Imatges de pàgina

many : and the true import of the passage is cleared of all doubt by the reason assigned in the following words, “ for he shall bear their iniquities.” The true import of the word “justify" seems to have been corrupted among the Romanists, when the Latin Vulgate alone was taken as the guide ; for the Latin word, from which our English term is derived, taken aside from its use seems to carry with it the signification, not of declaring, but making a man just; but in the original terms, both in the Hebrew and Greek, there is no ambiguity. The words express uniformly the sense which we have put on them ; that is, they mean, to account, to esteem, to declare a person to be just or righteous, and never to make a man just or righteous by the infusion of grace. Justification and Sanctification should, therefore, be carefully distinguished, although they should never be separated. The difference between these two benefits which arise from union with Christ, is well expressed in the answer to the 77th Question, in our Larger Catechism. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that, God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ, in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth the exercise thereof: in the former, sin is pardoned, in the other, it is subdued: the one doth equally free all believers from the avenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation : the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection."

There is another error respecting the import of the term “justification," which, while it admits that the word is forensic or declarative, maintains that it means the forgiveness of sin, and nothing more. This error is current among Protestants, being embraced and defended by the Arminians, and Hopkinsians, generally. But as this error will be brought fully under consideration, hereafter, we will dismiss all further consideration of the meaning of the term in this place, and proceed to inquire into the true ground of a sinner's justification in the sight of God.



When we assert that justification by the law is impossible, we do not mean to say, that this was always the case ; or

that this method of justification was rot a goou and reasonable one. Indeed, to innocent creatures, it is the only reasonable method of justification ; and we suppose, that God's creatures, who have retained their original state, have obtained justifica tion in this way alone. And when man was created and placed under a law, his obedience through the prescribed period of probation would have secured his own justification, and that of all those represented by him. While Adam continued in his original integrity, he was free from all condemnation ; but it could not with propriety be said that he was then justified; for justification is the sentence of the judge declaring that the law has been fully obeyed; but in his case, the time had not arrived for pronouncing the sentence of justification, before he sinned. When any creature is put on probation, for a certain period, he cannot be justified until that period of perfect obedience is completed. There is a difference, therefore, between an innocent and a justified person. All moral agents are created in the image of God, that is, in a state of conformity to the holy law of God; and it is more than probable, that all such creatures are put on probation as soon as created ; and as the goodness of God leads him to prescribe a limited time of trial, a sentence of justification cannot take place until this period is ended, and the required obedience rendered without failure. When justification takes place, either on the principles of law or grace, we suppose that the creatures who have finished their course of obedience are confirmed in a state of favour ; they will be forever preserved from falling into condemnation. The angels who remained obedient were once as liable to fall, as those who kept not their first estate ; but now their probation is ended ; their justification is perfect, and they are no longer on trial, but

elect,” confirmed forever in their holy and happy state. And if man had continued in his obedience, he would have obtained not only justification, but confirmation; and that for all included in him, in the covenant of works. And

upon same principles, all who are united to Christ, and justified by his righteousness, are no longer in a state of probation : the trial is over ; the justifying righteousness has been rendered, and imputed to them; and they are no more liable to fall into condemnation, but are in a condition of perfect safety, kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.”

As justification is the sentence of a judge declaring the true condition of a person, in relation to the law, it becomes necessary to inquire, what law it is which is the rule of judgment in pronouncing a creature just; or in condemning hin, for


want of obedience. In a human court the judge is bound to proceed in his judgments according to the law of the land, and when a person has been arraigned, and found to have been guilty of no failure of obedience in the matters charged against him, he is acquitted ; or, in other words, is justified. So, when God pronounces sentence upon any one, it will be strictly according to his own righteous law. This is sometimes called the law of nature, as it arises out of the natural relations which subsist between God and the creature; and because it is written on the heart of man, or interwoven with the principles of his constitution, as a moral agent. This law requires us to love God with all the heart, mind, and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves. That is, it requires a perfect exercise of all our faculties and powers, in conformity to the will of God. It binds us to every thing which God commands, however his will may be made known. It is not necessary, therefore, to make any distinction here, between moral and positive laws. The moral obligation extends to all that God commands ; and if he were to institute a thousand positive duties, they would all be morally obligatory on the same principles that what are called moral duties are binding. Every law requires perfect obedience to itself, and it requires no more. This, indeed, is a mere truism; for it would be a contradiction to say, that perfect obedience was not required by any law whatever; for if not required, then it could not be obedience. The idea of a law being a satisfied by an imperfect obedience is utterly absurd.

Now, if the law be holy, just, and good, and every way adapted to man's constitution, why may he not obtain justification by the law? Paul has given the reason, “ For what the law could not do in that it was weak, through the flesh.” The fault is not in the law, but in the fallen sinful nature of

The same Apostle testifies, in another place, " That which was ordained unto life I found to be unto death.” One transgression of the law renders justification by it as impossible as a million. God, who cannot lie, never can pronounce him to be free from guilt and liable to no charge who has, in a single instance, disobeyed. Man fell under the curse by one transgression ; and it is probable that the same was the fact in regard to the angels, who kept not their first estate. Those whom the law charges with sin, it can never

d justify. To suppose the contrary would imply a contradiction. The Apostle Paul assigns, as the reason why no man could be justified by the law, that “ by the law is the knowledge of sin.” As though he had said, the law demonstrates


that all men are sinners, therefore, it is evident, that it never can justify those whom at the same time it condemns. His words are, “ Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” That righteousness, therefore, which justifies the sinner, is said to be “ without the law;" that is, without respect to our obedience to the law, for in justifying a sinner upon any plan, it is impossible that God should pay no regard to his own law. This righteousness which equally justifies Jews and Gentiles is by faith, not by works. And it must be so, “ For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The apostle then declares that we are justified gratuitously, by grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. That which is free or gratuitous, is, without our works; “ For to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace but of debt.” (Rom. iv. 4.) And he reasons, that unless there had been provided some other righteousness than our own, God could not have been just in justifying him that believeth in Jesus. It would be an unrighteous act to pronounce him just, who has sinned, and come short of the glory of God, if Christ had not been set forth as a propitiation for our sins, and thus provided for us a complete righteousness. And this method of justification which God has devised and made known, is so contrived as to exclude all boasting. “ By what law? Of works ? nay; but by the law of faith.” • Therefore, we conclude, that a man is justified, by faith without the deeds of the law.” And the method of justification is the same to Jews and Gentiles ; “Seeing it is one God which shall justify the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcision through faith.”




To evade the plain testimonies of Scripture, which have been adduced, some have maintained, that the only works which the apostle excludes from being any ground of justifi cation, are works in obedience to the ceremonial law, or the Mosaic rites, on which the Pharisees depended for salvation : but that it was no part of his design to exclude good works of a moral or evangelical kind. In answer to this objection, it may be remarked, first, that

what is assumed in it cannot be true, because the inspired writer assures us, that what he said on this subject related to Gentiles as much as Jews ; but we know, that the Mosaical rites were not given to the Gentiles, and they, therefore, could not trust in the ceremonial law, or boast themselves in works of this kind.

Again, the sins which the apostle enumerates to prove, that both Gentiles and Jews were all guilty before God, are all transgressions of the moral law, as may be seen in the first and third chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. It was a law which was not to be abrogated, but established by the Christian dispensation, which was not true in regard to the ceremonial law. It was that law by which is the knowledge of sin, and which said “ thou shalt not covet,” that law which is “spiritual”—which was ordained unto life, but now was found to be unto death, all which things agree to the moral law, but not at all to the ceremonial law, “ which was a shadow of good things to come, and was now ready to vanish away.” To which we may add, that all works are excluded of which men might boast; but they will be as much disposed to boast of moral, as ceremonial works, therefore the apostle excludes those as well as these. And finally, there is no just ground for this distinction, in regard to an obedience which is to be the ground of justification. Ceremonial or positive duties, commanded by God, are as truly binding until abrogated, as duties of the other class, and when rightly performed, they are as truly acceptable to God. Indeed, in essence, what is called a ceremonial duty, is moral, and the act as really,and truly holy as any other act, when performed, as it should be, from love to God, and with a view to his glory. If, therefore, our own works of any kind, were a proper ground of justification these should be included. And as to imperfection, it cleaves to moral duties as much as to positive. It is evident, therefore, that there is no just ground for the opinion, that when the apostle declared, that by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified,' he meant ceremonial works only.

Another evasion is, that the works excluded by Paul from having any part in our justification before God, are “ dead works,” done by an unregenerate person ; or such works as the Papists affirm may be performed by free-will before grace is received. To which it may be replied, that there is not a word in all that the apostle has written on this subject, which gives the least countenance to this opinion. There was no need to asseverate with so much emphasis and so repeatedly that

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