HAVING engaged your attention to the primary graces of the Spirit, I would now have you take a view of what may be called covenant blessings. And the first of these to which I would direct your attention is justification. No subject of more importance to us can employ our thoughts. We shall all be brought, in a coming day, before the tribunal of the Judge of all the earth. There we shall hear the doom of eternal condemnation, or the sentence of our filial justification. Then we shall receive the award of eternal life, or be consigned to a state of eternal death. He that is unholy and unjust will be unholy and unjust forever, and he that is righteous and holy will remain so forever. How immensely important, then, that we see to it, even now, that we are prepared to stand before the Judge, not only without dismay, but with exceeding joy. And there is a wayhowever guilty we may be, there is a waywhereby we may be made to appear faultless before the throne of judgment. And it is my heart’s desire, and shall be my earnest endeavor, to set this way before you in the clearest light that I possibly can, so that you may be able to say with the old patriarch, “Behold now I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.” In speaking on this doctrine it is not possible to exceed the solemnity of the subject, or to clothe it in language beyond what its importance demands; but in my judgment simplicity of expression is preferable to artificial embellishment. Those over-strained efforts at eloquence and poetic sentimentalism which so much characterize the literature of the present age, on so solemn a subject as this would be rather injurious than beneficial to the student. And the subject stands in no need of them.
Justification is a different thing from election, and from adoption, and from sanctification. It is also different from regeneration and repentance; and has no necessary connection with any of the graces of the Spirit, except that one by which we appropriate the blessing of justification to ourselves personally. Hence the propriety of considering this doctrine separately and independently of all the other doctrines of the gospel, and all the graces of the Spirit, except, as before said, the one grace of faith, by which we lay hold, as it were, of that which is the matter or ground upon which our justification is based. But in this view it is necessary that I make a remark on the subject of pardon. Some understand pardon and justification to be the same thing. I think there is, in some respects, a distinction, and I could easily show wherein they may be distinguished. But I do not wish to embarrass the reader; and as I doubt whether in making these distinctions, I should render any particular service to a majority of those for whose edification I am laboring, I will just say, that he that is justified is also pardoned. These blessings are never disjoined. Justification proceeds from God the Judge; pardon comes from God the Sovereign. And he that believes in Jesus Christ, has both pardon and justification, and receives, both in the waythat is, by faith.
Justification is a well known and definite term in the administration of judicial law; and-is applied to a person who is arraigned before the court for having committed a crime, and on trial it is found that he is not guilty, whereupon the judge acquits himthat is, he justifies him. Thus the term stands opposed to condemnation: “Thou shalt justify the righteous and condemn the wicked.” This simple idea, so plain in itself, and so easily apprehended, is sufficient to give us a clear conception of what justification means. The accused person is either condemned or justified. In common discourse we more frequently use the word acquitted; but whether we say acquitted, or justified, or discharged, we mean the same thing. Without employing figures for illustration, we will just say that whatever will satisfy the demand of the law, will justify the accused party. But that demand must be satisfied. And this fundamental idea should be kept constantly in view in all our discussions and investigations of the subject of justification.
Whatever the nature of the law may bewhether it be Divine or human, whether moral or positive whether it requires little or muchthat which will fully satisfy its demands will justify him who is under the particular law by which he is to be judged, and nothing else will do it; so that there is but one plea that will justify under any law, and that one plea will justify under every variety of law, and will apply to every variety of accusation.
Now, happily, we have a word in our language that will express that plea. That word is RIGHTEOUSNESS. This word, when used in reference to judicial law, comprehends all that that law can require, and will meet the law successfully in every point.
The word righteous, in common discourse, is often used in a general and indefinite sense, in which it has a comparative meaning, and is used in this comparative sense in many places in the Scriptures. But when used in a judicial sense, it is a word of absolute and determinate meaning, and admits of no modification; and it is in its strict judicial signification that we use it in its application to justification.
Viewing, the subject in this light, we see just what a man must have that he may be justified by any law before which he may be arraigned; he must have a righteousness, such a righteousness as that particular law requires; and that which will constitute such a righteousness is a perfect obedience to all the requirements of the law. Nothing short of a perfect obedience will answer the purpose. For if in any thing he failsif his obedience is not absolutely perfectit can not support the plea of righteousness, which is the only plea that will justify him before the law. Thus, when we shall stand before God in judgment, if we have not a positive righteousness consisting of a perfect obedience to His holy law, our condemnation is certainis inevitable.
I am not skillful in constructing figures for illustration, but as I am very desirous that you should understand this important subject as clearly as possible, I will submit to your consideration a few examples, presenting the subject in different points of view. But I request you to keep in mind the particular point now immediately under discussionthat is, a righteousness that will satisfy law, and consequently will justify him who has the righteousness; or, in other words the question may be stated thus: What kind of obedience will constitute a justifying righteousness? for we can have no salvation without it.
The first example I will offer is the obedience of Moses on a special occasion. The Lord showed him the pattern of a tabernacle which He would have built, and said to him, “See that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.” This commandment was God’s law to Moses (in that particular case). And Moses made all things according to the pattern. This was his obedience a perfect obedienceand therefore a perfect righteousness under that lawa justifying righteousness. If Moses had disobeyed any number of other commands, and had incurred the penalties of disobedience annexed to them, yet he was righteous and justified so far as that one law extended.
I will take a second example from the case of King Saul, when God, by his prophet Samuel, commanded him to go and utterly destroy the Amelekites, with their flocks and herds, and every thing they possessed. This command was the law under which Saul was to act, and which he was under obligation to obey. Nothing was left to his discretion. Saul went with his army and made the whole country a scene of desolation. But he spared Agag the king, and reserved the best of the flocks and herds (as he said) for sacrifices to the Lord, and returned victorious to Gilgal. When called to account by the prophet, he said, ” I have performed the commandment of the Lord. ” Here we have Saul’s pleahe pleads obedience. But his obedience was not perfect; it fell short of the whole requirement, and therefore was not righteousness. So far as his compliance with the law extended, it might be well enough, but he did not execute the whole commandment, and it was not a perfect obedience. We may properly speak of an imperfect obedience, but in strictness of’ language it is not proper to speak of an imperfect righteousness, in a judicial sense, for it is a self-contradiction, and therefore an impossibility. Saul’s obedience coming short of perfection, did not amount to a righteousness, and consequently would not justify him. It would seem, indeed, that if any excuse could be admitted, Saul’s was as good as any excuse could be, for his object was to serve the Lord, which was in itself a religious duty. But no excuse is admissible; there must be a punctual fulfillment of the whole law, or the plea of righteousness can not be supported. Saul failed to perform a perfect obedience, and the Judge of Israel pronounced sentence against himhe lost the kingdom. And how many thousands there are in these days that hope to obtain the kingdom of heaven, while they know that they have not performed a perfect obedience to the Divine law, and therefore have not an acceptable righteousness! Their sincere desires their honest endeavors, and their good intentions may all be well enough, so far as they go, but they come far short of a perfect righteousness; and for want of this, in the judgment-day they will be doomed to eternal banishment.
Being solicitous that you should form as clear and correct a view of this important subject as possible, I must call your attention to it in another point of view, which I will attempt to exemplify by the law of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. King Jeroboam commanded his subjects, the ten tribes of Israel, to worship the calves which he had set up in Bethel and Dan, and they obeyed his order; “they willingly walked after the commandment.” They (the people generally) rendered a perfect obedience to this law of Jeroboam and their perfect obedience was a righteousness sufficient to justify them before that law. But they were under God’s law also. and their obedience to their king was a most flagrant act of disobedience to the Divine law their obligation to the Divine law was paramount, and they should have disregarded the law of the king; and like the three Hebrew children answered the king of Babylon, they should have said to Jeroboam, “Be it known unto thee, O king! we will not.” Before the tribunal of Jeroboam they had a righteousness which would justify them, but this very righteousness would condemn them at the bar of God. So will it be with every one of the many thousands who are very punctual to observe the prescriptions of their church; or the teachings of the ministers when they are not in accordance with the word of God. You have the word of God, which shows you His will, and the way by which you may obtain justification in His sight, and if you choose to follow the teaching of the Church, or any other prescriptive authority, it is at your peril, and “be sure your sin will find you out.” But this example may be applied also in another point of view, still illustrating the same fundamental principle. There is reason to fear that many flatter themselves with the idea that if they are honest and just in all their dealings with others if they injure no one in person, or property, or reputation; if they abide by the truth, and are peaceable and generous; if they do their duty to their family and relatives; if they fulfill all political and social obligations; and especially if, in addition to all this, they abstain from the grosser viceswith all this in their behalf; they will surely escape condemnation. But let such a one consider that if he should come up to the full measure of doing in all things to others as he would they should do to him, and of loving his neighbor as himself, he would still be under obligation to love God with all his heart; and except he has a righteousness that will satisfy both of these demands, he can not stand approved before God in judgment.
In order to exemplify an important principle in respect to justification, I will engage your attention for a few moments to the first introduction of sin into our moral world. It is not my intention to enter into the subject of our relations to Adam, but merely to use the facts as they are recorded, for the purpose of illustration. When Adam was created and became a living soul, the Creator pronounced him good, which He would not have done if Adam had not been perfectly holy according to his created nature. This could not have been said of him in truth if he had been in any respect or in any degree unholy.
That Adam was a subject of the moral law, I have no doubt; but he was in no danger of violating that law, for the spirit of the moral law was in his hearthe delighted in itit was his glory and his joy. It was the law of his nature, as well as a law to his will. He loved it so well that he could have no disposition to transgress, and therefore was morally incapable of violating it; and he would have continued to be out of danger of disobeying this law, if he had obeyed another lawa positive lawwhich imposed an obligation upon him. I have adverted to Adam’s relation to the moral law, not for the purpose of making any use of it in this place, but that you may keep it entirely out of mind in our present illustration.
That special law to which I now direct your notice was that which prohibited the use of the fruit of a certain tree. The law was this: “Thou shalt not eat of it.” Nothing can be more simple, plain, and definite than this law. Every child understands it. So long as Adam forbore to eat, he rendered a perfect obedience to this law, and of course had a perfect righteousness in his relation to it that would justify him, and save him from the penalty. It was the only law that could bring its authority to bear upon his will; and so far as it respected his physical ability, it was easier for Adam to obey than to disobey. Thus he stood justified in his own perfect righteousness. But Adam transgressedhe disobeyedand by that one act of disobedience he lost his righteousness, and lost it forever. For you know that that which is past can not be recalled. The deed once done, can not be undone. Hence it was an impossibility for him to recover his lost righteousness. It is not necessary in this place to notice any connection that the loss of this righteousness has with the moral law, but I will only say that, having lost this righteousness, he lost with it the favor of God. If, then, he should ever recover the Divine favor, it must be through some other medium; he must have righteousness in some other way, for it is impossible for him to recover his former innocence. And the particular point that we should notice is, that a righteousness under any law, when once lost, is lost forever. This principle applies to all law.
The preceding examples illustrate the following fundamental principles:
1.A perfect obedience constitutes a perfect righteousness under any law, and will therefore justify.
2.A partial or imperfect obedience, however nearly it may approach perfection, can not amount to righteousness and therefore will not justify.
3.A perfect obedience to one law is not righteousness under any other law that may hold authority over us; or a righteousness before one law, will not justify under another law.
4.A righteousness under any law, when once lost, can never be regained by obedience to that law.
Although I have detained you so long on these examples, I must beg your indulgence and claim your attention to one more, because it brings into view an important principle which obtains in the matter and manner of our justification.
Ahasuerus, king of Persia, ordained a law that whosoever, man or woman, should come into his presence in the inner court unbidden, should be put to death. Esther, the queen, on a very urgent occasion, resolved to enter the chamber without being called. Accordingly she made the perilous adventure, and the moment she passed the door she was under condemnation. She had disobeyed the king’s law, and might, according to law, have been sent to immediate execution. She had no righteousness that could satisfy the king’s law; she was guilty and not righteous. She might, indeed, have pled the urgency and great importance of her object, but that could not justify under that law, for the law had made no provision for such cases. If, when she had entered, she had immediately returned before she had advanced three paces, it would have been of no avail; the righteousness which she had before the deed was done, and would have justified her under that particular law of the king, was gone and lost forever. But the king had also ordained a constitution by which the execution of that law might be dispensed with. If he held out his golden scepter to one who had transgressed, the penalty was instantly removed. This scepter was extended to Esther, and she approached and touched the gracious symbol. That moment her life was safe; she was beyond danger. She had a righteousness now, under a different constitution, that delivered her from the law that stood against her. She had not that righteousness which consisted in obedience to the king’s prohibition; but we find here the superinduction of a righteousness by the king’s grace, which answered all the demands of the king’s law, and by it Queen Esther was justified before the king’s throne. Now let us suppose that Haman, the queen’s bitter enemy, had brought an accusation against her, alleging that she had transgressed the king’s commandment, and had incurred the penalty of death; what defense could she have made? The charge would have been true, and she could not deny it. But she might say, I did disobey the king’s law, and forfeit my life; but I touched the golden scepterthis is my plea. I do not look to my obedience for justification, but I look to the king’s most gracious scepter; and I bid defiance to Haman, and to all the realms of the king. Thus we see, that though a man may not have a righteousness that will justify him before a particular law, and that it may be impossible for him to obtain such a justifying righteousness, yet there may be, by the intervention of a different constitution, a way whereby he may obtain a righteousness that will remove the penalty he has incurred, and avail for his justification.
Keeping in view the principles of law exemplified in the foregoing remarks, we will endeavor to bring them to bear on our relation to God as subjects of His law. And it is hardly necessary to remind you that the law by which we must he judged, and by which we will either be condemned or justified, is that which we usually denominate the moral law. The substance of this law we find set forth in the ten commandments. Great pains have been taken by many to teach children at an early age to repeat these precepts by memory, while at the same time little or no care has been taken to make them understand their extensive import, or the sacredness of the obligation thus imposed upon them, or the fearful consequence which disobedience will entail upon the transgressor. Hence there are multitudes who give themselves very little concern about these things, and scarcely feel their accountability. They seldom reflect that this holy law holds its authority over every action, every word, and every thought of their whole life. This is truly a solemn reflection; but the solemnity of the subject should not repress our inquiries, but impel us to so much the greater earnestness and diligence, in proportion to the magnitude of the interests involved in it. Let us beware that we do not shun the light, and, from dread of the consequences, hide the truth from our eyes. It is much better that we should know the worst that can and must come, lest a vain and unwarranted hope of security should induce us to neglect the only remedy that will answer our desperate necessity.
The ten commands before referred to may be reduced to two: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” This epitome of the Divine law is warranted by our Savior himself, and it shows the spiritual nature and the great extent of the obligation; all which we must bring into the account, if we would know our true character and condition, as we stand related to its requirements and its sanctions. But, as I have said in a preceding part of this work, the whole requirement of the law is comprehended in one short sentence: “Be ye holy, for I the Lord thy God am holy.” What, now, does your conscience say to this comprehensive obligation? Are you ready for the judgment? You must be prepared to meet this demand. Nothing less than positive, perfect holiness will be accepted. Measure your obedience by this rule, and say whether you have a righteousness every way equal to this perfect and comprehensive requisition; if you have not, there is no alternative. There is nothing before you but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. The law is absolute, and will notnay, can not show mercy. The law can and will curse, but it can not bless; it must give death to the transgressor, but it can not give life. The law being just, it is its proper office to dispense justice to all; but it can not be a medium of mercy to the sinnerit will “by no means acquit the guilty.”
Let us cast a broad look upon this law for a few moments. It is well worth the while, and you may never repent the time thus employed. This law is perfect in holiness, and is the fundamental principle from which all holiness in created beings is derived. As I have said before, it is the manifestation or expression of the glory of the Divine nature. By this law the Creator shows to us the holiness of His character, that we may know how to conform our character to His. Just so far as we have the likeness of God in the holiness of His character, we also resemble Him in all His moral perfections. The law is also a declaration of His holy will in relation to us; and, indeed, to all His creatures that are capable of understanding His will. Hence the obligation to be holy rests upon every intelligent being in creation. Satan, with all his apostate crew, though they are so depraved that they never will be holy, and will never desire to be so, are, notwithstanding, bound in duty under this law to be perfectly holy. And this obligation arises from the fact that they are intelligent creatures, and possess a moral nature. And the angels in heaven, which were created holy, and have preserved their holy character till now, and probably will maintain their holiness forever, are, for the same reason, under obligation to be perfectly conformed to the requirements of this holy law. And they are no more bound nor any less bound by it than the devils are. No change of condition or of moral character can in the least degree affect this obligation. Adam, who was created an intelligent being, and endowed with a moral nature, and who was perfectly holy in his created nature, was under obligation, by this law, to maintain intact his holy character in the sight of God. When he sinned he lost his holiness, and a change took place, both in his moral nature and in his relation to God; but there was no change in his obligation to be holy and to perfectly fulfill the holy requirement of this law. Furthermore, we ourselves are unholy in our nature, as all men must know, yet God says to us, “Be ye holy;” and if we fail, we shall learn in due time whether He speaks in vain. And if by the almighty grace of the Divine Spirit a holy nature should be given to us, and we should eventually be perfectly sanctified, both in soul and body, and so stand in absolute unblemished holiness in His presence, we shall not then be released from the authority of this law, nor will the obligation be in the smallest degree relaxed or abated. Any change diminishing the obligation of this law would require a corresponding change in the character of the law itself; any change in the character of the law would necessarily involve a corresponding change in the character of the lawgiver.
A doctrine has been advanced, that the moral law, being too severe, and requiring more of man than he is able to perform, has been repealed, and a milder law has been substituted in its place, prescribing duties which are not beyond the moral abilities of man to comply with. It is not alleged that the penalty of this new law is less severe, but some affirm that it is even more severe than the penalty of the moral law. Now, whatever may be the duties prescribed by- any law, the obligation to obedience must be imperative, otherwise it is no law. The extent of the obligation must he equal to the extent of the duties required; therefore, there can not be any mitigation of the obligation whether the law requires little or much. It is not claimed that the obligation to obedience is less sacred and imperative, but it is held that the duties imposed by this new law are not so severe, so rigid, so extreme as our duty to the moral law; so that the duties enjoined are brought within the compass of man’s moral ability, in his present state of moral imperfection.
Now the moral law requires perfect holiness; and if this new and milder law does not require perfect holiness, it follows inevitably that it, in its own nature, is not perfectly holy. And if we assume that God has given a law that is not perfectly holy, how is it possible to vindicate the perfect holiness of the Divine character? His law must be an expression of His will in respect to us as His subjects. And must we believe that because we are unholy, a holy God has given us a law to accommodate our unholiness, and thus tolerate, or rather sanction, our alienation from His holy character? If this does not necessarily imply unholiness in the will of God, I would like that some one would show the reason. And it is indisputable that if the will of God is not holy, He is not holy Himself. A sincere and habitual desire after holiness, is the distinguishing characteristic of the renewed heart. The sincere and enlightened Christian desires to be perfectly holy, and cherishes the pleasing hope that a time will come when this desire shall be consummated; but if this desire shall be realized, he will be more holy than any law of God requires him to be, and the desire goes beyond the will of God.
It would seem unnecessary to say any thing more to expose the inconsistency and absurdity of this scheme of law; but as such an arrangement would be quite congenial to that spirit of self-righteousness which is in every natural heart, and which, indeed, it is so difficult to eradicate even from the renewed heart, I will offer a few additional thoughts on the subject. If the moral law is perfectly just and good, why should it be abrogated? If it is not perfectly just and good, why was it ever ordained? It is not out of place to inquire also, When was this new law given? We can not find it on record. And what is the specific requirement of this new law? If because of the present moral imperfection of human nature it does not require perfect holiness, but will be satisfied with something less, it would appear to follow that it requires just so much holiness as our innate love of sin will permit us to render or enable us to acquire, and it tolerates the love of sin. Furthermore, how are we to be justified under this law? If we are to be justified by our obedience to this new law, then, without controversy, we are, to all intents and purposes, justified by the works of the law. But in the meantime faith is made void, so far as justification is concerned. I might enlarge to a much greater extent on this subject, and expose its falsity by other arguments, but I deem it unnecessary, for in every point of light in which we can view the scheme it is full of inconsistency and absurdity. It has no foundation in Scripture, and it reflects most injuriously on the holiness and justice of the Divine character.
When the Scripture says we are not under the law, but under grace, we are not to understand that the law has no authority over us, and that we are under no obligation to obey its precepts. There are two senses in which we are not under the law, and both of them are of very great importance: 1. The believer is not under the penalty of the lawhe is not exposed to its cursehe is no longer under its condemnation: “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” 2. He is not under the law as a covenant of life. His acceptance with God does not depend on his obedience to the law. It is his rule of duty, but not a condition of life. His justification does not depend on his obedience to the law. These two principles should never be lost sight of, if we would understand the doctrine of justification. We shall have frequent occasion to advert to these principles as we proceed.
But at present I must remind you that the obligation to a perfect obedience is perpetual; it can never cease, nor can its authority be suspended for a moment. The Author of the law is ever the same unchangeable God; and if the law were to change, it would no longer be a true representation of the Divine character, and therefore could not answer the purpose for which it was ordained.
This law requires that every thing we do should be done from a principle of love to God. This is manifest from the fact that the spirit of the law is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and mind, and soul, and strength.” The good Lord has placed us here in this world, in circumstances in which we possess and enjoy many rational satisfactions and lawful gratifications; but these are all to be enjoyed from a principle of love to Godwith gratitude to Him as the Giverin subordination to his will, and with a view to His glory. The various relations in which we stand to the human family, and other things of His making, devolve upon us many relative duties, all of which we are to perform from a principle of love to God, and with a view to His glory. Many of these duties are congenial to our moral naturesuch as loving our parents, our children, our near kindred and friendssympathizing with the afflicted, and relieving the distressed; and it gives us a sincere pleasure to exercise these affections, and to perform these kind offices, and thus doing, what we well can to promote their welfare and happiness all which is rightbut it does not fulfill the law unless there is in it the element of love to God, and a desire to do His will, that His Name may be glorified. In all that we do for ourselves, in all our transactions with others, in all our social intercourse with friends and acquaintances, with strangers and enemies, we are to have an eye fixed steadfastly on the will of God; and a desire to do those things which are pleasing in His sight must have a supreme influence. Moreover, we are not to utter a word with our tongues that He will not approve; for we have to give account of every word that we speak, and all our words will be judged by this law; and if they have not in them the spirit of holiness, the law will condemn them. And not only this, but the law takes knowledge of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and extends its authority over all the exercises of the mind. Every desire and emotion of the heart, and every thought of the imagination must be perfectly holy, and exercised in the love of God. And yet further, all this holy and spiritual obedience must be performed willingly, cheerfully, and we must delight in it. It must be our chief pleasure to do the will of God. To obey reluctantly and unwillingly would be highly offensive in His sight. We must not be pleased with anything that does not please Him, but we must hold in aversion every thing in which He does not delight. And all must be done continually and unceasingly, without a moment’s intermission or relaxation, from the beginning of your life to the end of your days.
I have thus briefly, though very imperfectly, set before you the extensive obligation and stringent claims of that law by which you will be judged, and which you must perfectly obey, or death is the penalty, and everlasting punishment must ensue. Do the terms appear to be severe? Is it a hard service? I know you feel like the condition is too rigorous, and that compliance is utterly impracticable; that it would make your life intolerable and almost insupportable to be thus bound down to such strict observances, and perpetually confined to a perfect conformity with a rule that is beyond all the moral powers of man to satisfy. And perhaps it is so; but it is God’s law, and you are bound to a perfect obedience, or you can never have a righteousness of your own that will screen you from the vengeance of God. Many will openly object to a law that requires so much self-denial, and say that it binds men in the chains of a moral despotism. But I entreat you not to impeach the justice, or even the goodness of the Lawgiver. Perhaps you are not aware of all that your objection implies. There is something involved in your objection that it is probable you have never once thought of, and that you would be almost ashamed to avow, but which you can not avoid without renouncing your objection This objection is just equivalent to saying that you love sin so much better than you love holiness, that you deem it a hardship to be debarred the privilege of being unholy. You can make nothing else of it. Will you avow the principle? To avow it, is to say that you do not believe that God is as holy as He declares Himself to be; or, if He is, He ought not to be. You must not dissemble or prevaricate. If you regard the law as a hard master, you must say explicitly that you would rather serve Satan than serve God. But there is yet much more involved in it which it is probable you have never properly considered. If you were as holy as the law requires, you would be the holiest and happiest being upon this earth. And is it a hard law that insures you happiness through all time and forever? All the means of happiness which this world contains combined, could not make you the hundredth part as happy as a perfect conformity to this law. Thus, when the Lord gives you the means of being inconceivably happy, you loathe it, and call it a severe and intolerable condition. Neither is this all; if you would faithfully and punctually fulfill this law, you would be the most honorable character in all this worldthe glory of kings and conquerors of statesmen and philosophers, would be as nothing compared with the high distinction to which you would be exalted. And your heart is ready to complain of the extreme demands of a law which is a manifestation of the goodness of God to His creatures! But whether you are satisfied with it or dissatisfiedwhether its demands are moderate or excessive, it is the law by which you must be judged; and if you have not rendered a perfect obedience to its whole requirementif you are not as holy as this law is, you are totally destitute of a righteousness that will save you from its burning curses. You can not be justified; you must endure the ministration of its eternal condemnation; for without a righteousness that is as holy as this law, God will never say, “Let the prisoner go free.” I think I may safely challenge you to call to remembrance any one action of your whole life, or any one thought of your mind, in which love to God was the reigning principle, and a sincere desire to please and honor Him was the ruling motive in your view; and if not, your whole life has been one continual course of sinfulness. How, then, can you be justified when you have no righteousness not even a partial righteousness to save you from condemnation? And without one that is perfect and immaculate in the sight of God, your condemnation is certainis inevitable.
But in respect of our justification, it is altogether sufficient for my present purpose if you have been guilty of one sin-only one: that one will as effectually cut you off from all possibility of being justified by obedience to the law as ten thousand. One sin insures your inevitable condemnation. If you have committed one sin, even the least you are a guilty sinner before God, and, therefore, utterly destitute of any righteousness that can avail you in the judgment, and by which you can escape the damnation of hell.
It is well in this place to bear what God himself has testified on this subject. He has decided the case beyond debate: “There is none righteous, no, not one. That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. So that death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Judgment came upon all men to condemnation. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” If these plain and unequivocal declarations from God’s own mouth are not sufficient to show you the attitude in which you stand before His law, it would be useless to appeal to reason. It is too plain to be overlooked, that no man has a righteousness that will justify him in the sight of that law by which we must all be judged.
As, therefore, our case is thus desperate, and it is impossible for us to attain to righteousness by any thing that we can do, it becomes a matter of the first importance to inquire whether there is any other way by which we can obtain such a righteousness as will fully answer our extreme necessity; and the Scriptures give us an answer of peace. Such a righteousness has been provided. Let us consider what the case requires. Two things are indispensably requisite to constitute a justifying righteousness for sinners: the first is a perfect fulfillment of all that the precept requires; the second is a satisfaction for the sins committedfor nothing will satisfy the law except the penalty for transgression is inflicted. Without this, all else that could be done would avail nothing; for the Lord Jesus has said the heavens and the earth should pass away before one jot or tittle of the law should fail, but all must be fulfilled. It follows, then, that the penalty must be inflicted on the transgressor, or on an adequate substitute. This all sufficient and acceptable substitute we have in the person of the Son of God. If He has rendered a perfect obedience to the precepts of the law, and has suffered the whole penalty for our transgressions, what more is needed to constitute a perfect righteousness? If the holy life of Jesus Christ and His obedience unto death will not satisfy the law, the sinner has no remedy. It is a pleasing employment to review those passages in the word of God which bear so distinctly on the subject of a sinner’s justification: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. He was made under the law that He might redeem them that were under the law.” It was not necessary that He should he made (or born) of a woman, in order to His being under obligation to obey the precept; for if he had been made of the original dust of the earth, He would have been under that obligation as far as it was possible for Him to be under obligation at all; but it was necessary that He should be made of a woman, that He might be one with us, and, as such, a proper substitute for us; and it was also necessary that He should be made under the penalty of the law, that the law might not be turned out of its own proper and legitimate course in finding a competent and legitimate substitute and surety, and in that character redeem us from the curse. “In Him was no sin,” but He was holy, harmless, and undefiled. Was not this all that was required as a perfect obedience to the precept? And as death was the penalty, and He died for our sins, was not this all that the penalty of the law required? A perfect obedience to the commandment was all that the holiness of the law required; and the death of Christ was all that the justice of the law claimed. Hence, then, here is a perfect obedience to the law in its whole demand upon the sinner; and as righteousness consists in giving the law all that it demands, what better righteousness can a sinner need? If the commandment says, “Do all this,” and Christ has done all; and if the penalty says to the transgressor, “Thou shalt die,” and Christ has died, the just for the unjust, I would ask What more would you have? The law asks no more, and you should want no more. In Christ dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and He offered Himself without spot unto God as a sacrifice for our sins, and if He is not an adequate substitute for sinners it is vain to hope for one. If I entertained a doubt of it I would instantly drop my pen. For all the perfections and excellencies that pertain to created and uncreated existencies are found in Him in all their infinite fullness; and if His holy life and obedience unto death do not constitute a righteousness that will satisfy the law and justify sinners, it is not possible to satisfy the law, and we are yet in our sins, and must remain forever in a state of condemnation. But let us remember that He against whom we have sinned has said, “The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake.” And again, “This is my beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased.” If the offended God is well pleased, surely we ought to be satisfied. Thank God I am well pleased, too! When I have such a substitute I can not fear insufficiency. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: 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 to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” In considering this wonderful exhibition of gospel truth it will be necessary to anticipate, in some measure, certain points which are yet before us, and belong to a different branch of doctrine; but they are truths, the importance of which can not be overestimated And I ask your particular attention to the first clause in the foregoing quotation. You will recollect that I have shown you the impossibility of acquiring a righteousness by obedience to a law when that law has been once violated; and now being cut off from all possibility of justification by the sentence of the law, we are now inquiring for a righteousness in some other way. The text now under consideration brings this to light in the clearest manner that you can desire or conceive
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested.” The law condemns us, and it can show us no favor; but we need not ask any favor of it. Here is a righteousness manifested which places us independent of the law. There is no need that you should perform one act of obedience to the law in order to obtain a justifying righteousness. And I must remind you, if you make one act of your obedience to the law necessary to your acceptance with God, you assume to fulfill all that the law requires; even though it should be a religious duty of any kind, if you perform it with a view to your acceptance with God, you thereby devolve upon yourself the obligation to fulfill till that the law requireseven to be perfectly holy; for it is a work of law, and brings you under the curse: “For as many as are of the works of the law- are under the curse.” If righteousness come by the law, Christ is dead in vain.” By doing one work that you may obtain righteousness in the sight of God, you virtually subscribe to the covenant of works; and by works you must gain eternal life, or you can never have life. But as God has openly showed you a righteousness which is altogether without your works, you should seek to obtain that righteousness, and renounce all other. Let me state to you a fundamental truth – a truth which I would have you keep in perpetual remembrance: If you want a justifying righteousness, you must renounce all your own righteousness, and depend wholly upon the righteousness of Christ; or you must utterly renounce and reject the righteousness of Christ, and depend alone upon your own. “The righteousness of God.” The text speaks of “the righteousness of God”–then it is not of man. Our obedience has nothing to do in the matter. It is the righteousness of God, because He provided it and He bestows it; and as He provided it for sinners, we know that He will accept it and be satisfied with it; for He would not provide a righteousness for us that would not be pleasing in His own eyes. And it was provided expressly for sinners, who have no righteousness of their own, and it would be of no use to any but sinners; and if you have disobeyed the law of your God, and are therefore a sinner, it is as free for you, and as much within your reach, as it is for any other sinner. Whether you are, in your own view, a great sinner comparatively, or whether, comparatively, a small one, can make no difference, because the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. And this righteousness is “unto all and upon all them that believe;” “being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Here we have brought to our view, in the plainest form, the ground upon which our justification is based. This shows what that righteousness of God is in which we are graciously accepted, and on account of which we are justifiedit is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. He having redeemed us from the curse of the law. the condemnation is removed; and the condemnation being removed, the sinner stands justified through that redemption which removed the curse.
There is scarcely more common error among men than the notion that, because one man is practically a much greater and more wicked sinner than another, he is therefore farther removed from that righteousness which justifies sinners; that because he is comparatively a much greater sinner, his case is proportionally more desperate. But this idea is far from being true. It might and would be true if justification depended, in whole or in part, upon our obedience or our personal goodness; but as we are justified freely by His grace, there can be no difference. It may be admitted that if both remain under the law, the punishment of the one will be greater than that of the other, because they are dealt with on principles of law, which rewards every man according to his work. But justification is wholly of grace, irrespective of the demerits of the sinner. The same perfect righteousness which justifies one, justifies also the other. It is given to both on the same principlethat is, freely by grace; and is received by both in the same wayby faith. “Whom God bath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood. This righteousness which is of God through faith in Jesus Christ, will cover any number of sins, and nothing else will cover one sin. Say not, “If I had not sinned so much, or, if I had not lived in sin so long, I might have hope;” for there is no difference between a sinner of a hundred years old and a sinner of ten years old. As with the greatest, so with the least.
I had intended to notice other texts of the same import with those I have quoted, and to make such remarks on them as the subject would suggest; but why should I add any more? I could easily refer to a great many, but as I have yet to show how this perfect righteousness may be obtained, so as for the sinner to have the benefit of it, I shall necessarily bring some of them into view as I proceed.
If you have attentively considered what has been said on this subject, you must be convinced that Christ, by dying for sinners, has made “reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness;” and now the deeply interesting question presents itself: In what way can I, as a sinner, obtain this righteousness for my own personal justification?
Before I proceed to answer this question, I have an apology which I wish to offer to the reader. In perusing what I have written on this subject, you could not fail to notice the frequent recurrence of the word righteousness. My reason for this constant repetition is this: Righteousness alone is that which will justify any one who is a subject of law. Many, as seems to me, speak on the subject of justification in such a way that the inquirer fails to get a precise and definite idea of that which is the essential thing in justification; and for want of knowing what that is which will satisfy the law, and the only thing that will do it, the mind is kept in confusion and darkness. Having constantly in my view that class of readers for whose benefit I am laboring, I have been resolved from the first to confine myself to such language as they will most readily understand. I could often employ a greater variety of style, but elegance of diction is no part of my object. I am earnestly solicitous to write nothing but what will please God; consequently I am indifferent about literary criticism I shall, therefore, persist in the course which I have adopted.
Christ, by dying for sinners, has brought in an everlasting righteousness, sufficient of itself to justify any sinner; and now the question is, How is the sinner to become invested with this righteousness? This is no hard question to answer. In this I have plain work before me. It is one of the easiest lessons for the teacher to teach, and perhaps one of the hardest for the learner to learn, of any that belong to the gospel ministry. We have plain and positive declarations in the word of God, and these infallible testimonies we shall use in solving the question. We obtain this righteousness simply by believing it. This is all; nothing more is required. In proof of the correctness of this answer, let us refer to the inspired documents:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John v. 21. ) “Shall not come into condemnation.” Is not this justification? What more is required for justification? “Hath everlasting life.” If a man has everlasting life, surely he is justified-he is delivered from death. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Rom. x. 4.) I am not able to command language that will express the doctrine more definitely and explicitly than this text. The law requires righteousness, and Christ by dying in the sinner’s place becomes the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. What else is required here to obtain righteousness but to believe in it? You believe that the righteousness of Christ is sufficient for your justification, and is the only thing that will justify you before God: this gives you a personal interest in it. If this is false doctrine, we must charge the falsehood to the Holy Spirit. I am not the author of the text, and I have no more right to alter any part of it than I have to blot it out of the Bible. If you choose, you may assume the responsibility of impeaching the veracity of the witness, but I will not.
But perhaps you will say there are many who will acknowledge the truth of it who are not in a justified state, and that to teach the doctrine of justification in this way confirms them in a ruinous mistake. To this objection I reply that there is no danger. We have ample security against this delusion in other doctrines, and there is too much in the word of God that will effectually guard us against any such consequences. The danger of error lies in a different place. Though many may acknowledge the doctrine that Christ is end of the law for righteousness, they do not in reality believe it, because they do not understand it. If one was well sounded on the subject, it would be found that he thinks there is something besides the death of Christ, or something additionalsomething that he must do, or some qualification that he must possess in himselfto give efficacy to the righteousness of Christ; or, that there is something else besides mere faith – some prerequisite or spiritual preparation necessary besides simply believing, or, in connection with itto give him a personal interest in this justifying righteousness. Whatever may be said or thought one thing is certain: he that believes in Jesus Christ as the Savior of sinners, is justified, and shall be saved. If you interrogate the true believer, especially if he is a little advanced in Christian knowledge and experience, he will answer at once that he has nothing to depend upon for his acceptance but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and that he has no plea to entitle him to an interest in Christ, but that he believes in Him. But even if it were otherwise, it is not my privilege, and hope it may never be my employment, to put forced constructions upon the word of God, through fear that the belief of the truth might produce evil fruits. The Divine Spirit inspired the apostle’s thoughts and directed his words; and the people to whom he addressed the epistle, the circumstances under which he wrote, the object he had in view in writing, and the special doctrines he designed to inculcateall imperatively required that he should express himself with the most cautious precision. Immediately before he delivered this unambiguous proposition, he had shown that the idolatrous Gentiles had
attained to righteousness by faith; but the Jews, who would have something of their own works, had failed to attain to righteousness, because they sought it not by faith. They could not understand the way of being justified by a righteousness which God had provided, independently of any obedience of their own, and of obtaining an interest in such a righteousness simply by believing in it: hence they were zealous to acquire a righteousness by rendering to the law the best obedience they could; and whatever of insufficiency there might be in that obedience, they expected to supply by doing things over and above what they supposed the law required or by the mere mercy of God exercised in defiance of law. But the righteousness which is of God is “through the redemption of Jesus Christ;” and He promises to justify every sinner that believes in it. He asks nothing of the sinner but to receive it by faith. Please notice the scriptures which immediately follow the text we are considering: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” “Whosoever believeth in Him shall not be ashamed.” Why should the apostle take so much pains to support the doctrine of the text by other expressions of similar import, if he did not mean just what he said, and no more? Unless we have the hardihood to take liberties with God’s word, which we would be ashamed to take with men’s language, we can make nothing else of it but that a sinner is justified by believing in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But the scriptures I have quoted are not all, by many, which affirm the same doctrine: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” To every one that believeth here the apostle stops and adds no more. Will you make additions to it ? But what is this gospel which we are to believe? Let-the apostle answer: “Christ died for our sins and rose again the third day.” (l Cor. xv. 3, 4. ) Will you cavil at these statements? Oh, no! you are too modest to object to God’s word. It is well; and with all my heart I wish you would be too modest to object to God’s method of justifying sinners. “That I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ; the righteousness which is of God by faith.” If you are honest and sincere in your inquiries into this subject, this passage ought to be decisive. If you resist its force, you will have hard work to make any sense of the apostle’s statement. Paul had as good a righteousness without faith as any man who ever lived as far as we have any knowledge of his history. Whoever lived a more upright and unimpeachable life, according to law, than Paul? He himself testifies under the influence of the Spirit, that he was blameless; and, after his conversion, when he lived by the faith of the Son of God, his zeal, his labors, his self denial and sufferings for Christ’s sake are without a parallel; and yet be counted all as worthless, that he might win in Christ. “Not having my own righteousness” this excludes all good works, all merit, all personal holiness, as the ground of his justification. “But that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ:” this excludes everything in the way of receiving it, but believing and, to present the idea as specifically as possible, so as to avoid all possibility of misconstruction the apostle adds, “The righteousness which is of God by faith in Jesus Christ.” This is as definite and perspicuous as language can make it. The apostle says to the Galatians, “If there had been a law given which could have given life, then verily righteousness should have been by the law.” This shows that righteousness is not to be obtained by obedience to any law; that righteousness which is unto life is not of us, but of God, and we receive it as a gift by faith, without any condition performed by us.
Perhaps I ought in this place to direct your attention to certain different forms of expression which are used in the Scriptures to signify the same thing. We know that a part is less than the whole, and that the whole must include every part; but it is a common thing in the use of language to put a part for the whole, and this form of speaking is quite frequent in the Scriptures. The reason for this mode of speech is often too obvious to admit of misconception as to the meaning of the writer. Thus it is said that we are saved by faith, and also that we are justified by faith. The word saved, in its general acceptation, comprehends more than the word justified, but it always includes justification, because there is no salvation without it; and though the word justification, in its restricted meaning, does not include the whole of salvation, yet as every one that is justified is also saved, the terms are used indiscriminately to mean the same thing. Whenever salvation is ascribed to faith, it proves justification by faith, for there is no salvation without it. I might cite to you many passages where it is declared that salvation is by faith, but I will notice but one at the present. The jailer at Philippi inquires, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answers, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The jailer inquires in earnest, and the apostle answers by inspiration, and according to truth. If there was something else instead of faith, no matter what it was, that was essential, the answer of Paul was false, and he was a deceiver; and if Paul answered rightly, all those are deceivers who teach differently. And further, if there was any thing in addition to faith that was necessary, then the apostle was unfaithful, and left the jailer ignorant of the way of salvation; he did not truly answer the jailer’s question. Hence it follows that by faith, and by faith alone, we obtain an interest in the salvation of Christ. Besides, our Savior himself repeatedly affirmed the same doctrine in terms as positive and unequivocal as the categorical answer of Paul in this case.
Now let us examine this great question of our personal justification in regard to works. To teach that all works of every kind, and all merit in us, are entirely excluded in the matter and manner of our justification is thought by some equivalent to giving us a license to live in sin. But if any man thinks he believes in Christ, and yet desires to indulge in sin, he knows nothing about believing in Christ; he is ignorant of Christ, and of himself, and of sin, and of every thing in this matter that he has need to know; he knows nothing of the truth in Jesus. Without any fear of an opposer, I hesitate not to say that it is impossible for a man that has a living faith in Christ to love sin; for if he believes in Christ, he has the Spirit of Christ, and can not desire to live in sin. On the subject now before us, as well as in everything else that is revealed in the gospel, we can know nothing except what is found in the inspired writings. Whatever a man may learn of the fundamental principles of the Divine law by reasoning from the Divine attributes as manifested in the works of creation and providence, we can know nothing at all respecting God’s method of justifying sinners, only as He has revealed it by special communication. Whatever, therefore, is testified in the word of God must be taken as true; and on the subject now under consideration the documents are full and explicit, so that we must treat with decided disregard the plainest testimony, or we can not evade the truth. But the natural man is so invincibly attached to the principle of living on terms of law with his offended Creator, that when he finds himself utterly precluded from the possibility of a reconciliation with God by any law which He has given, sooner than submit to a change of relationship he will make laws of his own, and endeavor to obtain a justifying righteousness by a compliance with his own prescriptions. Therefore, without resorting to a course of reasoning from the principles of moral right, which, in respect to the way of salvation, is always inadmissible, let us take the sure word of God, and form our judgment simply upon the evidence of the record: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.” This teaches that Abraham was not justified by works, in as plain language as it can be expressed; for if be had been justified by works he would have had whereof to glory before God. The apostle’s expression is stronger than any didactic statement could be. If a man can be justified by any work whatever, he is justly entitled to that privilege on the clearest principles of moral justice, and may, without arrogance, rejoice in his acquisition; but, then, faith in Christ would be wholly excluded for if it is of works it is not of faith. We read of many good works that Abraham performed after be believed, and was therefore justified, but of none before he had faith, for “without faith it is impossible to please God.” But why might not Abraham glory before God? Plainly because it is testified that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousnessthat is, he believed God, and was justified. If he had a justifying righteousness by faith, there was no need of works to justify him. To say that Abraham might have gloried before men but not before God, is going out of the scope of the apostle’s argument, is quite foreign to the subject. I feel quite confident that the idea of glory before men never came into Paul’s mind; nor can I recollect a single instance, when the apostle is speaking on the subject of justification, where he makes the remotest allusion to being justified before men. He never condescends to notice such trifles when showing the way of a sinner’s justification through the atonement of Christ. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by 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.” Are not works of the law entirely excluded from the way of justification by this text, and is not justification limited to faith alone? The humble, teachable mind will be more willing to receive this truth, than to put a false construction upon the words. A man may labor to obtain an interest in the righteousness of Christ by his good works but he must forever labor in vain; for he must encounter the opposition of the Scriptures in everything be does for that purpose. But it may be objected: “Was not the apostle speaking of the ceremonial law?” I think he was speaking of all law. But suppose he was speaking exclusively of the ceremonial law, by the observance of which it is allowed that none pretend to be justified; then it follows that the apostle was not intending to exclude works under the moral law, which are a much higher order of works than mere ritual observances. I admit that works performed according to the spiritual claims of the moral law are of a higher order of moral excellence than mere ritual performances; and that if we have to secure an interest in the righteousness of Christ by obedience to law, these are the works necessary to be done, and the only works that can profit us, because that is the law by which we are to be judged. Take it upon this ground, and it follows that we must do “all things which are written in the book of the law.” And this would render the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ superfluous, and also faith in Christ is totally excluded having no object. Now which plan of justification is the best and safest for a frail sinner to be justified by faith alone, or by faith and works both? And further, by- which method is the grace of God more gloriously displayedto be justified by grace through faith, or to be justified by our own works? I might also ask, if justification is by works, either in whole or in part, does it not lay a foundation for boasting? For if Abraham had been justified by works, it is certain he would have had whereof to glory. And why not you and I? “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” It is not said as many as break the law are under the curse. The doctrine the apostle teaches here is that if we will pursue the works of the law with a view to our justification, we are under the curse, because we have not rendered a perfect obedience to the law, which we must do, or we have no hope of being justified by works. Read the latter part of the ninth chapter of the Epistle the Romans, and if you are willing to be guided by Scripture, you can not fail to see that our works have nothing to do in our justification. Let us look at a few more scriptures: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt; but to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned to him for righteousness.” (Rom. iv. 4, 5. ) “Therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace.” (Ver. 16. ) “Being justified freely by His grace.” (Rom. iii. 24. ) There is no need that a sinner should be holy, or religious, or humble, as a condition of his being justified by believing; for let his character be what it may, he is justified as an ungodly sinner. If he is holy, it gives him no title to justification by the grace of Christ; and if he is ungodly, it is no bar to that privilege. You should not do good nor be good with a view of being thereby justified; but believe on Him that justifies the ungodly and then do good, and be good that you may glorify Him by whose grace you are justified freely without your works.
There are some who earnestly contend that we are justified by- the righteousness of Christ, who, notwithstanding, object to the term imputed. I am no stickler for terms, and if any will supply me with a more appropriate word, I will consent to use it on all occasions, rather than give needless offense. Perhaps such persons attach an idea to the word impute a little different from the sense in which I would use it. If so, there ought to be no disagreement between us, for we may both believe the same thing. If they say that it is nowhere expressly said in Scripture that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, I would remind them that it is a very weak argument, and amounts to very little, or nothing at all. The doctrine may be clearly taught in the Bible without such verbal exactness. We read of righteousness as a gift, and this is a very acceptable term with me, and accords well with other doctrines. It accords with the whole of our salvation from first to last. It is also said that we are made the righteousness of God, and that Christ is made unto us righteousness. But I will state the doctrine thus: We are all sinners under condemnation of the law, and Christ, by His death, has satisfied the law, and thus brought in a perfect righteousness, in which, or on account of which, we are justified when we believe in Him. If you take this from me, you take all; I have nothing left. If you will receive this doctrine, we will not wrangle about words. But being unskillful in the use of words, I will freely confess that I know of no word more appropriate by which to express the manner in which the benefit of Christ’s righteousness is applied to us than this old-fashioned word impute. “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” Taking this text with the connection, and it is too evident to be denied that the righteousness by which we are justified is imputed to us. If it is a righteousness of our own, it is self-righteousness; there is no way to evade this; and I know of no other righteousness by which we can be justified but the righteousness of Christ. This comes as near saying that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, as I have any- need of to establish the doctrine.
The Scriptures most clearly teach that we are justified by faith without any good works done by us, or any good that is in us. This doctrine has been opposed by an objection which it is proper to notice. If the objection is founded in truth it ought to be known. It should not be slighted or shunned, but we ought to meet it fairly. I have, in a previous section, adverted to it, and now I design to consider it more fully. It is alleged by some that if we are justified alone by faith in Jesus Christ, without any thing good in us, or done by us, it opens a door to licentiousness, and that a man believing in Christ may live in sin, and yet be justified and saved. As this objection is not brought against the doctrine of justification itself, but only against the way in which we are justified. it is necessary to inquire into the nature of that faith by which we are justified, that we may see whether the doctrine of a free justification is justly liable to the force of the objection. I would remark however, that I am not bound to disprove the objection, but the burden of proving lies, in the first instance, on the objector, and unless he exhibits the proofs he is not entitled to an answer. But I have never seen any attempt to support the objection by evidence. I will even go further, and say that if the objector could establish the truth of his objection, it would not overthrow the doctrine against which it is broughtit would only amount to a difficulty, nothing more. Of one thing I feel perfectly confidentthe objection can not be sustained by the Holy Scriptures. And as to arguments deduced by reasoning from general principles, they are of no value when opposed to the plain teaching of the inspired word. If the genuine effects of evangelical faith, as taught in the Bible, will show us that it has no such tendency as that which the objection implies, the objector is left without any ground to stand upon. And I have no fear of failing to show that faith has a tendency directly contrary to that which the objection ascribes to it. “Purifying their hearts by faith.” “Sanctified by faith that is in me.” Thus we see that holiness is the direct fruit of faith: how, then, is it possible that it should have a tendency to induce the believer to live in sin? If there is a disposition to live in sin, it must be for the want of faith, for it can not bear both sinful and holy fruit. It is by faith that we overcome the world. “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God ?” By faith we are able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. We live by faith, we walk by faith, by faith we stand. He that believes shall be saved, shall never perish, shall not come into condemnation, shall never be ashamed. Christ dwells in them, and they are the children of God. All these things are ascribed to faith in the word of God; and should we be baffled for a moment by an objection that has not been proved true, and can not be proved?