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this, was to continue them in the faith of the Gospel into which they had been baptized; but by using the past tense (the English translation is in the present tense) St. Paul did not mean to tell them they were then, or had been justified, but to shew that Christ was the cause of justification; and that in and through his name, and by the Spirit of our God, they would have justification. That the tenses, to shew the precise time of justification being received, are not to be relied upon, has been before fully proved in preliminary observations. And as a strong confirmation of what is here said, it may be observed, that there is not a single instance in any of the texts upon this particular subject of justification, when the present or past tenses are used, where any matter is mentioned to shew the time, or words from whence the time of justification being received can be inferred. But in those texts which will be produced to shew that justification takes place at the day of judgment, not only the future tense is used, but other matters stated, which manifestly shew the time, and either particularly name it, or are so clear and plain, that no other construction can be put, or conclusion drawn from them. How different with respect to the texts above quoted, or can be quoted, to support the contrary opinion.
The words in Col. ii. 13. are general, that Christ had forgiven all trespasses; and also in the verse from St. John's epistle the statement is general, “ because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.” Here is no time mentioned when their sins were forgiven, but the cause is intended to be shewn by the words, "for his name's sake,” which must mean, that by and through Christ, they had, or rather would have, remission of sins : these are the same general statements that St. Paul has repeatedly made relative to justification, and in fact have the same meaning; and we may see the object St. John had in view, and intended to impress upon the minds of his disciples was the same that St. Paul had where he says, “ being justified by faith “,” or “ being justified by his grace °;" neither St. Paul nor St. John meant to say, that either grace, faith, or the name of Christ actually justified any man at the time ; they only stated these matters to shew the cause, mean, instrument, or condition by or through which man would be justified by God. St. John did not say to those whom he called “ little children," being young in faith, that having embraced the faith of Christ, your sins were forgiven you at that time, this would have fixed the precise
a Rom. v. 1.
b Tit. iii. 7.
time when their sins were forgiven them, but he says, your sins are forgiven you for his (Christ's) name's sake:” which leaves the matter open as to the time when the sentence of justification was actually to take place, and to reconcile Scripture by Scripture this passage must have the same construction put upon it as all other general statements, where the present or past tenses are used, but the future intended, as to the certain time when justification is actually to take place : this is the most reasonable construction that can be put upon these texts in Col. ii. 13. and I John ii. 12.; but should it not be perfectly satisfactory, and there should be a doubt whether these texts are authorities for remission of sins on earth, there is another most sure and unanswerable ground to place this argument upon, and which will shew beyond a possibility of doubt they really are not, and cannot be any authority for the principle of remission of sins in this life since the Apostle's time. We see by John xx. 23. that Christ conferred the power of remission of sins on earth in an especial manner upon his disciples, and if these texts or any others are taken in a literal sense, and apply to the time of the Apostles, the sins mentioned in them might be remitted by, and under the power the disciples had especially given them by Christ. This argument is most
conclusive and irresistible, and strongly shews sins are not remitted generally upon faith or any particular act taking place, and only by those endued with a special power for that purpose.
We will now consider the case of Abraham, which is relied upon to shew that justification takes place in this life ; it may be admitted that his justification was pronounced upon him by God while living"; we should not only see upon what ground it was pronounced, but consider the whole matter concerning his justification; he had been fixed upon by God, and received a special command to sojourn in a strange land, and thereupon God promised to bless him", this it is conceived was done to try him, and to prove whether his faith was good and perfect, that he had faith previously cannot be doubted; and we find, although he obeyed God's special command in sojourning in the land of Canaan, the sentence of justification was not passed upon him at that time, and not until he sought of the Lord an heir, and upon God asking him if he could number the stars, said “so shall thy seed be,” and upon that occasion Abraham believing the Lord, he
This is not admitted by all theologians, there are those who conceive that Abraham's justification was only assured to him in this life, and that the sentence was to be passed upon him at the last day. See Dwight's Theology, vol. ii. p. 578. d Gen. xii. 1, 2, 3.
e Gen. xv. 5. N
having before had proof of his faith by obeying his command, God justified him'. Abraham was not justified upon having faith, nor even when he had obeyed God's command, consequently by this case two certain facts are clearly shewn, the one that justification does not take place upon having faith, and the other that it did not upon this act of obedience taking place. The case of Abraham, his faith, his acts of obedience to God's commands, and his justification were all special, and all special cases of this nature must be considered as excepted cases. When any matter comes to pass, either from God's special act, or through his special command, it must be concluded it is to effect some great end, which he, in his supreme wisdom, has thought proper should come to pass in the manner he ordains; and as he does no special act, unless for some particular purpose, the special cases are not applicable to, nor can they be used as an argument in favour of a general rule, but rather as an exception to such rules. This case,
'f Gen. xv. 6.
& In confirmation of the principle here stated we would refer to the cases of Enoch and Elijah, two special cases of man being translated without undergoing the sentence of death to which all men are subject ; had they not been special cases the mention of them was unnecessary, and Abraham's case being specially stated, shews the case was special, otherwise