Justification By Faith Alone


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Disability Is No Accident

I know that the answer will be that we now are not subject to that constitution which mankind were at first put under, but that God, in mercy to mankind, has abolished that rigorous constitution, and put us under a new law, and introduced a more mild constitution, and that the constitution or law itself not remaining, there is no need of supposing that the condemnation of it remains, to stand in the way of the acceptance of our virtue. And indeed there is no other way of avoiding this difficulty. The condemnation of the law must stand in force against a man, till he is actually interested in the Savior who has satisfied and answered the law, so as effectually to prevent any acceptance of his virtue, either before, or in order to such an interest, unless the law or constitution itself be abolished.

But the scheme of those modern divines by whom this is maintained, seems to contain a great deal of absurdity and self-contradiction. They hold that the old law given to Adam, which requires perfect obedience, is entirely repealed, and that instead of it we are put under a new law, which requires no more than imperfect sincere obedience, in compliance with our poor, infirm, impotent circumstances since the fall, whereby we are unable to perform that perfect obedience that was required by the first law.

For they strenuously maintain, that it would be unjust in God to require anything of us that is beyond our present power and ability to perform, and yet they hold, that Christ died to satisfy for the imperfections of our obedience, that so our imperfect obedience might be accepted instead of perfect. Now, how can these things hang together? I would ask what law these imperfections of our obedience are a breach of? But if they are sins, and so the breach of some law, what law is it?

They cannot be a breach of their new law, for that requires no other than imperfect obedience, or obedience with imperfections. They cannot be a breach of the old law, for that they say is entirely abolished, and we never were under it, and we cannot break a law that we never were under. They say it would not be just in God to exact of us perfect obedience, because it would not be just in God to require more of us than we can perform in our present state, and to punish us for failing of it. Therefore by their own scheme, the imperfections of our obedience do not deserve to be punished.

Thus far I have argued principally from reason, and the nature of things: Second argument, which is that this is a doctrine which the Holy Scriptures, the revelation that God has given us of his mind and will — by which alone we can never come to know how those who have offended God can come to be accepted of him, and justified in his sight — is exceeding full. Here it is not denied by any, that the apostle does assert that we are justified by faith, without the works of the law, because the words are express.

But only it is said that we take his words wrong, and understand that by them that never entered into his heart, in that when he excludes the works of the law, we understand him of the whole law of God, or the rule which he has given to mankind to walk by: Some that oppose this doctrine indeed say that the apostle sometimes means that it is by faith, i. But say they, it is by a persevering obedience that they are continued in a justified state, and it is by this that they are finally justified.

But this is the same thing as to say, that a man on his first embracing the gospel is conditionally justified and pardoned. To pardon sin is to free the sinner from the punishment of it, or from that eternal misery that is due it.

Therefore if a person is pardoned, or freed from this misery, on his first embracing the gospel, and yet not finally freed, but his actual freedom still depends on some condition yet to be performed, it is inconceivable how he can be pardoned otherwise than conditionally: Such a conditional pardon is no pardon or justification at all any more than all mankind have, whether they embrace the gospel or no. For they all have a promise of final justification on conditions of future sincere obedience, as much as he that embraces the gospel.

Yet they who hold that sinners are thus justified on embracing the gospel, suppose that they are justified by this, no otherwise than as it is a leading act of obedience, or at least as virtue and moral goodness in them, and therefore would be excluded by the apostle as much as any other virtue or obedience, if it be allowed that he means the moral law, when he excludes works of the law. And therefore, if that point be yielded, that the apostle means the moral, and not only the ceremonial, law, their whole scheme falls to the ground.

And because the issue of the whole argument from those texts in St. Some of our opponents in this doctrine of justification, when they deny that by the law the apostle means the moral law or the whole rule of life which God has given to mankind, seem to choose to express themselves thus: But this comes to just the same thing as if they said that the apostle only means to exclude the works of the ceremonial law. For when they say that it is intended only that we are not justified by the works of the Mosaic dispensation, if they mean anything by it, it must be, that we are not justified by attending and observing what is Mosaic in that dispensation, or by what was peculiar to it, and wherein it differed from the Christian dispensation, which is the same as that which is ceremonial and positive, and not moral, in that administration.

So that this is what I have to disprove, viz. And here it must be noted, that nobody controverts it with them, whether the works of the ceremonial law be not included, or whether the apostle does not particularly argue against justification by circumcision, and other ceremonial observances.

But all in question is whether when he denies justification by works of the law, he is to be understood only of the ceremonial law, or whether the moral law be not also implied and intended. And therefore those arguments which are brought to prove that the apostle meant the ceremonial law, are nothing to the purpose, unless they prove that the apostle meant those only.

Where is the absurdity of supposing that the apostle might take occasion, from his observing some to trust in a certain work as trusting in any works of righteousness at all, and that it was a very proper occasion too? Yea, it would have been unavoidable for the apostle to have argued against trusting in a particular work, in the quality of a work of righteousness, which quality was general, but he must therein argue against trusting in works of righteousness in general.

Would it have been absurd to understand him as writing against trusting in any work at all, because it was their trusting to a particular work that gave occasion to his writing? Another thing alleged, as an evidence that the apostle means the ceremonial law — when he says, we cannot be justified by the works of the law — is that he uses this argument to prove it, viz. The apostle does not speak of a law that began to exist four hundred and thirty years after.

Against this conceit of theirs the apostle brings this invincible argument, viz. But that the apostle does not mean only works of the ceremonial law, when he excludes works of the law in justification, but also of the moral law, and all works of obedience, virtue, and righteousness whatsoever, may appear by the following things. When the apostle says, we are justified or saved not by works, without any such term annexed, as the law, or any other addition to limit the expression, what warrant have any to confine it to works of a particular law or institution, excluding others?

Are not observances of other divine laws works, as well as of that? It seems to be allowed by the divines in the Arminian scheme, in their interpretation of several of those texts where the apostle only mentions works, without any addition, that he means our own good works in general. But then, they say, he only means to exclude any proper merit in those works. But to say the apostle means one thing when he says, we are not justified by works, and another when he says, we are not justified by the works of the law, when we find the expressions mixed and used in the same discourse, and when the apostle is evidently upon the same argument, is very unreasonable.

It is to dodge and fly from Scripture, rather than open and yield ourselves to its teachings. In the third chapter of Romans, our having been guilty of breaches of the moral law, is an argument that the apostle uses, why we cannot be justified by the works of the Old Testament, that all are under sin: Therefore, by the deeds of the law, shall no flesh be justified in his sight. They are guilty of the breaches of the moral law, and therefore they cannot be justified by the deeds of the ceremonial law! And therefore our breaches of the moral law argue no more, than that we cannot be justified by that law we have broken.

And therefore it is no way fit that anything we do, any virtue or obedience of ours, should be accepted, or we accepted on the account of it. The apostle, in all the preceding part of this epistle, wherever he has the phrase, the law , evidently intends the moral law principally. As in the 12th verse of the foregoing chapter: Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law, dishonourest thou God? And so there is not one place in all the preceding part of the epistle, where the apostle speaks of the law, but that he most apparently intends principally the moral law. And yet when the apostle, in continuance of the same discourse, comes to tell us, that we cannot be justified by the works of the law, then they will needs have it, that he means only the ceremonial law.

Yea, though all this discourse about the moral law, showing how the Jews as well as Gentiles have violated it, is evidently preparatory and introductory to that doctrine, Rom. If the reason be good, then where the reason holds, the truth holds. It is a miserable shift, and a violent force put upon the words, to say that the meaning is, that by the law of circumcision is the knowledge of sin, because circumcision signifying the taking away of sin, puts men in mind of sin. The plain meaning of the apostle is that as the law most strictly forbids sin, it tends to convince us of sin, and bring our own consciences to condemn us, instead of justifying of us: For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.

Because the law worketh wrath: Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace. For it is by transgressions of the moral law chiefly that there comes wrath: It is evident that when the apostle says, we are not justified by the works of the law, that he excludes all our own virtue, goodness, or excellency, by that reason he gives for it, viz. Where is boasting then? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. If we are not justified by works of the ceremonial law, yet how does that exclude boasting, as long as we are justified by our own excellency, or virtue and goodness of our own, or works of righteousness which we have done?

But it is said, that boasting is excluded, as circumcision was excluded, which was what the Jews especially used to glory in, and value themselves upon, above other nations. To this I answer, that the Jews were not only used to boast of circumcision, but were notorious for boasting of their moral righteousness. The Jews of those days were generally admirers and followers of the Pharisees, who were full of their boasts of their moral righteousness; as we may see by the example of the Pharisee mentioned in the 18th of Luke, which Christ mentions as describing the general temper of that sect: But those works which they so vainly boasted of were moral works.

And not only so, but what the apostle in this very epistle condemns the Jews for, is their boasting of the moral law. So that this is the boasting which the apostle condemns them for. And therefore, if they were justified by the works of this law, then how comes he to say that their boasting is excluded? And besides, when they boasted of the rites of the ceremonial law, it was under a notion of its being a part of their own goodness or excellency, or what made them holier and more lovely in the sight of God than other people. If they were not justified by this part of their own supposed goodness or holiness, yet if they were by another, how did that exclude boasting?

How was their boasting excluded, unless all goodness or excellency of their own was excluded. The reason given by the apostle why we can be justified only by faith, and not by the works of the law, in the 3d chapter of Galations viz. In that chapter the apostle had particularly insisted upon it, that Abraham was justified by faith, and that it is by faith only, and not by the works of the law, that we can be justified, and become the children of Abraham, and be made partakers of the blessing of Abraham: For the words are spoken of the moral as well as the ceremonial law, and reach every command or precept which God has given to mankind, and chiefly the moral precepts, which are most strictly enjoined, and the violations of which in both the New Testament and the Old, and in the books of Moses themselves, are threatened with the most dreadful curse.

The apostle in like manner argues against our being justified by our own righteousness, as he does against being justified by the works of the law; and evidently uses the expressions, of our own righteousness , and works of the law , promiscuously, and as signifying the same thing. It is particularly evident by Rom. For when the apostle warns us against trusting in our own righteousness of justification, doubtless it is fair to interpret the expression in an agreement with other scriptures.

Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: Understand therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it, for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people. By righteousness, therefore, on the contrary, is meant their moral virtue, and rectitude of heart and life. This is what I would argue from hence, that the expression of our own righteousness , when used in Scripture with relation to the favor of God — and when we are warned against looking upon it as that by which that favor, or the fruits of it, are obtained — does not signify only a ceremonial righteousness, but all manner of goodness of our own.

The Jews also, in the New Testament, are condemned for trusting in their own righteousness in this sense, Luke But we need not go to the writings of other penmen of the Scripture. If we will allow the apostle Paul to be his own interpreter, he — when he speaks of our own righteousness as that by which we are not justified or saved — does not mean only a ceremonial righteousness, nor does he only intend a way of religion and serving God, of our own choosing, without divine warrant or prescription.

Let it be an obedience to the ceremonial law, or a gospel obedience, or what it will: But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward men appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The apostle expressly says, we are not saved by them, and it is evident that when he says this, he has respect to the affair of justification. But we need not go to the context, it is most apparent from the words themselves, that the apostle does not mean only works of the ceremonial law. If he had only said, it is not by our own works of righteousness. What could we understand by works of righteousness, but only righteous works, or, which is the same thing, good works?

And not say, that it is by our own righteous works that we are justified, though not by one particular kind of righteous works, would certainly be a contradiction to such an assertion. But, the works are rendered yet more strong, plain, and determined in their sense, by those additional words, which we have done, which shows that the apostle intends to exclude all our own righteous or virtuous works universally. If it should be asserted concerning any commodity, treasure, or precious jewel, that it could not be procured by money, and not only so, but to make the assertion the more strong, it should be asserted with additional words, that it could not be procured by money that men possess, how unreasonable would it be, after all, to say that all that was meant was, that it could not be procured with brass money.

And what renders the interpreting of this text, as intending works of the ceremonial law, yet more unreasonable, is that these works were indeed no works of righteousness at all, but were only falsely supposed to be so by the Jews. And this our opponents in this doctrine also suppose is the very reason why we are not justified by them, because they are not works of righteousness, or because the ceremonial law being now abrogated there is no obedience in them. But how absurd is it to say, that the apostle, when he says we are not justified by works of righteousness that we have done, meant only works of the ceremonial law, and that for that very reason, because they are not works of righteousness?

To illustrate this by the forementioned comparison: If it should be asserted, that such a thing could not be procured by money that men possess, how ridiculous would it be to say, that the meaning only was, that it could not be procured by counterfeit money, and that for that reason, because it was not money. What Scripture will stand before men, if they will take liberty to manage Scripture thus?

Or what one text is there in the Bible that may not at this rate be explained all away, and perverted to any sense men please? But further, if we should allow that the apostle intends only to oppose justification by works of the ceremonial law in this text, yet it is evident by the expression he uses, that he means to oppose it under that notion, or in that quality, of their being works of righteousness of our own doing. But if the apostle argues against our being justified by works of the ceremonial law, under the notion of their being of that nature and kind, viz.

If there were not other text in the Bible about justification but this, this would clearly and invincibly prove that we are not justified by any of our own goodness, virtue, or righteousness, or for the excellency or righteousness of anything that we have done in religion, because it is here so fully and strongly asserted. But this text abundantly confirms other texts of the apostle, where he denies justification by works of the law.

But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: In the same manner as in those places, justifying us by his grace, is opposed to justifying us by works of the law. The apostle could not mean only works of the ceremonial law, when he says, we are not justified by the works of the law, because it is asserted of the saints under the Old Testament as well as New. If men are justified by their sincere obedience, it will then follow that formerly, before the ceremonial law was abrogated, men were justified by the works of the ceremonial law, as well as the moral.

And so the case must be just the same under the Old Testament, with the works of the moral law and ceremonial, according to the measure of the virtue of obedience there was in either. It is true, their obedience to the ceremonial law would have nothing to do in the affair of justification, unless it was sincere, and so neither would the works of the moral law. If obedience was the thing, then obedience to the ceremonial law, while that stood in force, and obedience to the moral law, had just the same sort of concern, according to the proportion of obedience that consists in each.

If obedience be the thing, it is not because it is obedience to such a kind of commands, but because it is obedience. So that by this supposition, the saints under the Old Testament were justified, at least in part, by their obedience to the ceremonial law. But it is evident that the saints under the Old Testament were not justified, in any measure, by the works of the ceremonial law.

To instance in David, it is evident that he was not justified in any wise by the works of the ceremonial law, by Rom. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. For it is manifest that David, in the words here cited, from the beginning of the 32d Psalm, has a special respect to himself: For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid; I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.

Therefore here is the argument: But the saints under the Old Testament were not justified partly by the works of the ceremonial law. Another argument that the apostle, when he speaks of the two opposite ways of justification, one by the works of the law, and the other by faith, does not mean only the works of the ceremonial law, may be taken from Rom.

And therefore it must be the same law that is here spoken of. The words are a continuation of the same discourse, as may be seen at first glance, by anyone that looks on the context. Yea, it is manifest by the forementioned instance of David, mentioned in the 4th of Romans, that there never was a time wherein men were justified in any measure by the works of the ceremonial law, as has been just now shown.

Moses therefore, in those words which, the apostle says, are a description of the righteousness which is of the law, cannot mean only the ceremonial law. It is most apparent that it is the design of the apostle to give a description of both the legal rejected and the evangelical valid ways of justification, in that wherein they are distinguished the one from the other. For still, according to them, it may be said, in the same manner, of the precepts of the gospel, he that does these things, shall live in them. The difference lies only in the things to be done, but not at all in that the doing of them is not the condition of living in them, just in the one case, as in the other.

But the righteousness of faith saith thus, plainly intimates that the righteousness of faith saith otherwise, and in an opposite manner. Besides, if these words cited from Moses are actually said by him of the moral law as well as ceremonial, as it is most evident they are, it renders it still more absurd to suppose them mentioned by the apostle, as the very note of distinction between justification by a ceremonial obedience, and a moral sincere obedience, as the Arminians must suppose. Thus I have spoken to a second argument, to prove that we are not justified by any manner of virtue or goodness of our own, viz.

I now proceed to a. That scheme of justification that manifestly takes from, or diminishes the grace of God, is undoubtedly to be rejected; for it is the declared design of God in the gospel to exalt the freedom and riches of his grace, in that method of justification of sinners, and way of admitting them to his favor, and the blessed fruits of it, which it declares.

The Scripture teaches, that the way of justification appointed in the gospel covenant is appointed for that end, that free grace might be expressed, and glorified, Rom. And this freedom and riches of grace in the gospel is everywhere spoken of in Scripture as the chief glory of it. Those who maintain, that we are justified by our own sincere obedience, pretend that their scheme does not diminish the grace of the gospel; for they say, that the grace of God is wonderfully manifested in appointing such a way and method of salvation by sincere obedience, in assisting us to perform such an obedience, and in accepting our imperfect obedience, instead of perfect.

In order to this, I will lay down the self-evident. Proposition, that whatsoever that be by which the abundant benevolence of the giver is expressed, and gratitude in the receiver is obliged, that magnifies free grace. This I suppose none will ever controvert or dispute. And it is not much less evident, that it does both show a more abundant benevolence in the giver when he shows kindness without goodness or excellency in the object, to move him to it, and that it enhances the obligation to gratitude in the receiver. It shows a more abundant goodness in the giver, when he shows kindness without any excellency in our persons or actions that should move the giver to love and beneficence.

For it certainly shows the more abundant and overflowing goodness, or disposition to communicate good, by how much the less loveliness or excellency there is to entice beneficence. The less there is in the receiver to draw goodwill and kindness, it argues the more of the principle of goodwill and kindness in the giver. One that has but a little of a principle of love and benevolence, may be drawn to do good, and to show kindness, when there is a great deal to draw him, or when there is much excellency and loveliness in the object to move goodwill.

When he whose goodness and benevolence is more abundant, [he] will show kindness where there is less to draw it forth. For he does not so much need to have it drawn from without, he has enough of the principle within to move him of itself. Where there is most of the principle, there it is most sufficient for itself, and stands in least need of something without to excite it.

For certainly a more abundant goodness more easily flows forth with less to impel or draw it, than where there is less, or, which is the same thing, the more anyone is disposed of himself, the less he needs from without himself, to put him upon it, or stir him up to it. And therefore his kindness and goodness appears the more exceeding great, when it is bestowed without any excellency or loveliness at all in the receiver, or when the receiver is respected in the gift, as wholly without excellency.

And much more still when the benevolence of the giver not only finds nothing in the receiver to draw it, but a great deal of hatefulness to repel it. The abundance of goodness is then manifested, not only in flowing forth without anything extrinsic to put it forward, but in overcoming great repulsion in the object. And then does kindness and love appear most triumphant, and wonderfully great, when the receiver is not only wholly without all excellency or beauty to attract it, but altogether, yea, infinitely vile and hateful. It is apparent also that it enhances the obligation to gratitude in the receiver.

This is agreeable to the common sense of mankind, that the less worthy or excellent the object of benevolence, or the receiver of kindness is, the more he is obliged, and the greater gratitude is due. He therefore is most of all obliged, that receives kindness without any goodness or excellency in himself, but with a total and universal hatefulness. And as it is agreeable to the common sense of mankind, so it is agreeable to the Word of God.

How often does God in the Scripture insist on this argument with men, to move them to love him, and to acknowledge his kindness? How much does he insist on this as an obligation to gratitude, that they are so sinful, and undeserving, and ill-deserving? Therefore it certainly follows, that the doctrine which teaches that God, when he justifies a man, and shows him such great kindness as to give him a right to eternal life, does not do it for any obedience, or any manner of goodness of his, but that justification respects a man as ungodly, and wholly without any manner of virtue, beauty, or excellency.

But I hasten to a. Fourth argument for the truth of the doctrine: And so it is a doctrine contrary to the nature and design of the gospel, which is to abase man, and to ascribe all the glory of our salvation to Christ the Redeemer. Prove the thing intended by it to be true. Show that this doctrine is utterly inconsistent with the doctrine of our being justified by our own virtue or sincere obedience.

But here I intend it in a stricter sense, for the imputation of that righteousness or moral goodness that consists in the obedience of Christ. And so we suppose that a title to eternal life is given us as the reward of this righteousness. The Scripture uses the word impute in this sense, viz. It is to suppose that God is mistaken, and thinks that we performed that obedience which Christ performed.

But why cannot that righteousness be reckoned to our account, and be accepted for us, without any such absurdity? If Christ has suffered the penalty of the law in our stead, then it will follow, that his suffering that penalty is imputed to us, that is, accepted for us, and in our stead, and is reckoned to our account, as though we had suffered it.

But why may not his obeying the law of God be as rationally reckoned to our account, as his suffering the penalty of the law? To prove that the righteousness of Christ is thus imputed. There is the same need of one as the other, that the law of God might be answered: It is certain, that was the reason why there was need that Christ should suffer the penalty for us, even that the law might be answered. For this the Scripture plainly teaches.

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This is given as the reason why Christ was made a curse for us, that the law threatened a curse to us, Gal. But the same law that fixes the curse of God as the consequence of not continuing in all things written in the law to do them verse 10 has as much fixed doing those things as an antecedent of living in them as verse There is as much connection established in one case as in the other. There is therefore exactly the same need, from the law, of perfect obedience being fulfilled in order to our obtaining the reward, as there is of death being suffered in order to our escaping the punishment, or the same necessity by the law, of perfect obedience preceding life, as there is of disobedience being succeeded by death.

The law is, without doubt, as much of an established rule in one case as in the other. Christ by suffering the penalty, and so making atonement for us, only removes the guilt of our sins, and so sets us in the same state that Adam was in the first moment of his creation, and it is no more fit that we should obtain eternal life only on that account, than that Adam should have the reward of eternal life, or of a confirmed and unalterable state of happiness, the first moments of his existence, without any obedience at all.

Adam was not to have the reward merely on account of his being innocent. If [that were] so, he would have had it fixed upon him at once, as soon as ever he was created, for he was as innocent then as he could be. But he was to have the reward on account of his active obedience: When he had undertaken to stand in our stead, he was looked upon and treated as though he were guilty with our guilt. By his bearing the penalty, he did as it were free himself from this guilt.

But by this the second Adam did only bring himself into the state in which the first Adam was on the first moment of his existence, viz. But this being supposed, there was need of something further, even a positive obedience, in order to his obtaining, as our second Adam, the reward of eternal life. God saw meet to place man first in a state of trial, and not to give him a title to eternal life as soon as he had made him, because it was his will that he should first give honor to his authority, by fully submitting to it, in will and act, and perfectly obeying his law.

God insisted upon it, that his holy majesty and law should have their due acknowledgment and honor from man, such as became the relation he stood in to that Being who created him, before he would bestow the reward of confirmed and everlasting happiness upon him. Therefore God gave him a law that he might have opportunity, by giving due honor to his authority in obeying it, to obtain this happiness. He came to save them, and yet withal to assert and vindicate the honor of the lawgiver, and his holy law.

Now, if the sinner, after his sin was satisfied for, had eternal life bestowed upon him without active righteousness, the honor of his law would not be sufficiently vindicated. Supposing this were possible, that the sinner could himself, by suffering, pay the debt, and afterwards be in the same state that he was in before his probation, that is to say, negatively righteous, or merely without guilt. If he now at last should have eternal life bestowed upon him, without performing that condition of obedience, then God would recede from his law, and would give the promised reward, and his law never have respect and honor shown to it, in that way of being obeyed.

But now Christ, by subjecting himself to the law, and obeying it, has done great honor to the law, and to the authority of God who gave it. That so glorious a person should become subject to the law, and fulfill it, has done much more to honor it, than if mere man had obeyed it. It was a thing infinitely honorable to God, that a person of infinite dignity was not ashamed to call him his God, and to adore and obey him as such.

For it is declared that the person justified is looked upon as in himself ungodly, but God neither will nor can justify a person without a righteousness. For justification is manifestly a forensic term, as the word is used in Scripture, and a judicial thing, or the act of a judge. So that if a person should be justified without a righteousness, the judgment would not be according to truth.

The sentence of justification would be a false sentence, unless there be a righteousness performed, that is, by the judge, properly looked upon as his. To say that God does not justify the sinner without sincere, though an imperfect obedience, does not help the case, for an imperfect righteousness before a judge is no righteousness.

To accept of something that falls short of the rule, instead of something else that answers the rule, is no judicial act, or act of a judge, but a pure act of sovereignty. An imperfect righteousness is no righteousness before a judge: The formal nature of righteousness, properly understood, lies in a conformity of actions to that which is the rule and measure of them. If he pardons and hides what really is, and so does not pass sentence according to what things are in themselves, he either does not act the part of a judge, or else judges falsely.

If a judge has no rule or law established beforehand, by which he should proceed in judging, he has no foundation to go upon in judging, he has no opportunity to be a judge, nor is it possible that he should do the part of a judge. To judge without a law, or rule by which to judge, is impossible. For the very notion of judging is to determine whether the object of judgment be according to rule. Therefore God has declared that when he acts as a judge, he will not justify the wicked, and cannot clear the guilty, and, by parity of reason, cannot justify without righteousness.

For an imperfect righteousness cannot answer the law of God we are under, whether that be an old or a new one, for every law requires perfect obedience to itself. Every rule whatsoever requires perfect conformity to itself, [and] it is a contradiction to suppose otherwise. For to say, that there is a law that does not require perfect obedience to itself, is to say that there is a law that does not require all that it requires. That law that now forbids sin, is certainly the law that we are now under let that be an old or a new one , or else it is not sin.

Do Paul and James Disagree on Justification by Faith Alone?

That which is not forbidden, and is the breach of no law, is no sin. But if we are now forbidden to commit sin, then it is by a law that we are now under. For surely we are neither under the forbiddings nor commanding of a law that we are not under. Therefore, if all sin is now forbidden, then we are now under a law that requires perfect obedience, and therefore nothing can be accepted as a righteousness in the sight of our Judge, but perfect righteousness.

So that our Judge cannot justify us, unless he sees a perfect righteousness in some way belonging to us, either performed by ourselves, or by another, and justly and duly reckoned to our account.

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God does, in the sentence of justification, pronounce a man perfectly righteous, or else he would need a further justification after he is justified. For justifying a man, as has been already shown, is not merely pronouncing him innocent, or without guilt, but standing right with regard to the rule that he is under, and righteous unto life.

But this, according to the established rule of nature, reason, and divine appointment, is a positive, perfect righteousness. As if Adam had persevered, and finished his course of obedience, we should have received the benefit of his obedience, as much as now we have the mischief of his disobedience. Believers are represented in Scripture as being so in Christ, as that they are legally one, or accepted as one, by the Supreme Judge.

Christ has assumed our nature, and has so assumed all, in that nature that belongs to him, into such an union with himself, that he is become their Head, and has taken them to be his members. When Christ had once undertaken with God to stand for us, and put himself under our law, by that law he was obliged to suffer, and by the same law he was obliged to obey. But he was not acquitted as a private person, but as our Head, and believers are acquitted in his acquittal. Nor was he accepted to a reward for his obedience, as a private person, but as our Head, and we are accepted to a reward in his acceptance.

What Do You Believe About Justification by Faith Alone?

The Scripture teaches us, that when Christ was raised from the dead, he was justified, which justification, as I have already shown, implies both his acquittal from our guilt, and his acceptance to the exaltation and glory that was the reward of his obedience. But believers, as soon as they believe, are admitted to partake with Christ in this his justification. The Scripture teaches us, that he is exalted, and gone to heaven to take possession of glory in our name, as our forerunner, Heb. We are as it were, both raised up together with Christ, and also made to sit together with Christ in heavenly places, and in him, Eph.

If it be objected here, that there is this reason, why what Christ suffered should be accepted on our account, rather than the obedience he performed, that he was obliged to obedience for himself, but was not obliged to suffer but only on our account. To this I answer that Christ was not obliged, on his own account, to undertake to obey. Christ in his original circumstances, was in no subjection to the Father, being altogether equal with him.

In [this] transaction these things were already virtually done in the sight of God, as is evident by this: And therefore, without doubt, in order to estimate the value and validity of what Christ did and suffered, we must look back to that transaction, wherein these things were first undertaken, and virtually done in the sight of God, and see what capacity and circumstances Christ acted in them. We shall find that Christ was under no manner of obligation, either to obey the law, or to suffer its penalty. After this he was equally under obligation to both, for henceforward he stood as our surety or representative.

And therefore this consequent obligation may be as much of an objection against the validity of his suffering the penalty, as against his obedience. But if we look to that original transaction between the Father and the Son, wherein both these were undertaken and accepted as virtually done in the sight of the Father, we shall find Christ acting with regard to both as one perfectly in his own right, and under no manner of previous obligation to hinder the validity of either.


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To suppose that all Christ does is only to make atonement for us by suffering, is to make him our Savior but in part. It is to rob him of half his glory as a Savior. For if so, all that he does is to deliver us from hell: The adverse scheme supposes that he purchases heaven for us, in that he satisfies for the imperfections of our obedience and so purchases that our sincere imperfect obedience might be accepted as the condition of eternal life, and so purchases an opportunity for us to obtain heaven by our own obedience.

But to purchase heaven for us only in this sense, is to purchase it in no sense at all. For all of it comes to no more than a satisfaction for our sins, or removing the penalty by suffering in our stead. For all the purchasing they speak of, that our imperfect obedience should be accepted, is only his satisfying for the sinful imperfection of our obedience, or which is the same thing making atonement for the sin that our obedience is attended with.

But that is not purchasing heaven, merely to set us at liberty again, that we may go and get heaven by what we do ourselves. All that Christ does is only to pay a debt for us. There is no positive purchase of any good. We are taught in Scripture that heaven is purchased for us. It is called the purchased possession, Eph. The gospel proposes the eternal inheritance, not to be acquired, as the first covenant did, but as already acquired and purchased. So that according to this scheme, the saints in heaven have no reason to thank Christ for purchasing heaven for them, or redeeming them to God, and making them kings and priests, as we have an account that they do, in Rev.

Justification by the righteousness and obedience of Christ, is a doctrine that the Scripture teaches in very full terms, Rom. It is scarcely possible anything should be more full and determined. The terms, taken singly, are such as fix their own meaning, and taken together, they fix the meaning of each other. The words show that we are justified by that righteousness of Christ which consists in his obedience, and that we are made righteous or justified by that obedience of his, that is, his righteousness, or moral goodness before God.

To this I answer, whether we call it active or passive, it alters not the case as to the present argument, as long as it is evident by the words that it is not merely under the notion of an atonement for disobedience, or a satisfaction for unrighteousness, but under the notion of a positive obedience, and a righteousness, or moral goodness, that it justifies us, or makes us righteous. Because both the words righteousness and obedience are used, and used too as the opposites to sin and disobedience, and an offense.

What is the righteousness that is the opposite of an offense, but the behavior that is well pleasing? And what can be meant by obedience, when spoken of as the opposite of disobedience, or going contrary to a command, but a positive obeying and an actual complying with the command? So that there is no room for any invented distinction of active and passive, to hurt the argument from this scripture.

For it is evident by it, as anything can be, that believers are justified by the righteousness and obedience of Christ, under the notion of his moral goodness; — his positive obeying, and actual complying with the commands of God, and that behavior which, because of its conformity to his commands, was well-pleasing in his sight. This is all that ever any need to desire to have granted in this dispute. Indeed all obedience considered under the notion of righteousness, is something active, something done in voluntary compliance with a command; whether it may be done without suffering, or whether it be hard and difficult.

Yet as it is obedience, righteousness, or moral goodness, it must be considered as something voluntary and active. If anyone is commanded to go through difficulties and sufferings, and he, in compliance with this command, voluntarily does it, he properly obeys in so doing; and as he voluntarily does it in compliance with a command, his obedience is as active as any whatsoever.

It is the same sort of obedience, a thing of the very same nature, as when a man, in compliance with a command, does a piece of hard service, or goes through hard labor; and there is no room to distinguish between such obedience of it, as if it were a thing of quite a different nature, by such opposite terms as active and passive: But is there from hence any foundation to make two species of obedience, one active and the other passive? There is no appearance of any such distinction ever entering into the hearts of any of the penmen of Scripture. It is true, that of late, when a man refuses to obey the precept of a human law, but patiently yields himself up to suffer the penalty of the law, it is called passive obedience.

But this I suppose is only a modern use of the word obedience. Surely it is a sense of the word that the Scripture is a perfect stranger to. It is improperly called obedience, unless there be such a precept in the law, that he shall yield himself patiently to suffer, to which his so doing shall be an active voluntary conformity. But no other conformity to the law is properly called obedience to it, but an active voluntary conformity to the precepts of it.

The word obey is often found in Scripture with respect to the law of God to man, but never in any other sense. The sufferings of Christ are respected in Scripture under a twofold consideration, either merely as his being substituted for us, or put into our stead, in suffering the penalty of the law.

And so his sufferings are considered as a satisfaction and propitiation for sin, or as he, in obedience to a law or a command of the Father, voluntarily submitted himself to those sufferings, and actively yielded himself up to hear them. So they are considered as his righteousness, and a part of his active obedience. Christ underwent death in obedience to the command of the Father, Psa.

Then said I, Lo, I come: No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. It can be no just objection against this, that the command of the Father to Christ that he should lay down his life was no part of the law that we had broken, and therefore, that his obeying this command could be no part of that obedience that he performed for us, because we needed that he should obey no other law for us, but only that which we had broken or failed of obeying.

There was wanting the precept about the forbidden fruit, and there was added the ceremonial law. The thing required was perfect obedience. It is no matter whether the positive precepts that Christ was to obey, were much more than equivalent to what was wanting, because infinitely more difficult, particularly the command that he had received to lay down his life, which was his principal act of obedience, and which, above all other, is concerned in our justification.

As that act of disobedience by which we fell, was disobedience to a positive precept that Christ never was under, viz. The law that Christ was subject to, and obeyed, was in some sense the same that was given to Adam. There are innumerable particular duties required by the law only conditionally, and in such circumstances, are comprehended in some great and general rule of that law. Thus, for instance, there are innumerable acts of respect and obedience to men, which are required by the law of nature which was a law given to Adam , which yet are not required absolutely, but upon many prerequisite conditions: So many acts of respect and obedience to God are included, in like manner, in the moral law conditionally, or such and such things being supposed: They are virtually comprehended in the great general rule of the moral law, that we should obey God, and be subject to him in whatsoever he pleases to command us.

And thus all that Adam, and all that Christ was commanded, even his observing the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish worship, and his laying down his life, was virtually included in this same great law.

How to Love God When You Don’t Feel It

For the moral law virtually includes all right acts, on all possible occasions, even occasions that the law itself allows not. Thus we are obliged by the moral law to mortify our lusts, and repent of our sins, though that law allows of no lust to mortify, or sin to repent of. So now he that refuses to obey the precepts that require an attendance on the sacraments of the New Testament, is exposed to damnation, by virtue of the law or covenant of works. It may moreover be argued that all sins whatsoever are breaches of the law or covenant of works, because all sins, even breaches of the positive precepts, as well as others, have atonement by the death of Christ.

But what Christ died for, was to satisfy the law, or to bear the curse of the law; as appears by Gal. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name. We are as much saved by the death of Christ, as his yielding himself to die was an act of obedience, as we are as it was a propitiation for our sins. For as it was not only the only act of obedience that merited, he having performed meritorious acts of obedience through the whole course of his life, so neither was it the only suffering that was propitiatory; all his sufferings through the whole course of his life being propitiatory, as well as every act of obedience meritorious.

Indeed this was his principal suffering, and it was as much his principal act of obedience. Hence we may see how that the death of Christ did not only make atonement, but also merited eternal life, and hence we may see how by the blood of Christ, we are not only redeemed from sin, but redeemed unto God.

Therefore the Scripture seems everywhere to attribute the whole of salvation to the blood of Christ. Most people in the world have no experience of lasting joy in their lives. All of our resources exist to guide you toward everlasting joy in Jesus Christ. You can listen to John Piper talk about the meaning of justification by faith alone in the audio link above. We also offer the following summary of John Piper's view.

John Piper holds to the historic, Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone, which can be summarized in the following four points:. In other words, it is faith only, and not our deeds in any way whether the external manifestation or the internal God-glorifying motive behind them , that connect us savingly to Jesus Christ.

Justification By Faith Alone Justification By Faith Alone
Justification By Faith Alone Justification By Faith Alone
Justification By Faith Alone Justification By Faith Alone
Justification By Faith Alone Justification By Faith Alone
Justification By Faith Alone Justification By Faith Alone
Justification By Faith Alone Justification By Faith Alone
Justification By Faith Alone Justification By Faith Alone
Justification By Faith Alone Justification By Faith Alone

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