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SUMMARY OF SERMON V.
ROMANS, CHAP. V.-VERSE 1.
The next thing to be considered is ; what justification imports ? a term which has been in latter times canvassed with much vehemence of discussion.
In former times there does not appear to have been any difference or debate about it : "reasons for this given. The disputes on this point arose about the time of the Reformation.
With a hope of reconciling such disputants, it is proposed to consider the several divine acts to which the term justification is, according to any pretended sense, applicable. According to the tenor of Christian doctrine, these are as follow :
1. God (through the obedience and intercession of his beloved Son) is so reconciled to mankind, that unto every person who sincerely believes the gospel, repents, and amends his life, he doth on the solemn profession of that resolution in baptism, remit all past offences, accepting his person, and receiving him into favor, &c.
2. As any person persisting steadily in that sincere faith, assuredly continues in a state of grace; so when such a one, out of human frailty, falls into the commission of sin, God, through regard to his Son, doth, on the confession and repentance of such a person, remit his sins and restore him to favor ; according to the Evangelist, 1 John i. 9.
3. To each person sincerely embracing the gospel, and continuing steadfast therein, God doth afford his Holy Spirit, as a principle producing inward sanctity or virtuous dispositions, and enabling him to discharge all the conditions of faith and obedience required of him, &c.
Now all these acts are generally acknowleged and ascribed unto God; but with which of them the act of justification is solely or chiefly coincident, &c. is a question coming under debate. To clear up this, some observations are propounded.
I. We need not search into the primitive sense of the word, since in common use it often declines from that: mere grammar will not here help us.
II. The sense is not to be searched for in extraneous writers ; both because no such subject ever came under their consideration, and because they seldom or never use the word in a sense at all congruous with it.
III. In the sacred writings at large, it is commonly applied to persons, according to various senses, some wide and general, others more restrained and particular: these stated.
IV. The word seems somewhat peculiar to St. Paul, and is hardly by the other Apostles applied to that matter which he expresses by it: the right sense of it therefore seems best derivable from considering the nature of his subject, the drift of his discourse and reasoning, and the other equivalent phrases which he uses.
V. With this method of inquiry it may be observed that the notion of the word which is evidently the most usual in Scripture, is best suited to the meaning of St. Paul here, and commonly elsewhere ; namely, that God's justifying solely, or chiefly, doth import his acquitting us from guilt, condemnation, and punishment, by free pardon, &c. accounting us, and dealing with us, as righteous, &c.
1. This sense best agrees with the nature of the subject-matter, and the design of St. Paul's discourse; viz., the asserting the necessity, sufficiency, and excellency of the Christian dispensation, in bringing men to happiness, and consequently the
rendering men acceptable to God, who is the sole author and giver of happiness: this enlarged on.
2. Again, the manner of prosecuting his discourse, and the arguments by which he infers his conclusions concerning the gospel, confirm this notion : this fully shown.
3. Farther, the same notion may be confirmed by comparing this term with other terms and phrases equivalent, or opposite to this of justification : examples quoted.
4. Moreover this notion may be strengthened by excluding that sense, which in opposition thereto is assigned, according to which justification is said to import, not only remission of sin, and acceptance with God, but the making a man intrinsically righteous, by infusing into him, as it is said, a habit of grace or charity.
Admitting this to be true, as in some sense it is, yet that sort of righteousness does not seem implied by the word justification, according to St. Paul's intent, in those places where he discourses about justification by faith ; such a sense not consisting well with the drift of his reasoning, nor with divers passages in his discourse : this fully shown in eight instances.
VI. So much may suffice for a general explication of the notion : but for a more full clearing of the point it may be requisite to resolve a question concerning the time when this act is performed or dispensed. It may be inquired when God justifieth; whether once, or at several times, or continually. To which it may be answered briefly,
I. That the justification spoken of by St. Paul seems, in his meaning, only or especially to be that act of grace which is dispensed to persons at their baptism, or entrance into the church, when they openly profess their faith, and undertake the practice of Christian duty : five reasons given for this opinion.
II. The virtue and effect of that first justifying act continues (that is, we abide in a justified state) so long as we perform the conditions imposed by God, and undertaken by us at our first justification : this enlarged on.
III. Although justification chiefly signifies the first act of grace towards a Christian at his baptism, yet (according to analogy) every dispensation of pardon granted on repentance, may be styled justification : this topic enlarged on.
According to each of these notions, all good Christians may be said to have been justified. Conclusion.
I Believe, &c.
OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
ROMANS, CHAP. V.--VERSE 1.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through
our Lord Jesus Christ.
In order to the understanding of these words, I did formerly propound divers particulars to be considered and discussed : the first was, what that faith is by which Christians are said to be justified ? This I have dispatched : the next, what justification doth import? The which I shall now endeavor to explain; and I am concerned to perform it with the more care and diligence, because the right notion of this term hath in latter times been canvassed with so much vehemence of dissension and strife.
In former times, among the fathers and the schoolmen, there doth not appear to have been any difference or debate about it; because, as it seems, men commonly having the same apprehensions about the matters, to which the word is applicable, did not so much examine or regard the strict propriety of expression concerning them : consenting in things, they did not fall to cavil and contend about the exact meaning of words. They did indeed consider distinctly no such point of doctrine as that of justification, looking on that word as used incidentally in some places of Scripture, for expression of points more