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must see yourself in perishing necessity of Christ and his righteousness, to recommend you to the divine favour.
Dear Sir, I entreat you to consider, in season, what you must consider first or last; and let you and I be now solemnly careful to lay our foundation sure, that we may meet with comfort at the great trial, and receive the Euge of our Judge, in that awful and great day; which is the
WHETHER WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH AND OBE
DIENCE TO THE GOSPEL, AS A NEW LAW OF
e miles be loti ord, gehou and," / shali
I can with greater encouragement use, my endeavours to remove your difficulties, and to satisfy your desires, since
you do not throw difficulties either in your own way or in mine, out of any conceived prejudice, or from ostentation or wrangling disposition; but from a sincere desire of building your hope upon the sure foundation laid in Zion." Would all men act from views so worthy of this great concern, it would be a likely means, not only to put an end to the prevailing confusions among us, but to give a triumphant progress to the truth, and to establish men in the faith delivered to the saints.
“ You have (you say) been so sensibly affected
by my last, and are so fully convinced of the danger of mistaking your way, that you are the more solicitous to be set right, and to have your remaining difficulties removed: and therefore you entreat me to bear with you, while you propose your strongest objection against the doctrine I suppose to be of so great importance. Your author (you say) tells you, that our blessed Saviour has purchased for us new and easier conditions of life; and instead of the sinless obedience required by the moral law, he has now given us a new law of grace, which only requires faith, with sincere obedience to the Gospel, as the condition of our justification and acceptance with God. Whence it is a necessary consequence, that our justification, or title to eternal life, depends not upon Christ's righteousness imputed to us, but upon our faith, including sincere obedience to the Gospel, as the condition to which it is promised; and that as our obedience is imperfect, so our state of justification is imperfect also; and we shall not be perfectly justified till our obedience be perfected.”
That I may distinctly consider this case, I shall endeavour, in the first place, to make some proper inquiries and reflections upon this scheme, and offer some objections against it, and then take notice of the
arguments which you have brought to support it.
I would first inquire, where you find any thing in Scripture of our Saviour's purchasing this new law of grace, whereby faith and sincere obedience are made the conditions of our justification : perhaps your author is silent upon that head; and, for my part, I do not know that I have ever read any thing at all about it in the word of God. We read often
of our blessed Saviour's “ giving himself a ransom for us;" of his being “ a propitiation for our sins;" of his being “ the Lord our righteousness;" of his having “ brought in everlasting righteousness;" of his being “the end of the law for righteousness, unto every one that believeth;” and of his being 6 of God made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;" with many other like representations of his procuring a justifying righteousness for us. But of his purchasing this new law of grace, not one word is to be found in the Scriptures. May we not justly suppose, that if this scheme were right, we should have it plainly represented to us in the oracles of God; and not be left to grope in the dark, and to find out, by farfetched consequences, what is the foundation of our practice and hope? How vast is the difference between the one and the other side of this question ! On the one side, we have (or at least we think we have) very numerous, plain, express Scripture authorities, for our justification by the righteousness of Christ. On the other side, there is a deep silence throughout the whole word of God, about any purchase of a new law, such a law of favourable terms; and about those new conditions of our justification, those easier terms of our faith and sincere obedience. This scheme, therefore, may be presumed to be at least but of human invention.
I would further inquire, whether, in the nature of things, there can be any justification at all upon such conditions as you speak of? I have shown you, that justification is always to be understood of our being esteemed, declared, manifested, or pro
nounced righteous. Now, then, if our evangelical obedience be imperfect, we are still unrighteous, by our remaining sin and disobedience against this imaginary new law of grace; and, consequently, God cannot judge and declare us righteous by virtue of our obedience. For his judgment is according to truth, as I observed to you in my last letter. Certain it is, that no man upon earth is, or can be perfectly sincere, perfectly believing, or perfectly obedient to the Gospel. His defects will be greater than his attainments, and his disobedience will be greater than his obedience, under his highest improvements, as long as he lives.
He knows nothing of himself that does not know this to be fact. He must, therefore, ever be more 'unrighteous than righteous as long as he lives; and, accordingly, he that can make no wrong judgment of things, will judge and esteem him to be as he is: so that the man must live and die unjustified, and appear at the bar of Christ in the same state.
To speak of an imperfect or defective state of justification, seems to be a most egregious trifling in this awful concern. We either are justified, or we are not; either God does pronounce üs righteous, or he does not. Now, if he does, we are free from guilt, and fully accepted of him; but if he does not, we are under guilt, and a sentence of condemnation. There can be no medium, no middle state, between that of justification and that of condemnation. However, were it even granted, that we might be imperfectly justified, in proportion to our conformity to this supposed new law, we must at the best live and die but imperfectly justified;
and, as I before observed, must appear at the bar of Christ in the same state in which we die; and consequently be but imperfectly justified for ever, without some further remedy be provided beyond the grave.
Thus, this doctrine of justification upon the footing of personal obedience to a new law, is better adapted to a Popish purgatory, than to the Protestant profession and hope.
I would agaiu inquire, whether it be possible, in the nature of things, that we may have any sincere obedience to this new law of
before we are justified; and, consequently, whether it is possible that we may be justified by sincere obedience, before we have any acting of gracious sincerity, or any true obedience at all? Faith, indeed, does
precede our justification, in order of nature, but not in time. There is no moment of time, wherein a man is a true believer, and yet not justified before God; and, therefore, there cannot be a moment of time for faith to be operative, and bring forth the fruits of new obedience, prior to our justification. “The righteousness of God is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference.” This is the constant language of the Scripture, “ We are justified by faith ;, and he that believeth is not condemned.” Therefore, as there can be no condemned, no unjustified believer, at any time whatsoever, nor any time at all for either legal or evangelical obedience, between the first act of faith and our passing out of a state of condemnation into a state of justification ; hence our sincere obedience must be the consequence, and, therefore, cannot be the condition of our justification.