acceptable to God, who is the sole author and giver of happiness: this enlarged on.

2. Again, the manner of prosecuting his discourse, and the arguments by which he infers his conclusions concerning the gospel, confirm this notion: this fully shown.

3. Farther, the same notion may be confirmed by comparing this term with other terms and phrases equivalent, or opposite to this of justification: examples quoted,

4. Moreover this notion may be strengthened by excluding that sense, which in opposition thereto is assigned, according to which justification is said to import, not only remission of sin, and acceptance with God, but the making a man intrinsically righteous, by infusing into him, as it is said, a habit of grace or charity.

Admitting this to be true, as in some sense it is, yet that sort of righteousness does not seem implied by the word justification, according to St. Paul's intent, in those places where he discourses about justification by faith; such a sense not consisting well with the drift of his reasoning, nor with divers passages in his discourse: this fully shown in eight instances.

VI. So much may suffice for a general explication of the notion: but for a more full clearing of the point it may be requisite to resolve a question concerning the time when this act is performed or dispensed. It may be inquired when God justifieth; whether once, or at several times, or continually. To which it may be answered briefly,

I. That the justification spoken of by St. Paul seems, in his meaning, only or especially to be that act of grace which is dispensed to persons at their baptism, or entrance into the church, when they openly profess their faith, and undertake the practice of Christian duty five reasons given for this opi


II. The virtue and effect of that first justifying act continues (that is, we abide in a justified state) so long as we per

form the conditions imposed by God, and undertaken by us at our first justification: this enlarged on.

III. Although justification chiefly signifies the first act of grace towards a Christian at his baptism, yet (according to analogy) every dispensation of pardon granted on repentance, may be styled justification: this topic enlarged on.

According to each of these notions, all good Christians may be said to have been justified. Conclusion.




I Believe, &c.




Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In order to the understanding of these words, I did formerly propound divers particulars to be considered and discussed: the first was, what that faith is by which Christians are said to be justified? This I have dispatched: the next, what justification doth import? The which I shall now endeavor to explain; and I am concerned to perform it with the more care and diligence, because the right notion of this term hath in latter times been canvassed with so much vehemence of dissension and strife.

In former times, among the fathers and the schoolmen, there doth not appear to have been any difference or debate about it; because, as it seems, men commonly having the same apprehensions about the matters, to which the word is applicable, did not so much examine or regard the strict propriety of expression concerning them: consenting in things, they did not fall to cavil and contend about the exact meaning of words. They did indeed consider distinctly no such point of doctrine as that of justification, looking on that word as used incidentally in some places of Scripture, for expression of points more




clearly expressed in other terms; wherefore they do not make much of the word, as some divines now do.

But in the beginning of the Reformation, when the discovery of some great errors (from the corruption and ignorance of former times) crept into vogue, rendered all things the subjects of contention, and multiplied controversies, there did arise hot disputes about this point; and the right stating thereof seemed a matter of great importance; nor scarce was any controversy prosecuted with greater zeal and earnestness: whereas yet (so far as I can discern) about the real points of doctrine, whereto this word, according to any sense pretended, may relate, there hardly doth appear any material difference; and all the questions depending, chiefly seem to consist about the manner of expressing things, which all agree in; or about the extent of the signification of words capable of larger or stricter acception: whence the debates about this point, among all sober and intelligent persons, might, as I conceive, easily be resolved or appeased, if men had a mind to agree, and did not love to wrangle; if at least a consent in believing the same things, although under some difference of expression, would content them, so as to forbear strife.

To make good which observation, tending as well to the illustration of the whole matter, as to the stating and decision of the controversies about it, let us consider the several divine acts to which the term justification is, according to any sense pretended, applicable: I say divine acts; for that the justification we treat of is an act of God simple or compound (in some manner) respecting, or terminated on man, is evident, and will not, I suppose, be contested; the words of St. Paul in several places so clearly declaring it; as in that, 'Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth;' and in that, "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.' Now according to the tenor of Christian doctrine such acts are these.

1. God (in regard to the obedience performed to his will by his beloved Son, and to his intercession) is so reconciled to mankind, that unto every person who doth sincerely believe the gospel, and repenting of his former bad life, doth seriously

« PrécédentContinuer »