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Chapter 22

 

Our act of faith is not imputed to us as a

Righteousness

 

We proceed now to clear, at some further length, several particulars, touched in the foregoing chapter contributing to the explication of our justification by faith. The first and great question anent faith is, whether it be imputed unto the believer as his righteousness, whereupon he is justified? Adversaries to the truth both Socinians and Arminians do plainly assert, that our faith, or that grace of faith is the very thing which is imputed to the believer for his righteousness. They are all convinced that the sinner must be clothed with a righteousness, some way or other, in some sense or other, ere he can be justified, for the Lord is righteous, and will not justify the wicked, that is such as have no righteousness: and being unwilling to yield to the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, they substitute in place of Christ’s righteousness, faith, properly taken, or our act of believing, as it is performed by us, in obedience to the Gospel command. Socinus de Serv. lib. 4. c. 4. Cum igitur &c. i.e. seeing he teacheth, by the example of Abraham, that righteousness is imputed, who can doubt, that nothing else can hereby be understood, but that we are righteous before God, because it hath seemed good to the Lord, to account our faith, in place of righteousness. And hereafter, That faith is imputed unto righteousness, is nothing else, than that faith is accounted to us in place of righteousness, but not that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. And cap. 11, Themselves say, that that faith justifieth not by its proper worth, but because it apprehendeth Christ: But that apprehension of Christ of yours, is a mere human fiction, and a most vain dream. And when we read, that faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness, or unto righteousness, we have no reason to think, that mention is there made of the righteousness of another, when it is manifest, that he is speaking of his own. In his dial. de Justif. s. 14, 15, he tells us, that faith is by God imputed to us for righteousness, and he accounteth that in place of righteousness… faith is in very deed that whereby the Scriptures witnesseth that we are justified, that is, accounted righteous before God, and have our sins pardoned. This faith maketh us acceptable unto God unto eternal life. And in not. ad dial. s. 27. Nothing else was said, than that faith is accounted to us of God, and imputed for righteousness, and that that faith is truly in us, who will deny seeing these words are said to exclude the imputation of Christ’s righteousness? The Arminians do homologate with the Socinians in this. Arminius himself cont Perkins says expressly that faith itself is imputed to us, and in Praef ad Hyppolit this, (says he,) is my opinion about justification, that faith, and that alone is imputed unto righteousness, that by it we are justified before God, absolved from our sins, and accounted righteous, pronounced and declared by God giving sentence from the tribunal

 

 

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of grace. Some blame me for saying that the act of faith itself, credere is imputed unto righteousness, and that in a proper sense, not metonymically I say, faith is imputed unto us unto righteousness, for Christ and his righteousness sake. He owns the same in decl. Sent. ad Ord. f 65, 66 and in Resp. ad 31, Artic. f 152 – 154.

          John Goodwine in his Treatise of Justification Part 1, chapter 2, asserts the same most confidently from Romans 4, whose reasons hereafter shall be examined. The same purpose he prosecutes in part 2, chapter 6, answering the arguments of the orthodox against that imputation, which shall be considered in due time.

          Mr. Baxter in his Confess. page 18, 19, excepts against some words in our Larger Catechism and Confession of faith, to wit, that it is denied, that the grace of faith, or any act thereof is imputed for justification, unless it be thus understood, that our faith is not imputed to us, as being instead of a perfect righteousness of obedience, to the ends, as it was required by the Law of works; nor is our faith the matter, or the meritorious cause of the remission of our sins, or of our right to salvation. But the meaning of the Assembly is plain enough against that, which is the opinion of Socinians and Arminians, as the words of the answer to question 73 of the larger Catechism makes manifest; where it is said (in answer to that question, How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?) Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of these other graces, which do always accompany it, or of good works, that are the fruit of it; nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof were imputed to him for his justification (and this is confirmed from Romans 4: 5 compare with Romans 10: 10,) but only as it is an instrument, by which he receives and applies Christ, and his righteousness. And in the Confession of Faith, chapter 11, section 1, nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, nor any other evangelical obedience, to them, as their righteousness. Nor is this a determining of a point, expressly against the words of God, as he supposes; for it is not the bare words, as heretics interpret them, that is the mind of God, but the true sense and meaning of his words. And in the Confessions and Catechisms, I judge that matters should be made plain, and that it were not plain and ingenuous dealing to set down the truth in these expressions, that heretics can subscribe unto, when it is known, they have an exposition of these words contrary to the truth: It seems that Mr. Baxter will not say, in the explication of the Sacrament of the Lord’s supper, that the bread is not changed into the body of Christ, lest he seem to contradict express Scripture, which says, that Christ said of the bread, this is my body.

          But now, as to the matter, I assert with our Confession and Catechisms and with all the orthodox against Socinians and Arminians, that faith, considered as our act of obedience, is not that which is accounted our righteousness, in order to justification, nor that, which is properly imputed to us for that end; nor is that the meaning of the Apostle, Romans 4. And of this I give these reasons.

          1. The Apostle, in his whole dispute about justification, opposes Faith and Works as inconsistent with, yea as repugnant to, one another, as is well known;

 

 

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But this could not be, if faith as our act of obedience were imputed to us, as our righteousness; for faith, as our act of obedience, is a work, and a work commanded by the Law of God, otherwise it should be unlawful, or a work of supererogation. The meaning, then, of the Apostle’s conclusion in Romans 3: 28, should be this, a man is justified by one deed of the law, without all deeds or works of the law; which were a contradiction. And it is certain, that when the Apostle excludes the works of the Law, he excludes them from being looked upon, as our imputed righteousness; for adversaries did plead for their interest in justification, as a righteousness to be imputed to the doers, whereupon they might be justified: if then faith as our work, were imputed as our righteousness, Paul’s dispute should be, whether all works should be imputed for righteousness, or one work of faith only. Nor can it be said, that by the law here, the Apostle understands only the Law of Moses, as such, for he is speaking this, even of the Gentiles, who never were under the Law of Moses, and instances in chapter four, Abraham, who was justified long before the Law of Moses, as such, had a being. And he is speaking of the Law, by which is the knowledge of sin, Romans 3: 20, and which worketh wrath, Romans 4: 15, which cannot agree to the Law of Moses only.

          2. By asserting, that faith, properly taken, is accounted our righteousness, the whole scope and all the arguments, which the Apostle uses in this matter, should be enervated and contradicted; as a very light view of them might make manifest, and the following arguments will evince.

          3. Faith, considered as our act of obedience, and as a work of ours, is not that righteousness of God without the Law, which is witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. Nor is it that righteousness of God, which is by the faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe, Romans 3: 21, 22. Neither Law nor Prophets did bear witness that faith, as our act and work, was accounted all the righteousness that was to be imputed to the believer: nor said that our act of faith was the righteousness of God, without the works of the Law. Nor is it imaginable, how faith can be that righteousness of God, which by faith is imputed unto all, and put upon all that believe. Shall we think, that the Apostle’s words have but this sense, that faith is unto and upon them, that have faith; or that faith is imputed by faith? Surely the Apostle’s words must be so understood, as to import, that the believer hath by his faith something imputed to him, which is distinct from faith, as is obvious.

          4. If faith, as our work, were imputed as righteousness, how could the righteousness of God be declared in the justification of sinners, and God be just, when he was the justifier of him, which believes in Jesus; as the Apostle says in Romans 3: 26? Is our believing such a perfect and complete righteousness, that God cannot but account us righteous because of it, and so justify us as righteous, upon the account of it? Is it not sick of the same distemper of weakness with other graces?

          5. If faith, as our act and work were imputed to us as our righteousness,

 

 

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how should boasting be excluded, and all occasion of glorying, though not before God (before whom even Adam, though he had continued in his state of innocence unto the end, could not have glorified) yet before men, taken away, as it is in the matter of justification, Romans 3: 27 and 4: 2. The Law of works will not exclude boasting, and faith, as our work belongs to the Law of works: and if we were justified by faith, as our imputed righteousness, we should certainly have ground of glorying before men, as well as Adam should have had, if he had stood in his integrity, and obtained the crown by his doing.

          6. If faith, as our work, were imputed to us for our righteousness, justification and the reward should not be of grace, but of debt; as the Apostle expressly affirms, Romans 4: 4, 5. Now to him, that worketh (and he who believes, in this, which he now opposes, works) is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt; but to him, that worketh not, but believeth (believing then, is here opposite to working, and therefore cannot be considered as a work of obedience in us, but as carrying us out of ourselves, to seek and lay hold on the righteousness of Christ, without us) on him, that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness; that is, the righteousness of Christ, which faith lays hold on, is counted for righteousness.

          7. If faith, as our act of obedience, were accounted our righteousness, and we were justified upon the account of it, as our righteousness, God should not be he, who justifies the ungodly, as he is expressly styled in Romans 4: 5. And the reason is, because he cannot be called an ungodly person, who hath a righteousness inherent in him, and which is his own, and which the Lord accounts to him for a righteousness: he is not unrighteous, whom God accounts righteous, and he whom God accounts righteous, cannot be called ungodly: so that if God account faith to us for our righteousness, putting it upon our score, as our righteousness, when God justifies us as righteous, by virtue of our faith, or as clothed with faith, as a complete righteousness, he cannot be said to justify such as are ungodly. But now, the Scripture tells us, that God is one, that justifies the ungodly, that is, one who hath no righteousness inherent in him, upon the account of which, the just and righteous God can justify him; but one that must have a righteousness from without, imputed to him, upon the account of which he is justified, and accounted righteous in Christ, though unrighteous and ungodly in himself; our faith cannot be said to be imputed to us, as our righteousness.

          8. If faith, as our act of obedience, were imputed to us, as our righteousness, Paul could not say, as he doth in Romans 4: 6, Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works: for then righteousness should not be imputed without works; but a prime, special, principal and comprehensive work (for with our adversaries here, faith is in a manner all works, or comprehends them, as we heard, towards the end of the foregoing chapter) should be imputed, as our righteousness, and not a righteousness without works.

 

 

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          9. Free pardon of sins will never prove the man blessed, unto whom God imputes faith, in a proper sense, for his righteousness, as it doth prove him blessed, unto whom God imputes Christ’s righteousness, or a righteousness without works: And the reason is, because faith is no satisfaction to the justice of God; and therefore cannot be our righteousness, upon which we are pardoned and justified. Now the Apostle argues thus, Romans 4: 6, 7, 8, Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works; saying, blessed are they, whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered, blessed is the man, to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

          10. The righteousness imputed is something distinct from our faith, and is not our faith itself, for the Apostle says in Romans 4: 23, 24 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him, but also for us, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him &c. If faith itself were the righteousness imputed, these words could make no good sense. Shall we think, that the meaning of the Apostle’s words is nothing but this: Faith shall be imputed if we have faith, or our believing shall be imputed to us, if we believe. This looks not like one of the discourses of the Apostle.

          11. The imputation of our believing, as our righteousness, cannot ground our peace with God, nor have we by it access into this grace, wherein we stand; nor can we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; nor glory in tribulation: for it is obvious, how weal a ground that were for such a great building. But the righteousness of Christ laid hold on by faith, can be a sufficient basis for all this Romans 5: 1, 2, 3.

          12. Faith, as our work of obedience, is not the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which must be imputed to us, as our righteousness, upon the account of which we are to be justified: as the offense and transgression of Adam was imputed to his posterity, as the ground of death, passing upon them, and of judgment or guilt to condemnation: But is only our receiving of that abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness Romans 5: 17. But that which is imputed, as the ground of justification, as Adam’s disobedience was imputed, as the ground of their condemnation, is the righteousness of the second Adam, of whom the first was a figure, verse 14, 15, 18, 19.

          13. When the Apostle says, II Corinthians 5: 21 for he made him sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God, in him; his meaning cannot be, that our faith is the righteousness of God, or that we are made the righteousness of God upon that account of having faith: for the Apostle is holding forth here a comfortable commutation, which God makes between Christ and us, as the ground of that ministry of reconciliation; to wit; that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, mentioned verse 18, 19. And therefore as Christ hath something, that was properly ours, imputed to him by God, that is sin or guilt, which he had not in himself: so we must have something, as the native fruit and effect of that, that is properly Christ’s, imputed to us of God, that is, his righteousness, which we have not in ourselves.

 

 

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And besides, this righteousness of God is that, whereupon reconciliation is founded, as is manifest, comparing verse 19 with 21. But who will say, that our reconciliation unto God is founded upon our faith, as if that were our peace-maker, and our atonement, and satisfaction; and as if that were Christ, in whom God was reconciling the world unto himself. Was Christ made sin, that the imperfect grace of faith might be made a complete righteousness and become our complete righteousness?

          14. When the Apostle says, Romans 9: 31, 32, That Israel hath not attained to the law of righteousness, because they sought it not by faith, he must mean a righteousness, that is distinct from faith, and therefore he cannot mean faith itself: for if he meant faith itself, as our work, the words should have this sense, they sought not faith by faith, and therefore they did not attain to faith. Shall we impute such jejune and insipid expressions to Paul, or rather to the Spirit of God speaking in and by Paul?

          15. The same Apostle tells us, Romans 10: 3, 4, that the Jews being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, hove not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God: and by this righteousness of God, he cannot mean, Faith: for their faith had been their own, and so their own righteousness, if faith had been righteousness: but he must mean the righteousness of Christ, which faith lays hold on, for he adds, for Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness, to everyone that believeth: So that it is the righteousness  of him, who is the end of the law, that is that righteousness, unto which they should have submitted themselves by faith; and it is not faith itself, but a righteousness which is had from Christ; who is the end of the law, and a righteousness, which is had by faith, and which everyone partakes of that believes, as the following words shows.

          16. When the Apostle says, Romans 5: 19, by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous, doth he mean by that obedience of one, our faith; and not rather the obedience of Christ, which is imputed, and whereby we become righteous? As the disobedience of Adam was not some particular after deed of his posterity, which was imputed to them for their disobedience; but was the particular act of Adam, eating the forbidden fruit, which was imputed to all his posterity, and whereby they were constituted sinners: so this obedience of Christ cannot be any act of obedience in us, be it faith, or what you will; but the acts of Christ obeying the Law, and imputed to us, whereby we become righteous, and are constituted righteous in the sight of God.

          17. When Paul said, Philippians 3: 9 and be found in him (i.e. Christ) 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 by faith, can he mean by this righteousness, which he was desirous to be found in, only Faith? If he had meant faith, had not that been his own righteousness? Is not our faith called our own? If not, why does James say, James 2 show me thy faith, and I will show you my faith. And should not this righteousness, if his believing had been it, been of the law? Or is faith according to no law?

 

 

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If it be according to no law, it is no act of obedience. Moreover, how could faith be said to be through faith? Is faith a mean to itself? How can faith be the righteousness of God, which is by faith? Was not the Apostle’s scope and desire, to win Christ? And is faith Christ?

          18. If our act of believing be imputed to us as our righteousness, then we cannot say, In the Lord have we righteousness, contrary to Isaiah 45: 24, in order to saying, in the Lord we shall be justified, as verse 25. But rather in ourselves have we righteousness, in order to this end, for faith or our act of believing is in ourselves immediately, and is said to be our righteousness. Nor can we thus call the Lord our righteousness, contrary to Jeremiah 43: 6. But rather our own act of believing shall be our righteousness, and trusted to as such. Nor yet could we say, that Christ is made of God to us righteousness, as it is in I Corinthians 1: 30, unless that because by virtue of his mediation, our act of believing is made of God to us righteousness. Sure I am that the emphasis of the words points out some other thing, as hath been seen.

          19. Is our believing that robe of righteousness, wherewith the Lord covers such, as have ground to rejoice greatly in the Lord, and to be joyful in their God, Isaiah 61: 10? Such might as well rejoice greatly in themselves, and be joyful in themselves, and in their believing.

          20. Is faith that everlasting righteousness that the Messiah was to bring in, Daniel 9: 24? Doth our act of believing last forever? Paul hints some other thing, I Corinthians 13.

          21. When Paul says, Romans 10: 10, that with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, must not this righteousness be something distinct from believing? If not, we may as well say, that confession with the mouth is the same with salvation, for he adds, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, wherefore, as confession is but a mean and way unto salvation, so believing is but a mean and a way unto righteousness.

          22. Can we with any color of reason suppose, that our act of believing is that righteousness of God, which is revealed from faith to faith, Romans 1: 17. Can faith be said to be revealed from itself, and to itself?

         23. Our act of believing cannot be that righteousness, whereof Noah became heir, Hebrews 11: 7, for he became heir of this righteousness by faith: and he could not be said to become heir of faith by faith.

          24. Faith is among the works of righteousness, which we do: and all these works of righteousness the Apostle excludes from an interest in that righteousness, whereupon we are justified, as opposite to mercy, Titus 3: 5.

          25. If our act of believing be imputed to us for righteousness, then it alone must be that fine linen, wherein the lamb’s bride is arrayed; and it must be the fine linen that is clean and white; for this fine linen is said to be the righteousness of the saints, Revelation 19: 8. But that cannot be because our faith is not so pure, as that it may be called clean and white linen; the saints themselves are ashamed of their faith, as being so full of blemishes and imperfections; as also because this favor granted to her to be arrayed in this linen, comes in after that she hath made herself

 

 

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ready, verse 7, which (as Mr. Durham on the place shows) is to be meant of faith.

          26. All this work about the imputation of faith taken properly, for our act of believing, is made of purpose, to shoot out the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; as is clear by John Goodwine’s whole dispute; and from his very stating of the question pars. 1 pag. 7, saying, But the question in precise terms is this, whether the faith of him, who truly believes in Christ, or whether the righteousness of Christ himself be in the letter and propriety of it, that which God imputes to a believer for righteousness, or unto righteousness, in his justification. Now let any judge which of the two hath more countenance in Scripture, when the one, to wit, the imputation of faith, is but to be drawn, with any show of probability, from one place of Scripture (and yet how small countenance that gives to it shall be seen hereafter) and the other is so emphatically expressed, in so many places, both in the Old and New Testament; And which of the two deserve most the name of righteousness, in order to our justification: and the imputation of which of the two is most consonant unto the genius of the Gospel Covenant, which we must suppose to be far different from the nature and constitution of the Covenant of Life, made with Adam; and withal, which of the two ways speaks out most distinctly the riches of the love and grace of God, and gives most sure ground of hope and confidence unto a poor wakened and distressed soul; and finally, which of the two is that, which the seriously exercised Christians find to be that, whereupon they loaning and resting find peace, and quietness of soul?

 

 

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