« PreviousContinue »
To sum up the whole at the close of this book, as it began with a statement of the doctrine which I purposed to maintain :-All the human race “ have sinned, and come short of the glory of “ God;" all are under condemnation : "the scrip“ ture hath shut up all under sin, that the pro“ mise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to “ them that believe.”] Now justification signifies in scripture, when applied to fallen man, constituting him righteous, who in himself, according to the strict, holy, and good law of God, is unrighteous ; and dealing with him, not as a sinner, but as a righteous person; not “ imputing sin,” “ but imputing righteousness without works.” 2 This we consider as the act of God, wholly and entirely; “ It is God that justifieth :” that it is altogether of grace and mercy, unmerited, and contrary to our deservings; and not in any degree, or at any time, of our works or merits. This free grace is the source of the blessing; but, in thus shewing mercy, our just and holy God has respect to the merits, or the righteousness and atonement, of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, even “ the righteousness of God, which is unto all and
upon “all them that believe ;" 3 and this is the merit
tion which ought not to be denied, amounts, as it appears to me, to an adoption of them; and this argument remains unaltered. " Gal. iii. 22. ? Rom. iv. 6—8. 3 Rom. iii. 20-24.
orious cause, the alone meritorious cause of our justification.—We also maintain, that by faith alone we become partakers of this justifying righteousness of our Redeemer.
So that none can scripturally be spoken of as justified either at baptism, or at any other time, unless he have faith in Christ.—But this justifying faith is not merely a rational belief of Christianity, or of any of its doctrines ; or even of them all; but a cordial reception of Jesus Christ and his righteousness and atonement, with application to him, and reliance on him, “ as the end of the law for righteousness “ to every one that believeth.” Faith alone justifies, as the eye alone sees : yet justifying faith is never alone in him who has it. It is inseparably connected with repentance; "it worketh by love” of God and man, of Christ and Christians ; it " overcometh the world;" and by it God“ purifies “the heart.” It produces obedience and all good works, as a good tree produces good fruits; and it may be known by them as certainly as a tree by its fruits. For it is “the gift of God,” the effect of regeneration, and mainly employed by the Holy Spirit in completing our sanctification. Yet it justifies as receiving Christ for righteousness, not as producing obedience. Justification, in respect of all true believers, is a past transaction, which took place when they became believers. But, continuing still to believe with a lively faith, they are continued in a justified state by faith alone; and will be so to the end, if indeed faith do not fail or degenerate. “ They wait for the hope of right
eousness by faith.” Both during life, at death, and at judgment, their title to the reward of
righteousness rests wholly on God's free mercy or grace, through the righteousness and atonement of Christ, received and made their's by faith ; and not on any of their own works. No faith can at the first justify men, which (not failing or degenerating,) will not preserve them in a justified state. All that is spoken of works in respect of justification, we consider as evidential; and as distinguishing between a living and justifying faith, and that which is dead and worthless. So that none who do not shew their faith by their holy works have any ground to consider themselves as justified by faith : they have no right to expect to be thus regarded either by the church or the world; nor will God regard them as justified persons at the day of judgment. In proportion as the holy fruits are conspicuous and abundant, is the evidence of our justification; and time, opportunities, and various circumstances should be taken into the account, in forming our estimate. A living and fruitful faith however alone proves that we “ are made the righteousness of God in Christ.” But good works, in our view, answer many
and most important purposes, and are absolutely necessary to every one, as “ accompanying salva“ tion;" besides evidencing a man's faith to be justifying, and his assured hope of glory warranted by scripture.—This is the outline of our system : and, I apprehend, every proposition, which I have stated in this book, will fall in with this general outline; and that the whole is simple and consistent, without assuming that it is true and scriptural.
But let his Lordship, if he be able, or let any of those who coincide in his views, or think they do; form all the materials of the chapter on justification, in the Refutation, into one simple and consistent scheme. I shall greatly admire the talents of that man who can even give plausibility to such an attempt: for I am fully persuaded, that the materials are too heterogeneous and discordant to be ever worked up, in reality, into such a regular compendious whole, which may shew the reader, perspicuously and clearly, what he ought to believe, and what he ought not to believe, in this grand point, which the Reformers considered as the articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ.