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The plea of the Pharisee unto this end consists of two parts: 1. That he had fulfilled the condition, whereon he might be justified. He makes no mention of any merit, either of congruity, or condignity. Only whereas there were two parts of God's covenant then with the church, the one with respect unto the moral, the other with respect unto the ceremonial law, he pleads the observation of the condition of it in both parts, which he sheweth in instances of both kinds; only he adds, the way that he took to farther ħim in this obedience, somewhat beyond what was enjoined, namely, that he fasted twice in the week. For when men begin to seek for righteousness, and justification by works, they quickly think their best reserve lies in doing something extraordinary more than other men, and more indeed than is required of them. This brought forth all the pharisaical austerities in the papacy. Nor can it be said, that all this signified nothing, because he was a hypocrite and a boaster; for it will be replied, that it should seem all are so, who seek for justification by works; for our Saviour only represents one that doth so; neither are these things laid in bar against his justification, but only that he exalted himself in trusting unto his own righteousness. 2. In an ascription of all that he did unto God. God, I thank thee;' although he did all this, yet he owned the aid and assistance of God by his grace in it all. He esteemed himself much to differ from other men, but ascribed it not unto himself, that so he did. All the righteousness and holiness which he laid claim unto, he ascribed unto the benignity and goodness of God. Wherefore, he neither pleaded any merit in his works, nor any works performed in his own strength, without the aid of grace. All that he pretends is, that by the grace of God he had fulfilled the condition of the covenant, and thereon expected to be justified. And whatever words men shall be pleased to make use of in their vocal prayers, God interprets their minds, according to what they trust in, as unto their justification before him. And if some men will be true unto their own principles, this is the prayer, which 'Mutatis mutandis,' they ought to make.
If it be said, that it is charged on this Pharisee, that he trusted in himself, and despised others, for which he was rejected; I answer, 1. This charge respects not the mind of
the person, but the genius and tendency of the opinion. The persuasion of justification by works, includes in it a contempt of other men. For if Abraham had been justified by works, he should have had whereof to glory. 2. Those whom he despised, were such as placed their whole trust in grace and mercy; as this publican. It were to be wished, that all others of the same mind did not so also.
The issue is with this person, that he was not justified; neither shall any one ever be so on the account of his own personal righteousness. For our Saviour hath told us, that when we have done all, that is, when we have the testimony of our consciences unto the integrity of our obedience, instead of pleading it unto our justification, we should say, that is, really judge and profess, that we are douλoi àxpeñoi, 'unprofitable servants;' Luke xvii. 10. As the apostle speaks, I know nothing by myself, yet am I not thereby justified; 1 Cor. iv. 4. And he that is douλos ȧxpɛos, and hath nothing to trust unto but his service, will be cast out of the presence of God; Matt. xxv. 30. Wherefore, on the best of our obedience to confess ourselves douλor axpeïoi, is to confess, that after all in ourselves, we deserve to be cast out of the presence of God.
In opposition hereunto, the state and prayer of the publican, under the same design of seeking justification before God, are expressed. And the outward acts of his person are mentioned, as representing, and expressive of the inward frame of his mind. He stood afar off;' and did not so 'much as lift up his eyes; he smote upon his breast.' All of them represent a person desponding, yea, despairing in himself. This is the nature, this is the effect of that conviction of sin, which we before asserted to be antecedently necessary unto justification. Displacency, sorrow, sense of danger, fear of wrath, all are present with him. In brief he declares himself guilty before God, and his mouth stopped, as unto any apology or excuse. And his prayer is a sincere application of his soul, unto sovereign grace and mercy, for a deliverance out of the condition, wherein he was by reason of the guilt of sin. And in the use of the word iλáoкoμai, there is respect had unto a propitiation. In the whole of his address there is contained, 1. Self-condemnation and abhorrency. 2. Displacency and sorrow for sin. 3. A
universal renunciation of all works of his own, as any conditions of his justification. 4. An acknowledgment of his sin, guilt, and misery. And this is all that on our part is required unto justification before God, excepting that faith whereby we apply ourselves unto him for deliverance.
Some make a weak attempt from hence, to prove that justification consists wholly in the remission of sin, because on the prayer of the publican, for mercy and pardon, he is said to be justified; but there is no force in this argument. For, 1. The whole nature of justification is not here declared, but only what is required on our part thereunto. The respect of it unto the mediation of Christ, was not yet expressly to be brought to light, as was shewed before. 2. Although the publican makes his address unto God, under a deep sense of the guilt of sin, yet he prays not for the bare pardon of sin, but for all that sovereign mercy or grace, God provided for sinners. 3. The term of justification must have the same sense, when applied unto the Pharisee, as when applied unto the publican; and if the meaning of it, with respect unto the publican, be, that he was pardoned, then hath it the same sense, with respect unto the Pharisee, he was not pardoned; but he came on no such errand. He came to be justified, not pardoned; nor doth he make the least mention of his sin, or any sense of it. Wherefore, although the pardon of sin be included in justification, yet to justify, in this place hath respect unto a righteousness, whereon a man is declared just and righteous, wrapped up on the part of the publican in the sovereign producing cause, the mercy of God.
Some few testimonies may be added out of the other evangelists, in whom they abound. As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name;' John i. 12. Faith is expressed by the receiving of Christ. For to receive him, and to believe on his name, are the same. It receives him as set forth of God to be a propitiation for sin, as the great ordinance of God, for the recovery and salvation of lost sinners. Wherefore, this notion of faith includes in it, 1. A supposition of the proposal and tender of Christ unto us, for some end and purpose. 2. That this proposal is made unto us in the promise of the gospel. Hence as we are said to re
ceive Christ, we are said to receive the promise also. 3. The end for which the Lord Christ is so proposed unto us, in the promise of the gospel; and this is the same with that for which he was so proposed in the first promise, namely, the recovery and salvation of lost sinners. 4. That in the tender of his person, there is a tender made of all the fruits of his mediation, as containing the way and means of our deliverance from sin, and acceptance with God. 5. There is nothing required on our part unto an interest in the end proposed, but receiving of him, or believing on his name. 6. Hereby are we entitled unto the heavenly inheritance; we have power to become the sons of God, wherein our adoption is asserted, and justification included. What this receiving of Christ is, and wherein it doth consist, hath been declared before, in the consideration of that faith whereby we are justified. That which hence we argue is, that there is no more required unto the obtaining of a right and title unto the heavenly inheritance, but faith alone in the name of Christ, the receiving of Christ as the ordinance of God, for justification and salvation. This gives us, I say, our original right thereunto, and therein our acceptance with God, which is our justification, though more be required unto the actual acquisition and possession of it. It is said, indeed, that other graces and works are not excluded, though faith alone be expressed. But every thing, which is not a receiving of Christ, is excluded. It is, I say, virtually excluded, because it is not of the nature of that which is required. When we speak of that whereby we see, we exclude no other member from being a part of the body; but we exclude all but the eye from the act of seeing. And if faith be required, as it is a receiving of Christ, every grace and duty which is not so, is excluded as unto the end of justification. Chap. iii. 14-18. And as Moses lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on him, should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, might be saved. He that believeth on him, is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is
condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.'
I shall observe only a few things from these words, which in themselves convey a better light of understanding in this mystery unto the minds of believers, than many long discourses of some learned men. 1. It is of the justification of men, and their right to eternal life thereon, that our Saviour discourseth. This is plain in ver. 18. He that believeth is not condemned, but he that believeth not, is condemned already.' 2. The means of attaining this condition or state on our part, is believing only, as it is three times positively asserted, without any addition. 3. The nature of this faith is declared, 1. By its object, that is, Christ himself the Son of God; 'whosoever believeth on him,' which is frequently repeated. 2. The especial consideration, wherein he is the object of faith unto the justification of life; and that is as he is the ordinance of God, given, sent, and proposed from the love and grace of the Father. God so loved the world, that he gave; God sent his Son.' 3. The especial act yet included in the type, whereby the design of God, in him, is illustrated. For this was the looking unto the brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness, by them who were stung with fiery serpents. Hereunto our faith in Christ unto justification, doth answer, and includes a trust in him alone for deliverance and relief. This is the way, these are the only causes and means of the justification of condemned sinners, and are the substance of all that we plead for.
It will be said, that all this proves not the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, which is the thing principally inquired after; but if nothing be required on our part unto justification, but faith acted on Christ, as the ordinance of God for our recovery and salvation, it is the whole of what we plead for. A justification by the remission of sins alone, without a righteousness giving acceptance with God, and a right unto the heavenly inheritance, is alien unto the Scripture, and the common notion of justification amongst men. And what this righteousness must be, upon a supposition that faith only, on our part, is required unto a participation of it, is sufficiently declared in the words wherein Christ himself is so often asserted, as the object of our faith unto that purpose.