The Imputation of Faith itself not proved
from Romans 4
††††††††† The main, if not only ground, whereupon our adversaries build their assertion of the imputation of our act of believing, is Romans 4, where they tell us, the Apostle doth frequently and expressly say, that faith is imputed unto righteousness. We must therefore, in order to vindicate the truth, vindicate this place from their corrupt glosses; and to this end we shall first show that that cannot be the meaning of the Apostle in this place, which our adversaries contend for. Next we shall examine what they say to enforce their exposition of the place.
††††††††† That the meaning of the Apostle in Romans 4, where it is said, Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness: and afterward, his faith is counted for righteousness, and faith was counted to Abraham for righteousness, &c., is not that Abrahamís act of believing was accounted the righteousness whereupon he was accepted, and was imputed unto him as a righteousness in order to his justification; and consequently, that the act of believing is now imputed to believers for their righteousness, as said Servetus, Socinus and his followers, Arminius and his followers, Papists, and others; that, I say, this is not the true meaning of the place, may appear from these particulars.
††††††††† 1. If the act of believing be accounted a righteousness, it must either be accounted a perfect righteousness, or an imperfect righteousness: If it be accounted for an imperfect righteousness, no man can thereupon be justified;
But Paul is speaking of a righteousness that was accounted to Abraham the father of the faithful, in order to justification, and that behooved to be a perfect righteousness; for all his works, wherein was an imperfect righteousness, were rejected: It cannot be accounted for a perfect righteousness, because then it should be accounted to be what it is not, and this accounting being an act of Godís judgment, it would follow, that the judgment of God, were not according to truth; contrary to Romans 2: 2. The reason is, because our faith is not perfect in itself, there being much dross intermixed, and many degrees wanting in it: far less can it be a perfect righteousness, seeing a perfect righteousness must comprehend full obedience to the whole law of God.
††††††††† 2. The imputation, whereof the Apostle speaks, is of something to be made the believers, by the imputation of God, which the believer had not before. But this cannot be faith, or the work of believing, because faith is ours before this imputation; for Abraham believed God, and then followed this imputation; and in verse 24 it is said, that it (to wit, some other thing, than the act of believing), properly taken, that is imputed, or accounted here.
††††††††† 3. Faith being antecedent to this imputation, if the act of believing be imputed, the word impute, or account here, must not signify to bestow, grant or reckon upon their score; but simply to esteem, judge or repute: and thus faith, or the act of believing shall be in a believer, and yet not be a righteousness, till God repute it to be so: But when God esteems, judges, or reputes anything to be in us, he doth not change it, nor make it something, that it was not before; but judges it to be, what it is indeed, for his judgment is according† to truth, Romans 2: 2.
††††††††† 4. This sense and gloss is quite opposite unto, and inconsistent with the Apostleís main scope, in the first part of that Epistle, which is to prove, that righteousness is now revealed from faith to faith, Romans 1: 17, and that we are not justified by the works of the law, but freely by grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, Romans 3: 24, 25. And therefore not through the imputation of faith, the act of believing, or any work of righteousness, which we have done: for that should not exclude boasting, or glorying; but through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, received by faith.
††††††††† 5. That which was accounted to Abraham for righteousness, did exclude all works, and that to the end that all ground of boasting, even before men, might be taken away, verses 2 and 3. Therefore faith as a work, or the act of believing cannot be that which is here said to be reckoned or accounted to Abraham for righteousness: for this is a work, and being made the ground and formal objective cause of justification, cannot but give ground of glorying before men.
††††††††† 6. This gloss makes the Apostleís discourse wholly incoherent; for he says in verses 4 and 5, Now to him, that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace,
but of debt: but to him, that worketh not, but believeth on him, that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Now if faith, properly taken, be imputed, then the reckoning shall be of just debt: for to reckon a man righteous, who is righteous antecedent to that act of accounting, is no act of grace, but of just debt: but faith being accounted for righteousness is an act of grace, and therefore it must be the object of faith, or the righteousness that faith lays hold on, that is here said to be counted upon the believerís score; and this indeed is no act of just debt, but of grace.
††††††††† 7. Again, as was said above, if faith properly taken, or the act of believing be imputed for righteousness, God should not be the justifier of the ungodly; nor could faith act upon God, as such, with truth. And yet the Apostle tells us here expressly, that faith acts upon God, as one that justifies the ungodly. He who has a righteousness in himself is no ungodly man; and God justifying a righteous man; could not be said to justify the ungodly. But if we take faith here, for the object of faith, or for the righteousness of Christ, which faith flees unto, and lays hold on, all is clear and harmonious; for then that man is not a worker, but believes, and he believes on God, that justifies the ungodly, that is one, that has no righteousness in himself, but must have it elsewhere; even imputed to him, and bestowed upon him, through faith; and when he thus believes, or lays hold on Christís righteousness, this righteousness, which by faith he leans to, is counted on his score for righteousness, and he is thereupon justified.
††††††††† 8. Leaving what was formerly adduced against this gloss from verses 6, 7 and 8, we shall see what other passages of this same chapter will say against it. The faith that was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness, when he was in uncircumcision, verses 9 and 10, is the same with the righteousness of faith, which he had, being uncircumcised, verse 11. But this righteousness of faith is not his act of believing, nor faith taken properly, as an act of obedience; but the righteousness of the promised seed of the woman, in whom all nations of the earth should be blessed, embraced by faith: for it is this, and not the mere act of believing, that was sealed by the sign of circumcision, verse 11. For this sacrament was a seal of the covenant; and we know, sacraments seal the whole covenant, and all the promises thereof, to such as believe; and never seal our faith, or the like, to be our righteousness.
††††††††† 9. The same, that was imputed to Abraham for righteousness will be imputed to all believers, verse 11. But that is not the pure act of believing, for Abrahamís act of believing was a strong act, and is declared and explained to be such, but every believer, who yet must be justified, hath not such a strong act of faith, as Abraham had: and we cannot say, that some are less, and some are more justified, because the faith of some is weak, and the faith of others is strong: and yet this must be said, if the act of believing be imputed for a righteousness, for the righteousness of one shall be greater than the righteousness of another: and their justification must hold correspondence with the ground thereof.
††††††††† 10. That which was imputed to Abraham, and will be imputed to all believers for a righteousness, verse 11, must be a righteousness which such have imputed unto them, who believe. For it is added, that he might be the father of all them hat believe, though they be not circumcised, that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: Abraham had righteousness imputed to him, or reckoned upon his score, through faith, while he was uncircumcised, that he might be the father of believers, among the Gentiles, to whom also, when they believe, a righteousness will be imputed, as it was to father Abraham.
††††††††† 11. It is again called in verse 13, the righteousness of faith, and through it, he says the promise was to Abraham, and to his seed: but the promise is not through faith, as an act of virtue and obedience in us; for then it should be through the law; but as the promise was made upon the account of the righteousness of the promised seed, (our faith cannot be said to procure, or purchase such a promise) so its application is by faith, laying hold on and gripping to that righteousness.
††††††††† 12. If faith properly taken were imputed, it should be made void, and the promise of none effect, and they that are of the law should be heirs, for faith taken properly, for the act of believing, belongs to the law: and when it is made our righteousness, it is opposite to the free promise; for what is promised or given upon the account of righteousness, or anything within us, is not a free and gracious promise: And when a free and gracious promise is taken away, all the right use of faith is taken away; and so faith is made void; for the very essence of justifying faith lies in looking to, laying hold on, and leaning to a frees and gracious promise.
††††††††† 13. The Apostle in verse 15 proves that they who are of the law cannot be heirs; and consequently that faith, or the act of believing cannot be imputed for righteousness, as it is our act, done in obedience to the law; by this reason, because the law works wrath, &c. And this also makes against the imputation of faith, properly taken, because that is an act of obedience to the law, and cannot become our righteousness, being imperfect, and consequently not conformed to the law, which requires perfection in all duties, or otherwise threatens wrath. And if any shall deny this of faith, viz. that it belongs to the law, they must say, that there is no law for it; and consequently that not to believe is no sin, for the Apostle adds, where no law is, there is no transgression.
††††††††† 14. The ground of the free promise is that which must be imputed, and laid hold on by faith: but that cannot be faith properly taken, as our act. For then the promise should not be of grace, as it is expressly said to be in verse 16. Nor should it be sure, if it depended upon our faith, and not upon that, which faith lays hold on.
††††††††† These things, beside what was mentioned before from this same chapter, verses 6, 7, 8, 23, 24, may satisfy us in this matter, and sufficiently evince that it is not the Apostleís meaning, that faith, properly taken, as our act, or our act of believing, is imputed unto righteousness; but that the object of faith or the righteousness of Christ laid hold on, and applied
by faith is that righteousness which is reckoned upon the believerís score.
††††††††† Let us now, in the next place, see what the adversaries say to make us believe that Paul says in Romans 4 that our very act of believing is imputed to us for righteousness: and that thus the Apostle must be understood, and not as meaning the object of faith or the righteousness of Christ. The forecited author John Goodwine in his Justific. Part 1, chapter 2, adduces some grounds for his gloss, which must be examined.
††††††††† His first ground is the letter of the Scripture, that speaks it once and twice yea a third and a fourth time, verses 3, 9, 22, 23, 24. Certainly, says he, there is not any truth in religion, nor any article of the Christian belief, that can boast of the letter of the Scripture, more full, express, and pregnant for it. Answer: We find it only twice said, in express terms, that faith is counted for righteousness verse 5, and again in verse 9 that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. It is then too widely spoken, when he says, that there is not any truth in Religion, nor any article of the Christian faith, that can boast of more full, express and pregnant letter of Scripture; yea even, though it were as oft and as express as he alleges: but we must let many such confident expressions pass with him. (2.) The question is not touching the letter, or the words; but the true meaning: And if a truth be but once delivered, in the Scriptures, it is sufficient to command our faith; but words never so oft repeated, when corruptly glossed, yield no foundation to faith. We know, what Papists say of these words, This is my body, which with them is as full, express and pregnant a proof of their dream; as this passage of Paulís is of our adversaries fancies. And we know what Arians say of these words, My Father is greater than I: and yet their false glosses cannot be embraced for truths, let them boast of express Scriptures, never so much. And what error I pray, or heresy is it, that doth not pretend to the like? Let us see his next ground.
††††††††† 2. Says he, The scope of the place rejoices in the interpretation given. I grant indeed, that this is a good rule of interpreting Scripture; for it is as a sure thread to lead us through many labyrinths: But, which is the misery, many imagine that to be the scope of the place, which is not so indeed; and thus perverting and mistaking the scope, they must needs pervert all. Yet let us see, how he would make the scope contribute to his notions. The Apostleís main drift, (says he,) was to hedge up with thorns that false way of justification, which lay through works and legal performances; and withal to open and discover the true way of justification, that is, to make known what they must do, and what God requires of them to their justification; and that is (as John 6: 28, 29) faith or to believe in the proper and formal signification, and not the righteousness of Christ, this he required of Christ himself, he requires our faith in Christ himself, and not in his righteousness. Answer: Paulís scope is indeed to hedge up all justification by the law, or by the works thereof, in subordination to this other of showing that in the Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, Romans 1: 17. And therefore he cannot speak, for the imputation of faith, in its proper and formal signification; for that is a work, commanded
by the Law of God; and the imputation thereof is expressly alleged by our adversaries, to shoot out the righteousness of God, which is revealed from faith to faith. (2.) To say, that the Apostle here only requires faith in Christ, and not faith in his righteousness, in order to justification, is either to divide Christ and his righteousness, or to give us an historical faith, instead of justifying faith; that is such a faith in Christ as is the faith of any other truth revealed in the Scriptures, such as the creation of the world: and this is indeed to make a fundamental alteration in the Gospel covenant and to destroy the true nature of justifying faith. (3.) It is true, the Apostle is withal showing what we must do, in order to our justification; but this in no way impeaches the interest of Christís righteousness, as the formal ground of the justification of the ungodly; but rather establishes it: for he shows, that we are not now justified by our doing, or working, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith. (4.) Though God does not require of us the performance of the righteousness of Christ; yet he requires of us that we lay hold thereupon, and be covered therewith by faith, that under that robe, we may appear before our judge; for to this end, is Christ made of God unto us righteousness, and is become the Lord our Righteousness, I Corinthians 1: 30, Jeremiah 23: 6. And he requires of us, that we renounce all our own righteousness in this affair, and acknowledge the righteousness of Christ as the only righteousness, upon which we are to be justified, and therefore he wills us to say that in the Lord have we Righteousness, Isaiah 45: 24. He is pleased to add, Therefore for Paul to have said, that the righteousness of Christ should be imputed unto them, had been quite beside his scope. Why so? His telling them what was required of themselves, makes nothing against this, but does rather confirm it; for when faith is pressed upon us, it is clearly supposed that the righteousness of Christ is imputed, this being the peculiar work of faith, as justifying, to bring in and put on Christís righteousness: and so, where our redemption or justification by Christ is mentioned, faith (though it be not expressly mentioned) is to be understood, as the mean or instrument, whereby the same is applied to us; as also the redemption and righteousness of Christ is to be understood, where justification by faith is only expressed: and as sometimes we find both expressly mentioned; so both are most emphatically comprehended and included, in that expression, now under consideration. Such a glorious and firm connection is betwixt all these causes of our justification, and such a beautiful harmony of grace, that as they cannot be separated, so the deforming, misplacing, or any way altering of any one piece thereof, destroys the harmony, and darkens the beauty of the whole.
††††††††† In the third place he argues against faith being taken tropically or metonymically and to this end adduces these considerations. 1. It is not likely that the Apostle, in this great and weighty point, should time after time, in one place after another, without ever explaining himself, throughout the whole disputation, use such a harsh and uncouth expression, or figure of speech, as is not to be found in all his writing beside, nor in all the Scriptures. Answer: Figurative
expressions are neither harsh in themselves, being rather emphatically explicative, and more forcible upon the understanding, as to the uptaking of these mysteries; nor are they strange and uncouth to the Apostle, even in this matter, as might be abundantly evinced, almost as to every expression, used in this matter, or at least, as to such expressions as are about the main parts thereof: Let any read Paulís writings on this subject, here, and his epistle to the Galatians, and he shall find this true, almost in every chapter. But it should satisfy us, that the Holy Ghost hath thought it fit, to express the matter thus; and that to prevent mistakes, he hath given both here and elsewhere, abundance of clear, plain, and down right expressions, for a supply, as hath been shown above, so as none may mistake, but such as will willfully step aside to follow their own ways: And it is not fair for such, to object this, who, of all others, make the Scriptures to speak most figuratively and tropically, when they have a mind to evade the dint of our arguments from Scripture; of which very many instances might be adduced. It cannot but seem strange to any, who hath read the Scriptures with attention, to hear one with such confidence saying, that the naming of the act for the object is such a harsh and uncouth expression and figure of speech, as is not to be found in all the Scriptures again; when the same man hereafter cannot but confess that Hope is often put for the thing hoped for, and is manifest from Romans 8: 24, Colossians 1: 5, 27, and elsewhere, and also faith put for Christ, Galatians 3: 23 twice and verse 25 once. This putting the object for the act is a known and common Hebraism.
††††††††† His 2nd consideration is this: It is evident (says he) that that faith, or believing, which verse 3 said to be imputed to Abraham for righteousness, is opposed to works or working, verse 5. Now between faith properly taken and works, and so between believing and working, there is a constant opposition: but between the active obedience of Christ and works, there is no opposition. Answer: It is most true, that in the matter of justification, believing is opposed to working, and that constantly; and therefore he is concerned to look to it, who will have us considering faith here only in such a way, as it cannot be opposed to, but every way agree with works, as one of them. (2.) The opposition betwixt our righteousness, consisting in works which we do, and the Surety-Righteousness of Christ, consisting, not in his active obedience only, (as he mistakenly supposes all along,) but in both active and passive obedience, whereby he gave full satisfaction to the law, in all its demands, is so palpable, that it cannot be well dissembled, far less denied.
††††††††† His 3rd consideration is, that it is said in verse 5, ĎHis faith is imputed to him,í where it is evident, that that faith (whatsoever we understand by it) which is imputed for righteousness is His, that is, somewhat that truly and properly may be called his, before such imputation be made unto him. Now it cannot be said of the righteousness of Christ, that that is any manís, before the imputation of it be made unto him: But faith properly taken is the believerís, before it be imputed, at least in order of nature, if not of time. Answer: The words of verse 5 are, His faith is counted for, or unto righteousness. And so whatever be understood by faith, it may in some respect, at least, in order of nature be his, before it be
counted for, or unto, righteousness, or reckoned upon his score; yea it must so be, that it may rightly be reckoned on his score: and this is clear of the righteousness †of Christ, which becomes the believerís by faith, and is given to him, and so made his, by virtue of his union with Christ through faith: His mistake lies here, that he takes these words counted for righteousness, to be every way the same with imputing to or bestowing upon a person; while as the formal difference is manifest, though the one includes the other, and accounting unto righteousness doth in this matter, presuppose the imputation or bestowing of that which is counted to such an end. Further, why may not his faith, denote the object of his faith, as our hope, or our love may denote the object of our hope and love? And whence then shall there any necessity arise to say, that that object shall be truly and properly called his before the imputation of it be made unto him, taking this imputation for bestowing, as he seems here to do? But if imputation be taken for counting on their score it presupposes their interest in the same, prior in order to nature, (as is said) and that most manifestly.
††††††††† In the fourth place he says, Though we should grant a trope in this place, and by faith, its object should be meant: Yet it will not follow, that the righteousness of Christ should be here said to be imputed, but either God himself, or the promise of God, for it was God he believed, verse 3. Answer: In that promise made to Abraham, and which he believed, the sum of the Gospel was comprehended, as Paul himself teaches us, Galatians 3: 8. And this promise was a bundle of promises, and therefore is called promises, in the plural number Galatians 3: 16, 21, and was the Covenant confirmed of God in Christ, verse 17, and the inheritance verse 18 and life verse 21, which cannot be had without a righteousness, ibid. even the righteousness of faith that was to come, to wit of Christ, verse 22, 23, 24, who is the only Mediator, verse 20, and is there expressly called Christ and was to be revealed. Hence they, that have believed in Christ Jesus and are baptized into Christ, and have put on Christ, and are in Christ, and are Christís, are Abrahamís seed, Abraham must have been such himself; that Father and Children may be of one complexion; for the promise, that he should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith, Romans 4: 13, that is, through the righteousness of Christ the object of faith, and who is expressly called faith, Galatians 3: 23, 25. And it is added, Romans 4: 14, for if they, which are of the law, be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Faith, that may be, Christ, the object of faith, is made void, and all the actings of faith upon him are vain and of none effect, conformed to what the same Apostle says in Galatians 2: 21. If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. And as this faith is made void, so the promises of this faith, that was to come, are of no effect. Therefore the object of Abrahamís faith was Christ, the promised Messiah and that Faith that was to come, and the righteousness of that Faith. He reckons up, in the following words, to very little purpose, the several objects of faith from John 3: 16, 5: 46, 29: 31, 8: 24, Romans 10: 9, I Peter 1: 21, John 12: 44,
I John 5: 10, and supposes that no where Christís righteousness is mentioned as the object. But wherever faith or its object is mentioned, in the matter of justification, Christís righteousness is never excluded, more than himself, for he as himself was the Cautioner, so his righteousness was fidejussory; and faith acting upon one must necessarily act on both, these being inseparable; besides, that elsewhere this is expressly enough mentioned. Yet he grants, that it is of nearer concernment to the main, to believe this righteousness of Christ than the believing of many other things besides, comprehended in the Scriptures. But why I pray, if this belong not to the object of justifying faith? He not only will have us believe, that Christís righteousness is not reckoned amongst the objects of faith, as justifying; but he will also give a reason, why it is not so reckoned; to wit, because, though it ought to be and cannot but be believed by that faith, which justifies, yet it may be believed also by such a faith, which is so far from justifying, that it denies this Christ to be the Son of God. Thus some Jews gave testimony to his innocence, who yet received him not for their Messiah, nor believed him to be God; and this is the frame of the Turkish faith, for the most part, concerning him at this day. Answer: It is one thing to believe a righteousness, but it is another thing to believe in it, and rest upon it. The innocence of Christ as a man, before men is one thing, but his complete surety-righteousness as one that was both God and man, is another thing. Now justifying faith looks to, and rests upon his whole surety-righteousness and looks upon him, as God-Man; Therefore it cannot be thus believed (which is the only right way of believing it) but only by such, as lean to this righteousness, as the righteousness of the promised Messiah, and Mediator, God-Man, as Abraham did, and as all his children do: and this is the only faith, that is justifying and saving. It seems by this expression, that there is no more to be regarded in Christís righteousness, but the mere innocence of a man.
††††††††† Fifthly he tells us that faith, which is here said to be imputed, verse 3, is that faith, by which he believed in God, that quickeneth the dead, &c. verse 17. But the righteousness of Christ can in no tolerable construction be called that faith. Answer: That the proposition is false, appears sufficiently from what is said: and these words in verse 17 show how firmly and fixedly Abraham received and rested on the promise, and thing promised: but it is not said, that that was imputed to him for his righteousness; but that which was imputed was the righteousness of faith, that was to come, whereon he believed and rested.
††††††††† Sixthly and seventhly he says that the faith, that was imputed unto Abraham was that, wherein he was said not to be weak, verse 19, and is opposed to doubting, verse 20, and by which he was fully assured, that he who had promised was able to do it, verse 21. Answer: This is likewise denied. For the thing that was imputed was not that act of faith, but the righteousness of the Messiah, whom he undoubtedly expected to come out of his loins, as man, and that even when he had no appearance of an issue: for it is this righteousness which is the righteousness of Faith, and is distinct from the act of believing; for it is said, that it shall be imputed to us, if we believe; which expression could
be no way satisfying, if nothing were meant to be imputed here, but our believing; for then the sense would be this, we shall be reputed believers, if we are believers.
††††††††† Eighthly he says, That which shall be imputed unto us for righteousness, is said to be our believing on him, that raised up the Lord Jesus, verse 24. This is sick of the same disease with the foregoing: nothing like that is here said, but rather we may see, that some distinct thing is promised to be imputed to us, if we believe on him, that raised up Christ from the dead, which clearly says, that the imputation of something to us for righteousness is promised, when we believe: and shall any man then think, that believing itself is the thing, which is to be imputed?
††††††††† Lastly he tells us, (which is but what we heard before, and is shortly this,) That a tropical and metonymical interpretation turns Paulís perspicuity into greater obscurity than any light of Scripture knows well how to relieve. Answer: Whatever darkness he conceives herein, yet others see in these tropical expressions a greater beauty of illumination, and a greater emphasis of strength and signification, than all his rhetoric is able to darken. The Apostle, not only here, but almost everywhere, while speaking of this subject, follows this same manner of expression, especially in Galatians 3. Nor do we say, that the word Faith is here taken simply for Christís righteousness; but for Christís righteousness laid hold on and applied by faith; so that what is in one place called the righteousness of Christ, is in another place called the righteousness of faith, and the righteousness which is by faith and through faith: as Christ is called our hope, not simply, but as our hope acts upon him, as the real and true object thereof.
††††††††† He cannot deny, but faith is sometimes taken for its object, even for Christ; yet he says, 1. That though the faculty be sometimes put for the object, yet the act seldom, or never. The act or exercise of the grace of hope is never put for the things hoped for, but hope itself is sometimes found in that signification as Colossians 1: 5, Titus 2: 13. Now that which is here said to be imputed unto Abraham, was not the habit or grace of faith, but the act. Answer: Neither habit, nor grace, nor act of faith is here said to be imputed, but the object, which the act may also denote, as well as the habit. And if he limit and restrict this to any particular act, he must say, that Abraham was not justified before this time and after this act was past, it could not be said, that his faith was imputed to him for righteousness.
††††††††† But 2. he says, That though it were granted, that the act itself as well as the faculty or habit may be sometimes put for the object, yet when the act and object have been named together, and the act expressed by an object proper to it, and further something immediately ascribed unto this act, under that consideration (all which is plainly seen in this clause, ĎAbraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousnessí) in this case to conceive and affirm, that what is ascribed, is neither ascribed unto the act itself, there mentioned, nor unto the object mentioned, but unto a third thing, not once mentioned in the text, is to turn our back upon the text. Answer: Do we not see in Titus 2: 13 where it is said, looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, that Christ
is denominated by the act or habit of hope, and called our hope, and that here both act and object are named together, to wit, looking, looking for our Saviour Jesus Christ? It is true, there is nothing here immediately ascribed to this act; but not withstanding thereof, we see Christ the object of hope, denominated by the act or habit of hope. And whereas it is said that this third thing, the righteousness of Christ, is not once mentioned, it may suffice, that it is sufficiently included, and clearly enough expressed when mention is made of righteousness, and of the righteousness of faith, and of righteousness imputed (2.) It is also to be considered, that in that clause, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness, it is not said, that faith, or his believing was counted to him for righteousness, but that it was counted &c. and that is not his faith, but the marrow of the Gospel, which God at that time preached unto him, and so there is nothing in this clause, immediately ascribed to this act but a third thing understood.
††††††††† Lastly, he says, the righteousness of Christ is not the object of faith, as justifying; only the Scriptures propose his righteousness, or obedience to the law, as that, which is to be believed; and so it may be termed a partial object, as is the creation of the world, and that Cain was Adamís son. But the object of faith as justifying properly is either Christ himself, or the promise of God concerning the redemption of the world by him. Answer: (1.) Hereby we see, that instead of a justifying faith, he gives us a mere historical faith: and indeed such as deny the imputation of Christís righteousness, must of necessity substitute a new sort of faith, in room of that, which we own for the only justifying faith. But though justifying faith contain in it that historical faith, and presuppose it; yet it includes more, and hath other peculiar actings of soul upon and towards Christ, and his righteousness (which here we cannot separate, far less oppose to each other, as our adversary doth)in reference to the manís liberation from the sentence of the law, and the curse due to him for the breach thereof, now charged home upon him by the Lord, and an awakened conscience: (2.) By Christís righteousness we do not understand his simple innocence, or freedom from the transgression of the law; but his whole Mediatory work, in his state of humiliation, as satisfying the offended Law-Giver, and answering all the demands of the Law, both as to doing and suffering, which debt we were lying under. (3.) Justifying faith eyes him thus, runs to him and accepts of him, as he is thus set forth by God to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, Romans 3: 25, and as making reconciliation; for faith receives the atonement, Romans 5: 11, and it receives abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, verse 17. Justifying faith must receive him, as the Lord our Righteousness; and as made of God to us righteousness. Therefore is this righteousness of God called also the Righteousness of Faith, or the Righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe, Romans 3: 22. A righteousness, which is through the faith of Christ, or the righteousness, which is of God by faith, Philippians 3: 9.
††††††††† Thus we have examined all that this man hath brought by way of reason (for as for authorities on the one hand, or other, I purposely wave them in
this whole discourse) to prove; that faith properly taken is imputed for righteousness and that the tropical sense, commonly received by the orthodox (which we have also chosen to follow, notwithstanding that there is another sense given of the words by some, to evade this tropical sense, and by which the adversaries against whom we here deal, can receive no advantage) is to be utterly laid aside and rejected; and in answering him, we have answered others also, who do but urge the same things.
††††††††† Yet if any should enquire, if the Apostle doth not mean, that faith properly taken is our righteousness, and is imputed to us and accounted our righteousness, why would he say so plainly, that faith is imputed, or counted for righteousness? I answer: the expressions which the Holy Ghost hath used, should satisfy us, though we should know no reason beside his good pleasure, why he did express the matter so: It is our part, to search into his meaning, according to the surest rules of finding out the sense of the Scriptures, among which is to be reckoned as a safe one, not to be rejected, viz. to attend the scope, with the connection and cohesion of the words as they lie, and contribute unto that scope, together with the common, plain and frequently reiterated expressions and assertions of the Spirit of God, in other places, where the same matter is treated of: for to the end, that we may be exercised, in the study of the Scriptures, and in comparing Scripture with Scripture for finding out the mind of the Lord, hath he thought good to express the same matter in diverse places, and in various ways, and in some places more plainly, what in other places appears more obscure. And it cannot be judged a safe way of interpreting Scripture, to fix upon one expression and give it a sense, or take it in such a sense, as tends manifestly to darken the whole doctrine of the Spirit of the Lord, concerning that truth, and to cross the scope, to mar the connection, and to contradict multitudes of other passages of Scripture. It is not unusual for the Apostle to use several expressions, in a figurative sense. How often is the word Law taken for obedience to the Law? What sense could be made of Galatians 3: 25 if the word Faith should be there taken properly, and not for its object? as also verses 2 and 5 of that same chapter. And what sense shall we put upon these expressions. They which are of faith, Galatians 3: 7, 9, and as many as are of the works of the law, verse 10, and upon many such like, if all these words must be taken properly? Nay, how little of this whole matter of justification is expressed to us, without tropes and figures? which yet do not darken, but give a more special and divine luster unto the truths, so expressed. How often is the word Hope put for its object, for the thing hoped for? And though this might satisfy us herein; yet further, if I might adventure to give a reason of this manner of expression here, or rather to point forth what this expression should signify and hold forth to us, I would say, that Paul is not handling this controversy about justification, in a mere speculative manner; and therefore does not use such philosophical and metaphysical notions and expressions there about, as some now think so necessary, that without the same they judge themselves not in case to explain the matter to the capacity of the meanest, which would rather have darkened, then explained
the matter to the ordinary capacity of Christians, as I judge the way, that some of late take, in explicating this matter, contributes much more to the darkening of the same: at least to me: but the Apostle is handling this matter in a practical manner; so as both such he wrote unto, and the Church of Christ to the end of the world, might so understand this necessary and fundamental truth, as to put the same in practice: and therefore doth say, that Faith is imputed unto righteousness, to show, that it is not the righteousness of Christ, conceived in our heads, that will save and justify us; but his righteousness laid hold on, brought home and applied by faith: that so all might see and be convinced of the necessity of faith, whereby the soul goes out to Christ, lays to his righteousness, and might not satisfy themselves with a notion of Christ and his righteousness, never applied by faith; but be induced to lay hold on him by faith, to the end they might have an interest in Christís righteousness, the same being, upon their faith, bestowed upon them, and reckoned upon their score. The expression is most emphatic to hold forth, the necessity now of faith, according to the Lordís sovereign appointment, as if thereby Christís righteousness and their faith were become one thing, as being wholly inseparable in this affair, so that it comes to one, whether by faith, we understand the grace as acting upon and connoting the object, or the object, as acted upon by the grace of faith as in that expression, the righteousness of faith, Romans 4: 13. Faith may either be interpreted to be Christ, as laid hold on by faith, and so the meaning will be through the righteousness of Christ, laid hold on by faith, and faith may be the same way explained in the following verses 14 and 16, for if they which are of the law, be heirs, faith is made void, i.e. if the grand heritage come by the law and by obedience to it, the Gospel, holding forth Christ to be laid hold on by faith, is made void, as to this end: and again, verse 16, therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, i.e. it is of and by Christ, laid hold upon by faith, that it might be by grace. Or faith in all these may be interpreted to be faith as acting upon the object, Christ and his righteousness; and the consequence and force of the words will be found to be the same, whether of these ways we explain the matter. As, when speaking of the Israelites stung in the wilderness, it were all one to say, they were healed by the brazen serpent, to wit, look to; or they were healed by their look, to wit, upon the brazen serpent, for still it will be understood, that all the virtue came from the brazen serpent (or him rather, that was typified thereby) yet so as it was to be looked upon; and that their looking was but an instrumental mean thereunto, and when a mean thereunto must include the object looked unto. We hear it sometimes said of persons miraculously cured, that their faith made them whole, whileas the virtue came from the object acted upon by faith, as Peter fully explains the matter saying, Acts 3: 16 And his name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong. Thus we see, how this matter may be safely and must be understood, when the virtue and efficacy of the principal cause is attributed to the instrumental cause: and yet, lest any should stumble at the expression, and pervert it, as many do today, the Apostle abundantly caveats against this by telling
us so plainly and so fully and so frequently, of the righteousness of God, which is had by faith, and through faith, as we have seen; and never speaks of a righteousness had, because of faith, or for faith; nor says he, that faith is our righteousness, while treating of justification.