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view. “The judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”f In the matter of justification, then, Christians are “not under law, but under grace.” Yet they are not exonerated from obeying the law. On the contrary, it is only as they are in spirit endeavoring after obedience to the law, that they are not the condemned and death-bound servants of sin. It is only they who “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” for whom there is no condemnation. “Shall we sin, because we are not under the law but under grace God forbid. Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness *—“Do we then make void the law, through faith ? God forbid. Yea we establish the law.”f Evangelical justification does not imply that God imputes the righteousness of Christ to Christians in the sense of actually considering them holy, but that he accepts them in Christ as though they were holy. And to avoid antinomian abuses, we are expressly taught that the law, as our rule of duty, is still in force ; and hence, before we can enjoy that highest state of divine approval—glorification—into which the regenerate will enter hereafter, we must become perfected in holiness, as the law requires. Hence evangelical justification expresses the condition of a probationer, already received into divine favor, anticipat
* Rom. v. 16. f Rom. viii. 1. f Rom. iii. 31.
ing the glorified state, when he shall be cleansed from all sin and be presented faultless before the throne of God with exceeding joy.” Christians being thus justified subjects of grace, and it being the object of Christ, who has taken upon himself the responsibility of their sins, to exalt them to perfect holiness, just in the degree that they become obedient to the law do they please Christ and gain evidence of being truly his. In this view, the doctrine of evangelical justification, so far from encouraging sin, presents the most powerful of all inducements to personal holiness. II. Its GRound. By the ground of justification is meant its meritorious basis. It is that which, in justice and equity, deserves and sustains it. Can this be deeds of the law —that is, acts of obedience to the law performed by men. Some say it is ;-and when pressed with the argument that all have sinned, and therefore cannot deserve salvation, they evade, by saying the law does not require perfect obedience ;-that God makes allowance for our being frail and imperfect creatures, and accepts of an imperfect service. I shall not stop to argue the utter incompatibility of this notion with a righteous moral government—a point fully demonstrable—but meet the error at once with the plain declaration of God's word:—“By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.”f Can works of supererogation be a ground of justification ? Some think they can. While they admit that men sometimes fall short of the law's requirements, they claim that they may also at other times do more than the law requires, and so set off the one against the other. We have two replies;–first, no man can ever do better than the law requires. To suppose that he can, is to suppose the law imperfect. Secondly, deeds of supererogation are themselves bad deeds. They are not what the law requires, but something else. They make void the law, instead of honoring it. Deeds of supererogation cannot, therefore, constitute for us a meritorious basis of justification. Can repentance do it? Strangely have not a few supposed it can. But was the government ever known in which repentance was an admitted ground of justification ? No government could stand a day on this principle. Repentance can neither undo the evil done, nor restore the good lost, nor honor the broken law, nor represent the penalty deserved. Hence a righteous moral government could not possibly admit it as a meritorious basis of pardon. While the Scriptures enjoin repentance, they no where teach that repentance merits forgiveness. The idea indulged of meritorious repentance, vitiates the repentance itself. It is not and cannot be a genuine repentance, that supposes itself deserving of favor. Self-justifying repentance is mockery and rebellion. Thus are we driven by necessity to the atonement of Christ. This we believe to be the true and only meritorious ground of our acceptance with God. This so magnifies for us the law which we have broken, that we may plead it before the throne of justice with entire
* Jude 24. f Rom. iii. 20.
assurance and build our immortal hopes upon it. We then plead something which God has done, not we— an atonement made by him, not ourselves, as the foundation of our pardon. This makes us feel that sin is an evil which we cannot atone for ; cuts us off from all dependance upon our own merits; and casts us at once and completely upon the sole but sufficient righteousness of God. Every believer has thus “a perfect righteousness, yet not his own ; that it is not his own, precludes all boasting; that it is perfect, precludes all anxiety. The conscience is unladen, without becoming puffed up.” In this view, all the ancient saints plead the righteousness of God, not their own. “We make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only,” was ever the spirit of their address to God. And what is this righteousness of God, which the saints of the Old Testament plead as the basis of their acceptance 2 Let the apostle answer—“Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God, to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.”f “God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”f
* Luther. f Rom. iii. 26. t Rom. v. 8.
These are only specimens of the numerous Scriptures, which set forth, with equal explicitness, the Christian atonement as the meritorious basis of our justification. Let every person beware, then, lest he fall fatally into the condemnation of those who, “being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” III. Its condition. The question is, what is the precise thing which the sinner must do, to place himself on this ground of acceptance with God The Romanist says, we are justified by penance. Or, if he admits faith in Christ as a condition, it is so buried under a superincumbent mass of human devices, as to be scarcely discernible. To vary the figure, faith in Christ is with him only an element, so diluted with foreign ingredients, that its efficacy is destroyed. The whole system of indulgencies is a device of papacy to enrich its coffers, by easing the consciences of men with a spurious justification. Where in all God's word are we taught that we are justified by penance On the contrary, we are commanded to do ourselves no harm, and are admonished that were we to give rivers of oil, and the fruit of our bodies for the sin of our souls, they would avail nothing.f Some have maintained that we are justified by baptism. This they consider the grand element of that conditional obedience, which places us in a saving
# Rom. x. 3. f Mich. vi. 7.