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IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS ONE OF THE GLORIES
OF THE GOSPEL.
ROMANS, iv. 6.
Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unta
whom God imputeth righteousness without works.
St. Paul's design in this chapter, and in a great part of this epistle, is to distinguish between justification by the deeds of the law, and by the righteousness of faith. The former sentiment he had early imbibed, and warmly promoted, till it pleased God to call him by his grace; after which he, with equal zeal and diligence, preached the very faith he had laboured to destroy. The text and context afford us a striking instance of his alteration of mind, and solicitude to propagate his new opinion ; between which, and the principles of his education, there is an evident contrast. The language of one is, Do and live : the other speaketh expressly, Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness ; 4. d. the labourer is worthy of his hire. What a man receiveth as a reward for his industry, is not of grace, but of debt. He wrought for it, and may claim it. So,
any man should insinuate that the sinner is justified before God in consequence of good works done by him, he destroys the doctrine of grace; and the testimony of David is introduced to confirm the important truth-Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.
The authority of Abraham and David had great weight with many to whom St. Paul was called to preach and write. Abraham, the father of the faithful, was justified by faith without the deeds of the law; and David, a man after God's own heart, and an inspired prophet, describes the blessed man to whom a righteousness is imputed without works, saying, Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. This quotation is out of Psalm xxxii. The text is St. Paul's comment on it; who, as he was inspired by the same Spirit, must be allowed to understand the meaning of the royal prophet infallibly. So far then is our apostle from treating the doctrine of imputed righteousness as novel, unscriptural, or absurd, that he assures us it was an article of David's creed, and taught in the verses he had cited. David speaks of the forgiveness of sin, and of its non-imputation, but does not use the phrase imputed righteousness. St. Paul informs us, in his exposition of the words, that this is their import-Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works. Here we have,
I. A righteousness spoken of,
II. Which God is said to impute without works ;
II. And their blessedness declared who are justified by this imputed righteousness.
I. A righteousness spoken of.
The subject of St. Paul's discourse is justification in the sight of God; therefore the righteousness he pleads for is such as is calculated to justify in this sense.
In the sequel he carefully excludes the sinner's obedience to the law, from having either part or influence in the matter; and there. by leaves us but little room to wander in pursuit of his meaning, which must be, either that our faith is our righteousness, or the obedience and sufferings of Christ. The former was the sentiment of Arminius, and is still embraced by his followers. To prove which, they repeatedly urge those expressions of the apostle, being justified by faith, his faith is counted for righteousness, &c. (Rom. iv.) In which passages, and others of a like import, I humbly conceive, he cannot mean, that a sinner is justified before God by the act of believing, or that he is counted righteous because of his faith : for,
1. There is a manifest distinction between faith and that righteousness which is imputed for justifi. cation. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ : for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein (i. e. in the gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, Rom. i. 16, 17. That St. Paul here speaks of justifying righteousness, I conclude from the connexion of the words with the preceding context. Verse 15, he der clares his readiness to preach the gospel to those that were at Rome also. Verse 16, he glories in
it, and gives the reason why he does so. Verse 17, he explains the nature of the gospel, viz. that it is a revelation of righteousness from faith to faith. This is one of its glories, that it exhibits å righteousness as an article of faith, by which all who believe are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. The distinction between righteousness and faith in this verse is obvious. I therefore observe, if a sinner is justified before God by righteousness imputed to him, he cannot be said to be justified in the same sense by faith, which the apostle so carefully distinguishes from it.
2. That righteousness by which a sinner is justified before God, is perfect conformity to the divine law. The law is the rule of righteousness, by which Jehovah both condemns and acquits the sinner. If his righteousness, be it personal or imputed, answers the demands of the law, justice is satisfied : if it fails in a single instance, the sinner is condemned. If thou wilt enter into life, i. e. by virtue of thine own obedience, keep the commandments. For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Who then will say, that faith is such a conformity? or that the Lawgiver will depart from his just requirement of perfect obedience as the condition of life, and instead thereof accept faith?
3. The scriptures, when speaking of justification, pardon, remission, &c. ascribe them to Christ, to his obedience, blood, righteousness, &c.; but faith is properly the work of the Holy Ghost in the soul. “No internal work of the Holy Ghost, though in this our present state it were most absolutely
perfect, so as to exclude every thing of sin, could be any part of that righteousness that must jus. tify us before God. To suppose that it could, would be manifestly to confound the offices of the Redeemer, and of the Holy Ghost. It was Christ that was to merit for us; the Holy Ghost was never to merit for us. It was not the Holy Ghost that died for us, nor can his operations or productions in us have any causative influence to the meriting the justified and accepted state of any person before God. They cannot make us never to have sinned, nor can they atone for our having done so. Suppose we a person, as soon as he is converted, made perfectly free from sin that very moment, by some extraordinary powerful work of the Holy Ghost on his soul; how shall that expiate for his having been a sinner ?”* Agreeably to this writer, whose words are according to truth, he that says we are counted righteous be. fore God, on account of our faith, ascribes that to faith, or to the Holy Ghost, who is its great efficient, which properly belongs to Christ; and thereby confounds their offices, which are clearly distinguished in the word of God.
4. The sacred writings in many places militate against, yea, fully overthrow this notion, “ that God accepts us as righteous in his sight, on account of our faith." A cloud of witnesses stand ready to vindicate this truth. We are said to be justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. If through the redemption that there is in Christ, then not for believing. The same apostle says, the sinner is justified by his blood. If by the blood of Christ, then not by faith.
Howe's Carnality of Religious Contention,