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passages in the fourth chapter to the Romans. Many other arguments might be added, further to illustrate the truth, and to refute all pretences of this kind; but I am afraid I have been already too tedious, and I hope what is already said may prove sufficient for your satisfaction. You desire me " to give you a brief view of
my sentiments of those passages, and to show you in what sense I understand faith to be imputed to us for righteousness. You tell me, that you cannot understand how faith's being imputed to us for righteousness can intend that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us.”
The common interpretation of these passages by our Protestant divines, from the beginning of the Reformation, is, that faith is imputed for righteousness, not subjectively, or as it is an act of our own, and our own personal righteousness; but objectively, or as it hath respect to its object, and apprehends the righteousness of Christ. That is, as faith is the bond of union between Christ and the soul, and interests us in him and his justifying righteousness, it is imputed to us for righteousness. Thus it is the righteousness of faith, as faith is the term or mean of our interest in Jesus Christ's righteousness; and yet it is the righteousness of Christ, as he was the immediate subject and author of it, or as it was wrought out by him. Our faith is, in a like manner, said to be the faith of Jesus Christ, as Christ's righteousness is here said to be the righteousness of faith. Our faith is not called the faith of Christ, as it is his personal act, (Christ does not believe for us;) but as it receives the Lord Jesus
Christ, and gives us an interest in him.
Nor is our faith our righteousness, as it is our personal act, (our faith has not fulfilled the law, nor answered the demands of vindictive justice ;) but it is our righteousness, as it interests us in what Christ has done and suffered for us, whereby the law is fulfilled and justice satisfied. In the former case, the object is put for the act; the faith of Christ for believing in Christ. And there can no reason be given why, with the same propriety, in the latter case, the act may not be put for the object; the righteousness of faith, for righteousness by, or through faith; and why faith may not be counted for righteousness obtained by believing. It is remarkable, that the Apostle expressly speaks of faith in this view every where else besides this context; and, therefore, he ought to be here also understood in this sense, to make his doctrine consistent. In this sense, faith is our justifying righteousness, as a condemned malefactor's accepting his prince's pardon is his deliverance from execution, or as a beggar's accepting an alms is his preservative from starving. As in these cases it is not the act of receiving, but the benefit received, that is the preservation; so in that case it is not the act of receiving Christ, but the benefit received by faith, that is the believer's righteousness.
But "you cannot understand how faith's being imputed to us for righteousness can intend that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us.” Well, then, let it be even supposed that faith is here taken subjectively, and that it was Abraham's faith itself, considered as an act of his own, that was imputed to him. It may, notwithstanding, be set in such a view
as will secure the truth of the doctrine I am pleading for, if the text be considered as it is in the original. “ His faith was imputed unto righteousness ;” that is, as he was reckoned, judged, or esteemed of God to be a sound believer; so the faith which was imputed or reckoned to him was unto righteousness, was instrumental to his attaining of righteousness, was the means that “by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon him, unto justification of life;" or, in other words, was the means of his interest in that righteousness of Christ by which he was justified. In this sense, the imputation respects his faith; and intends an approbation and acknowledgment of it as true, and sincere, and effectual to its proper purposes. He was approved of God, as having a true and sound faith, a faith effectual, as an applying means unto righteousness, and thereby unto justification: a faith which interested him in Christ and his righteousness, and thereby entitled him unto acceptance with God and eternal life. He was judged to be such a believer as to have a right, according to the terms of the covenant of grace, to have righteousness imputed to him without works, as it is expressed in verse 6th. According to this view of the case, imputation is considered in this context in both the senses before explained. Abraham was reckoned, or. esteemed, a true believer ; in consequence whereof, a justifying righteousness was imputed to him, even the righteousness of God without the law.
I think I have before sufficiently proved to you that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ received by faith, and cannot be justified by any personal inherent righteousness of our own. This
has been illustrated from the nature of things, and confirmed by full and plain Scripture testimony; and this, . upon an impartial search and inquiry, I think would appear to you to be the whole scope and design of the Gospel of Christ.
I have now removed your great difficulty out of the way, and shown you how this doctrine, so plainly taught every where else, may be true in a full consistency with those texts which, in your apprehension, seemed to make against it. I would now propose one method more, to confirm you in the important truth under consideration; and that, if duly attended to, cannot fail.
Allow me, Sir, the freedom to advise you, that you place yourself in the presence of the infinitely great and glorious God, and give yourself to meditation, on such subjects, particularly, as may tend to enlighten and establish you in the present truth. With this view, solemnly contemplate God's infinite justice, his infinite purity and holiness, his infinite abhorrence of sin and sinners, especially as to be seen in the glass of Christ's sufferings: also contemplate your own state and moral character, both by nature and practice. Contemplate the sinful defects of the best works of righteousness that ever you have done, the pollutions mingled with the best duties that ever you performed. Contemplate the unbelief which accompanied the highest actings of faith you were capable of; the formality and hypocrisy which has mixed with your devoutest prayers; the desultory thoughts, and dead frames, which have accompanied you to the most sacred ordinances of God's house ; the frequent violations of the most solemn resolutions and covenant obligations by which you have bound
your soul to the Lord; and, in a word, contemplate the greatness of your sins, their vast number and dreadful aggravations ; with the nothingness of your best performances and highest attainments in religion; how much you have done against God, and how little for him; and then consider what plea you have to make before this infinitely great, this absolutely just, this perfectly pure and holy God, for justification in his sight, and acceptance with him. Will you plead your acting of faith in him and his promises ? Alas, how will your prevailing unbelief fly in your face, and put you to silence !
Will you plead your personal obedience and works of righteousness that you have done?
Alas! how will a vast degree of sin and unrighteousness cover and confound you ! Will you plead your sincerity before God? But what will you do with that prevalent formality and hypocrisy which your own conscience will accuse and convince you of! Will not you be forced at last to cry out with David, “ If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand ?” And with Job, “ Behold, I am vile ! What shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer; yea, twice, but I will proceed no further." Will not you then see your necessity of a more perfect righteousness to plead before God, than any personal inherent righteousness of your own, to cover your dreadful sinfulness and infinite defects; and to render you acceptable to God, notwithstanding all the challenges which the justice, the holiness, and the law of God, together with your own conscience, have against you? Surely, on due reflection, you