Reasons enforcing the practice of the
truth, hithertill vindicated
††††††††† We have now, at some length, as the Lord was pleased to help, essayed to vindicate this noble and fundamental truth, of the imputation of Christís righteousness, in order to the obtaining of this life of justification; and ere we proceed. I judge, it will not be amiss to press the practice of this truth, and the hearty and practical embracing thereof, by several arguments and considerations: for it will not be enough for us, to know the theory, and to be orthodox in our judgments, as to these necessary and soul concerning truths; but we must also practice them, that it may appear, we do believe them in very deed, and that we believe them with the heart; and this will be the best way to be kept orthodox, and steadfast in the truth.
††††††††† I shall therefore propose a few considerations, moving to the practice of this so necessary and concerning a truth. As ó
††††††††† 1. This way of justification through the imputed righteousness of Christ, the Mediator and Surety, is a way, that hath the testimony of both Law and Prophets, confirming it; and is now more clearly revealed and manifest under the Gospel dispensation, than it was formerly. Romans 3: 21, 22, But now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifest, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe. And the same Apostle tells us Romans , 17, that he was not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth &c. And what is the ground and reason of this: for therein (says he) is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, the just shall live by faith. This then must be a sure and safe way, being thus attested and witnessed by all, that are worthy of credit, in this matter and a way, that is one and the same, as to its substance, both before the Law, under the Law, and now under the Gospel, though it be now more clearly unfolded and explained, since the coming and exaltation of the blessed Mediator, than it was before His coming: when it was darkly revealed and shadowed under the Mosaic Ceremonies and observances. None need to fear a miscarrying, or a disappointment, in following of this way, which even the Law itself, or the Mosaic Observances did point forth, in the daily and yearly sacrifices, pointing forth the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, and on which the offerers were to lay their hands, before they were to be offered up, in token of their devolving and laying their sin and guilt upon the same, as the type of that one and only acceptable sacrifice, that was to come in the fullness of time, and was to satisfy justice for their sins; and to show forth, and declare their faith, relying
thereon, and expecting acceptance there through, as we see Leviticus 1: 4 and 3: 2 and . And a way, which also the Prophets, or the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, did testify, and bear witness to, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. I Peter , &c. So Peter, in his sermon to Cornelius, told him Acts 10: 43, that to Him, (i.e. to Christ) gave all Prophets witness, that through His name, whosoever believeth in Him, shall receive remission of sins.
††††††††† 2. It is the way, which all the ancients took, and found to be a safe and sure way; and therefore it should be to us a way, worthy of all acceptation. Abraham believed God, preaching to him the Gospel; and the object of his faith, or the sum and substance of the Gospel, that is, the righteousness of Christ, was imputed to him; and thereby he was justified: so doth Paul clear the matter to us. Romans 4: 1, 2, 3, What shall we say then, that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found, &c, for if Abraham were justified by works, he hath to glory, but not before God: for what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. And if we enquire, what this was, which Abraham did believe? or wherein was it, that he believed God? Paul tells us, Galatians 3: 8, that it was the Gospel. And the Scripture foreseeing, that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed. Now, though these words, in thee shall all nations be blessed, be not expressly repeated in Genesis 15, where it is said, that Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: Yet this was the chief and principal part of that promise of multiplying of his seed; and was therefore both before this time mentioned together with that promise Genesis 12: 2, 3, and twice thereafter to wit Genesis 18: 18, and 22: 17, 18. And further, this is called the Covenant, which God made with the fathers, Acts 3: 25, and therefore it must have been the chief thing, which Abrahamís faith did fix upon, who is therefore called the Father of the faithful, as being the Father of many nations, Romans 4: 16, 17. And this is the sure promise, that is made sure to all the seed, and must be laid hold on by faith, Romans 4: 16. And upon this account, Abraham is said to have seen the day of Christ, and to have been glad John 8: 56. And as Abraham took this way; so did others take it, before him: such as Abel, who by faith offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice, than Cain; by which he obtained witness, that he was righteous, Hebrews 11: 4. And Enoch, who pleased God by faith: and Noah, who became heir of the righteousness which is by faith, Hebrews 11: 5, 6, 7. So David under the Law, describes the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputes righteousness, without works &c. Romans 4: 6, 7, 8, Psalm 32: 1, 2. This then being such a paved way, we must close with it, and seek after no other.
††††††††† 3. This way is by getting or putting on a righteousness, with which God will be well pleased, and with which alone, he is and will be satisfied; for it is called the righteousness of God, Romans 3: 21, 22. And the righteousness, which is of God by faith, Philippians 3: 9, as being not only a righteousness, which God hath found out, who knew best, how to bring about the salvation of His chosen ones, to his own glory, and which alone will be acceptable to Him;
but, as being also the righteousness of one, who is God, even of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Cautioner, and this is made over to believers, and imputed to them, and they receive it by faith, that it may become theirs, and they may stand before justice clothed with it, and thereby answer all that Law and Justice can say against them, or lay to their charge. Can sinners find out and fall upon a righteousness, more excellent in itself, or more pleasing or satisfying unto God, and whereupon a distressed soul pursued by justice and the terrors of the Lord can with more confidence rest and rely, than this is, which is the righteousness of God; the righteousness wrought by Him, who was and is the Fatherís equal, God over all, blessed forever, and is Lord, our righteousness Jeremiah 23: 5, and is made of God to us righteousness I Corinthians 1: 30? What can sinners invent, that can once be compared herewith? Can anything; which they themselves can do, yield more ground of peace and confidence? No certainly.
††††††††† 4. This way demonstrates both the justice and mercy of God, and so a way wherein the Lord hath given a great demonstration of his wonderful grace and mercy: and a way also, wherewith justice is fully satisfied. This the Apostle doth fully declare Romans 3: 24, 25, 26, being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption, that is in Jesus Christ. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness to declare I say, at this time His righteousness, that He might be just, &c. And this should commend it highly unto us, that when neither Angels, nor men, could have found out a way, how mercy and grace might have shined forth, in the salvation of poor sinners; and with all how justice should have had satisfaction, the infinite wisdom of God, hath found out this way, whereby justice and mercy are no more, as it were, at odds, but concurring to the justification of a poor sinner. Whatever way else we take, should we with these Micah 6: 7 come before the Lord, and bow ourselves before the high God, should we come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old. It were all in vain: He would not be pleased with thousands of rams nor with ten thousands of rivers of oil. Should we give our first born for our transgression and the fruit of our body, for the sin of our soul: What would that avail? It could be no satisfaction to justice: the Lord would not be just, in justifying such sinners.
††††††††† 5. The
sad disappointment, that such, as took another course to the end they might be
justified and accepted, have met with, should be as a hand upon the margin to
us, to beware of treading in the footsteps of their folly, lest we fall into
the same pit of ruin. We read Romans , 32, that
sought after a righteousness, by their own works, which they supposed were the works of the Law, but were not so indeed; for they sought after the Law of Righteousness, but as it were by the works of the Law: and therefore they could not reach their intended end, how confident so ever they were in their way. So again, Romans 10: 3, 4, it is said of them for they being ignorant of Godís righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God; for Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness, to everyone that believeth. They would not follow Godís way, nor submit to that righteousness, which is twice here called the righteousness of God; but in the pride of their heart, would set up and establish their own righteousness, and make it stand on its feet, and therefore would not be beholden to Christ and to His righteousness, nor look to Him by faith, and so they lost all. This sad example should cause all to look about them, and beware of entertaining a prejudice at the Gospel way of justification.
††††††††† 6. From this instance, we may also take notice of another consideration, to wit, that to refuse this Gospel way of justification argues intolerable pride of heart, and haughtiness of mind: It is observed of the Jews here, that they would not submit themselves unto the righteousness of God; they would not bow so low, nor humble themselves so far, as to deny their own righteousness, and condescend to take on Christ; but in their pride and stoutness of heart, they thought, though the bricks were fallen, they should build all up again with their own hewn stones, and so they went about to underprop and set up their own righteousness, that it might stand. And what an intolerable thing this is, for beggars and devoirs to be so proud of nothing, and to refuse to accept of and be satisfied with the payment of a Cautioner? As then we would not have this guilt of contemning in the pride of our hearts, the way that the wisdom of God hath found out, and the righteousness of God, let us not refuse our own salvation, and stand out against this established, sure and approved way of taking on Christís righteousness.
††††††††† 7. We may take notice of another consideration here, to move us to close with this only way, to wit, that the refusing of this way, as it argues ignorance both of the worth, and of the excellency and of the necessity of this way of justification, through the imputed righteousness of Christ; so it argues a rooted prejudice against Christ, and the way of justification through Him, and a judicial stroke of wrath from the Lord upon such, as willfully and pertinaciously †refuse this Gospel way: for it is said of the Jews here, Romans 10: 3, that they were ignorant of Godís righteousness: and chapter 9: 32, that they stumbled at that stumbling stone, they brake their necks on that, which was the only means of saving them, and that in the righteous judgment of God, according to what was foretold, Isaiah 8: 14, 15, where it is said, that the Lord of Hosts, who would be for a sanctuary to His own, should be for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense; for a gin and for a snare and many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared and be taken. And this is further confirmed by that which Peter says, I Peter 2: 7, 8, but unto them, which
be disobedient, the stone, which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner. And a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed. The consideration of this should cause all to look about them.
††††††††† 8. It is also considerable, that such as will not submit themselves unto this righteousness of God, have no way to betake themselves unto; no course that they can follow, in order to their justification, but that, which is peremptorily rejected of the Lord, and condemned in His word; that is, the way of their own works. These Jews, who would not submit themselves unto the righteousness of God, could fall upon no other course, but the establishing of their own righteousness: and there is no other way mentioned in Scripture but these two, either by works, or by faith; that is, either by the righteousness of Christ, or by our own righteousness; hence the Apostle doth always oppose these two to other, and by disputing against the Law, our works, or our righteousness according to the Law, he establishes and confirms the true† and only way, through the righteousness of Christ; and by pleading for this, he destroys the other, and as there is no third way distinct from both, so there is no commixture of both, to make up a third, in a part agreeing with both: for grace and works cannot agree together to make one composition, Romans 11: 6. So that whatever different ways, and modes or methods, men excogitate in this matter, if they step aside from the pure way of grace, the way of justification through the imputed righteousness of Christ, they must of necessity close with that way, which is through works, and against which Paul hath disputed so much, in his epistles. Now what madness is it, to embrace such a way, in whole, or in part (and if in part, it must also be in whole, for it is said, grace and works will not mix) against which the Apostle hath argued so much, both in his epistle to the Romans, and to the Galatians?
††††††††† 9. This way of justification through the imputed righteousness of Christ is the only way to peace and reconciliation with God; as the Apostle concludes, Romans 5:1, Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Peace with God stands only upon this foundation, to wit, Justification by Faith; that is, Justification through the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by God, and received by faith. People may dream of obtaining peace and reconciliation another way; but they will be miserably disappointed, for, as we said above, justice can be no other way satisfied until justice be satisfied, there is no reconciliation, no peace. What a miserable case then are persons in, who will not submit unto this way? They may frame a way to themselves, and be very zealous in it, as the Jews had a zeal of God, Romans 10: 2, and be at much expense of duties and toil therein, as the Pharisee, who fasted twice a week, and yet attain no peace or reconciliation with God. All then, who are desirous of this blessed peace, must choose this way, and close with it heartily, and this should be strong inducement unto them thereunto. We should remember what Paul said, II Corinthians 5: 18, 19, 21, God hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ and that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself,
but how was this: See verse 21, for he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. This, even this only, is the way to peace and reconciliation with God, and whoever take away, different from this, or will not cordially close herewith, must resolve to abide in that estate of enmity, where into they are by nature.
††††††††† 10. This way of justification, as it is the only way of peace and reconciliation with God, so it lays the ground of solid joy and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God and of glorying in tribulation also, as Paul informs us, Romans 5: 1 Ė 5. Being justified by faith, through Jesus Christ, we have through him, access by faith, into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God; and not only so, but we glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts &c. Men may, I know, promise to themselves much peace, joy and consolation, in their own false way, and may also deceive themselves, as the Pharisee did, when he thanked God, he was not like the publican: but how hard will the discovery of the deceit and cheatry prove in the end? Godís way is the only way, that will yield all these desirable things, in truth and reality: and therefore we would do well, to follow this way alone.
††††††††† 11. Moreover this way of justification will only lay the sure and unfailing foundation of true holiness and sanctification, and hence are the most spiritual, convincing and moving arguments unto the study of holiness, only be taken; as we see the Apostle clearing it in his epistle to the Romans, chapters 6, 7, and 8, having laid down, in the preceding chapters, as a sure basis thereunto, the only Gospel way of justification. Men may think, that the pressing of justification by our own works should prove the most effectual mean and persuasive unto the real study of holiness, and a most infallible argument to set people to work to follow holiness with all their might: but experience sufficiently proves that all such, who by their doctrine lay more or less of their weight upon their own works, in their justification, are so far from outstripping others in the spiritual exercise of true holiness, that for the most part the very contrary is too too manifest: and howbeit adversaries to Gospel justification, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, object to the asserters thereof, that thereby they are enemies of the study of holiness, and give way to laziness and negligence, in that exercise; yet, not only is what they allege groundless, seeing we press holiness upon the same grounds, that the Apostle doth, who oft times meets with this objection, in his way of declaring and pressing the Gospel way of justification: but also experience shows, that such as have fled to Christ, for righteousness, have another way of communion with God, in all holy conversation; and their walking in all the ways of God, hath a spiritual luster and heavenly beauty, being compared with the walk of others, strangers in practice; and in opinion, to the Gospel way of being justified through faith in Christ.
††††††††† 12. Whosoever rejects this truth, and does not accept this way of justification,
through the imputed righteousness of Christ, received and leaned to by faith, does interpretively say as much, as that Christ is dead in vain: for the Apostle tells us, Galatians 2: 21, that he did not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain, thereby teaching us, that the crying up of the Law, and the righteousness thereof, and urging people to seek after a righteousness, by which they may be justified, in their obedience to the Law, is a real frustrating of the grace of God, and a declaring that Christ is dead in vain: and consequently, whoever seeks after a righteousness, consisting in their personal obedience to the Law, and will not accept of, nor heartily and practically close with the Gospel way of justification, through faith in Christ, does really frustrate, so far as in them lies, all the grace of God, manifested in, and brought to light by the Gospel, where this noble way of recovering sinners is revealed, and more clearly and fully explained, than it was formerly. And it is a saying upon the matter, that Christ hath died in vain: for if He died not to satisfy for sinners, after He had finished His course of obedience, and so to make up a complete righteousness, which might answer all the necessities of sinners, lying under the sentence of a broken Law; and having no way, without Christ, to obtain the Crow of Life, but by perfect and personal obedience to the whole Law, which was and is to them utterly impossible: If, I say, Christ died not for this end, he died in vain; and all such, as will not heartily embrace this way, do on the matter say, he died not for this end; and so, as far as they can, they make Him to have died in vain.
††††††††† 13. This consideration might also have force with us, that what Paul taught, as to this matter, he did also practice: for thus he speaks, Philippians 3: 8, 9, Yea doubtless I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness, which is of God through faith. So Galatians 2: 16, knowing that a man is not justified by 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 &c. If therefore, we would be sure in this matter, we must take this course, which is so corresponding in all points, with the Gospel doctrine, in this matter. Therefore whoever would expect to have it going well with them forevermore, must resolve upon this course, to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and get on that robe of righteousness, which is had through the faith of Christ, the righteousness, which is of God by faith.