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works, they will still be found actually sinners; who notwithstanding, must be absolved and free from sin. It appears then, that those whom God receives, are made righteous no otherwise, than as they are purified by being cleansed from all their defilements by the remission of their sins: so that such a righteousness may, in one word, be denominated, a remission of sins. XXII. Both these points are fully established by the language of Paul, which I have already recited. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (4) Then he adds the substance of his ministry; “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (!) The terms “righteousness” and “reconciliation” are here used by him indiscriminately, to teach us that they are mutually comprehended in each other. And he states the manner of obtaining this righteousness to consist in our transgressions not being imputed to us. Wherefore we can no longer doubt how God justifies, when we hear that he reconciles us to himself by not imputing our sins to us. Thus in the Epistle to the Romans the apostle proves, that “God imputeth righteousness without works,” from the testimony of David, who declares, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (m) By “blessedness” in this passage, he undoubtedly means righteousness; for since he asserts it to consist in remission of sins, there is no reason for our adopting any other definition of it. Wherefore Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, places “the knowledge of salvation” in “the remission of sins.” (n) And Paul, observing the same rule in the sermon which he preached to the people of Antioch on the subject of salvation, is related by Luke to have concluded in the following manner: “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (o) The apostle thus connects “forgiveness of sins”
with “justification,” to shew that they are identically the same; whence he justly argues, that this righteousness which we obtain through the favour of God is gratuitously bestowed upon us. Nor should it be thought a strange expression, that the faithful are justified before God not by their works, but by his gracious acceptance of them; since it occurs so frequently in the Scripture, and sometimes also in the Fathers. Augustine says, “The righteousness of the saints in this world, consists rather in the remission of their sins than in the perfection of their virtues.” With which corresponds the remarkable observation of Bernard: “Not to sin at all, is the righteousness of God; but the righteousness of man, is the Divine grace and mercy.” He had before asserted, “that Christ is righteousness to us in absolution, and therefore that they alone are righteous who have obtained pardon through his mercy.” XXIII./Hence also it is evident, that we obtain justification
before God, solely by the intervention of the righteousness of
Christ. Which is equivalent to saying, that a man is righteous, not in himself, but because the righteousness of Christ is communicated to him by imputation; and this is a point which deserves an attentive consideration. For it supersedes that idle notion, that a man is justified by faith, because faith receives the Spirit of God by whom he is made righteous; which is too repugnant to the foregoing doctrine, ever to be reconcileable to it. For he must certainly be destitute of all righteousness of his own, who is taught to seek a righteousness out of himself. This is most clearly asserted by the apostle when he says, “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (p) We see that our righteousness is not in ourselves, but in Christ; and that all our title to it, rests solely on our being partakers of Christ; for in possessing him, we possess all his riches with him. Nor does any objection arise from what he states in another place, that “God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us;” (7) where he intends no other fulfilment than what we obtain by imputa
(p) Cor. v. 21. (q) Rom. viii. 3, 4.
tion. For the Lord Christ so communicates his righteousness to us, that with reference to the Divine judgment, he transfuses its virtue into us in a most wonderful manner. That the apostle intended no other, abundantly appears from another declaration, which he had made just before; “As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (r) What is placing our righteousness in the obedience of Christ, but asserting, that we are accounted righteous only because his obedience is accepted for us as if it were our own? Wherefore, Ambrose appears to me to have very beautifully exemplified this righteousness in the benediction of Jacob: that as he, who had on his own account no claim to the privileges of primogeniture, being concealed in his brother's habit and invested with his garment, which diffused a most excellent odour, insinuated himself into the favour of his father, that he might receive the benediction to his own advantage, under the character of another; so we shelter ourselves under the purity of Christ our elder brother, that we may obtain the testimony of righteousness in the sight of God. The words of Ambrose are; “That Isaac smelled the odour of the garments, perhaps indicates, that we are justified not by works, but by faith: since the infirmity of the flesh is an impediment to works, but the brightness of faith, which obtains the pardon of sin, conceals the error of our actions.” And such is indeed the real fact; for that we may appear before the face of God to salvation, it is necessary for us to be perfumed with his fragrance, and to have all our deformities concealed and absorbed in his perfection.
(r) Rom. v. 19.
A Consideration of the Divine Tribunal, necessary to a serious Conviction of Gratuitous justification.
THOUGH it appears from the plainest testimonies that all these things are strictly true, yet we shall not clearly discover how necessary they are, till we shall have taken a view of what ought to be the foundation of all this argument. In the first place, therefore, we should reflect that we are not treating of the righteousness of a human court, but of that of the heavenly tribunal; in order that we may not apply any diminutive standard of our own, to estimate the integrity of conduct required to satisfy the Divine justice. But it is wonderful, with what temerity and presumption this is commonly decided; and it is even observable, that no men give us more confident or pompous declamations concerning the righteousness of works, than those who are notoriously guilty of open sins or addicted to secret vices. This arises from their never thinking of the righteousness of God, the smallest sense of which would prevent them from treating it with such contempt. And certainly it is exceedingly undervalued, if it be not acknowledged to be so perfect, that nothing can be acceptable to it but what is absolutely complete and immaculate, such as it never was, nor ever will be, possible to find in fallen man. It is easy for any one in the cloisters of the schools, to indulge himself in idle speculations on the merit of works to justify men; but when he comes into the presence of God, he must bid farewell to these amusements, for there the business is transacted with seriousness, and no ludicrous logomachy practised. To this point, then, must our attention be directed, if we wish to make any useful inquiry concerning true righteousness; how we can answer the celestial Judge, when he shall call us to an account. Let us place that Judge before our eyes, not according to the spontaneous imaginations of our minds, but according to the descriptions given of him in the Scripture; which represents him as one whose refulgence eclipses the stars, whose power melts the mountains, whose anger shakes the earth, whose wisdom takes Vol. II. 2 G
the subtle in their own craftiness, whose purity makes all things appear polluted, whose righteousness even the angels are unable to bear, who acquits not the guilty, whose vengeance, when it is once once kindled, penetrates even to the abyss of hell.” Let him seat himself, I say, on the tribunal to examine the actions of men: who will present himself fearless before his throne? “Who shall dwell with the devouring fire?” saith the prophet; “Who shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly,” &c. (s) Now let him come forward, whoever he is. But this answer causes not one to appear. For, on the contrary, we hear this fearful speech, * If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (t) In truth all must speedily perish, as it is written in another place, “Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth? They are destroyed from morning to evening.” (u) Again, “Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight; how much more abominable and filthy is man, which drink iniquity like water?” (w) I confess that in the Book of Job mention is made of a righteousness, which is superior to the observance of the law. And it will be of use to remember this distinction; because, though any one could satisfy the law, he could not even then stand the scrutiny of that righteousness which exceeds all comprehension. Therefore, though Job is conscious of his own integrity, yet he is mute with astonishment, when he sees that God could not be pleased even with the sanctity of angels, if he were to enter into a strict examination of their works. I shall therefore now pass over that righteousness to which I have alluded, because it is incomprehensible, and content myself with asserting, that we must be worse than stupid, if, on an examination of our lives by the rule of the written law, we are not tormented with dreadful
* See particularly the Book of Job. (s) Isaiah xxxiii. 14, 15. (t) Psalm cryx. 3. (u) Job iv. 17–20. (w) Job xv. 15, 16.