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righteousness.” But this is not the imputation now to be considered, which respects a justification that is proposed as the relief of a sinful perishing world, against the penalty of the condemning law, and implies a change of the sinner's state, from guilt to grace, from death to life, in a relative sense.
I proceed then to observe, that also may be said to be imputed to a person which was not bis own originally or antecedently; but is judged and esteemed to belong to him, and is bis on account of such imputation only. Thus, a debt is imputed to a surety; and the surety's payment of a debt is imputed to the principal debtor, and is pleadable by him in discharge from his creditor's demands.
“ If he have wronged thee, or oweth thee ought," says Paul of Onesimus, "put that on my account," (TOTTO exo shotsi) “ impute it upto me.” Thus our sins are imputed unto Christ; inasmuch as he, in the character of our surety, has undertaken to discharge those debts to the justice of God. And thus his righteousness is imputed unto us; it having been wrought out in our place and stead, and given to God in payment on our behalf.
These things being premised, we are to understand the imputation in question to be God's gracious donation of the perfect righteousness of Christ to believers, and his acceptation of their persons as righteous, on the account thereof. Their sins being imputed to him, and his obedience being imputed to them, they are in virtue hereof both acquitted from guilt, and accepted as righteous before God.
We are not, therefore, to understand our justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, as
implying and supposing that God does esteem believers to be what indeed they are not. He esteems them to be poor, sinful, imperfect men, who have no otherwise satisfied the claims of his justice, and the demands of the law, than by the obedience of their surety: which is really, by a gracious imputation, become theirs, and they are, on the account thereof, become indeed righteous in God's sight: although antecedent to that imputation they were legally condemned criminals, and though they yet remain inherently imperfect and sinful creatures.
We are further to consider, that this righteousness of Christ is imputed to none but believers; but is (as the Apostle expresses it) revealed from faith to faith.
It is not imputed before we have faith, as the Antinomians dream; nor is the imputation delayed till the fruits and effects of faith in an obedient life appear, as some others seem to suppose : but it is imputed at and upon our believing. It shall be imputed, if we believe, Rom. iv. 24. Faith is the receiving an offered Saviour, John i. 12. in his person, his offices, and all his benefits; and therefore it is a receiving his righteousness, which is one of his benefits, freely offered in the Gospel to all that will accept it.
So I am prepared to observe to you, that we are to understand our justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, to signify and imply, “A gracious sentence of God, whereby a sinner, antecedently guilty in his sight, is, upon bis believing in Christ, acquitted from guilt, accepted as righteous, and entitled to all the benefits of the covenant of grace, on account of what Christ has done and suffered for him.”
Thus, Sir, I have endeavoured, in as few words as possible, to give you a just and clear view of the doctrine before us; and am now ready to consider your objections.
You first object, that “the imputation of our sins go to Christ, or the imputation of Christ's righteous. ness to us, is powhere mentioned in the word of Az God; that the terms and expressions used in this case are certainly of human invention ; and the doc- the trine, therefore, to be suspected as having its original all rather from our scholastic divines than from the Bo oracles of God."
Your first supposal is, that the imputation of our sins to Christ is nowhere mentioned in the word of ha God. If
you mean by this, that we nowhere in Scripture find that proposition, in so many express words, that our sins are imputed to Christ, this is true; but I hope to show you it is altogether impertinent. But if you mean by this that we can nowhere find full, clear, and undeniable evidence from Scripture, of the imputation of the sins of believers to Christ, I will endeavour immediately to convince you of your 'mistake.
The whole Levitical dispensation was purposely designed to represent this comfortable truth to us. This was the end of all their sacrifices and bloody oblations for the remission of their sins. They did not imagine, or, at least, God did not design that they should imagine, that their sin and guilt was actually, to all intents and purposes, transferred from the offender to the victim; but they were hereby led to look to Christ, the antitype of all their sin-offerings, in faith and hope, that their sins should all be
imputed to him; and themselves, through the merit of his sacrifice, be acquitted from guilt. This design of all their expiatory sacrifices was more clearly
exhibited to them, in the institution of the scape-1 goat; where the imputation of our sins to Christ
was in the most lively manner represented. Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat; and shall send him away, by the hand of a fit
man, into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear - upon him all their iniquities unto a land not in
habited.” Here was a plain and express commutation, or transferring of guilt, from God's people to the scape-goat.
All the iniquities of God's people, all their transgressions in all their sins, were laid
He bore upon him all their iniquities; or, in other words, their sins were imputed to him. Now, you cannot suppose that all the hopes of the children of Israel terminated upon this goat. You must suppose that they looked to the great antitype, to whom their guilt was indeed to be transferred, and their sins imputed, and from whom they expected their discharge and justification. Hence it plainly appears, that all the hopes which the church of God, in all the ages and dispensations thereof, have entertained of the foregiveness of sin and reconciliation to God, was through the imputation of their sins to Christ, the substance of all the Levitical shadows, and the only true sin-offering.
The same doctrine, which was so plainly pointed out by these typical rites, is fully and abundantly
- upon his head,
confirmed, by very many plain and clear passages of Scripture, which cannot, with any appearance of propriety, be construed in any other sense than that I am pleading for. Thus, “ The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all. For he shall bear their iniquities.” “For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” “ Christ bath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.”
66 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” Many other texts to the like purpose might be quoted; but these are every way sufficient to decide this point.
If the iniquity of us all could be laid upon Christ, and he bear our iniquities no other way but by imputation, it then appears, from Isa. liii. that our iniquities were imputed to him. And I think the adversaries of this doctrine can make no rational pretence to any
other way in which our sins can be said to be laid upon Christ, and he be said to bear our iniquities.
If Christ has been made sin for us, according to 2 Cor. v. he must be made sin for us, (and treated as a sinner) either by his own personal fault, or by the imputation of our sin to him. I can think of no other possible way in which this can be supposed, but one of these two. Now the blasphemy of the former supposition obliges us to reject it with abhorrence, and therefore the latter must be allowed.
If Christ hath been made a curse for us, according to Gal. iii. he must then have the violation of the law imputed to him ; otherwise the curse of it could not in justice have been inflicted upon him.