Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

ac

natural way

what has been already observed, that it is not the being made actually just and righteous. This is sanctification ; which is, indeed, in some degree the immediate fruit of justification ; but, nevertheless, is a distinct gift of God, and of a totally different nature. The one implies, what God “does for us” through his Son; the other, what he “works in us” by his Spirit. So that, although some rare instances may be found, wherein the term justified or justification is used in so wide a sense as to include sanctification also ; yet, in general use, they are sufficiently distinguished from each other, both by St. Paul and the other inspired writers.

2. Neither is that far-fetched conceit, that justification is the clearing us from accusation, particularly that of Satan, easily provable from any clear text of Holy Writ. In the whole scriptural account of this matter, as above laid down, neither that accuser, nor his accusation, appears to be at all taken in. It cannot indeed be denied, that he is the “ cuser” of men, emphatically so called. But it does in no wise appear, that the great apostle hath any reference to this, more or less, in all that he hath written touching justification, either to the Romans or the Galatians.

3. It is also far easier to take for granted, than to prove from any clear Scripture testimony, that justification is the clearing us from the accusation brought against us by the law: at least, if this forced, un

of speaking mean either more or less than this, that whereas we have transgressed the law of God, and thereby deserved the damnation of hell, God does not inflict on those who are justified the punishment which they had deserved.

4. Least of all does justification imply, that God is deceived in those whom he justifies ; that he thinks them to be what in fact they are not; that he accounts them to be otherwise than they are. It does by no means imply, that God judges concerning us contrary to the real nature of things; that he esteems us better than we really are, or believes us righteous when we are unrighteous. Surely no. The judgment of the all-wise God is always according to truth. Neither can it ever consist with his unerring wisdom to think that I am innocent, to judge that ] am righteous or holy, because another is so. He can no more, in this manner, confound me with Christ, than with David or Abraham. Let any man to whom God hath given understanding, weigh this without prejudice ; and he cannot but perceive, that such a notion of justification is neither reconcilable to reason nor Scripture.

5. The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the forgiveness of sins. It is that act of God the Father, whereby, for the sake of the propitiation made by the blood of his Son, he "showeth forth his righteousness (or mercy) by the remission of the sins that are past.” This is the easy, natural account of it given by St. Paul, throughout this whole epistle. So he explains it himself, more particularly in this and in the following chapter. Thus, in the next verses but one to the text, “ Blessed are they,” saith'he," whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered : blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” To him that is justified or forgiven, God “will not impute sin” to his condemnation. He will not condemn him on that account, either in this world, or in that which is to come. His sins, all his past sins, in thought, word, and deed, are covered, are blotted out, shall not be

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

we are

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

remembered or mentioned against him, any more than if they had not been. God will not inflict on that sinner what he deserved to suffer, because the Son of his love hath suffered for him. And from the time

accepted through the beloved,” “reconciled to God through his blood,” he loves, and blesses, and watches over us for good, even as if we had never sinned.

Indeed the apostle in one place seems to extend the meaning of the word much farther, where he says, “ Not the hearers of the law, but the doers of the law, shall be justified." Here he appears to refer our justification to the sentence of the great day. And so our Lord himself unquestionably doth, when he says, “ By thy words thou shalt be justified;" proving thereby, that“ for every idle word men shall speak, they shall give an account in the day of judgment.” But perhaps we can hardly produce another instance of St. Paul's using the word in that distant sense.

In the general tenor of his writings, it is evident he doth not; and least of all in the text before us, which undeniably speaks, not of those who have already“ finished their course,” but of those who are now just setting out, just beginning to run the race which is set before them.

III. 1. But this is the third thing which was to be considered, namely, Who are they that are justified ? And the apostle tells us expressly, the ungodly: "He (that is, God,) justifieth the ungodly:" the ungodly of every kind and degree; and none but the ungodly. As" they that are righteous need no repentance," so they need no forgiveness. It is only sinners that have any occasion for pardon : it is sin alone which admits of being forgiven. Forgiveness therefore has an immediate reference to sin, and, in this respect, to nothing else. It is our unrighteousness to which the pardoning God is merciful : it is our iniquity which he 6 remembereth no more."

2. This seems not to be at all considered by those who so vehemently contend that a man must be sanctified, that is, holy, before he can be justified; especially by such of them as affirm, that universal holiness or obedience must precede justification : (unless they mean, that justification at the last day, which is wholly out of the present question.) So far from it, that the very supposition is not only flatly impossible, (for where there is no love of God, there is no holiness, and there is no love of God but from a sense of his loving us,) but also grossly, intrinsically absurd, contradictory to itself. For it is not a saint but a sinner that is forgiven, and under the notion of a sinner. God justifieth not the godly, but the ungodly; not those that are holy already, but the unholy. Upon what condition he doth this, will be considered quickly. but whatever it is, it cannot be holiness. To assert this, is to say, the Lamb of God takes away only those sins which were taken away before.

3. Does then the good Shepherd seek and save only those that are found already? No: He seeks and saves that which is lost. He pardons those who need his pardoning mercy. He saves from the guilt of sin, (and, at the same time, from the power,) sinners of every kind, of every degree; men, who, till then, were altogether ungodly ; in whom the love of the Father was not; and, consequently, in whom dwelt no good thing, no good, or truly Christian temper ; but all such as were evil and abominable, pride, anger, love of the world, the genuine fruits of that carnal mind which is “enmity against God."

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

4 These who are sick, the burden of whose sins is intolerable, are they that need a physician; these who are guilty, who groan under the wrath of God, are they that need a pardon. These who are condemned already, not only by God, but also by their own conscience, as by a thousand witnesses, of all their ungodliness, both in thought, and word, and work, cry aloud for him that justifieth the ungodly," through the redemption that is in Jesus ;--the ungodly, and him that worketh not;" that worketh not before he is justified, any thing that is good, that is truly virtuous or holy, but only evil continually. For his heart is necessarily, essentially evil, till the love of God is shed abroad therein. And while the tree is corrupt, so are the fruits ; " for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.”'

5. If it be objected, “ Nay, but a man, before he is justified, may feed the hungry, or clothe the naked; and these are good works;" the answer is easy. He may do these, even before he is justified. And these are,

in one sense, “ good works;" they are "good and profitable to men.

But it does not follow, that they are, strictly speaking, good in themselves or good in the sight of God. All truly good works (to use the words of our church) follow after

justification. And they are therefore good and" acceptable to God in Christ," because they "spring out of a true and living faith.” By, a parity of reason, all works done before justification are not good, in the Christian sense, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ ; (though often from some kind of faith in God they may spring ;),“ yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not” (how strange soever it may appear to some)" but they have the nature of sin.'

6. Perhaps those who doubt of this, have not duly considered the weighty reason which is here assigned, why nn works done before justification can be truly and properly good. The argument plainly runs thus :

No works are good, which are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done :

But no works done before justification are done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done :

Therefore, no works done before justification are good.

The first proposition is self evident. And the second, That no works done before justification are done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, will appear equally plain and undeniable, if we only consider, God hath willed and commanded, that all our works should be done in charity; (sv ayawn) in love, in that love to God, which produces love to all mankind. But none of our works can be done in this love while the love of the Father (of God as our Father) is not in us. And this love cannot be in us till we receive the “Spirit of adoption crying in our hearts Abba, Father.” If, therefore, God doth not justify the ungodly, and him that (in this sense) worketh not, then hath Christ died in vain; then, notwithstanding his death, can no flesh living be justified.

IV. 1. But, on what terms then is he justified who is altogether ungodly, and till that time worketh not ? On one alone; which is faith : he“ believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly.” Aud" he that believeth is not condemned ;' yea, he is "paseed from death unto

VOL. I.

life." "For the righteousness (or mercy) of God is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe :- Whom God hath set forth for a propitiation, through faith in his blood ; that he might be just, and (consistently with his justice) the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus :” “Therefore, we conclude, that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law :" without previous obedience to the moral law, which, indeed, he could not, till now, perform. That it is the moral law, and that alone, which is here intended, appears evidently from the words that follow. “ Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid ! Yea, we establish the law.” What law do we establish by faith? Not the ritual law: not the ceremonial law of Moses. In no wise; but the great unchangeable law of love, the holy love of God, and of our neighbour.

2. Faith in general is a divine, supernatural €81 Xos, evidence or conviction, “ of things not seen,” not discoverable by our bodily senses, as being either past, future, or spiritual. Justifying faith implies, not only a divine evidence or conviction that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself,” but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that he loved ine,

and
gave

himself for me. And at what time soever a sinner thus believes, be it in early childhood, in the strength of his years, or when he is old and hoary haired, God justifieth that ungodly one : God for the sake of his Son, pardoneth and absolveth him, who had in him, till then, no good thing. Repentance, indeed, God had given him before; but that repentance was neither more nor less than a deep sense of the want of all good, and the presence of all evil. And whatever good he hath or doth from that hour, when he first believes in God through Christ, faith does not find, but bring. This is the fruit of faith. First the tree is good, and then the fruit is good also.

3. I cannot describe the nature of this faith better than in the words of our own church.

The only instrument of salvation,” (whereof jurification one branch,) " is faith : that is, a sure trust and confidence that God both hath and will forgive our sins, that he hath accepted us again into his favour, for the merits of Christ's death and passion.But here we must take heed that we do not halt with God, through an inconstant, wavering faith. Peter coming to Christ upon the water, because he fainted in faith, was in danger of drowning. So we, if we begin to waver or doubt, it is to be feared that we shall sink as Peter did, not into the water, but into the bottomless pit of hell fire." Second sermon on the passion.

Therefore, have a sure and constant faith, not only that the death of Christ is available for all the world, but that he hath made a full and sufficient sacrifice for thee, a perfect cleansing of thy sins, so that thou mayest say, with the apostle, he loved thee, and gave himself for thee. For this is to make Christ thine own, and to apply his merits unto thyself.Sermon on the sacrament, first part.

4. By affirming that this faith is the term or condition of justification, I mean, first, That there is no justification without it. "He that believeth not, is condemned already;" and so long as he believeth not, that condemnation cannot be removed, but “the wrath of God abideth on him”

As "there is no other name given under heaven," than that of Jesus of Nazareth, no other merit whereby a condemned sinner can ever be saved from the guilt of sin; so thete is no other way of obtaining a share in his merit, than by faith in his name. So that as long as we are without this faith, we are “strangers to the covenant of promise," we are“ aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and without God in the world.” Whatsoever virtues (so called) a man may have,--I speak of those unto whom the gospel is preached ; for “what have I to do to judge them that are without?”—Whatsoever good works (so accounted) he may do, it profiteth not; he is still a child of wrath, still under the curse, till he believes in Jesus.

5. Faith, therefore, is the necessary condition of justification. Yea, and the only necessary condition thereof. This is the second point carefully to be observed ; that, the very moment God giveth faith (for it is the gift of God) to the" ungodly," that“ worketh not,” that“ faith is counted to him for righteousness. He hath no righteousness at all, antecedent to this, not so much as negative righteousness, or innocence. But “ faith is imputed to him for righteousness” the very moment that he believeth. Not that God (as was observed before) thinketh him to be what he is not. But as “ he made Christ to be sin for us," that is, treated him as a sinner, punishing him for our sins; so he counteth us righteous, from the time we believe in him: that is, he doth not punishi us for our sins, yea, treats us as though we were guiltless and righteous:

6. Surely the difficulty of assenting to the proposition, That faith is the only condition of justification, must arise from not understanding its We mean thereby thus much, That it is the only thing, without which no one is justified; the only thing that is immediately, indispensably, absolutely requisite in order to pardon. As on the one hand, though a man should have every thing else without faith, yet he cannot be justified; so on the other, though he be supposed to want every thing else, yet is he hath faith, he cannot but be justified. For suppose a sinner of any kind or degree, in a full sense of his total ungodliness, of his utter inability to think, speak, or do good, and his absolute meetness for hell fire ; suppose, I say, this sinner, helpless and hopeless, casts himself wholly on the mercy of God in Christ, (which indeed he cannot do but by the grace of God,) who can doubt but he is forgiven in that moment? Who will affirm, that any more is indispensably required, before that sinner can be justified ?

Now, if there ever was one such instance from the beginning of the world ; (and have there not been, and are there not, ten thousand times ten thousanıl ?) it plainly follows, that faith is, in the above sense, the sole condition of justification.

7. It does not become poor, guilty, sinful worms, who receive whatsoever blessings they enjoy, (from the least drop of water that cools our tongue, to the iminense riches of glory in eternity,) of grace, of mere favour, and not of debt, to ask of God the reasons of his conduct. It is not meet for us to call him in question, “ who giveth account to none of his ways;" to demand, Why didst thou make faith the condition, the only condition of justification? Wherefore didst thou decree, He that believeth, and he only, shall be saved ?. This is the very point on which St. Paul so strongly insists in the ninth chapter of this epistle, viz. That the terms of pardon and acceptance must depend not on us, but on him that calleth us ; that there is no unrighteousness with God, in fixing his own terms, not according to ours, but his own good plea

« PredošláPokračovať »