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time? Are they condemned already, the children of wrath ; and yet reconciled to God, and at peace with him? Are they of their father, the devil, whose works they do ; and yet the children of God, and heirs of eternal glory? Can heaven and hell be blended together?
· Is the service of Christ and of Belial equally agreeable to a pure and holy God? and the greatest practical, as well as speculative contradictions, reconcilable to truth? What a strange medley is here! What a door to all manner of licentiousness is here set open!
In short, how wild and chimerical are their notions on the article of our justification by faith! If we are indeed in the favour of God; our souls are in the same degree of safety whether we are persuaded of this or not. If we are not in the favour of God, our persuasion of a state of safety will not influence him to treat, us as his favourites, nor to consider that as true which in its own nature is false. All, therefore, that is left for faith to do, according to them, is to give us ease and comfort in our own minds. And is this all we are to understand by our being justified by faith? Is this all we are to understand by the repeated declarations in Holy Scripture, that the believer shall be saved, while the unbeliever shall be damned? If so, the Gospel salvation is no more than merely the comfort flowing from a persuasion of the safety of our present state: But I need not enlarge in opposition to a doctrine so apparently repugnant to the whole design of the Gospel, so manifestly unreasonable, and so directly subversive of all practical godliness. 66 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid ! Yea, we establish the law."
It is infinitely your concern, Sir, to experience, in your own heart, something more than a mere Antinomian or Moravian faith. It is of infinite importance that you 66 receive the Lord Jesus Christ,” and that you " walk in him;" that you experience the sanctifying efficacy of faith, and exemplify the obedience of faith, in the exercise of all the graces and fruits of the Holy Spirit ; and thereby evidence to yourself, at once, the sincerity of your faith, and the reality of your justification before God.
Now, that the Lord may direct you safe in the way of truth and righteousness, to the kingdom of his glory, is the prayer of,
THE DOCTRINE OF A SINNER'S JUSTIFICATION BY
THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST, EX-
It is, indeed, as you represent it, “ A matter of the greatest consequence, to have a right view of the
way and means by which God will be recon. ciled to you, and by which you may have a title to eternal life.” I am glad that you so kindly accept the pains I have taken to set the Antinomian doctrine of justification in its proper colours. For though “ you did not give me that trouble (as you
are pleased to express it) because you had any favourable opinion of their schemes, but to know whether I was (as is pretended) of their opinion ; and to know how I could, consistent with my declared sentiments, steer clear of their wild notions :" yet I rejoice that your desires are gratified, and that you are set right in that matter." But 66
you are yet, as you have all along been, in great difficulties on the other side of the question ; and cannot see into the doctrine of a sinner's justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ. You have been lately reading upon that subject, and find many arguments against it that you cannot get over. Your author represents it as unscriptural and unreasonable: you therefore desire me to give you a right view of that doctrine, and to answer your objections against it.”
There is indeed, Sir, no cause for you to pect that you shall wear out my patience.” I gladly embrace the opportunity to do any thing in my power to give you satisfaction, and to assist you in your greatest concern, which you have reason to be most solicitous about. I shall, therefore, according to your desire, endeavour, in the first place, to give you a brief view of the doctrine of our justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, before I proceed to consider your objections against it.
I shall, first, consider what we are to understand by justification, and in what sense that expression is used in Scripture. Should I herein follow some of our wrangling disputants, I know not how many distinct meanings of the word justification I might set before
But this would be to darken counsel
by words without knowledge, the term having one invariable meaning throughout the whole Bible. It always (as far as I have been able to observe) constantly signifies being esteemed, declared, manifested, or pronounced righteous. This is what the original word, both in the Old and New Testament, naturally signifies; and in this sense only it is always used. I need not, therefore, undertake to give instances of the use of the word in this sense, since in all instances it is used in this sense only. This, I believe, must be acknowledged by every one that will thoroughly and impartially examine the case; I think there can no text be found where justification is used for making us inherently righteous.
But though this word has one invariable signification, it is used in Scripture in a threefold respect ; either for our present justification in the sight of God, for our justification before men and our own consciences, or for our justification at the tribunal of our Judge at the last day. It is the first of these that falls under our present consideration; which is to be considered as our “ acquittance from guilt, and our acceptance with God as righteous in his sight.” It is to be considered as a sentence of absolution and acceptation, by the great Judge of the
As justification, therefore, is always considered in Scripture as a forensic or judicial sentence, it should be carefully distinguished from the infusion of a principle of grace, or inherent righte
Justification is usually, in Scripture, opposed to condemnation. As this latter, therefore, does not imply the rendering men wicked and guilty, but pronouncing them so; even so the former
likewise cannot mean rendering men righteous, but sententially declaring and pronouncing them so. Were this duly attended to, many of the objections made against our doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, would vanish of course. You will be pleased, therefore, all along to carry this in your mind, that I am not considering how we should become inherently righteous, by a renovation of our nature; but how we may be acquitted from guilt, and accepted as righteous, by the sentence of our glorious Judge.
I proceed to consider what we are to understand by the imputation of Christ's righteousness.
To impute, is to judge or esteem any matter, character, or quality, whether good or evil, to belong to a person as his; and
either refer to what was originally his, antecedently to such imputation, or to what was not antecedently his, but becomes so by virtue of such imputation only. The Scriptures abound with instances of both these sorts of imputation.
We have many instances in Scripture of imputing that to a person which was originally his own, and performed by him antecedently to such imputation. Thus sin is said to be imputed to the sinner, when he is judged or treated as an offender.
66 Let not my Lord,” says Shimei," impute iniquity unto
And thus righteousness is imputed to the saint, when he is judged or acknowledged righteous (in a qualified sense) with relation to a particular fact, done in conformity to the preceptive part of the divine law. “ Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment, and it was imputed to him for