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Not to add more particular testimonies, which are multiplied unto the same purpose, in this evangelist, the sum of the doctrine declared by him, is, That the Lord Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world; that is, by the sacrifice of himself, wherein he answered and fulfilled all the typical sacrifices of the law; that unto this end he sanctified himself, that those who believe might be sanctified, or perfected for ever by his own offering of himself; that in the gospel he is proposed, as lifted up and crucified for us, as bearing all our sins on his body on the tree; that by faith in him, we have adoption, justification, freedom from judgment and condemnation, with a right and title unto eternal life; that those who believe not, are condemned already, because they believe not on the Son of God; and as he elsewhere expresseth it, make God a liar,' in that they believe not his testimony, namely, that 'he hath given unto us eternal life; and that this life is in his Son.' Nor doth he any where make mention of any other means, cause, or condition of justification on our part, but faith only, though he aboundeth in precepts unto believers for love, and keeping the commands of Christ. And this faith is the receiving of Christ, in the sense newly declared. And this is the substance of the Christian faith in this matter; which ofttimes we rather obscure than illustrate, by debating the consideration of any thing in our justification, but the grace and love of God, the person and mediation of Christ, with faith in them.
The nature of justification as declared in the epistles of St. Paul, in that unto the Romans especially.—Chap. iii.
THAT the way and manner of our justification before God, with all the causes and means of it are designedly declared by the apostle in the Epistle unto the Romans, chap. iii. 4, 5. as also vindicated from objections, so as to render his discourse thereon the proper seat of this doctrine, and whence it is principally to be learned, cannot modestly be denied.
The late exceptions of some, that this doctrine of justification by faith, without works, is found only in the writings of St. Paul, and that his writings are obscure and intricate, are both false and scandalous to Christian religion, so as that in this place we shall not afford them the least consideration. He wrote ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενος, as he was 'moved by the Holy Ghost.' And as all the matter delivered by him was sacred truth, which immediately requires our faith and obedience, so the way and manner wherein he declared it, was such as the Holy Ghost judged most expedient for the edification of the church. And as he said himself with confidence, that if the gospel which he preached, and as it was preached by him, though accounted by them foolishness, was hid, so as that they could not understand, nor comprehend the mystery of it, it was hid unto them that are lost;' so we may say, that if what he delivereth in particular concerning our justification before God, seems obscure, difficult, or perplexed unto us, it is from our prejudices, corrupt affections, or weakness of understanding at best, not able to comprehend the glory of this mystery of the grace of God in Christ, and not from any defect in his way and manner of the revelation of it. Rejecting, therefore, all such perverse insinuations, in a due sense of our own weakness, and acknowledgment that at best we know but in part, we shall humbly inquire into the blessed revelation of this great mystery of the justification of a sinner before God, as by him declared in those chapters of his glorious Epistle to the Romans; and I shall do it with all briefness possible, so as not on this occasion to repeat what hath been already spoken, or to anticipate what may be spoken in place more convenient.
The first thing he doth, is to prove all men to be under sin, and to be guilty before God. This he giveth as the conclusion of his preceding discourse, from chap. i. 18. or what he had evidently evinced thereby, chap. iii. 19. 23. Hereon an inquiry doth arise, how any of them come to be justified before God. And whereas justification is a sentence upon the consideration of a righteousness, his grand inquiry is, what that righteousness is, on the consideration whereof a man may be so justified. And concerning this, he affirms expressly, that it is not the righteousness of the law, nor of
the works of it; whereby what he doth intend, hath been in part before declared, and will be farther manifested in the process of our discourse. Wherefore in general he declares, that the righteousness whereby we are justified, is the righteousness of God, in opposition unto any righteousness of our own, chap. i. 17. iii. 21, 22. And he describes this righteousness of God by three properties; 1. That it is xwpis vóμov, without the law;' ver. 21. separated in all its concerns from the law; not attainable by it, nor any works of it; which they have no influence into. It is neither our obedience unto the law, nor attainable thereby. Nor can any expression more separate and exclude the works of obedience unto the law, from any concernment in it, than this doth; wherefore, whatever is, or can be performed by ourselves in obedience unto the law, is rejected from any interest in this righteousness of God, or the procurement of it to be made ours. 2. That yet it is witnessed unto by the law;' ver. 21. The law and the prophets.'
The apostle, by this distinction of the books of the Old Testament, into the law and the prophets, manifests that by the law he understands the books of Moses; and in them, testimony is given unto this righteousness of God, four ways.
1. By a declaration of the causes of the necessity of it unto our justification. This is done in the account given of our apostacy from God, of the loss of his image, and the state of sin that ensued thereon. For hereby an end was put unto all possibility and hope of acceptance with God, by our own personal righteousness. By the entrance of sin, our own righteousness went out of the world; so that there must be another righteousness prepared and approved of God, and called the righteousness of God, in opposition unto our own, or all relation of love and favour between God and man, must cease for ever.
2. In the way of recovery from this state, generally declared in the first promise of the blessed seed, by whom this righteousness of God was to be wrought and introduced; for he alone was 'to make an end of sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,' D'nby pry Dan. ix. 24. That righteousness of God, that should be the means of the justification of the church in all ages, and under all dispensations.
3. By stopping up the way unto any other righteous
ness, through the threatenings of the law, and that curse which every transgression of it, was attended withal. Hereby it was plainly and fully declared, that there must be such a righteousness provided for our justification before men, as would answer and remove that curse.
4. In the prefiguration and representation of that only way and means, whereby this righteousness of God was to be wrought. This it did in all its sacrifices, especially in the great anniversary sacrifice on the day of expiation, wherein all the sins of the church, were laid on the head of the sacrifice, and so carried away.
5. He describes it by the only way of our participation of it, the only means on our part of the communication of it unto us. And this is by faith alone. The righteousness of God which is by the faith of Christ Jesus, unto all, and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference;' ver. 22. Faith in Christ Jesus is so the only way and means, whereby this righteousness of God comes upon us, or is communicated unto us, that it is so unto all that have this faith, and only unto them, and that without difference on the consideration of any thing else besides. And although faith taken absolutely, may be used in various senses, yet as thus specified and limited, the faith of Christ Jesus, or as he calls it, the faith that is in me;' Acts xxvi. 18. It can intend nothing but the reception. of him, and trust in him, as the ordinance of God for righteousness and salvation.
This description of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, which the apostle asserts as the only means and cause of our justification before God, with the only way of its participation and communication unto us by the faith of Christ Jesus, fully confirms the truth we plead for. For if the righteousness wherewith we must be justified before God be not our own, but the righteousness of God, as these things are directly opposed, Phil. iii. 9. and the only way whereby it comes upon us, we are made partakers of it, is by the faith of Jesus Christ; then our own personal inherent righteousness or obedience, hath no interest in our justification before God; which argument is insoluble, nor is the force of it to be waved by any distinctions whatever, if we keep our hearts unto a due reverence of the authority of God in his word.
Having fully proved, that no men living have any righteousness of their own, whereby they may be justified, but are all shut up under the guilt of sin; and having declared, that there is a righteousness of God now fully revealed in the gospel, whereby alone we may be so; leaving all men in themselves unto their own lot, inasmuch as 'all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;' he proceeds to declare the nature of our justification before God in all the causes of it, ver. 24-26. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ: 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 them that believe in Jesus.'
Here it is, that we may and ought if any where, to expect the interest of our personal obedience under some qualification or other, in our justification to be declared. For if it should be supposed (which yet it cannot with any pretence of reason) that in the foregoing discourse, the apostle had excluded only the works of the law, as absolutely perfect, or as wrought in our own strength without the aid of grace, or as meritorious; yet having generally excluded all works from our justification, ver. 20. without distinction or limitation; it might well be expected, and ought to have been so; that upon the full declaration which he gives us of the nature and way of our justification in all the causes of it, he should have assigned the place, and consideration which our own personal righteousness had in our justification before God; the first or second, or continuation of it, somewhat or other; or at least, made some mention of it, under the qualification of gracious, sincere, or evangelical, that it might not seem to be absolutely excluded. It is plain the apostle thought of no such thing, nor was at all solicitous about any reflection that might be made on his doctrine, as though it overthrew the necessity of our own obedience. Take in the consideration of the apostle's design, with the circumstances of the context, and the argument from his utter silence, about our own personal righteousness in our justification before God, is unanswerable. But this is not all;