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- ROMANS IV. 5.
But to him that worketh NOT, BuT BELIEVETH ON HIM THAT JUSTIFIETH THE UNGodly, his FAITH Is COUNTED FOR RIGHTEousNESS.
THE following things may be noted in this verse: 1. That justification respects a man as ungodly : This is evident by those words.....that justifieth the ungodly : Which words cannot imply less, than that God, in the act of justification has no regard to anything in the person justified, as godliness, or any goodness in him ; but that nextly or immediately before this act, God beholds him only as an ungodly or wicked creature ; so that godliness in the person to be justified is not so antecedent to his justification as to be the ground of it. When it is said that God justifies the ungodly, it is as absurd to suppose that our godliness, taken as some goodness in us, is the ground of our justification, as when it is said that Christ gave sight to the blind, to suppose that sight was prior
Vol. VII. B
to, and the ground of that act of mercy in Christ ; or as, if it should be said, that such an one by his bounty has made a poor man rich, to suppose that it was the wealth of this poor man that was the ground of this bounty towards him, and was the price by which it was procured. 2. It appears that by him that worketh not, in this verse, is not meant only one that does not conform to the ceremonial law, because he that worketh not, and the ungodly, are evidently synonymous expressions, or what signify the same ; it appears by the manner of their connexion: If it be not so, to what purpose is the latter expression, the ungodly, brought in 2 The context gives no other occasion for it, but only to show, that the grace of the gospel appears, in that God, in justification, has no regard to any godliness of ours. The foregoing verse is, “Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” In that verse it is evident that gospel grace, consists in the reward's being given without works ; and in this verse which immediately follows it, and in sense is connected with it, it is evident that gospel grace consists in a man's being justified that is ungodly ; by which it is most plain, that by him that worketh not, and him that is ungodty, are meant the same thing ; and that therefore not only works of the ceremonial law are excluded in this business of justification, but works of morality and godliness. 3. It is evident in the words, that by that faith, that is here spoken of, by which we are justified, is not meant the same thing as a course of obedience or righteousness, by the expres...sion by which this faith is here denoted, viz. believing on him that justifies the ungodly. They that oppose the Solifidians, as they call them, do greatly insist on it, that we should take , the words of scripture concerning this doctrine in their most natural and obvious meaning ; and how do they cry out, of our clouding this doctrine with obscure metaphors, and unintelligible figures of speech But is this to interpret scripture according to its most obvious meaning, when the scripture speaks of our believing on him that justifies the ungodly, or the breakers of his law, to say, that the meaning of it is performing a course of obedience to his law, and avoiding the breaches of it? Believing on God as a justifier, certainly is a different thing from submitting to God as a lawgiver; especially a believing on him as a justifier of the ungodly or rebels agains: the lawgiver. 4. It is evident that the subject of justification is looked upon as destitute of any righteousness in himself, by that expression, it is counted or imputed to him for righteousness. The phrase, as the apostle uses it here, and in the context, manifestly imports, that God, of his sovereign grace, is pleased, in his dealings with the sinner, to take and regard that which indeed is not righteousness, and in one that has no righteousness, so, that the consequence shall be the same as if he had righteousness; (which may be from the respect that it bears to some thing that is indeed righteous.) It is plain that this is the force of the expression in the preceding verses. In the last yerse but one, it is manifest that the apostle lays the stress of his argument for the free grace of God, from that text that he cites out of the Old Testament about Abraham, on that word counted, or imfluted, and that this is the thing that he supposed God to shew his grace in, viz. in his counting something for righteousness, in his consequential dealings with Abraham, that was no righteousness in itself. And in the next verse which immediately precedes the text, “Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt,” the word there translated reckoned, is the same that in the other verses is rendered imputed, and counted ; and it is as much as if the apostle had said, “As to him that works there is no need of any gracious reckoning or counting it for righteousness, and causing the reward to follow as if it were a righteousness; for if he has works, he has that which is a righteousness in itself, to which the reward properly belongs.” This is further evident by the words that follow, verse 6. “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” What can here be meant by imputing righteousness without works; but imputing righteousness to him that has none of his own Verse 7, 8. “Saying, blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and
whose sins are covered : Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” How are these words of David to the apostle's purpose : Or how do they prove any such thing, as that righteousness is imputed without works, unless it be because the word imputed is used, and the subject of the imputation is mentioned as a sinner, and consequently destitute of a moral righteousness : For David says no such thing, as that he is forgiven without the works of the ceremonial law ; there is no hint of the ceremonial law, or reference to it, in the words. I will therefore venture to infer this doctrine from the words, for the subject of my present discourses, viz.
we ARE JUSTIFIED only BY FAITH IN chaist, AND Not BY ANY MANNER OF VIRTUE OR GOODNESS OF OUR OWN.
Such an assertion as this, I am sensible, many would be ready to cry out of as absurd, betraying a great deal of ignorance, and containing much inconsistence ; but I desire every one’s patience till I have done.
In handling this doctrine, I would, 1. Explain the meaning of it, and shew how I would be understood by such an assertion. 2. Proceed to the consideration of the evidence of the truth of it. 3. Shew how evangelical obedience is concerned in this affair. 4. Answer objections. 5. Consider the importance of the doctrine.
I. I would explain the meaning of the doctrine, or shew in what sense I assert it, and would endeavor to evince the truth of it: Which may be done in answer to these two inquiries, viz. I. What is meant by being justified ? What is meant when it is said, that this is by faith alone, without any manner of virtue or goodness “of our own 3"
First, I would shew what justification is, or what I suppose is meant in scripture by being justified. And here I would not at all enlarge ; and therefore to answer in short :
A person is said to be justified, when he is approved of God as free from the guilt of sin and its deserved punishment; and as having that righteousness belonging to him that entitles to the reward of life. That we should take the word in such a sense and understand it as the judge's accepting a person as having both a negative and positive righteousness belonging to him, and looking on him therefore as not only quit or free from any obligation to punishment, but also as just and righteous, and so entitled to a positive reward, is not only most agreeable to the etymology and natural import of the word, which signifies to make righteous, or to pass one for righteous in judgment, but also manifestly agreeable to the force of the word as used in scripture.
Some suppose that nothing more is intended in scripture by justification, than barely the remission of sins. If it be so it is very strange, if we consider the nature of the case ; for it is most evident and none will deny, that it is with respect to the rule or law of God that we are under, that we are said in scripture to be either justified or condemned. Now what is it to justify a person as the subject of a law or rule, but to judge him or look upon him, and approve him as standing right with respect to that rule 2 To justify a person in a particular case, is to approve him as standing right, as subject to the law or rule in that case ; and to justify in general is to pass him in judgment, as standing right in a state correspondent to the law or rule in general : But certainly in order to a person’s being looked on as standing right with respect to the rule in general, or in a state corresponding with the law of God more is needful than what is negative, or a uot having the guilt of sin; for whatever that law is, whether a new one or an old one, yet doubtless something positive is needed in order to its being answered. We are no more justified by the voice of the law, or of him that judges according to it, by a mere pardon of sin, than Adam, our first surety, was justified by the law, at the first point of his existence, before he had done the work,