Faith is not our Gospel Righteousness
††††††††† Our adversaries, to strengthen their assertion of the imputation of faith, in a proper sense, to the exclusion of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, have two other positions which they own and maintain. One is that our faith or our act of believing is the whole of our Gospel righteousness. The other is that Christ hath procured that it should be so, by procuring the New Covenant, whereof this faith is made the condition. To this last point we shall speak something in the next chapter; and of the other here.
††††††††† How much Mr. Baxter doth contend for our faith being called and accounted our Gospel righteousness, is known. The forenamed author of the Discourse of the Two Covenants, is very plain on page 48, &c where he is explaining what Godís counting Abrahamís faith to him for righteousness is. There he tells us that he makes it to signify thus much, to wit, that God, in a way of special grace, or by virtue of a new law of grace and favor, which was established by God, in Christ (Galatians 3: 17) that is, in reference to what Christ was to do and suffer, in time then to come, did reckon his practical faith to him for righteousness, that is, that which in the eye of that new law should pass in his estimation for righteousness, subordinate to Christís righteousness, which procured this grant or Law. And thereafter on page 40 he tells us, That it is an act of Godís special favor, and by virtue of his new law of grace, that such a faith as he hath described (that is, a faith taking in all Gospel obedience, as we saw above,) comes to be reckoned or imputed to a man for righteousness; and through Godís imputing it for righteousness, to stand a man in the same, if not in a better stead, as to his eternal concerns, as a perfect fulfilling of the original law from first to last would have done. Christís righteousness being presupposed the only Meritorious cause of this grant or covenant. Thereafter on page 50 he tells us, there are two things which constitute and make up the righteousness of the law of grace. First, that which consists in the forgiveness of sins, and second, the righteousness of sincere obedience; and in reference to both, says he, faith as practical is imputed to a man for righteousness, as it is that and all that, which is required of him by the law of grace, to entitle him to the righteousness which consists in remission of sins. And then as to the second he says on page 52, That faith is imputed for righteousness, which is practical or productive of sincere obedience, without which property it is not a fulfilling of the law of grace, as a condition of the promised
benefits, and consequently cannot justify a man, in the eye of that law. For, as he adds, there must be repentance, and forgiving men their injuries; and faith must be such as works by love, and then he tells us, that Abraham was justified by his works, James 2.
††††††††† All which abomination of doctrine, and perversion of the right ways of the Lord, we are not here to examine. It is enough, in reference to the clearing of what is now before us and under consideration; that we see here a plain delineation and explication made of that Gospel, which Mr. Baxter said, this treatise would lead us into the knowledge of: and which is the very same, upon the matter, with that Gospel which Socinians and Arminians hold forth, joining herein with Papists, as we saw in part towards the beginning of chapter eighteen. We shall at this occasion trouble the reader with some more of their expressions, that we may see that the doctrine which is now so cried up and followed after, is nothing but old Socinianism and so, owned and professed by such, as do not deserve to be called Christians. Socinus de Servat. lib. 4. c. 4, 7, 11. God justifies the ungodly, but now converted, penitent, and after he has left off to be ungodly: the justified are not ungodly in themselves, neither are they so called, yea they are not sinners, and which is more, they do not now sin. And so faith and works, that is, obedience to the commands of Christ, as the form of faith, doth justify us before God, and by them through them (peilla, exillis) he justifies us. Smalcius disp. 4. c. Frantzium. Regeneration, all other good works, love, prayer, obedience, faith, charity, &c. as so far from being effect of justification, that without them justification can no way really exist, for God justifies no man, but him, who is completely adorned with all these virtues óyea the study of good works and walking before God were the cause (though not the chief) of the justification of Noah, Abraham, and others, who are said to be justified by faith. Socinus ubi supra de Serv. lib. 1. c. 4 Faith doth not justify by its proper virtue, but by the mercy and good will of God, who justifies such, as do such a work, and imputes it for righteousness. With Paul, to have righteousness imputed is nothing else, but to have faith imputed, and to be accounted just. Faith is so imputed to us, as that because of faith, we, howbeit guilty of much unrighteousness, are esteemed perfectly righteous, or God so deals with us, as if we were perfectly righteous who can doubt that the Apostle means no other thing than that we are not righteous before God, because our works require that, as a due reward, but because it hath so seemed good to the Lord, to take our faith in place of righteousness; so that we receive the reward of grace, by which we are declared righteous before him. More might be adduced for this end, as it might be shown also, how herein the Arminians conspire with them against the orthodox. And as for the judgment of Papists, in this point, it is likewise known.
††††††††† It will not be necessary that we insist, in disproving that, which hath been so much witnessed against by the orthodox writing against Papists, Socinians, and Arminians, upon these heads. It will suffice, I suppose, if we give a few reasons, why we cannot acquiesce in the doctrine, proposed by the forenamed author.
††††††††† 1. Hereby works of obedience are exalted to the same place, and are allowed
the same force, influence and efficacy into justification, with faith, whereby all the Apostleís disputes for faith and against works, and for faith as inconsistent with and exclusive of works, are evacuated and rendered useless; so that the Apostle hath either not spoken to the purpose, or hath not spoken truth: either of which is blasphemy. The Apostle argues thus, we are justified by faith; therefore we are not justified by works. This man reasons on the contrary, we are justified by faith, therefore we are justified by works; because by a faith that includes works; as if the Apostle had meant a faith that was dead, and had no affinity with works.
††††††††† Hereby he confounds all these duties, which are required of believers, or of such, as are in covenant with God, with that which is solely required of them in order to their first entering in covenant, or into a state of justification: as if one should say, that all marriage duties, required of such as were already in that marriage state, were conditions of entering into the marriage state.
††††††††† 3. Hereby he confounds justification with glorification, making all that faith and sincere obedience, which is required in order to actual salvation and glorification, to be necessary before justification: And thereby must say, that no man hath his sins pardoned, so long as he lives; but if he be sincerely obedient, he is in the way to a pardon, and to justification. He cannot say, that by a practical faith, he only means such a true and lively faith, as will in due time produce these effects: for, as that will not consist with his explication of that practical faith, so it would cross his whole design. The just man in the eye of this new law, (as he says on page 49,) is everyone that rightly believes, repents, and sincerely obeys, because that is all that it requires of a man for his justification and salvation. Where we see, that with him, justification and salvation go together, and have the same conditions, and he that is just must be one that has met these conditions; and if he is not just in the eye of that new law, his faith cannot be accounted to him for righteousness, nor be justified.
††††††††† 4. The man hereby confounds the two covenants, or gives us a new covenant of works, instead of the covenant of grace; for this practical faith, which includes all obedience, has the same place, force and efficacy in the new covenant, that complete obedience had in the old. And this Gospel is but the old law of works, only with this change, that whereas the old law required perfect obedience to the end, in order to justification and salvation; this new covenant of works requires sincere obedience to the end, in order to justification and salvation: And so we are justified and saved as really by and upon the account of our works, as Adam would have been, if he had continued in obedience to the end; and this faith and sincere obedience is as really, and to all ends and purposes, as effectually and formally our righteousness, as perfect obedience would have been the righteousness of Adam: and thus the reward must as really be reckoned to us of debt, and not of grace, as it would have been to Adam, if he had stood: and as fair a ground is laid for us to boast and glory, though not before God,
as had been for Adam, if he had continued to the end. The evasion he has to make all this of grace, saying on pages 49 and 50, and yet every believerís justification will be all of grace, because the law by which they are justified is wholly of grace, and was enacted in mere grace and favor to undone man, is not able to help him. For it was wholly of undeserved grace and love, that God did so far condescend to Adam, and to all mankind in him, as to strike a covenant with him, a promise of such an ample reward upon his performance of the condition of perfect obedience to the end; and yet, notwithstanding this law was wholly of grace and was enacted in mere grace and favor: for neither was the Lord necessitated thereunto; nor could Adam say, he had deserved any such thing at Godís hand, the reward had been reckoned to Adam, if he had stood, of debt, not simply and absolutely, but ex pacto; by reason of the compact: So that we see, the cases run parallel and the covenant is of the same nature and kind. The difference betwixt the power granted to Adam, and now to man, to perform the conditions required, is with him, the same upon the matter; for if man will go the length he can and may, he may be sure of Godís help to convey him all the length he should; And what more did Adam have? And as for the diversity of the conditions, which then were perfect obedience, and now only sincere obedience, that can make no alteration in he nature of the covenant: and besides, I see not, why this man cannot as well say that if man now will go as far, as he may and can, by his own stock of power, unto the performance of perfect obedience, God will certainly give him his help to carry him forward; as he says, that if man will now go all the length he can unto the performance of faith, repentance, and new sincere obedience, God is ready and willing to contribute his help to carry him forward thereunto.
††††††††† 5. He confounds the right to, with the possession of life eternal, as to their causes and antecedents; for as new and holy obedience is by us made the way to the possession of the kingdom: so by him it is made the way or cause of the right jus to the kingdom; for he requires it as antecedent to a manís justification and first being brought into a covenant state with God, when he first receives the right to the inheritance; and thus the inheritance is made to be of the law, and not of promise, contrary to Galatians 3: 18, for the whole and sure right thereunto is had by obedience to the law, with him.
††††††††† I shall say no more to this here, because there is a sufficient confutation of this to be found in Mr. Durham on Revelation, page 234, &c. where the digression is handled, concerning the way of covenanting with God, and of a sinner obtaining of justification before him. And in all such as write against Papists and Socinians on this head.
††††††††† But if it be asked, may not faith be called our Gospel righteousness, and be said to be imputed to believers, as such a righteousness, without any wrong done to the righteousness of Christ, which keeps still its own place of being our legal or pro legal righteousness? I answer, though it be true that faith is now required of all that would be justified, yet I nowhere find that it is called our Gospel righteousness; and I judge it not safe to admit
expressions, without warrant of the word, in this tender matter; especially such expressions, as have a manifest tendency to corrupt, rather than explicate the truth, in this particular; as, I judge, will be found true of this expression; for howbeit be said by the asserters thereof, that faith, is but a less principal and subordinate righteousness; Yet in effect, according to their explication of the whole doctrine (as may be seen by this Treatise last mentioned and answered) it is made the principal and only righteousness, that is imputed to us: for Christís righteousness, say they, is only imputed, as to its effects, or in its causality. See Baxter against D. Tully, page 70, (just as Suarez said de divin. gr. lib. 7. de Sanct. hom. c. 7. ß 39. cited by Mr. Rutherford Exercie Apol. Exerc. 1. c. 2. page (mihi) 64. †the merits of Christ are not given to us, that we might be formally justified, but that they may be a price wherewith we may buy a righteousness, whereby we may be formally justified; as he who gives a price to another, whereby he may buy cloths, is said to cloth him, not formally, but effectively, morally, as is manifest:) And even as to these effects it depends wholly upon faith, and this faith is only said to be properly imputed for our righteousness. And besides, they tell us, that the righteousness of Christ is alike common to all, to the reprobate as well, as to the elect, and so it can be properly imputed to none: And as to its effective imputation (as Suarez calls it) or imputation, as to its effects or in its causality (as others speak) after that it is offered and held forth to all, and has the same common effects, unto all, until the condition be performed, that depends wholly upon manís performance of the condition; and as to its antecedent effects, it is equally and absolutely imputed to all; that is, it is imputed to none, but the effects thereof are equally made common to all, in making salvation possible, and the condition to be faith, and the like: And as to the special effects, (as they may be called) which depend on faith, when one believes, and so fulfills the condition, he has thereby a Gospel righteousness, or this faith of his is reckoned upon his score, for a Gospel righteousness, and thereupon he receives pardon, justification, &c. Now let any judge, whether or not these effects are not more the effects (at least more immediately) of their own Gospel righteousness, than of Christís: for Christ by all his righteousness did purchase these effects to all alike, and that conditionally, and now they themselves by their own personal Gospel righteousness of faith, do make an actual purchase of these effects, according to the covenant, ex pacto. And to say, that Christ did by his merits purchase the new covenant, doth but confirm, what I have now said, to wit, that all that, which Christ procured, was, that all such, as should acquire a Gospel righteousness of their own, should be justified, &c. And thus Christ died to purchase a virtue and merit to our faith, and that to this end, it should become a Gospel righteousness, whereby they might have whereof to boast and to glory before men, at least. Hence we see that Christís righteousness might rather be called the subservient and ours the principal. And further, (which may justly make Christians abhor this opinion,) thus this poor convinced sinner, pursued by justice for a broken law, is called to lean his whole weight of acceptance with God, and found all his hope of
pardon and justification, upon his own faith, or Gospel righteousness, as the only righteousness, wherewith he is to be covered, and the only righteousness, which is imputed unto him; and not upon Christ and his righteousness, for what Christ did or purchased was common to all, and had only a conditional virtue, which the personal righteousness reduces into act, and so must have a principal share of the glory; for as to what Christ did, Judas had the same ground of thankfulness and praise, that Peter had, and Peter no more than Judas; and thus Peter was to sing the song of praise for his justification and pardon, unto his own personal faith and Gospel righteousness. If this be not the native result of this doctrine, let any put it into practice (which I shall be loath to advise) and try, whether thereby more of their weight is laid on Christ, or on their own faith: And on the other hand, let any serious and exercised Christian be enquired, and see if their practice agrees with this doctrine.
††††††††† If it be said, that there is no such hazard, so long as faith is not considered here as abstracted from its object Christ, but is considered with a respect thereunto, I answer: (1.) We have seen, what a poor and general respect faith, by some of our adversaries, is said to have to Christ, whereby it is made nothing but a mere historical faith, and the author of the Discourse of the Two Covenants, page 31, says, that even that faith, that had not the Messiah in the promise, is imputed for righteousness. (2.) As for such as confess that justifying faith hath a special respect to Christ and his righteousness, we would know, whether it hath this respect, that it peculiarly gives refuge there to the soul from the storm of wrath, and brings in thence Christís righteousness, or carries the man out to it, that he may lean upon it, and plead the same, as the only ground of his absolution from the sentence of the Law? And if this be granted, then it is manifest, that the believer hath no righteousness, but Christís surety righteousness, where withal he desires to appear before God, and this is it alone, to which he leans, and through which alone he hopes for pardon and acceptance, without the least reflecting act of soul upon his own faith. (3.) But again if so, faith must stand alone, as acting thus in a peculiar manner on Christ, which no other work is fitted to do; and therefore faith and works must not be joined together; nor must faith be considered, in this affair, as comprehending all obedience in it, as we see they say. (4.) But when faith is made our Gospel righteousness, in whole, or in part, howbeit they say, they consider faith, as acting on its object Christ; yet it is manifest, that it is then considered with relation to its object, in a physical, or metaphysical manner, as all acts (specified from their objects) may and must be considered; but not in a theological sense, as required in the Gospel, to bring in the surety-righteousness of Christ, and to lean the soul thereupon, as its only righteousness: for when it is said to be our whole Gospel righteousness, it is considered as a moral virtue, and as an act of obedience in us, constituting us righteous in a formal sense, according to the new law, which is hereby fully and in all points performed and obeyed; much more, when works are joined with it, does it with works put on a far other respect, than to be the hand receiving the atonement, and the gift of righteousness.
††††††††† But Mr. Baxter says against Mr. Cartwright, page 179, In regard of that justification, which is from the accusation of the law of works, I say faith is but a condition, and no otherwise justifies, but because it is made that condition by a new law, per legem remediantem, and we must be judged by that law: therefore, when the case is, whether we have performed the conditions of that new law, or not, then faith is materially that righteousness, by which we must be justified, against all accusations of non-performance. Answer: (1.) I doubt if such as never heard a report of Christ, shall be judged by the new law; far less by it alone. (2.) God will not call in question a believerís faith, nor accuse him of non-performance. Nor will the Gospel, or new law do it; so that the believer needs not plead his performance; in reference to a justification at the tribunal of God. (3.) When faith is made a condition by a new law, and thereby becomes the believerís righteousness, this righteousness is the condition, and is therefore a righteousness, because made a condition, by that new law; yea and elsewhere ibid. page 106, this righteousness is said to be complete and perfect, as all righteousness must be: we see, what weight is laid upon it. And when there is no other righteousness properly imputed to us, (for as for that imputation of Christís righteousness, which he would yield to as the only sound sense, it is but what Jesuits, Socinians, and Arminians yield to, and we cannot be satisfied with,) who sees not, how this matter is framed so, as all the weight of the soul must be laid upon this personal righteousness, especially when it is made another sort of condition, than we can acknowledge it to be, as shall be seen afterward; and when it is the immediate ground of our right to pardon, justification, adoption, &c, for Christís purchase was (to him) general and common, and no more for one, than for another, and to all conditionally.
††††††††† If it be said, What hazard is there, so long as Christís righteousness is held to be that, which satisfies for the breach of the covenant of works, and is full satisfaction to justice, and which has purchased the new covenant, and the new easy terms; our righteousness, in performing the new easy terms, whereby we come to have right to life and all the benefits purchased by Christ, is no way prejudicial unto that, nor robs Christís satisfaction of the least of the glory due to it. I answer: The hazard still continues, for hereby our Gospel righteousness, be it faith alone, or faith and works together, is made the immediate and sole ground of our right to the benefits; for what Christ did, was general and common, and He, by what he did, made no particular purchase of any good unto any, but procured the new covenant, and the new grant of life upon the easy terms, alike unto all: the satisfaction, which he made unto the Law-Giver for the breach of the old covenant, was not as a peculiar cautioner, for any in particular, but was equally for all, and as much for the damned, as for the saved; So that our rights to the benefits comes purely and wholly from our performance of the new terms, which Christ is said to have purchased. Therefore, though our personal righteousness hath no interest in purchasing the new covenant, or in making satisfaction to justice, unto that end; yet justice being now satisfied equally for all, and the new covenant being purchased
alike for all, our personal righteousness is that, which must bear the glory of our interest in the benefits: and the obligation, wherein we stand to Christ upon that account, is the same that others are under who reap none of the benefits, which we reap by our new righteousness. And here it is also manifest, that faith (if that should be made the Gospel righteousness alone, without works) in order to justification of a sinner, is not conceived to act upon Christ, as the Lord our Righteousness, that the soul may put on his Surety-Righteousness and thereby answer all challenges of the broken law: but it is conceived as our work, and as our performance of the new conditions, and as such is rested upon, and leaned to; Whereby man, hath ground of glorying before men, in himself, and not in the Lord alone, for all have alike ground of glorying, upon that account, seeing what the Lord did was common to all, and this new personal righteousness makes the difference.
††††††††† But it will be said, that Christís righteousness, being acknowledged to be our only legal righteousness, whereby we answer the charge of the law, the asserting of a Gospel righteousness, whereby we come to have an interest in that legal righteousness, can do no prejudice. I answer, besides this making two distinct righteousnesses, the one a means to obtain another, the one within us a price (ex pacto) for the other without us; and all this in order to absolution from one charge of the law brought in against the sinner: hereby, as to us, our personal righteousness is really made our legal righteousness, because it is made that righteousness, whereupon this man, and not the other who lacks it, is freed from the charge of the law: for, according to this way, faith is not employed to lay hold on Christís Surety-Righteousness, that by presenting that Surety righteousness unto justice, the soul may escape the charge, but when the charge of violation of the law of God is brought in against the sinner, his only relief is his Gospel righteousness, which he presents, whereupon he pleads for pardon and absolution, by virtue of the new covenant, which Christ hath purchased; for should he allege the death and satisfaction of Christ that should give no relief, because that was for all alike, and thereby the new covenant was purchased where in the Gospel righteousness (whether Faith alone, or Faith and New Obedience) was set down, as the condition; and therefore it can stand him in no avail; but he must take refuge from wrath under the wings of his own Gospel righteousness (for he hath no other) and thereupon rest secure, and be confident of his absolution from all that the law could charge against him. As, for example, if the Princeís son should pay a valuable price, given to the Prince, procure new terms and conditions to be proposed to a company of condemned traitors lying in prison: if any one of these were challenged for the old crime, and threatened with the execution of the sentence past upon that account, it would be of no avail to him, to say, the Princeís son hath laid down a valuable price to buy me from death, because he knew, that he did that for all the rest, in purchasing a new covenant, and new conditions; but the first and sure course he would take, would be to present his performance of the new conditions,
and say, The charge cannot reach me, because I have performed the condition of the New Covenant, procured by the Princeís son. This I suppose is plain and clear, and this in our case, would be found to be the only safe course, that poor challenged sinners would take, if they should act according to the doctrine of our adversaries, to which, (as I said) I should not dare to advise one or other. But really the Gospel way (which is opposite to this) is plain and safe, if we have but so much humility, as to comply therewith: and a difference may seem small, in the debate, which yet in practice may prove great and of dangerous consequence.