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justified, is altogether innocent, and therefore stands not in need of justification ; or else that all his former sins are now so effectually pardoned, that they can no more rise up in judgement against him, than if they had never been committed. The former of these is a felicity which can never belong to any mere man. “The scripture hath concluded all under sin ;'[Gal. iii. 22.] and so leaves no possibility for avoiding the punishment due to sin, except by the second mode of proceeding, whereby the penalty incurred is graciously overlooked. This was the case of Abraham, who had continued many years in idolatry and superstition : yet all this wickedness, the true God, in his abundant mercy, pardoned : and of his own mere grace, admitted him into covenant; and blessed him with the promises relative to the justification of believers. In like manner, they who are blessed and justified with Abraham, have their past sins forgiven : and by the removal of that guilt, which had previously subjected them to the curse, are qualified for a covenant-right to the promises of God. That this is the true import of justification, as generally used by St. Paul, will appear from the many equivalent expressions; such as “reconciliation and peace with God: remission of sins that are past : covering, blotting out, and not imputing sin; and the imputing of righteousness :' (Rom. v. 9. 2 Cor. v. 19. Col. i. 20. Acts iii. 19. and xiii. 38. Rom. iv. 6, 8.) all which passages, but particularly the two last, declare the freedom of that mercy, which deals with sinners, as if they never had been sinners; and make the act entirely God's, who condescends to accept of that for righteousness, which no equity or desert on the part of men could oblige him to accept. Hence we so often find the grace, the goodness, the loving kindness of God, magnified on this occasion : the Apostle St. Paul everywhere insisting, that God justifieth the ungodly ;' and that to him who worketh not (i. e. who hath done nothing at all to deserve it) God reckons his faith for righteousness.'
From hence it seeins sufficiently clear, that St. Paul, by justification, means that absolution which was accorded to Abraham at the time of receiving the promise : the patriarch was then rescued from the punishment due to that idolatry, in which he had lived, previously to any revelation on the part of the true God. And therefore with regard to those, of whom St. Paul speaks as being justified after Abraham's example, the Apostle means such a remission of past sins, as puts men into a capacity of entering into covenant with God; and such as is actually conferred at the time of covenanting with him. To this purpose, St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans [v. 9.] mentions their being 'now' or already • justified :' and in addressing the Corinthians [1 Ep. vi. 11.) he expressly declares the time, when these spiritual advantages commence: and such, (i.e. notorious sinners, unqualified for the kingdom of God) and such were some of you : but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified;' thereby very plainly intimating, that this change of condition was effected at their baptism.
II. We proceed to consider, in the second place, the nature of that faith, which St. Paul represents, as the means of obtaining the privilege of justification.
In this enquiry also, we shall be best guided by the instance of Abraham. St. Paul affirms that the patriarch "believed God,' and that was reckoned to him for righteousness :' this affirmation appears, from the preceding argument, to be a phrase equivalent with saying, that Abraham was justified by his faith. Now faith in God, in the most obvious and natural sense, is an assent of the mind to the certainty of God's existence, and to the truth of his revelations. In the former respect, it is used by St. Paul, when he says [Heb. xi. 6.] 'he that cometh to God, must believe that he is;' in the latter, when, in the Epistle of the present Sabbath, Abraham is said to believe the promise of God.' But when we further observe, that God, at the very time of making that promise, commanded Abraham to forsake his country and idolatrous relations, and how ready an obedience was evinced by him; this proves the nature of justifying faith to be such a firm and lively assent to the certainty of that promise, as disposed Abraham, in consideration of it, unreservedly to comply with that diviñe command, by which the promise was accompanied.
Thus, by parity of reasoning, faith in Jesus is believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Saviour of the world, and such a sincere and deep persuasion of this truth, as, in view of the benefits derivable from faith in him, is determined to enter into covenant with God, and to accept the conditions, on which those benefits are proposed. This was the faith of those, who were converted by St. Peter's sermon, on the day of Pentecost; this, the faith of Cornelius and his company : this, the faith of St. Paul's jailer and family : this, generally speaking, is the faith, to which justification, in the sense already enlarged upon, is attributed as its conditional cause : this we find opposed to and distinguished from works and the law, in regard of its being attended by those beneficial effects, which the works, done under the law, were incapable of producing. Such is, manifestly, St. Paul's meaning, in those words to the men of Antioch : (Acts xiii. 38.] • Be it known unto you, therefore, that through this man is preached unto you forgiveness of sins : and by him, all that believe, are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.'
III. This assertion of St. Paul brings us to the third particular, which is intended to prove the law insufficient to confer justification ; a benefit which is here ascribed to faith.
The law nowhere covenants for the forgiveness of sins, or for absolving the conscience from guilt. The moral law, delivered on mount Sinai, is nothing more than the enjoining of precepts, which, under the dread of a curse, must be punctually observed: but it does not contain the least intimation of gracious allowance to those, who transgress their duty either wilfully or by infirmity. And yet the condition of the persons under it was so far from being capable of an unsinning and perfect obedience, that the holy men, of those times, frequently express their sense of its moral difficulty. “Ye cannot serve the Lord,' saith Joshua ; [xxiv. 19.] ‘for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God : he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.' Thus David also : [xiv. 3. and cxxx. 3.] “There is none good, no not one ; they are all gone out of the
way : they are all become unprofitable. If God should be extreme to mark what is done amiss, who can abide it?' i. e. no man can abide it. There are many
which prove St. Paul to be in unison with Moses and the prophets, when he declared, that all the world had become guilty before God :' and that, by the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified in his sight.'
The ceremonial law did, indeed, consist of many sacrifices and purifications : but as to abolishing guilt or pacifying the wrath of God, St. Paul hath proved them to be altogether unprofitable. He shows it from the nature of the services themselves, which are merely external. Hence he terms them carnal ordinances,' [Heb. ix.] such as serve only to the purifying of the flesh ;' and argues, that for purging the conscience from dead works, a much more powerful cleansing was necessary, even an offering through the Spirit.' He shows it from the frequent repetition of them: they would have ceased to be offered," if they had made the comers thereunto so purged and perfect, as to leave behind no consciousness of sin.He proves it from the promise of a priesthood, different from that of Aaron ; which was consequently to be changed, on account of its weakness and unprofitableness. Lastly, he proves it, from the promise of another covenant, [Heb. viii. ; x. 16.] expressly said to differ from that in Horeb, by this especial privilege,-that God would be merciful to their unrighteousness,' and would remember their sins and iniquities no more.'
The Mosaic law did, it is true, abound with intimations of this nature; inasmuch as every sacrifice of propitiation figured the death of that Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world : its temporal promises of a land, flowing with milk and honey, alluded to the heavenly Canaan: and its ordinances, which then kept truly good men in communion with God and his people upon earth, made them mystical members of Christ, and joined them to the assembly of the saints in heaven. But still we must continually make a difference between their having these privileges under the law, and having them by the law: for they belonged to the law no otherwise, than as the law included and prefigured the gospel. This is that better covenant,' [Heb. vii. 19. and viïi. 6.] which brought in a better hope,' and was established upon better promises.' This was not only concurrent with the law, but even antecedent to it. A Redeemer was promised, even at the fall of our first parents. And whenever God promises a Redeemer, then does he also promise remission of sins ; nor was there ever any other name whereby men could be saved, but only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Acts iv. 12.7 He was the end and sum of the law; the substance of every promise: the life of every ordinance: and all, without him, was but a dead letter. It is therefore to the law, taken apart from and exclusive of Christ, that the many terms of reproach and diminution in the New Testament, are to be applied ; and it is to the same law, implying, representing, exhibiting, and leading to Christ, and to the law purely as such, that any of the commendations, given to it, are due. But yet this, even in its highest and best capacity, comes infinitely short of the Christian dispensation : for now, the shadows are dispelled; the veil laid aside ; the true sacrifice of sin is offered ; and death is abolished by Jesus Christ, who hath brought life and immortality to light, by the Gospel.
From the preceding doctrine, we may deduce two important inferences
1. By the account, here given of justification, we may reconcile this scripture with the doctrine of St. James, [ii. 14.] who denies that a man is justified by faith without works. The apparent contradiction arises from our not observing, that the word faith is used, by the two Apostles, in a different sense. The justification, ascribed by St. Paul to faith without works, is absolution from sins, committed before entrance into covenant with God. This peace and favour cannot be owing to good works; because men, until they are assisted by the grace of Christ, can perform no works, on which the approbation of God can be conferred. But the word · faith' may also signify the full and final justification of Christians, in their last great account in the day of judgement. Thus our Saviour says, [Matt. xii. 37.] In the day of judgement, by thy words thou shalt be justified : and by thy words, thou shalt be condemned.' In this sense, St. James uses the word faith,'in his second chapter ; as is abundantly manifest from his making this expression equivalent to that of final justification : what doth it profit, if a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?' And again : ‘Ye see, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.'-That this is the meaning of St. James, appears from the very nature of the works, which he mentions : they are the fruits and evidences of a man's faith, and must therefore be subsequent to it. Now these may assist towards our full and final justification; although they can have no relation to our admission into a state of covenant, when, as yet, we had not become God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to good works.' [Eph. ii. 10.] This is further manifest by the different use, which the two apostles respectively make of the example of Abraham. In St. Paul's sense, the patriarch (Rom. iv.] was justified, at the time of believing the promise, and before he could be recommended by his works : but in St. James's sense, he was justi