Through faith, cleared, from
Galatians For the just shall live by faith.
The Introduction; and the text (the ground of this following discourse) opened-up.
The Doctrine of Justification cannot but be acknowledged by all, whose thoughts are taken up about an interest in everlasting felicity, to be of great concernment; and debates or controversies about the same cannot be esteemed vain and fruitless digladiations, and disputes about a thing of naught; seeing that in this lies the ground of all our hope, peace and eternal salvation; and a mistake or error, as to the theory in this matter, followed with an answerable and corresponding practice, (I mean as to what touches the heart and substance of this divine mystery) may, yea must of necessity, prove not only dangerous to souls; but even inevitably destructive. Wherefore it cannot be justly accounted blame worthy, that Churches and particular persons, who would be faithful (and so accounted) unto the grand interest of souls, contend, with all earnestness, for the faith once delivered to the saints, in this particular; this being the true basis of all religion, and of Christianity; without which there can be no access to, nor communion with, God; No peace with God, nor true
peace in our own consciences; no life of comfort here, nor true hope of salvation for ever here after; No change of state, nor saving change of life and conversation; in a word, no life of grace here, nor of glory hereafter: And what then must follow upon the corrupting of this truth, and upon erroneous apprehensions and practices herein, is abundantly obvious to all such, as have not sinned away all sense and consideration, in these matters.
††††††††† Wherefore it is no wonder, that Satan hath, in all ages, labored, by one instrument or other, upon one occasion or other, and under one pretext or other, to corrupt the pure streams of this wholesome fountain of truth, in one measure or other, in one particular or other; and that by such mediums and arguments, as he knew would be most taking, and seem most plausible, at these several times, and upon these several occasions. What way and how far the corruption of this truth was advanced in the Antichristian Church, is yet known; and what ground their error in this gave unto such as began to be enlightened in the knowledge of the truth, to separate from them, and to appear against them, is manifest: and what essaies the Devil made about the beginning of the Reformation, or shortly after, to darken this truth by questions and disputes, even among such as hold the truth fast as to the main, and what since, by several new opinions, or new modes and methods (as they were called and given out to be) vented, and improved by several artifices, to seeming different ends, he has effectuated, to the hardening of some, in their misapprehensions; and to the corrupting of the hearts and minds of others; and also the staggering and shaking of not a few, may be called to mind with grief and sorrow; Not to mention the bold attempt of the Socinians to overturn the whole grounds of the Christian Religion, and to take away at once all the pillars of Gospel-justification.
††††††††† The devil began early, in the breaking up of the clear day of Christianity, to darken this Sun, that the poor Church might forever abide in darkness, if the Church, her head and husband had not provided a remedy, and had not effectually dispelled these clouds: and he had no small advantage of the corrupt Jews, who had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge, and had a very specious pretext of crying up the Law, prescribed by God himself, and of obedience thereunto, and constant observation thereof, in all points, to the prejudice of the Gospel truth, in the matter of Justification. And though the first rise of this difference and debate was upon occasion of Ceremonial Law, which was the dispensation of the grace of God, and which the ancient Church was under, while under tutors and governors, and in her non-age state; and was never rightly obeyed, or improved, but when it led them to the promised Messiah, Christ, the end of the law, in a peculiar manner, the substance thereof, and veiled there under; and which they might have known was to be done away when Christ, the substance of all those shadows, came in to the world in the due time appointed and foretold; and which, contrary to its very nature and end, to the many prophecies of old, and to the signal dispensations
of God, giving clear significations of his mind, touching the evanishing of these shadows, the Jews, principled with false conceptions about that Law, and with prejudices against the truth of the Gospel, and animated and encouraged by false teachers, raised up of Satan, to corrupt the doctrine of the Grace of God, did strenuously contend for the constant observation thereof, either solely, as a sufficient ground of their Justification; or in conjunction with the Gospel: Yet, because this took along with it the observance of all that Law, which God had prescribed of old, as the only ground, in their mistaken apprehension, of their Justification, and acceptance with God; therefore we find the Apostle Paul (who was especially stirred up, and immediately inspired of the Spirit, to vindicate the Gospel way of Justification from this corruption; after he had been singularly fitted thereunto, by being in so signal a manner brought to embrace this truth, who was formerly so zealous for the Law, and against the Gospel an all points) prosecuting the controversy to the full; and not only handling it in reference to the immediate rise and occasion thereof; but in reference to that also, where unto of necessity it must have come, and where it must have landed, at length.
††††††††† And though there have been few since those days, and none at present, who will contend for the observance of the ceremonial law, (in the sense and for the ends urged by the Jews and Jewish false Apostles in primitive times;) yet we must not think that therefore all the doctrine of the Apostle here is of no use to us. Many debates and discourses had the Apostle beside what we have of him recorded in Scripture; and to think that his disputes and discourse in his epistles concerning Justification are of no more concern to us, as to the question about justification, because now days, plead for justification by the observance of the ceremonial law, as did the Jews against whom Paul disputed, is, in my judgment, no small imputation upon the Spirit of the Lord, inspiring the Apostle to write these Epistles, and putting them into our Cannon: and of this such, in my apprehension must be guilty, who think to wave all the Apostleís discourses, in this matter, with this, that he is only to be understood, as speaking and disputing against such, as cried up the constant observation of the Ceremonial Law, as such.
††††††††† But, whatever circumstantial differences, whether as to the rise or occasion, or as to other things of the like import, there may seem to be, or may really be, betwixt the dispute, as then stated, and as now prosecuted; yet all the disputes and differences about the main and essentials of Justification, as also about inferior and subordinate questions, in so far as they depend upon, or are influenced by the main, will be found to be, upon the matter, one and the same, whether managed of late or of old: For different terms and expressions may be, where the matter and thing so expressed, is really one and the same. And therefore, as we are to observe with thankfulness the Lordís love to and care of his Church, in providing and preserving, for the use and edification of the same, in all ages, to the end of the world, such a necessary depositum; and his wonderful
wisdom in inspiring his Amanueuses so to write, as not only to refell the error, in all its circumstances and branches, as it was then broached, to the darkening of Gospel light; but so also as the truth might remain full cleared, confirmed and safeguarded against all the assaults of Satan, in all time coming, by whatever instruments, and under whatever new notions, distinctions, terms of art, expressions and pretences. So are we to acquaint ourselves well with the doctrine of the Spirit of the Lord, in this matter; to the end, we may be fully instructed in the truth, and enabled, to maintain the same, and fortified against all new assaults; or, rather, old assaults renewed, howbeit managed by seemingly new weapons, & new filed instruments and arguments.
††††††††† It would prove long and tedious, to handle at length (and to touch in short, upon them, may seem to some to be but superficiary work) all the various controversies, that are on foot this day, about the matter of Justification; and a short discovery of the truth, in this matter, as to the most principle things controverted (to which others may be so reduced, as a Scriptural discovery of the truth, as to those, may serve for a discussion of the rest; at least, so pave the way, that a solution of these inferior controversies may be the more easy) may therefore be sufficient to such, at least, whose edification and instruction we mostly intend here; that is, such as are not in case to improve what is written of controversies, in scholastic and abstruse terms. And, I judge, whoever handle this controversy, in such terms only, or mostly, as are above the reach of ordinary Christians, who are herein as much concerned, as others, missed that mark, which they should mainly aim at, that is, edification and instruction of such, whose high concernment this is; and who have most need to be plainly instructed in this fundamental point of truth, a practical mistake in which may prove to them deadly and destructive; and especially of such, who, when under the pangs of an awakened conscience, and under the convictions of sin, and fears of wrath, pursuing for sin, are then most ready to take any course that may seem to promise present ease and relief; and be led away from Christ, the only peace maker, through the flight of Satan, and the deceitfulness of their own heart; and through ignorance of, or misinformation about the true Gospel-way of Justification and peace with God; whereby their ease and relief may prove more deadly, than was their distemper and disquiet. As therefore, I judge, this concerning truth cannot be made plain enough; so I think, the less use be made of philosophic or scholastic terms (which none but such as are well versed in these dry notions, can competently understand; and which, though never so handsomely, set off, will prove very unsatisfying to awakened consciences) it will be so much the better; seeing, let men please themselves in them, as they will, as they are not the language the Spirit of the Lord hath thought good to use in this matter so they darken rather, than clear the matter, at least to me.
††††††††† The Apostle (that we may in short clear the words, upon which we are to ground our discourse) in this verse eleven, after other arguments, formerly
adduced to prove the thesis, which he laid down Chapter 2, verse 16, to wit, that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; he brings another argument from Scripture, after he had again repeated the one half of the grand thesis, by which the other is sufficiently understood, and more emphatically included in the probation, or testimony of Scripture adduced, saying,
Galatians 3:11 But that no man is Justified by the Law, in
the sight of God, is evident; for the just
shall live by faith.
††††††††† He doth not explain what is meant by that word, Justified; but presupposes that there was no doubt, concerning the true meaning thereof, among those, with whom he had to do, in this dispute: as indeed none, that consider what is the constant use thereof, in the Old Testament, (well known to the Jewish Teachers) yea and in the New Testament also, can doubt of its true import, supposing that it signifies an inward renovation, or infusion of holiness; and so make it the same with Sanctification. But as no man, acquainted with the Scriptures, and with what is said of justification in them, can be ignorant of its right meaning; so every man, exercised with the sense of his own natural condition, and of the curse of the Law, under which he feels himself lying, according to what is here said, in the foregoing verse, readily understands, what it is to be justified and freed from that curse and sentence of condemnation; and so made free from the wrath that he is liable unto, because of the broken law of God: so that we need say no more of it here.
††††††††† He saith, No man is justified by the Law; and so, makes no exception of any whatsoever, no not of the holiest mere man, that ever existed since the fall: and this is of the same import with that expression Chapter , No flesh; for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified. So he hath the same expression in Romans 3: 20.
††††††††† It is here said, by the Law; in the original it is, in the Law: but the sense is the same with that expression Chapter 2: 16, thrice repeated, by the works of the Law. The Ethiopic version here is rather a short commentary; for there it is; They are not justified doing the command of the Law. It is observable, that the Apostle use variety of expressions, in this matter, all tending to clear this one thing. That there is no justification by the works of the Law; so as no color or show of evasion might be left unto any. Romans 3: 20 he saith, by or out of the works of the Law; as also Galatians 2:16. And Romans without the works of the Law; they having no consideration therein. Romans 4: 2 by, or out of works. So that there is no justification by the Law nor by works; nor by the works of the Law: all which expressions are used to signify one and the same
thing. And in the following verse, he takes the Law, and doing of them, that is, the commands of the Law, for one and the same thing. Those that were looking to the Law for justification, he says of them in verse 10, that they are of the works of the Law and chapter óYe that desire to be under the Law. This elsewhere viz. Philippians 3: 9 he calls his own righteousness, which is of the Law: and Titus 3: 5 works of righteousness, which we have done and Romans 10: 3 their own righteousness and Romans the Law of righteousness. But what Law is this, by which, he denies, that any can be justified? The aforementioned expressions do sufficiently clear, what Law he means, even all that Law, that was the rule of righteousness, and was prescribed of God as such; and not the Ceremonial Law only: that Law, by the works whereof he denied (Romans 4: 1, 2) that Abraham, the father of he faithful, was justified. That Law, in obedience to which consisted that righteousness, which the Jews labored to cause stand; and that righteousness, which himself desired not to be found in: That Law, which was called the Law of righteousness: That Law, which the Gospel establishes Romans 3: 31. In a word, it is that Law, whereof he speaks, in the preceding verse, that is, that Law, the transgression of which, in the least particular, brings the sinner under a curse, according to that saying. Cursed is every one, that continueth not in all things, which are contained in the book of the Law, to do them Deuteronomy 27: 26. And here also we see the Law and the book of the Law, are one: and sure, this book of the Law contained more than the Ceremonial Law, even all the moral commandments; in respect of which and not in respect of Ceremonial Law, the Gentiles, and among the rest, these Galatians, at least, so many of them, as had not yet Judaized, were of the Law, and so, under the curse. It is obvious, how useless all the dispute of the Apostle here, and in his Epistle to the Romans, is rendered by asserting, that Paulís dispute runs only upon the observance of the Ceremonial Law; seeing now the very subject of the debate is taken away from us. And, if matters be so, I would fain know, why the Apostle should have used any other argument, in all his dispute, beside this one, that by the Gospel, the subject of the question is wholly removed; the Ceremonial Law being utterly abrogated by the Gospel? Sure, this would have sufficiently put an end to that debate. But this supposal is, I confess, a short cut to answer all the otherwise unanswerable arguments of the Apostle against justification by works, but yet it is such, as cannot yield satisfaction.
††††††††† He adds, in the sight of God, which is the same, upon the matter, with that expression Romans 3: 20 in His sight; whereby we understand what justification this is, whereof the Apostle speaks; even justification before Godís tribunal, in His court, who is the supreme and righteous judge; as it is with Him alone that the poor convinced and wakened sinner hath to do: And this is the justification, that we are most concerned to know the nature of, and to understand what way it is brought about, or to be had: This is the Justification, which the Apostle always denies to be by works, and asserts always to be by
faith, in opposition to works. As for a justification of ourselves against the false accusations of Satan, the unjust surmises of our own treacherous hearts, and misinformed consciences, and the groundless allegiances of men, judging not according to truth, but according to their own misapprehensions (whereof Jobís friends were guilty, in an high measure). It is not that justification, whereof the Apostle treateth. And whatever interest good works may have herein, as real fruits of an upright working faith, and consequently as evidences of our interest in Christ, and of our being in a state of justification; Yet they are utterly excluded from having an interest in that justification, which is before God, and in His sight: and here, Christís righteousness, laid hold on by faith, only taketh place.
††††††††† The argument, whereby the Apostle disproves this justification by the works of Law, in the sight of God, is in the following words, where he ushers in the argument with an, It is manifest, to show, that the argument is irrefragable, and that the truth thereby was certain, and beyond contradiction. Now, the argument is taken from the opposition, that is betwixt faith, and the Law, or the works of the Law, in the matter of Justification: A ground, whereupon the Apostle goeth, in his whole dispute, upon this matter; as we see in Romans 3: 27, 28,† 4: 1-5,† 9: 32, and Galatians 2:16, and therefore it must be a certain truth, that if justification before God be by faith, it cannot be by works; and consequently, whoever asserts justification by works, destroys Gospel-justification by faith: and hence, it is also manifest, that justification cannot be by both together, faith and works conjoined; because what is of faith cannot be of works; these two being here inconsistent Romans 11: 6.
††††††††† That Gospel justification is by faith, the Apostle proves from that known sentence, the just shall live by faith; a sentence, which the Apostle adduced first of all, when he was to handle this question, in his Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 1, verse 17, saying, for therein (i.e. in the Gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, the just shall live by faith. Where we see, that this Scripture confirms the whole nature and contents of the Gospel, that is, that the righteousness of God, i.e. the righteousness, which only will stand in Godís court, and be accepted of him, in order to the justifying of sinners; and which is the righteousness of one, who is God, is revealed from faith to faith; that is to say, is held forth to be embraced by sinners through faith, first and last; and this righteousness, thus embraced and laid hold on by faith, is the only ground of the life of justification: so that believers their living by faith, their faith lays hold on the righteousness of God, revealed in the Gospel, as the only ground of their life.
††††††††† As to the passage itself, it is cited out of Habakkuk 2: 4, where the prophet being told in verse 3 that howbeit sometime would pass, before the promised delivery should come; yet it would come; and that therefore he and all the people of God, should wait for it, and live in the certain expectation thereof, addeth these words, as being told him of the Lord, that his soul, which is lifted up, is not upright in him (how variously
and these words are rendered by diverse, we need not mention) the meaning is this, that such, as will not, in faith and patience, wait with confidence upon the Lordís promise, that shall be made good, in his good time; but in their pride and impatience of heart, will think to anticipate their delivery, by sinister and sinful means, declare, that their heart is not upright, and that they are void of true faith. Upon the other hand, it is said, the just shall live by faith, that is, such as are real and true believers, will wait in the exercise of faith, till Godís time come; and by this faith, trusting and leaning to the faithful promise of God, through the Messiah, in whom all the promises are yea and amen II Corinthians 1: 20, they shall have a life of it, they shall be carried through, supported, strengthened and comforted. And much to this same purpose, is this passage, cited by the Apostle in Hebrews 10: 37, 38, For yet a little while, and he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry, now the just shall live by faith &c. (of which we have spoken elsewhere) in all these places, the Apostle leaves out the pronoun his, which the prophet uses; but that makes no great alteration, the matter being clear, and sufficiently understood. The Septuagints make a great alteration, when they render the words thus, The just shall live by my faith.
††††††††† The great difficulty is, how these words of the prophet, spoken of such, as were already justified, and believers; and his saying of them, that they shall live by their faith (for we need not own that sense of the words, which some think may not improbably be given, to wit, That he, who is by his faith just (or justified) shall live) can be applicable to the Apostleís purpose, to prove justification by faith. Not to mention what others say to this, nor judging it very necessary to enquire anxiously into this matter, seeing the Spirit of the Lordís moving and inspiring of Paul to allege, and apply this passage of Old Testament truth, for confirmation of what he was about to prove, may fully satisfy us, as to its pertinence, though we should not satisfy all by proposing our thoughts concerning it. Conceive the ground may be this, that this being a general truth, and universally true, that even believers, who are already changed, and have a life begun in them, must all their life long make use of faith, gripping to the promises, as yea, and amen in Christ, (promised and come) who is the substance and kernel of them all, to the end they may be supported, strengthened, upheld and carried through difficulties, distresses, darkness, temptations and the like, without fainting, or doing what is unbeseeming in a believer, in the day of trial; so that their whole life, even unto the end, is kept in and continued by faith, bring new supplies and influences from the head, through the promises; it will hence follow, that without faith no man can at first attain to this life, and change from death; yea, that in this case, faith is much more necessarily required, yea faith only without works is and must be, the only way to justification of life: for if the progress, and continuance of this life, or renewing of it after decays, be had by faith, drawing sap, life and influence from the head, much more must this be the way of getting the first change
made from death to life. And this way (or not much different) of arguing in this same debate, we see the Apostle follows Romans 4 where from what was said of Abraham, a considerable time after he was a believer, he proves justification by faith, without works, or that Abraham was justified by faith, and not by works. The import then of the testimony is, that this life, whereof believers are made partakers, is begun, continued, and carried on by faith, and therefore it is not by the works of the Law, but by faith, even believers cannot be supported, nor in case to live, as becomes, to the glory of God, and to their own peace and comfort, in new trials and difficulties; much more is it true, that without faith those, who are in nature, and in state of enmity to God, cannot live the life of justification, and with it alone they can and shall.
††††††††† Before we come to speak particularly to any truths, deducible from the words, we shall premise some few things considerable.