The state of justification remains, notwithstanding of after sins, and punishments
††††††††† For further clearing up of this life of justification, as to its continuance, we shall remove two objections, that may seem to stand in the way of the truth, hitherto cleared. For it would seem, that justification is not such a continuing uninterruptible state, as it was said to be, upon this double account of, first: That the sins, which believers who are justified, do commit, especially such as are of a more heinous and crying nature, do break off this state of favor and reconciliation, seeing they deserve, even the least of them, Godís wrath and curse, and so expose the sinner unto the just revenges of God; which seems not to be consistent with a state of justification. And then secondly, as their sins deserve Godís curse and wrath, so the many sharp and sore afflictions, which they are made to lie under, both are effects of the wrath of God, and fruits of the curse, and also would say, that that state is such, as can be broken off, or at least, is not perfect, as it was said to be.
††††††††† Now for clearing of the truth, formerly asserted, and vindicating of the same, from these two objections, to which all others may be reduced, we shall propose some few things of consideration.
††††††††† 1. None will say, that every sin of infirmity and weakness, which believers commit, doth or can cut them off from the state of justification; for then they should never remain one day to end in that state; for no man lives, that sins not, and the righteous fall seven times a day; if the Lord should strictly mark iniquity, no man should stand; even the best of their actions are defiled with sin, and they cannot answer for one of a thousand. So that either it must be said, there is no state of justification, or that it is consistent with sin in the justified: Justification, though it take away all the guilt of by past sins, and free the believer from that obnoxiousness to the wrath and curse of God which they were formerly under; yet it prevents not all future sins, nor doth it put the believer into a perfect sinless state; nay nor doth it kill any one sin, as to its being, but only takes away the guilt, offensiveness and the obligation to punishment, or the reatus poenae, whereby the sinner is bound over unto the penalty.
††††††††† 2. As for such sins, as we may suppose, if committed, would ipso facto, as they say, forfeit the transgressor of the state of justification, and destroy all interest in Christ, in the Covenant of Grace, and so transfer them into their former state of nature, while they were under the curse; as being sins, inconsistent with a state of grace and reconciliation with God; such as the sin against the Holy Ghost, or of full and final apostasy: as for such sins, I say, the faithfulness of God, Mediation of Christ, and the Operation of the Spirit of Grace, are, as it were, engaged, to keep the justified from falling into them; as all the arguments, proving the perseverance of the saints do abundantly evince.
††††††††† 3. Though every sin, being a transgression of the Law of God, which still remains in force to oblige the believer, as all others, unto obedience in all points, doth, in its own nature, deserve Godís wrath and curse, according to the threatening and penalty of the law: yet these sins do not annul the state of justification, nor interrupt it, (1.) because notwithstanding thereof, all their former sins, of which they were pardoned, remain pardoned, and do not bring them again under the curse, and their right to the inheritance remains firm, through Jesus Christ. (2.) Because all these after sins were virtually pardoned, and their obligation to the suffering of the penalty upon the account of these, virtually removed, in their justification; for therein was there a legal security laid down and given, that all future sin should not actually bring them under the curse, or into the state of condemnation: and this is much more, than what was before their actual closing with Christ, and being thereby brought into an estate of justification, for though it may be said, there was sufficient security laid-in in the Covenant of Redemption betwixt Jehovah and the Mediator, concerning the non-perishing of the elect; yet this security was hid and laid underground, lying in the unchangeable purposes of God; in the Fatherís election of them, and giving of them to the Son to be redeemed; in the Sonís undertaking for them, and in due time becoming sin and a curse for them, and so taking on their debt, and making full and complete satisfaction therefore; and this fundamental and remote right, (as it may be called) could not be pleaded by themselves. But after they have closed with Christ, and are brought into a state of justification, their right appears above ground, and the security is laid open in the Covenant of Grace, whereby they are in case to plead their virtual pardon, to be made actual, and the promises to be made good, according to the Gospel terms, and after the Gospel method. And thus: 3. Not only doth the Lawís threatenings speak to them, as showing what de jure only they may look upon as due unto them, and not declaring what shall eventually befall them, or that eventually they shall fall under the eternal curse; for in a sense, that is true even of all the elect not yet justified, as was said; but they have a legal ground and right in the Covenant of Grace, securing them from condemnation, and they have access and ground in Law to plead this right and so to plead for actual pardon in the terms, and according to the method of the Gospel: I do not say, that the justified while lying in sin, without making application to Jesus Christ, and acting faith on him, in order to pardon, have ground to plead for actual pardon
for that is repugnant to the method of the Gospel, requiring new acts of faith, in order to new acts of pardon, I mean the implicit acts of faith (to speak so) in reference to daily infirmities and unseen sins, and the more explicit acts of faith, in reference to grosser sins, seen and lamented: But they have ground to plead for grace to discover their sins, to humble them for their sins, and to excite their soul to renewed acts of faith in Christ, and thereupon to expect, according to the Gospel method, remission; and to plead for it, in the merits of Christ, unto which they have a sure right. Therefore, 4. new sins cannot annul the state of justification; because not only are believers secured de eventu, they shall not come into condemnation for these sins; but even as to any legal dueness of punishment, that new sins may bring them under, there is a sure and safe remedy at hand, the blood of Christ takes away all sin, to which they are called to go, that they may wash their souls there by faith, and be clean, and be delivered from guilt.
††††††††† 4. For further clearing of this, we would consider, that there is a wide difference to be put betwixt sin, in order to its direful effects, considered in itself, and considered, as it is in the justified. Though sin, in itself is always mortiferous, and exposes to the curse and wrath of God, having a malignant demerit constantly attending it: yet it is not so, being considered, as it is in the justified: for as poison, is always deadly in itself, and working towards death; yet it is not so, as in a person, who hath received a sufficient antidote. Though every act of felony in itself makes obnoxious unto death, according to the law; yet some acts, as committed by one, who can read, will not have that effect: so the believer is antidoted by the Covenant of Grace, that howbeit sin remains still deadly, in its own nature; yet as to him, it cannot produce these effects.
††††††††† 5. Though after-sins, in a justified person, may have, before they be pardoned, very sad effects, in reference to comfort, or comfortable improvement of their privileges and advantages: yet they cannot disinherit them, or put them from their right: though leprosy did deprive the leper of the comfortable enjoyment and uses of his own house; yet it did not destroy his right: though the miscarriages of the prodigal son did incapacitate him for any present enjoyment of his interest in his Fatherís affection; yet they did not destroy his Sonship (Luke 15:17.) So though sins, not yet washed away, in such as have been justified, may and will certainly prejudge them of many comfortable advantages, which they might otherwise have; yet they do not take away their Sonship, nor their right to the inheritance of sons.
††††††††† 6. Though after-sins, not yet pardoned through faith, do and will stir up Fatherly anger and displeasure against them, who are justified, and become his adopted children; Isaiah 54: 7, 8, yet they bring not the justified man under pure judicial wrath, and under the curse and law-anger, so as God is no more their Father, but hath cast them out of his familial, and fatherly favor. It is one thing to be under the frowns and glooms of an angry Father, and another thing to be under the severe aspect of an angry judge.
††††††††† 7. It is considerable also, that through grace, and the Lordís great love and wisdom, after-sins are so far from destroying their state and right to the inheritance, that upon the contrary, they are ordered to the justified manís good, and further establishment in grace; not that sin itself hath any such natural tendency; but it is by accident to sin, which is so ordered by the wise disposal of a loving Father, making all things work together for good, and thus counter-working Satan without, and corruption within, making that, which Satan had designed to their ruin and destruction, contribute to their good and advantage, by giving them fresh occasion, of exercising humility and repentance, and of renewing their gripping of Christ by faith, and of watching more with diligence hereafter; as also hereby they are put to search and examine themselves, to try their rights and securities, and thus to make their calling and election sure, to their further establishment and comfort in the Holy Ghost.
††††††††† 8. Thus we see whatever present alteration after sins, not yet taken to Christ, to the end they may be pardoned through his blood, do, or can make, as to the present condition of the justified; yet their state remains firm, and unshaken; for thereby they fall not again under the old covenant; nor under the sentence thereof, nor under pure Law-wrath, pure justice and the curse of a broken covenant; but being under grace, and not under the Law, they are secured as to condemnation, Romans 8: 1, and as to the loss of the favor and friendship of God, Romans 8: 35 Ė 39. For not only is the guilt of original sin, and of all their preceding actual sins taken away, through faith in Christ, when they were justified, but there is a sure way condescended upon betwixt Jehovah and the Mediator, how their after sins shall be pardoned, and taken out of the way, and the same method and way is declared in the Gospel, and made sure by the Covenant of Grace: and by their being in the Covenant, they have a right unto the promises thereof, and ground to press for the performance; and so for remission, and for all things requisite thereunto, or following thereupon; yea they have a sure pledge of remission already, to wit, the actual pardon of what is past, and their past justification; that is a comforting and strengthening word, Romans 5: 9, 10, ≠much more then being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him; for if when we are enemies, we were reconciled to God, by the death of his Son; much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And so is Romans 8: 32, He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all: how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
††††††††† 9. We may add, that if sins, afterward committed, could take away justification, then they should also take away adoption, and regeneration; and so the justified man, should by after sins, not only become an unjustified man, but also the child of God should become again the child of the devil, and the relation should be quite broken off, and he, who was born, again, should return unto his former state of black nature: and thus there should be a second, and a third, yea and multiplied regeneration; whereof the Scripture is silent, nay it clearly depones the contrary.
††††††††† 10. And if it be enquired, how it comes to pass, that after sins may
not, at least, gradually impair the state of justification, as sins do impair and weaken sanctification? I answer, (and this may further help to clear the business under hand,) the reason is manifest from the difference that is betwixt these two blessings and benefits. Justification is an act of God, changing the relative state of a man, and so is done and perfected in a moment: Sanctification is a progressive work of God, making a real physical change, in the man; whence sin may retard this or put it back, but cannot do so with the other, which is but one single act, once done, and never recalled, the gifts and calling of God being without repentance, Roman 11: 29. In justification we are merely passive, it being a sentence of God pronounced in our favors; in sanctification, as we are in some respects patients, so are we also agents, and actors, and thus sin may retard us in our motion, and as it evidences our weakness for acting, so it produces more weakness. Moreover sin and holiness are opposite to each other, as light and darkness, and therefore, as the one prevails, the other must go under, and as the one increases, the other must decrease. But there is no such opposition between sin and pardon, which is granted in justification. And whereas it may be said, that sin expels also grace meritoriously: yet that prejudges not the truth in hand, for it can expel grace meritoriously no further, than the free constitution of God hath limited: and so though it can and oft doth expel many degrees of sanctification, yet it cannot expel and make null the grace of regeneration; or the Seed of God, so no more can it expel or annul justification; because the good pleasure of God, hath secured the one and the other and made them both unalterable.
††††††††† By these particulars, we see how the first doubt is removed out of the way; we shall next speak to the second, which is concerning afflictions, and punishments, which are the fruits and deserts of sin, and seem to be part of the curse or penalty threatened in the first Covenant: To which we need not say much to show, that notwithstanding hereof, the State of justification remains firm, and unaltered. These few things will suffice to clear the truth.
††††††††† 1. Though all affliction, and suffering be the fruit and consequent of the breach of the Covenant by Adam, the head of mankind; for if he had stood, and the Covenant had not been violated, there had been no misery, affliction, death or suffering; and though in all, who are afflicted in this world, there is sin to be found; and though it cannot be instanced, that God ever brought an afflicting or destroying stroke upon a land or nation, but for the provocations of the people; yet the Lord may sometimes afflict outwardly or inwardly, or both, a particular person, in some particular manner, though not as provoked thereunto by that personís sin, or without a special reference to their sin, as the procuring cause thereof; as we see in Job, and as Christís answer concerning the blind man, John 9: 3, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents (that he was born blind;) but that the works of God should be made manifest in him, gives ground to think.
††††††††† 2. Though it more often falls out that God does afflict, punish and
chasten his people even because of their sins, as well as other wicked persons; yet the difference betwixt the two is great, though the outward calamity may be materially the same. To the godly, they flow from love, are designed for good, are sanctified, and made to do good, they are covenanted mercies; but nothing so to the wicked. They are mercies to the one, but curses to the other. They speak out love to the one, but hatred to the other. They are blessed to the one, but blasted and cursed to the other. They work together for good to the one, but for evil to the other; and all this notwithstanding, that the outward affliction and calamity that is on the godly, may be double or triple to that, which is upon the wicked: Yea there is mercy and love in the afflictions of the godly, when the prosperity of the wicked is cursed. Whence we see that all these afflictions cannot endanger or damage their justified state.
††††††††† 3. Though the Lord may be wroth and smite in anger his own people, chasten and punish them in displeasure; yet, this wrath and anger, is but the wrath and anger of a Father, and is consistent with fatherly affection in God, and therefore cannot be repugnant to a state of Sonship in them. Proverbs 3: 11, 12; Hebrews 12: 5 Ė 8; Psalm 89: 30 Ė 34; Revelation 3: 19.
††††††††† 4. In all these afflictions, that seem to smell most of the curse, and of the death threatened, and are most inevitable, such as death, &c. there is nothing of pure vindictive justice to be found in them, when justified persons are exercised with them: for Christ did bear all that, being made a curse for them, and as to this, the Lord caused all their iniquities to meet together upon him: He drunk out the cup of vindictive anger, and left not one drop of the liquor of the curse of the law, for any of his own to drink: He alone did bear the weight of revenging justice; and there is nothing of this, in all that doth come upon believers; so that the very sting of death is taken away, and the sting of all these afflictions is sucked out, and now they are hanged into mercies and blessings, I Corinthians 3: 21, 22. Therefore we must not think that they contribute the least mite unto that satisfaction, which justice required for sins, and Christ paid down to the full; and justice was fully satisfied with what he paid down: nor must we think, that God will exact a new satisfaction for sins, or any part thereof, of the hands of believers, after he hath received a full satisfaction from the Mediator Christ, and did rest satisfied therewith. The afflictions and punishments then, that the godly meet with, being no parts of the curse, nor of that satisfaction that justice requires for sin, nor flowing from vindictive justice; but being rather fatherly chastisements, mercies and means of God, can do no hurt unto their state of justification; nor can anything be hence inferred, to the prejudice of that glorious state.
††††††††† 5. But it is said, pardon and justification is one thing, and a man is no more justified than he is pardoned; and pardon is but the taking off of the obligation to punishment, and consequently of punishment itself; and seeing punishment is not wholly taken off, but there remains some part of the curse, or of the evil threatened for sin, and will remain until the resurrection, it is clear, that pardon is not fully complete, nor consequently
justification so long as we live. But for answer, and to clear up the matter in hand more, we say (1.) Pardon of sins is not adequately the same with justification, nor the whole thereof, but at most a part, or rather a partial effect in justification, the person is constituted righteous, and declared such, and thereupon hath his sins pardoned, and a right to the purchased reward; and he is thus made and declared righteous, through the Mediatorís surety righteousness, imputed to him, and laid hold upon by faith. (2.) When a person is justified, he is at once and forever freed from the punishment due from the law and from† vindictive justice, for the broken covenant: and the obligation to punishment required by vindictive justice, is taken away and dissolved; Christ having fully born that punishment, and satisfied that demand of justice, they, in and through him, are delivered from the curse, and the maledictory sentence. (3.) Hence all their sufferings and afflictions here, being no part of the curse, nor of satisfaction to divine vindictive justice, nor of the condemnation threatened, how ever they be materially evil, and Fatherly chastisements or punishments; yet are no effects of law vengeance, nor parts of vindictive punishment: and so cannot give ground to infer an imperfect pardon, or an imperfect justification. (4.) Nor must we call them any part of the punishment, threatened by the law, remaining yet unremoved; for that would make them parts of the curse; and yet Mr. Baxter Confession p. 125, conceives it fittest to say, that believers are freed from the curse, and are not under it, and adds his reasons there: And the consequence is clear, because, what the law threatens, as such, belongs to the curse; for the law says, Cursed is everyone, that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law to do them, Galatians 3: 10, Deuteronomy 27: 26. And therefore every punishment, that is a punishment of the Law, must be part of the curse; so if the punishments, or afflictions, that the godly are now under, be part of the curse, that is yet remaining unremoved, or of the punishment (as Mr. Baxter there p. 124 says) it will inevitably follow, that believers are yet under the curse, and not wholly delivered there from; and as to these outward afflictions, many of the truly godly shall be more under the curse, than several of the wicked: and if they be under any part of the curse, how can they be pronounced blessed? How can they be said to be redeemed from the curse of the Law? How can Christ be said to have been made a curse for them, how shall their sufferings not be a part of satisfaction to vindictive justice? Shall not they be in part satisfiers for themselves? Shall not they then be beholden to Christ only in part? How then shall these afflictions flow from love, run in the channel of love, and work out their good, through grace and love, if they be any real and formal parts of the curse? Shall not the curse then be a part of the blessedness of the saints, and of their bequeathed portion, which they may own as theirs, as well as they may own life! Shall not the curse, or a part of the curse, separate from the love of God, and of Christ? What will, I pray, if that do it not; and yet the Apostle tells us Romans 8: 35 &c. that afflictions cannot do it, nor death itself. How can any part of the curse work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?
and yet afflictions do that, II Corinthians 4: 17. The curse will not conform us unto Christ; yet afflictions will, and do, Romans 8: 29. (5.) Even as to the remnants of the body of death, that cause the godly to groan, and cry out, Miserable man &c., if we consider them, as an affliction, we cannot say, that they are a remnant part of law-vengeance, of law-punishment, or of the curse, threatened in the law; for then they should be effects of Godís hatred towards the persons, and of pure vengeance and of juridical, and judicial wrath and anger, and were not capable of sanctification to their spiritual advantage; and believers, upon this account, could not be said to be delivered from the law, and dead to that, wherein they were formerly held, as they are Romans 7: 6, for they who are under the curse, and under such an especial part or effect thereof, cannot but be under the law, and that, as a cursing condemning law, Galatians 3: 10. Nor could the Apostle infer, as he does, after the mentioning of the sad wrestlings, that the godly have, with the body of death, Romans , &c. that there is now therefore no condemnation to them, that are in Christ, Romans 8: 1, for this would not follow from their being really and properly under such a great part of the curse. Sure, this cannot but be derogatory unto the perfect satisfaction made by Christ; seeing hereby there is, in some measure, a satisfaction made unto the justice of God: and it was the end of Christís suffering and satisfaction, to deliver his people from the curse of the law, in whole, and in part, and from that penalty threatened in the Covenant of works. Christ was made a curse for us, and thereby did redeem us, not in part only, but wholly, from the curse of the law: and this penal law Mr. Baxter must understand page 127, Confession, or he speaks not to the purpose. Nor can I say with him ibid, p. 119, that every threatening is it in one sense, and the execution in another, that is commonly called the curse of the Law: for the execution of the law upon any person, is inconsistent with loving-kindness towards that person; but so is not every threatening, nay nor the execution thereof upon believers, as we see Psalm 89: 30 Ė 33. Nor could these executions of threatenings be said to flow from love, contrary to Revelation 3: 19, Hebrews 12: 6, Proverbs 3: 12, for there is no fatherly love, in executing of the curse.