« PreviousContinue »
obedience the sole ground of justification. The gospel is of the nature of a divine testimony, in which we are bound heartily to confide : 6 And whoever receives this testimony, sets to his seal, that God is true." Like Abraham, he believes on him that justifies the ungodly; not the impenitent, not the disobedient, not the enemies of Christ, not the unbelieving; but the penitent, the converted, the broken hearted sinner; or, in plain terms, the true believer in Jesus Christ. This man is the only proper subject of forgiveness and salvation. This is the man, whose faith works by love, and whose hope is only in the Lord.
“ Shew me thy faith, without thy works, and I will shew thee
my faith by my works."
HAVING attended, in the last essay, to the doctrine of the Christian faith, we may now proceed to an investigation of the doctrine of justification by faith. Justification, in its primary sense, and as a legal term, signifies acquittance from the charge of criminality, or a declaration of innocence. This is implied in the instruction given by Moses to the judges of Israel. “ If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. This is the strict meaning of justification by the law. Had man never apostatized, this would have been the ground of his justification in the sight of God. On this ground, the elect angels, who are swist to do the will of God, are justified. This is a legal justification, of which fallen and condemned man can have neither claim nor hope. But in the evangelical sense, the word has a meaning widely different. In this sense, it is called the justifica
the Jese sing
tion of the ungodly.“ Abraham believed God, and it
Thus it appears, that by the ungodly is meant, not the
Many and various have been the definitions of gospel justification. The assembly of divines say, that“ justifica-tion is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone." By faith, Jesus Christ is received; and by faith, all his doctrines and testimonies are embraced." But the very act of justification is an acquittance from just condemnation, and from deserved punishment; and a restoration to the everlasting love and favor of God, only through faith in Jesus Christ. * Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law." He receives the forgiveness of his sins, and an inheritance among all them that are sanctified. He becomes an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. 65 Being justified by his grace, we are made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life.” But this special act of divine grace
is limited to believers only.
66 Be it known unto you, therefore, Men and brethren, that through this man, Jesus Christ, is preached unto you the 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."
In the third chapter to the Romans, the Apostle having exhibited, in glowing colors, the total sinfulness, and utter condemnation of all mankind, proceeds to the most clear, and illustrious statement of the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ. 6. Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight. For by the law is the knowledge of sin–For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth for 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 him who believeth in Jesus.” To procure the pardon and final salvation of sinners, in a way that will do honor to the inflexible justice of God, is the great thing necessary to gospel justification. And this way of pardon and salvation is clearly stated in the passage of scripture before us. It is through faith in the blood of Christ, to declare and vindicate the justice of God, that remission of sins, is preached in his name.
It appears, on the whole, that the doctrine of justification implies several things. It is a special act of divine grace. Nothing at all is done by sinnners, to merit the forgiveness of their sins, and the everlasting favor of God. They are not only unprofitable servants, but infinitely injurious and ill deserving. Their justification, therefore, is an act of infinite grace to the most vile, the most unworthy, and hell deserving.
Justification is also through the blood and death of Jesus Christ. “Being justified by his blood, we are saved from wrath through him.” 66 Without shedding of blood, there is no remission.” 66 The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." 66 Christ died for the ungodly; died the just for the unjust; died for our sins, according to the scriptures.” “ Christ our passover was sacrificed for us,” « He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." Had he not risen
US. the his rof don unor
from the dead, how could he vindicate his cause ? If
Another prominent idea in the doctrine of justification
Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 66 Therefore is it of faith, that it might be by grace.” “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.'
66 The just,” or those who are justified by Christ,“ shall live by faith.” By faith, the humble and contrite soul, enters heartily into the same views of God's law and government, which Christ manifested, when he laid down his life for us. The Christain faith, by which sinners are justified, has for its leading object, the Saviour, who, by his humiliation and death, expressed the strongest possible attachment to the divine law; as well as the greatest possible love and compassion to sinners. So that he was both a merciful and faithful high priest. By him, mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. True faith embraces the law, as well as the gospel. It embra. ces and approves of the sentence of condemnation, and accepts the punishment of all the transgressions of the law.
Thus, by faith, the soul is united to Christ; and by means of this union, God can be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. If, by faith in Christ, the law of God is vindicated and honored, then certainly, faith is the proper condition of justification.
It may be added, that justification by faith implies great humility and abasement of heart. The true believe er must realize his infinite unworthiness, criminality, and guilt; before he will look to the cross of Christ for mercy and forgiveness. He must realize his dependence on the riches of divine grace; and never feel disposed, in the highest exercises of faith, to make any other plea than that of the Publican, God be merciful to me, a sinner.” In this state of mind, disposed to honor, equally, all the attributes of God, his sins are forgiven ; and,
like the humble publican, he is justified by Christ. He is adopted into the family of God, and commences a brotherhood with the Saviour, whose image he bears. By faith, he becomes an heir of heaven. But in this life, he must be deeply humbled before God. Like his Lord and master, he must humble himself to be exalted ; and suf. fer with him, to reign with him. He must deny himself, take up his cross and follow hiin.
Such is the humiliating doctrine of justification by faith. In the scriptures, it is stated as a contrast to justification by the works of the law. “ Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but hy the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law;" for “ By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” 6. Thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear."
1. Faith being a holy exercise of heart, peculiarly acceptable to God, and being the condition of pardon and justification, some may still enquire, after all that has been said on the subject, “ What is the difference between justification by faith, and justification by works ??? To cast further light on this subject, we answer; Justification by works wholly excludes the Mediator from any part of the great work of salvation. And of course, it is taking the ground of infidelity; and rejecting the whole gospel. But justification by faith, is through an infinite Mediator, and an infinite atonement, by his most precious blood. This plan secures the honor of the divine law; but the plan of salvation by works, makes no provision for the honor of a broken law, nor for the pardon of the guilty: "By the law is the knowledge of sin;" but not of the forgiveness of sin : for the law knows nothing of divine mercy. Obey perfectly, and live; disobey in one point, and die. This is the tenor of the law. For “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all