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impunity for our sins is always founded on some unworthy conceptions of the divine attributes, unless it has respect to a sufficient atonement. But it is important that we should know as accurately as possible, what the principles are, on which we shall be dealt with by the Judge of all; or, in other words, it is infinitely important to know, how a sinner can appear with acceptance before God. These considerations are sufficient to show, that the doctrine of a sinner's justification, in the sight of God, is fundamental. other points error may exist, and yet the state of the person entertaining it may notwithstanding be safe ; he may still be in the right way to heaven. But a mistake, as to the method of acceptance with God, must be exceedingly dangerous : it must mislead the inquirer from the way of salvation. Let every man, then, as he regards his own eternal happiness, beware of embracing a false doctrine on this subject. But a sound view of this point is intimately connected with correct opinions on all other articles of primary importance; and an error here, cannot but vitiate the whole system of theology, of which it forms a part. This is a central and a cardinal point in theoretical, as well as practical religion ; and the degree of error on other articles, may be inferred, from the degree of departure from the truth, in regard to this. The history of the Christian church, from the days of the apostles, confirms the statement now given. Was any heretic ever known to hold a sound doctrine on justification? Wherever, and whenever, justification by faith, has been given up, obscured, or neglected to be preached, then and there, other errors have come in like a flood, and true religion has declined. The history of most Protestant churches, for a hundred years past, will furnish a striking commentary on the statement now made. On the other hand, when a real reformation takes place, in any part of the church, the consequence is, a speedy and cordial return to the preaching of this doctrine. How dear it was to the hearts of the reformers is known to all. Luther may truly be said to have laid the foundation for the Reformation, by embracing the scriptural view of justification. He found the need of it in his own deep conviction of sin; but the doctrine itself he discovered in the Bible. Through his whole life, afterwards, he was zealous and uncompromising in its defence. His pithy and striking declaration, that it was the article of a standing or falling church,” has often been cited ;* but another saying
"Articulus stantis vel cadentis Ecclesie."
of this great reformer, equally pithy and important, is less known." The doctrine of justification being lost," says he “the whole system of Christian doctrine is lost.”* Perhaps, the radical error of Popery from which all the rest sprung, was the proud and unscriptural doctrine of human merit, as the ground of our acceptance with God. However this may be, undoubtedly, it was the great end of divine revelation to make known the method by which a sinner may recover the lost favour of God, and secure the pardon of all his sins. And as this doctrine is radical in the Christian system ; so it stands out prominently throughout the Bible ; and is more especially, the chief subject of the inspired writings of the apostle Paul. His Epistle to the Romans may without impropriety be called a treatise on the gratuitous justification of a sinner before God, with an answer to the most common objections which have in all ages been made against it. And his Epistle to the Galatians is an earnest resutation of the errors of certain false teachers, who inculcated an erroneous doctrine on this point, and had led away the Galatian churches from the truth. Paul considered the new doctrine taught by these Judaizers, as " another gospel,” and denounces a curse upon all who preached it, even if it were an angel from heaven. And the receiving such a doctrine, he considered as turning from the Spirit to the flesh; and addresses those who had forsaken the gospel of Christ, for the sake of this legal system, as “ bewitched,” or infatuated. sents those who were seeking to be justified by their observance of the ceremonies of the abrogated law, as having fallen from grace; that is, as having abandoned the gospel system of salvation by grace.
It can, therefore, never be a superfluous work, nor unseasonable, to exhibit the Scriptural doctrine of Justification. And this is the object at which we aim in this tract. It cannot be expected that we should discuss all questions which have been started on this point, but only the most important. And we think a short, and pain treatise on this subject, is now called for; because in the preaching of many it is left entirely out of view.
** Amisso articulo justificationis simul amissa est tota doctrina Christiana."
NATURE OF JUSTIFICATION.
It seems strange that there should be any difference of opinion respecting the meaning of the word justification. Its common popular sense is exactly the same as its scriptural and theological meaning. When we speak of a person being justified, we never think of an internal change, but a declaration of the condition of that person in relation to some law or rule. So, when a particular action is justified, it is declared and shown to be right, or conformable to law. The word justify is uniformly the opposite of the word condemn. When a man is condemned no change is effected by the act on his real character, but he is declared to be a transgressor, and obnoxious to the penalty of some law ; so when a person is justified, no new moral qualities or dispositions are communicated by that act, but he is merely declared to be acquitted from every charge which may have been brought against him, and to have complied with the requisitions of the law by which his conduct is tried.
In the Bible, the word is used in the same way, almost uniformly. There are few cases, if any, in which it can be supposed to have a different meaning ; and these must be considered as exceptions to the general rule, in which the word is used out of its proper signification. The use of the word in Scripture, will be evident from the following examples, " Thou shalt justify the righteous and condemn the wicked.” (Deut. xxv. 1.) Here it is too evident to require a word of explanation, that, to justify is the opposite of, to condemn; and that both are the sentence of a judge declaring the state or condition of persons in relation to the law. Again, “ If I justify myself, my own mouth will condemn me.” (Job ix. 20.) That is, if I declare myself free from sin, my own mouth will condemn me; where again, to justify and to condemn, are placed in opposition to each other. But the following example from Proverbs, will serve to show the true sense of this term most distinctly. “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord,” (Prov. xvii. 15.) Here, it would be most absurd to suppose, that by justifying the wicked was to be understood, the infusion of justice, or any communication of moral qualities; for that, instead of being an abomination to the Lord,
would be an excellent act: it would be making a bad man good.
The true import of the word when justification is the act of God, may be learned from Paul, where he asks, “ Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? it is God that justifieth.” (Rom. viii. 33.) Here the contrast is between laying a charge against the elect and justifying them. It is, however, the same as if it had been said, who will condemn God's elect, when he justifies them?
Notwithstanding the meaning of this word is so evident, yet the Romanists insist, that its true meaning is, not merely to absolve from guilt, but to infuse righteousness into the soul. This is not merely the opinion of some of their writers, but of the whole body. The Council of Trent discussed this subject at great length, and deliberately decreed a number of canons in relation to it, in which they completely confound justification with regeneration and sanctification. They declare that justification is not the remission of sins alone, but the “sanctification and renovation of the inner man;" and they pronounce an anathema upon all who maintain that justification cannot be increased by good works. In support of this opinion, they refer to several passages of Scripture; which, however, when rightly interpreted, bring no aid to their cause.
They cite the words of Paul, “ Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified,” (Rom. viii. 30.) The argument is, that in this chain of saving benefits, running from eternity to eternity, it cannot be supposed that the Apostle has omitted the renovation or sanctification of the soul; but if this is included it must be comprehended under justification. But whilst we admit, that this great blessing of the New Covenant is not omitted, we maintain that it is fully included, not under justification, with which it is never confounded, but under « calling” and “glorification.” The calling here spoken of, is the effectual, holy calling, by which God by his grace draws sinsul men to himself, and which is the commencement of the work of sanctification, and glorification is the consummation of this internal work of grace ; for what glory can there be without perfect holiness, without which no man can see the Lord,
Another text on which the defenders of this opinion rely, is, “Such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. vi. 11.) But surely
this can prove nothing to their purpose; for the Apostle here expressly mentions sanctification; and to suppose that he in cludes the same under the word justification, is an unnecessary and gratuitous supposition. He does, indeed, ascribe the whole of the great change which the Corinthians had undergone, to the Holy Spirit; but this divine agent is instrumental in justification as well as sanctification ; for, by his operation, faith is produced, by which justification takes place. There is, therefore, not a shadow of evidence from this text, that justification and sanctification signify the same thing; or that they should, in any respect, be confounded; although it is admitted, that these two benefits of the covenant of grace are always conjoined, and are ever contemporaneous ; so that he who is justified, is at the same time renovated; and he who is renewed is justified ; but they are, nevertheless, perfectly distinct.
But the passage of Scripture on which they place most reliance is, “ He that is unjust let him be unjust still—and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still—and he that is holy, let him be holy still,” (Rev. xxiii. 11.) The phrase, “ he that is righteous let him be righteous still,” might be rendered with propriety," he that is justified let him be justified still.” But there is nothing in the text thus interpreted to induce us to depart from the usual meaning of the word “justify." Why may it not mean, he that is now justified let him continue in a justified state? Why should we suppose that inherent holiness is intended, when that idea is strongly expressed in another part of the verse, “ he that is holy let him be holy still.” There is no necessity of admitting, that an increase of justification is here signified. There is nothing said of increase, but only of continuance. There is, however, good reason to believe, that the common reading of this text in our Greek Testaments, is not the correct reading. According to the best authorities, the text should be read, “ he that is righteous, let him do righteousness.” This correction Griesbach has received into his edition of the Greek Testament, which Dr. Owen had defended as the true reading of the passage, long before.
Sometimes the words in Isaiah have been adduced, “ By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many." But by his knowledge, in this place, we should understand the “ Gospel,” which is the knowledge of Christ, or "faith which is nearly identical with the knowledge of Christ. By the knowledge of himself, by means of the Gospel, or by the instrumentality of faith, shall my righteous servant justify