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an accused person be fully justified from the charge brought against him; he suffers no degradation in his character, or disadvantage in his circumstances; his integrity is often placed in a more conspicuous light than before; he is considered as an injured man, and is frequently recommended by these circumstances to the favour and confidence of the prince, or of the people. Justification therefore, in the original meaning of the word, is not only distinct from pardon, but is absolutely incompatible with it: it implies far more than the acquittal of an accused person : it is a declaration, that no charge ought to have been made against the man; that he is justly entitled to all the privileges of a good citizen; and that he is, and ought to be, admissible to every post of honour and emolument, even as if he had never been accused. The meaning of the word, in other concerns of life, is the same; if a man's character has been aspersed, he is said to be completely justified, when the charge is entirely refuted, and proved malicious or groundless, to the satisfaction of all who enquire into it.
On the contrary, our justification before God is always connected with pardon, and implies that we are guilty: and we are justified as ungodly,
righteousness. being imputed to us without " works.'" If we had never sinned, we might have been justified before God by our own obedience, according to the common use of the word
justification: no charge could have been brought or proved against us, nor should we have needed any forgiveness. But by breaking the holy law of God, we have forfeited our title to the reward of righteousness according to the law, and have incurred the penalty of eternal misery. The justification therefore of a sinner must imply something distinct from a total and final remission of the deserved punishment; namely, a renewed title to the reward of righteousness, as complete and effective as he would have had if he had never sinned, but had perfectly performed, during the term of his probation, all the demands of the divine law. The remission of sins would indeed place him in such a state, that no charge would lie against him : but then he would have no title to the reward of righteousness, till he had obtained it by performing, for the appointed time, the whole obedience required of him; for he would merely be re-admitted to a state of probation, and his justification or condemnation could not be decided till that were terminated. But the justification of the pardoned sinner gives him a present title to the reward of righteousness, independent of his future conduct, as well as without respect to his past actions. This is evidently the scriptural idea of justification: it is uniformly represented as immediate and complete, when the sinner believes in the Lord Jesus Christ; and not as a contingent advantage, to be waited for till death or judgment; and the argu.
ments, which some learned men have adduced, to prove that justification means nothing else than forgiveness of sins, only show that the two distinct blessings are never separately conferred. David, for instance, says “ Blessed is the man, to whom “the Lord imputeth not iniquity;'” and Paul observes that, in that passage,
“ David describeth " the blessedness of the man, unto whom God
imputeth righteousness without works.2" This does not prove, that “pot imputing sin," and "imputing righteousness,” are synonimous terms: but merely, that where God does not impute sin he does imputė righteousness; and that he confers the title to eternal life, on all those whom he rescues from eternal death. Indeed eremption from eternal punishment, and a right to an actual and vast-reward, are such distinct things, that one cannot but wonder they should be so generally confounded as they are, in theological discussions.In the Scriptures, however, justification undoubtedly signifies that God hath given the sinner a right and title to eternal life, accounting him righteous by an act of sovereign grace; so that " there is no condemnation for him;" but being thus justified, " he is made an heir, according to "the hope of eternal life. 4 "
Every attentive reader of the Scriptures, especially of those epistles which contain the last and
'Ps. xxxii. 2.
3 Acts siii. 38, 39.
* Rom. iv. 6.
fullest revelation of the truth and will of God to mankind, must observe in thein an uniform declaration made, and strenuously insisted on, as of the greatest importance, that “a man is justified by “ faith without the deeds of the law.” Many learned men have endeavoured to explain all these testimonies of the Mosaick law, as distinguished from the Christian dispensation; and to confine the meaning of them principally to the abrogated ceremonies. But, is “ knowledge of sin" by the ceremonial, or by the moral law? Was the ceremonial law " the ministration of death, written “and engraven in stones ?” Did the apostle “know this law to be spiritual,” ” holy, just, and
good ?” Did“ he delight in it after the inner “man?” Did the Mosaick rites, or the tenth commandment, convince him that concupiscence was a sin, and slay his hope of justification by the law?? Did Christ redeem us from the curse of the ceremonial law alone, by being made a curse for us?:-Such questions might easily be multiplied; and each of them formed into a regular argument, demonstrating the falsehood and absurdity of this opinion: but the compass of this Essay does not admit of it, nor is it necessary in so plain
No law in the universe can both justify and condemn the same person: if then no man hath always “ loved God with all his heart, and “his neighbour as himself,” no man can be justi* 2 Cor. iii. 7.
2 Rom. vii.
3 Gal. iii, 13.
fied according to the works of the moral law, for this most obvious and conclusive reason, because all are exposed to condemnation for breaking it. If , no human action be more excellent than the law requires; then none of our works of righteousness can do any thing to reverse the condemnation that our sins have incurred: and if the best of our good works come short of perfection, and our best days are chequered with many sins; then we must continue to accumulate guilt and condemnation, as long as we remain under the law, and are judged according to it. So that by no works of
law whatever, can a transgressor of that law be justified in the sight of God:
These considerations may prepare our minds for attending more carefully to the language of the apostle, in discoursing on this subject. He constantly insists upon it, that a man is justified by, or through, faith, and not by the deeds of the law. He even says without hesitation. " To him that “ worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth “the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righ“ teousness.'” And he carefully distinguishes this, way of justification from that by works; nay, opposes the one to the other as incompatible." Be“cause the law worketh wrath ;-therefore it is
by faith, that it might be by grace.” “ And if
by grace, then it is no more of works; other“wise grace is no more grace.'”—For this reason,
· Rom. iv. 5.
2 Rom. iv. 14-16. xi. 6.