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Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Gal. iii. 10.
But in the fourth Article we are shown, that there is no man that has continued in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them : and there. fore that there is no man who has not drawn upon himself the curse of the law. To suppose that he can extricate himself from the curse, by the merit of his own doings, would imply that an essential alteration had been made in the structure of the law. But in the fifth Article we see the mercy of God providing another righteousness for fallen creatures, entirely distinct from their own; and yet exerting an influ. ence no less salutary and effectual in support of divine government, than that which would have been exerted by their own personal obedi. ence to the precept, or personal sufferings under the penalty of the law.
Now it is manifest that a legal justification, for the sake of any good works which may have been done by a transgressor, would be nothing less than a destruction of the law; but a free justification, for the sake of that infinite Personage, who, by obeying and suffering, honored the law and condemned transgression, has no tendency to destroy the law, but to confirm it. “ Do we then make void the law through faith?” (that is, through justification by faith,) "God forbid : : yea, we establish the law.” Rom. iii. 31. The justification of apostate creatures by a law righteousness, would effect a destruction of the law : and it is certain that such a mode of justification would render nugatory the death of Christ: “For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Gal. ii. 21. See also chap, iii. 21. If sinners can still be saved without the Redeemer's righteousness, his agony in the garden, and his sufferings on the cross, would appear to be nothing but a solemn farce. Redemption is every where in the scriptures represented as the chief of the works of God: but the man who seeks to save himself by the works of the law, refusing to submit to the righteousness of God, which he has wrought out by the death of his Son, practically says, he can make a better righteousness than God's. Such a man would not insult his Maker more, were he to as. sume state to himself, and say, “I can originate a better creation than God's—he need not have made a world for me; I could have done better for myself.”
The justification of penitent believers, through the atonement of Christ, is in such perfect harmony with the spirit of the law, that creatures justified by the righteousness of the law, and those by the righteousness of faith, will compose one harmonious society in heaven. See Rev, v. 9–12. Those of the children of men who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and, in this way, admitted to a full and ev. erlasting enjoyment of God, will have no undervaluing thoughts of the law: nor will those holy angels, who stand by the righteousness of works, have any undervaluing thoughts of the righteousness of faith; they will even help the saints in their anthems of praise to their Re. deemer. Justification by works, that is, by personal righteousness, in the case of those who have never sinned ; and justification by grace, that is, through the righteousness of another, in the case of those sin. ners who have put their trust in the great Magnifier of the law, are systems of acceptance with God which widely differ; and yet they
are sweetly harmonious. The society of heaven, by being composed of these two classes of God's friends, will no doubt be rendered more interesting and delightful, than if all its inhabitants were of one class. But if some of our race, fallen as we are, were to be admitted into this society by virtue of their own good works, it would be altogether unharmonious. Self-righteous pharisees could neither sing the song of angels, nor the song of the redeemed. No songs are heard in the New Jerusalem in which they could possibly unite.
This Article is in harmony with the first and second of the series, which exhibit an infinitely great and holy Being, displaying his glory in
his works. And in forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, through E the mediation of his well beloved Son, his glory is displayed to the best
advantage. Here “ mercy and truth have met together; righteousness i and peace have kissed each other. Truth springs out of the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.” We see the holy Gov. ernor of the world, taking off the sentence of condemnation from such as have returned from their revolt, and accepted the punishment of their sins: and we hear him proclaiming an eternal amnesty in their favor
. In this he appears at the same time glorious in holiness, and glorious in grace. Mercy, it is true, rejoiceth
against judgment in the pardon of the ill-deserving; yet justice is by no means trampled in the dust, but is vindicated more gloriously than when sinning angels were cast down to hell.
The sixth and seventh Articles contain nothing in opposition to this ; and in the eighth we learn by what means it is, that any of our apos. tate race become prepared for justification. Among totally depraved creatures, like ourselves, none would ever be prepared to be justified, Were it not for the renewing of the Holy Ghost. “ Whom he called, them he also justified."
These, and none others, are justified; for they alone are prepared to feel their ill-desert, and to receive a free pardon for His sake, whó condemned their sins by bearing them in his own body on the tree.
The two Articles that immediately precede the one we are now considering, relate to the grace which God displays in the regenera. tion of the men whom he saves -grace by which he distinguishes them from their fellow men, both in his operations and counsels. All the doctrines of grace harmonize; grace in election, in renovation, in forgiveness. The apostle viewed the relation between predestination and justification to be so intimate, as to need but one connecting link to bring them together : “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified.” A state of condemnation can not be succeeded by a state of justification, until the dominion of sin be broken up; therefore it is, that as many as are or. dained to eternal life, are predestinated to a conformity to the image of
are none of those, that adopt the doctrine of sovereign dis. tinguishing grace in the sinner's conversion, who will reject the doc. trine of a free and gratuitous justification. 'If we believe that we are wholly indebted to grace for tħe atonement
, and for a heart to embrace it, we can never believe that we are justified by works, or rewarded
Between such sentiments there would be no con.
for personal merit.
cord. If grace begins our salvation, it must finish it; if it renews our hearts, it must have the honor of justifying our persons, The two gifts are wholly gracious: but there is this difference; regeneration is necessarily an unpromised gift, because the unregenerate possess no goodness of character upon which the promise could fix; but in regen. eration goodness of character is imparted : “ That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The Spirit, in transforming the heart, prepares us to be accepted in the Beloved : for God can be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
1. With this Article before us, we discover an important distinction between works that are acceptable, and such as are meritorious. In unregeneracy, none of our works are either meritorious or acceptable. But as soon as there is any transformation of character, they become in a degree acceptable ; and will ultimately become entirely so. What. ever of holiness appears in these works, is none the less acceptable on account of its having been preceded by sin ; or on account of its now being intermingled with it." Holiness is always lovely, wherever it is found. Nor are the good works of renewed sinners any less accepta. ble to God, because they are the result of his immediate influence on their hearts. Our most entire dependence on the Spirit of God for our goodness, does nothing to diminish its amiableness in his sight; nor are we on this account considered as any less worthy of his regard. But as to merit, it is wholly excluded, not only from the works which precede regeneration, but from those which follow it; even after those works shall have become perfect : for no creature who deserves the pains of hell, or evil only, (as does every transgressor of God's law,) can at the same time deserve heaven, or any other good.
2. The light reflected by this Article will expose their mistake, who say, “ If you deny total depravity, you can see no need of a Sa. vior.” To see our need of the Holy Ghost to renew our hearts, we must be convinced that they are totally depraved; but if they are depraved at all, we need the benefits of the atonement; we need to be justified freely through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; for this is the tenor of the law, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” I do not pretend that sinners will ever go to Jesus Christ for justification, till they become convinced that their depravity is entire ; but did they apprehend things aright, they would see that the least delinquency ren. dered a legal justification impossible, and a Savior's righteousness their only hope.
3. With the doctrine of justification in view, we perceive it must be of vital importance rightly to understand the law. Through a mis. conception of its structure and design, Paul, while zealously engaged in the externals of religion, had well nigh lost his soul. It was by a correction of this mistake, that he became convinced he needed a better rigteousness than his own. Let us hear his own account of the matter : “ For I was alive without the law once; but when the command.
ment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.” Rom. vii. 9, 10. Again he says, '“ For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” In the case of the apostle, we learn both the meaning and importance of a law work. That convert who is experi. mentally ignorant of such a work, has reason to fear that he is yet un. der the curse of the law. If he has not through the law become dead to the law, he has not yet begun to live unto God.
4. With this fundamental doctrine before us, it is easy to see, that nothing stands more in the way of the salvation of lost men, than a spirit of self righteousness. This was what ruined that generation of God's covenant people who lived at the time of Christ's advent. “But Israel,” said the apostle, “which followed after the law of righteous. ness, hath cot attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Be. cause they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law." Rom. ix. 31, 32. God has provided a righteousness for sinners, even for the chief of sinners : therefore it is not our being sinners that renders our case hopeless ; but it is that proud legal spirit, which will sooner traverse the globe to establish its own righteousness, than sub. mit to the righteousness of God. The conversion of publicans into pharisees does nothing towards preparing them for the kingdom of heaven. Sinners must renounce their self-righteousness as well as their rices, else they cannot be saved.
5. Lest some should imagine, that this free justification must exert an influence to relax the bonds of divine government, it may be well to notice; that it was never proposed to innocent creatures, as if they had their choice given them, whether to be saved by obedience to the law, or by a free justification. It was not made known until the pen. alty of the law was incurred. And it is now proffered to no apostates, except those for whom a law-honoring atonement has been provided. Nor even of such do any become released from their state of condemnation, until they are cordially reconciled to God and his holy govern. ment. A time is limited for this reconciliation to take place; and proclamation is made, that this way of effecting the reconciliation of apostates, is the last expedient which the God of grace will ever provide for this, or any other part of his moral kingdom. This plan of justification can not be charged with having brought about the defection of men or angels. And surely none can pretend that it is the cause of that iniquity with which the earth is deluged. On the contrary, it manifestly does more than anything else to roll back the destructive tide ; for if among our fallen race there be any who depart from ini. quity, it is those who through the law have become dead to the lawthose who have renounced their own righteousness for that of their divine Savior,
THERE IS AN INFALLIBLE CONNECTION BETWEEN BEING JUSTIFIED ON EARTH, AND GLORIFIED IN HEAVEN; OR, IN OTHER WORDS, ALL REAL SAINTS WILL PERSEVERE IN HOLINESS TO THE END OF LIFE.
It is one of the most fundamental truths of God's word, That all those who are renewed by the Holy Ghost, and justified through the redemption there is in Christ, will be enabled to persevere in the way of holiness unto the end of life, and afterwards be received to glory. It is made as certain that the justified will be received to glory, as that the called will be justified; or that the predestinated will be called. These are all such things as God has joined together; for “whom he did predestinate, them he also called ; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Rom. viii. 30.
This doctrine implies something more than a certainty, that all true saints will gain admission into the kingdom of heaven; it includes a certainty of their perseverance in believing and obeying the truth, to the very end of their days. They are chosen to salvation, but with no more fixedness in the divine purpose, than they are to a sanctification of the Spirit and a belief of the truth. And they are ordained, not only to commence a life of piety, but to go and bring forth fruit, and that their fruit should remain. 2 Thess. ii. 13. John xv. 16. As the Or. thodox do not believe in an election which will raise men to heaven without a radical change of character; so neither do they believe in a perseverance, which does not imply a permanence in the renovated character, and a continuance in well-doing. In confirmation of the doctrine of the saints' perseverance, I will suggest some of the leading arguments which to my own mind have appeared satisfactory.
1. The thing is possible. It is possible, not only because it is within the compass of God's power, but also of his consistent opera. tions. It is what he can and may do. The covenant of works made no provision for recovery from apostacy, even when but a single of. fense had been committed; but in the covenant of grace a provision of this sort is made without doing the least injury to the law, While this, as well as that, forbids all sin, this, in distinction from that, provides for its forgiveness. The two covenants appear to have been both in the view of David, when he said, “ If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, (according to the covenant of works, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, (according to the covenant of grace,) that thou mayest be feared.” Ps. cxxx. 3, 4. He saw that such was his own imperfection, and such the imperfection of all the saints on earth, that, in case their iniquities had been marked against them, according to the tenor of the covenant of works, they could not stand; nor could their intercourse with God have been kept up for a