The Law, by the works whereof Paul denies that we
are justified, is not the Jewish Law.
We find the Apostle Paul directly and professedly proving and concluding, that we are not justified by the Law, nor by the works of the Law: Yet such as differ from us, about the interest of works, in justification, not being willing to yield and submit unto the truth, do seek
what evasions they can, to evade the force of the Apostle’s argument and peremptory conclusions; and therefore say, that Paul is to be understood, as speaking only of such, or such a Law; and excludes only such and such works, in which they think they may yield unto, what the Apostle says, the same being limited and restricted, according to their own mind, and yet do no prejudice to their own hypothesis: But yet what this Law in particular is, and what are the works thereof, our Adversaries are not at all agreed among themselves; but some imagine one thing, and some another, as we shall hear.
Some by the Law, and the works thereof, which Paul excludes from justification, do mean the Ceremonial Law, and the observances thereof; or as others express it, the Jewish Law, including their Judaical Law, and so hereby understanding all that Law, which is called Moses’ Law: this is owned by some Papists, as Bellarmine shows us, De justif. Lib. 1 Cap. 19, but he himself rejects it, upon this ground, that the Apostle in Romans 4, Ephesians 2, and Titus 3, doth simply exclude works, making no mention of the Law of Moses: The Socinians do choose this way of interpreting the Apostle, as may particularly be seen in the author of the book entitled Consensus Pauli & Jacobi &c. printed An. 1620.
But this opinion doth not correspond with truth, as may be manifest from these particulars.
1. If Paul disputes only against Justification by ceremonial observances, he had a far shorter cut, to confute that conceit, than the way he took, to wit, to tell them that shortly that Law, with all its observances, was to be laid aside and no more observed, by virtue of the Gospel administration, and because the end of all these observances, and He, who was typified thereby, was come, and had put an end to that dispensation. But we find not the Apostle making any use of this one and only argument, which had suited that purpose; but on the contrary he uses such mediums and arguments, as suit no less, if not more, other laws, beside ceremonial.
2. Yea before the writing of these Epistles, wherein the Apostle did dispute against justification by the Law, at least, before he wrote that to the Galatians, he had by his preaching and practice, opposed the observation of the ceremonial law, as he himself tells us in Galatians 2. And in that same Epistle, chapters 3 and 4, he condemns the observation of that law, in most peremptory terms, as being no less, than a falling from grace: And yet when he is treating of Justification not by the works of the Law, chapter 3, he mentions not this ground, which would have taken away the very subject of the debate. Shall we think, that the Apostle would have disproved justification, only by the works of the ceremonial law by such arguments and topics, out of Scripture, when he was within a little by forcible reasons to remove the very Law itself, and condemn all observation thereof?
2. It is strange, that Paul in writing to the Gentiles, should deny justification to be by the works of the Law, meaning the ceremonial law only; and James writing to the Jews, should cry up the observation of that Law, and plead for justification thereby: This would say, that Jew and Gentiles
were not both to be justified one way: or that James and Paul do clearly contradict each other; neither of which must be said. That James speaks of another law, than Paul speaks of, cannot be made good. And therefore when our Adversaries will prove from James, that we are justified by works, their meaning is, that we are justified by works, their meaning is, that we are justified by the observation of the ceremonial law.
4. The several things mentioned of this law, whereof the Apostle speaks, show, that he is not speaking of the ceremonial law only: as (1.) Romans 3: 19. It is a law that stops all mouths, and whereby all the world becomes guilty before God: But this is not the ceremonial law, or the Jewish, or the Law of Moses, under which the Gentiles were not, nor yet are. (2.) Romans 3: 20 –It is that law, by which is the knowledge of sin: but this is not by the mere ceremonial law, as we see Paul himself professing, Romans 7: 7. (3.) Romans 2: 13 –It is that Law, the doers whereof shall be justified: But this cannot be asserted of the mere ceremonial law, or of the Law of Moses. (4.) Romans 3: 27 –It is that Law, which doth not exclude boasting: but it cannot be said, that the Law of Moses is only that Law. (5.) Romans 3: 31 –It is that Law, that is not made void, through faith. But this is not the ceremonial law; the ceremonial law is not established by faith. (6.) Romans 3: 28 –It is that Law, justification by which is inconsistent with and opposite to justification by faith: but this is not the ceremonial law only. (7.) Romans 4: 1, 2 –It is that Law, by the works whereof Abraham, was not justified. But the Apostle’s argument from the instance of Abraham had not been pertinent, if no law had here been understood, but the Law of Moses; which was not in being in Abraham’s days. (8.) Romans 4: 2 –It is that Law, and works of obedience to it, that would give ground to man of glorying: But this is not true only of the ceremonial Law. (9.) Romans 4: 4 –It is that Law, obedience to which is a working, and makes the reward of debt: But this cannot be said only of the ceremonial law. (10.) Romans 4: 15 –It is that Law that worketh wrath: But other Laws do this, than the ceremonial law. (11.) Romans 8: 3, 4 –It is that Law, that was weak through the flesh, and the righteousness of which was to be fulfilled in us: but this cannot be applied to the ceremonial law only. (12.) Galatians 3: 10 –It is that Law, of the works of which as many as are, are under the curse, and of which it is said, cursed is everyone, that continues not in all things, which are written in the Law to do them. But this agrees not to the ceremonial law only. (13.) Galatians 3: 12 –It is that Law, by the doing of which, man should live: but by perfect obedience to the Law of Moses alone life was not to be had. (14.) It is that Law, that cursed all transgressors, and under the curse whereof all those lay, for whom Christ died. Galatians 3: 13. But that is not the ceremonial law, which laid no curse upon the Gentiles. (15.) Ephesians 2: 9 –It is that Law, that enjoins those good works, which God hath before ordained, that we (even Gentiles) should walk in them: But that is not the ceremonial law. (16.) It is that Law, the works whereof are inconsistent with grace, as the ground of election, Romans 11: 6. But this is not ceremonial law only, else we must say, that election is for works of the
Moral Law, and yet is for grace. (17.) Philippians 3: 9 –It is that Law, obedience to which can be called our righteousness: but this is not the ceremonial law only.
5. If Paul’s mind had been only to dispute against Justification by Mosaic observances; after he had stated the question, and proposed the truth, he was minded to confirm, Romans 1: 17, to what purpose did he insist so much, to show, how guilty the Gentiles were, who were never under Moses’ precepts, and thereby clear, what need they had of a justification by free grace through faith without the works of the Law? This seems not to have a clear tendency unto the clearing of justification to be by faith, and not by Mosaic observances; for what had the Gentiles to do with these?
6. We find likewise the Apostle to convince the Jews themselves to be under sin, in order to the necessity they had of being justified by faith, holding forth their breaches of the Moral Law, Romans 2: 21, 22, and speaks of a Law distinct from that, to which circumcision belonged, saying in verse 25, &c. for circumcision verily profiteth if thou keep the Law; but if thou be a breaker of the Law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision: And this Law, is a Law, that he, by supposition, says, one not circumcised, might observe, and so could not be the Law of ceremonies. See also Romans 3: 9 – 19.
7. The arguments, which the Apostle adduces to disprove justification by the Law, cannot conclude against the ceremonial law only: for (1.) all the world are not guilty of transgressing only the ceremonial law: and yet because all the world are become guilty before God, the Apostle infers, Romans 3: 20, Therefore by the deeds of the Law, there shall no flesh be justified. (2.) So that other argument ibid. for by the Law is the knowledge of sin, cannot conclude against ceremonial law only. (3.) Justification by the deeds of the ceremonial law only, repungs not to the justification through the righteousness of God without the Law, and which is by faith of Jesus Christ; and through the redemption, that is in Christ. (4.) The law of ceremonies alone doth not exclude boasting. (5.) Abraham’s works were not works of the ceremonial law only. (6.) Works of the ceremonial law only do not exclude glorying, nor make the reward of debt and not of grace. (7.) Believing on him, that justifies the ungodly, is opposed as well to him that worketh according to other laws, as to him, that worketh according t the ceremonial law, Romans 4: 5. (8.) Imputed righteousness, Romans 4: 7, 11, is as much opposite, in the matter of justification, to other observances, as to Mosaic observances. (9.) Forgiveness of sins, mentioned in Romans 4: 7, 8, is as inconsistent with the observation of other laws, as of the ceremonial law. (10.) Justification by the faith of Christ is as opposite to the Moral Law, as to the Ceremonial Law: and thus reasons the Apostle, Galatians 2: 16. (11.) That Curse denounced in Deuteronomy 27: 26, by which the Apostle proves, Galatians 3: 10, that justification cannot be by the works of the Law, is not against transgressors only of the Ceremonial Law. (12.) Obedience, to the moral commands, is as little a living by faith, as was obedience to the Ceremonial Law: And by this argument Paul proves, Galatians 3: 11, that no
man is justified by the Law, in the sight of God, because the just shall live by faith. (13.) This is clear also from verses 12 and 13, to mention no more. And the Law is not of faith, (which holds not true only of the Ceremonial Law) but the man that doth them shall live in them, (which was the tenor of the Old Covenant, Romans 10: 5, Leviticus 18: 5.) Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law. (And surely this is from the curse of other laws, than of the Ceremonial Law.)
8. Though it were true, that Paul’s conclusion was only against justification by Mosaic observances: Yet by good consequence it might hence be inferred, that there is no justification by the works of the moral law. Partly because the Apostle’s mediums and arguments are general, and, as we saw, reach further than to the Ceremonial Law: Partly because if it were not thus, all the Apostle’s dispute should be of no use or value to us, now that the subject of that controversy is quite removed: Partly because the Ceremonial Law belonged to the first Table, being God’s instituted worship, and obedience thereunto required by the second command: Partly because so long as that law was not abrogated, obedience thereunto was their Gospel righteousness, just as obedience to other laws is now called our Gospel righteousness: And if that could not then justify them, no more can this now justify us.
We do not by all this say, that the ceremonial law had no place or interest in this dispute; for the Jews being pertinacious adherers unto this, and the false teachers urging the observation of this, even upon the Gentile Churches, gave occasion and first rise unto this question; for they alleged, there was no justification, or salvation without the observation hereof: but as they did not restrict the Law and the works thereof, purely unto the Mosaic rites and typical ceremonies; but urged the observation of the whole law, which comprehended moral precepts, as well as Ceremonial injunctions; so the Apostle argues against justification by works of the Law in general, without any particular limitation (expressed or hinted) unto the ceremonial observances.
Mr. Baxter, in his Cathol. Theol. part 2. Sect. 26. n. 362) where he would tell us how Paul and James agree about justification by works, says that, The key of understanding Paul’s discourses of justification is, to know: 1. That the grand question, which he first manages, is, whether the Gentiles may not be saved, without keeping the Jewish Law, as well as the Jews with it? Answer: (1.) But our principal difficulty here is to understand, what Mr. Baxter means by the Jewish law? For if he means all that, which was prescribed unto the Jews, as a rule of their obedience, we assent; but then the Moral Law is as much concerned here, as he Ceremonial, or judicial: and these, as such being abrogated, the dispute concerns us, as well as them, in respect of the Moral Law: but if he means hereby, only the Law of Ceremonies, we have shown, that howbeit this might have given the first rise unto the dispute, yet the dispute was not wholly and purely restricted thereunto; nor doth the Apostle only speak to that abstracted or restricted consideration of the Law, in his pleading against a justification by works
of the Law; as we have seen; this he doth, when he pleads for the abrogation of that law, and against the observation of it. (2.) Mr. Baxter, as it would seem, supposes, that Paul made no question concerning the Jews themselves, but yielded that they were justified and saved by their Law: for the question was, says he, whether the Gentiles might not as well be saved thereby, as the Jews? But where does he find this, either asserted, or granted by the Apostle, or the question thus stated by the Apostle?
2. He says, To prove the affirmative, he proves, that the Jews themselves cannot be saved or justified merely or primarily by the Law, notwithstanding the divinity and great excellence of it; but must be justified by a Savior, and freely given pardon and right to life, and to which the sincere keeping of the Law of Moses was to be but subservient. Answer: (1.) Then the question concerned the Jews, as well as the Gentiles, and Paul did no more grant justification by the Law to the one, than to the other. (2.) Where does Mr. Baxter find these restrictions, Merely or Primarily, in all the Apostle’s dispute? This is not fair, to pervert the Apostle’s plain peremptory and absolute conclusions, and restrict them to a certain limited sense, that they may the better be subservient to our designs, and our hypotheses. Do the Apostle’s mediums only serve to prove, that justification is not by the Law Merely or Primarily? Which of them all, I pray, hath only this force? (3.) Though the keeping of the Law of Moses is here said to be but subservient; Yet, according to Mr. Baxter, it was all their righteousness, no other was properly imputed to them, and upon it immediately they received Pardon and Right to life, as merited thereby ex pacto, the Savior only procuring the New Covenant: that is, that all, who work well and keep the Law of Moses, shall have free pardon and right to life. And thus they were as well justified by the works of the law, as by faith: for faith was also required of them: And then the meaning of the Apostle’s conclusion, Romans 3: 28, is, therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith, and by the deeds of the law: for both faith and works with Mr. Baxter, belong to this subservient righteousness, as he calls it. If this be consonant to the Apostle’s doctrine, which doth so contradict it, let the reader judge.
3. He says, That therefore it appears, that the Jews did so fondly admire the Law, and their national privileges under it, that they thought the exact keeping of it was necessary and sufficient to justification and salvation. And they thought the Messiah was not to be their righteousness, as a sacrifice for sin, and Meriter of free pardon and the gift of life, but only a great king and deliverer, to redeem them by power from all their enemies and bondage. Answer: This mistake of the Jews, concerning the Messiah, speaks nothing to the point, whereupon we are; that is, that Paul denies justification to be by the Law: and their error and mistake about the Law, is not to be limited and restricted to the ceremonial law; and so the thing, that we say, is confirmed hereby. (2.) They thought the Messiah was not to be their righteousness: And Mr. Baxter not will have him to be our righteousness, save only, in that he hath purchased the New Covenant, wherein our faith and obedience to the law, is to be looked
upon as all our proper and immediate righteousness, upon the account of which we are to receive pardon and right to life.
4. He says It was not Adam’s Covenant of Innocence, or perfection, which the Jews thus trusted to, or Paul doth speak against, as to justification (though a minore ad majus, that is also excluded) for the Jews knew, that they were sinners, and that God pardoned sin, as a merciful God, and that their law had sacrifices for pardon and expiation with confessions, &c. But they thought that so far as God had made that Law sufficient to political ends, and to temporal ends and punishments, it had been sufficient to eternal rewards and punishments, and that of itself, and not in mere subordination to the typified Messiah. Answer: Though the Jews knew, that they were sinners, yet they did also suppose, that by their works of obedience to the Law Moral, as well as Ceremonial, they might make amends, and so think to be justified and pardoned thereby, and that God would accept of them, and grant them life for their own righteousness’ sake, and therefore did they labor so much to establish their own righteousness, and followed after the Law of Righteousness, and sought righteousness, as it were by the works of the Law. What Mr. Baxter talks here of the Jews not using of that Law, in subordination to the typified Messiah, hath need of explication: for as to his sense of it, we see no ground thereof in all the Apostle’s discourse.
5. He says that thing which Paul disproves them by is: 1. That the Law was never made for such an end. Answer: This we cannot yield to, in Mr. Baxter’s sense, often mentioned, for Paul nowhere gives us to understand, that their obedience to this was their immediate righteousness, and condition of justification, and the meritorious cause (ex pacto) of their right to Christ, and to life &c. 3. He says that the free gift or Covenant of Grace, containing the promise of the Messiah, and pardon and life by him, was before the law, and justified Abraham and others without it. Answer: It is true, this argument did particularly militate against the ceremonial law; Yet, this not being the Apostle’s only argument, and other arguments reaching the moral law, as well as the ceremonial, we must not limit the Apostle’s dispute only to the ceremonial law. 4. He says that their law was so strict, that no man could perfectly keep it all. Answer: Add also, that they could not perfectly keep any one command thereof. 5. He says that every sin deserves death indeed, though their Law punished not every sin with death by the Magistrate. Answer: And this holds true of the Moral, as of the Ceremonial Law. 6. He says that their Law was never obligatory to the Gentile world, who had a law written in their hearts; and therefore not the common way of justification. Answer: The Apostle makes no such conclusion, that therefore it was not the common way of justification, for this would suppose, that it were the way of justification unto them, which is directly against the Apostle’s dispute. 7. He says that their
Law, as such, discovered sin, but gave not the Spirit of Grace to overcome it: in so much, as though he himself desired perfectly to fulfill it without sin, yet he could not, but was under a captivity, that is, a moral necessity of imperfection, or sins of infirmity, from which only the grace of Christ could, as to guilt and power, deliver him. Answer: Therefore the Moral Law is as well here to be understood, as the Ceremonial; as is manifest. 8. He says that no man ever came to heaven by that way of merit, which they dreamed of, but all by the way of redemption, grace, free gift, and pardoning mercy. Answer: But that way of merit attends all works, in the matter of justification; as the Apostle assures us, Romans 4: 4, Ephesians 2: 8, 9, and is opposed to the way of redemption, grace, free gift, and pardoning mercy, Romans 11: 6 and 3: 21, 24, Titus 3: 5, 7.
From these things Mr. Baxter draws this conclusion: Therefore their conceit, that they were just in the main and forgiven their sins; and so justifiable by the mere dignity of the Law of Moses, which they kept, and by the works of the Law, and not by the free gift, pardon and grace of a Redeemer, and by the faith and practical belief of that gift, and acceptance of it, with thankful, penitent, obedient hearts, was a pernicious error. Answer: 1. Nothing is here said to ground a restriction of this erroneous conceit of theirs unto the ceremonial law: for this conceit of being justifiable by the law, and the works thereof, in opposition to the free gift, pardon and grace of a Redeemer, is as applicable to the Moral Law, as to the Ceremonial Law. (2.) The Apostle doth not ground his dispute upon the Jews’ express rejecting of a free gift, and of pardon, &c. But from justification by faith, laying hold on the free grace and merits of a Mediator, he argues against justification by the Law and the works thereof: And according to the Apostle’s method do we argue. (3.) To cover justification by our own inherent righteousness, having the same place in the New Covenant, which inherent righteousness and obedience had in the old, by these fine words, Faith, and a practical belief of the gift, and acceptance of it, with thankful, penitent, and obedient hearts, is not such ingenuous dealing, as the importance of the matter requires: But this will be clearer by what follows.
But (he says) the true way of righteousness was to become true Christians, that is, with such a penitent, thankful accepting, practical belief, or affiance to believe in God, as the giver of salvation, in Christ as redeemer, and his Spirit, as our life and Sanctifier; and to accept Christ, and all his procured benefits, justification and life, as purchased by his sacrifice and meritorious righteousness, and given in the New Covenant on this condition, and so to give up ourselves to his whole saving work, as to the Physician of our souls, and only Mediator with God. This is the sum of Paul’s doctrine on this point. Answer: Not to speak of this matter here, which is elsewhere done, I shall only say, that we are not enquiring after the true way of righteousness, but after the true way of justification before God; and enquire where the Apostle teaches, that all the righteousness, required unto justification, must be within us, and none at all imputed; as this sum holds forth? Where does he teach that this faith, including works and all obedience, is the only mean of justification? Where does he teach that this inherent imperfect righteousness of ours, is the immediate
ground, and meritorious cause (ex pacto) of our justification and salvation? Where does he teach that Christ’s righteousness is no otherwise ours, than as purchasing the New Covenant, wherein our own personal righteousness is made the potestative condition of our justification and salvation? And yet these and several other particulars of this alloy doth Mr. Baxter hold forth, as taught, in Scripture; as hath been seen elsewhere.