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which we are justified is not our own. “Not having mine own righteousness ;” and, therefore, faith, as our personal inherent righteousness, does not justify us before God.
I will only add, if faith, as it is our inherent personal righteousness, cannot answer the demands of the moral law, it cannot justify us, consistently with the perfections of the divine nature; but the former is true, and therefore the latter. “If there had been, a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” But this was impossible in the case of fallen man, as being utterly inconsistent with the divine perfections. I think no man will pretend that our personal inherent righteousness can answer the demands of the moral law. I shall, therefore, only endeavour to show you, how it is utterly inconsistent with the divine perfections, that sinners should be justified by any righteousness which will not answer the demands of the moral law.
It cannot be agreeable to the justice of God, that we should be justified by any righteousness which will not answer the demands of the moral law. For which reason, "God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." It is by “declaring Christ's righteousness, (by which the demands of the moral law are satisfied,) that God can be just, and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” The glorious God justly gave us the law as the rule of our obedience; justly required our perfect conformity to it; and justly annexed the penalties to it in case
of disobedience. This law was founded upon, and flowed from, the justice of the divine nature. Obedience to it was required, and the penalties to it were annexed, by the rectoral justice of the great Governor of the world. And the justice of God is now the same that it was when this law was first given; and, with the same inflexible severity, requires that it be fulfilled, and not a tittle of it to pass away, or be destroyed. The same justice which annexed the penalties must be satisfied for the violation of the law, in such manner as that the honour of a righteous Judge may be secured, and the penalty of the law fulfilled. Whence it follows, that no personal inherent righteousness of ours whatsoever can justify us before God, consistent with his rectoral justice, because it cannot answer the demands of the moral law.
It is altogether impertinent to pretend that Christ has procured easier terms than obedience to the law of nature, and that our sincere obedience to the Gospel is now the condition of our justification. For the question still recurs, Which way is the moral law fulfilled ? Has Christ fulfilled that for us, and in our place and stead, or has he not? If he has, we then have a better righteousness to plead for our justification than any personal inherent righteousness of our own. But if he has not, the law has still its full challenges upon us, (penal as well as preceptive,) notwithstanding any righteousness of our own; and we cannot be justified upon this foundation, consistently with the governing justice of God.
I must further observe, it cannot be agreeable to
the holiness of God, that sinners should be justified by any righteousness whatsoever which does not fully answer the demands of the moral law. The moral law is, as it were, a copy or transcript of the holiness of God, and must, therefore, be a perpetual and unalterable rule of righteousness to man. There can strictly be no righteousness, but by a complete conformity to this law: and hence none can, consistently with God's holiness, be accepted by him as righteous, who have not a full conformity to this original and only rule of righteousness to plead in their favour. If, therefore, we can have no such perfect conformity to the moral law to plead before God, on account of our own personal inherent righteousness, or any
but on the account of the imputed righteousness of Christ only; then faith, as it is our own personal inherent righteousness, cannot justify us, consistently with the rectoral holiness of God.
I may add, it cannot be agreeable to the truth of God, that we should be justified by any righteousness which will not fully answer the demand of the moral law. God has pronounced every one “ cursed, who continues not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them.” If, therefore, we have not a full conformity to all things written in the book of the law-if we have not a perfect obedience to his precepts, not a full satisfaction for the violation of them, to plead in our favour; then, either we must lie under the curse, or God must break his word. The latter you dare not suppose ; and the former is, in its nature, absolutely inconsistent with our justification.
I know of but one answer that can, with any colour of reason, be made to these arguments; and that is, That Christ's fulfilling the law for us is our legal righteousness, as freeing us from the rigorous demands, and from the curses of the moral law; but that our faith, including sincere obedience in its nature, is our evangelical righteousness, whereby we ourselves personally fulfil the Gospel, and are hereby justified before God. According to this distinction, Christ's righteousness is the matter or ground of our justification, taken negatively, as it lies in absolving us from the curse of the law, and declaring our sins forgiven; but our own righteousness is the matter or ground of our justification, considered positively, as it lies in pronouncing us righteous, and so entitled to the blessing, Now the least that can be said against this notion is, that it eclipses the honour of Christ as the Lord our righteousness, and leaves man whereof to glory. But the consideration of this will, of course, bring me to the last thing I proposed in answer to your objection.
If your own construction of those passages in the fourth chapter to the Romans were granted, and faith, as including evangelical obedience in it, is. imputed to us for righteousness, yet this would make nothing against our justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ. For, allowing that faith be our personal evangelical righteousness, and that, as such, it will justify us, or render us acceptable to God, as far as it goes, we must yet have Christ's righteousness imputed to us, or else lie under the curse of the moral law, as I have already proved.
If faith, including sincere obedience in it, be im
puted to us for righteousness, this our personal righteousness must be imputed to us, not for what it is not, but for what in truth it is, that is, an imperfect righteousness. God cannot judge that to be perfect which is really imperfect; for his judgment ever is according to truth : and a weak, imperfect faith (as that of the best is) cannot constitute a perfect righteousness. Whence it follows, that we cannot, on account of this our personal righteousness, be effectually and thoroughly justified: we cannot be perfectly acquitted from guilt and condemnation; we cannot be entitled to complete happiness and eternal life, by virtue of our own righteousness; and therefore it is of the last necessity that we have some other and better righteousness, even a perfect one, to plead, or else we must perish eternally: at least, we cannot at present be justified on the footing of our own righteousness, so long as we are in this imperfect state; but must wait for justification of life, as a distant future benefit, not to be received till we are made perfect in holiness. Whereas, by the whole current of Scripture, it appears that justification is a present benefit, taking place in the life which now is. Believers have not a mere promise, that they shall be justified; but such are, in express terms, represented in Scripture as already justified, as actually pardoned and made acceptable in the Beloved, as "passed from death to life," and reinstated in God's special favour; so that 6 there is now no condemnation to them,”.
are now the heirs of salvation. Thus, Sir, I have given you some of the reasons I have against your author's interpretation of those