The Doctrine of Justification should be kept pure
with all diligence; and what dangerous
expressions should be shunned.
††††††††† We come next to speak a word unto the second particular mentioned; to wit, that all, who would be found faithful ambassadors, and be accepted of the Lord, should endeavor, both in practice and in doctrine, to keep this doctrine of the grace of God pure and unmixed: and particularly guard against the giving ground, or occasion to proud nature, to cry up self, in the matter of justification, by any expression, used in the explication thereof. We see here and elsewhere, how careful Paul is in this matter, using such expression, as may most emphatically exclude man, and all his pains, and set free grace on high, that God alone may be exalted; for here and elsewhere he debases man, and excludes all his works, even the works of the best of men; even his works, who was the father of the faithful (Abraham): and he cries up Christ as all, and free grace as beginning and carrying on all; consonant to what the prophet Isaiah said, Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength (or, as it is in the margin, Surely, he shall say of me, in the Lord is all righteousness and strength) Even to him shall men come óIn the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. So that such, as look to Him (as it is in verse 22) and come to Him (as it is in verse 24) have all their righteousness in the Lord, and from Him; and in Him alone are they and shall they be justified, and shall glory; and not at all in themselves. So Jeremiah 23: 6, expresses the matter very emphatically, holding it forth, as one of Christís glorious and comfortable titles of honor, that He shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness, thereby importing, that all the saints their righteousness, in order to their justification before, and acceptance with God, was in Christ; and that it would be a robbing of Christ of His due honor, to seek for a righteousness elsewhere. So chapter 34: 14, 15, it is promised that the Lord will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David, and that hereby Judah should be saved, and Israel should dwell safely: and it is further said, that His spouse should wear her husbandís name, and be called after Him, the Lord our righteousness; thereby professing her adherence to Him, as her Husband, and her owning of Him, as all her righteousness; and glorying in that, that He and He alone is her righteousness.
††††††††† In compliance herewith, we should beware of expressing our conceptions, about the matter of justification so, as may give proud man ground of boasting, and robbing Christ of His crown, title and glory, in less, or in more: and these expressions following seem to me justly chargeable herewith.
1. To say, that all works are excluded in justification; but such only as are done by the mere power and strength of nature; and not the works
of grace, wrought by the Spirit. But who sees not, how this is to set up proud man, whom Paul would have debased and kept down? And doth not Paul expressly tell us, that neither Abraham, nor David were so justified, Romans 4? and that if our father Abraham were justified by works, he should have had whereof to glory, though not before God verse 2? And doth he not also tell us, that this would make the reward to be reckoned not of grace, but of debt verse 4? and would exclude faith and its operations, in reference to justification, and take away that blessed and refreshing stile of God, that He justifieth the ungodly verse 5? Should we not thus be saved by works of righteousness, which we do, and not according to His mercy, expressly contrary to Timothy 3: 5.
2. In like manner to say, that we are not justified by the works of the Ceremonial Law; but by obedience to the Moral Law, is peccant (sinful) here also: for the works of the Moral Law are works of righteousness, which we do, and such as obey this Law, and are considered as such, cannot be called ungodly. Neither does the Apostle thus distinguish, that proud man might have any interest. Nor does he exclude only such works, when he says, that Abraham was not justified by works; for his works were not works of the Ceremonial Law, but of the Moral, which will as well give ground of boasting, and make the reward of debt, and not of grace, as works of the Ceremonial Law, if not more. And it is manifest, that Paul speaks of that Law (and obedience to it, or of works commanded by it) which convinces of sin, and discovers it Romans 3: 20 and 7: 7, and makes all the world guilty Romans 3: 19, and brings them under the curse Galatians 3:10, is established by faith Romans 3: 31, and hath the promise of life annexed to it Romans 10: 5, Galatians 3: 12. Nor doth he exclude only such works, when he speaks of himself Philippians 3: 9.
3. Likewise to say, that all works are not excluded, but only outward works, which are done out of principle of fear, and not out of love and faith, and are not inward works of grace; is to add fuel to this fire of pride, and to please proud self, and proud man: for who can think, that only such works, would lay the ground of boasting, and of glorying before men? or that only such would make the reward of debt? or that any in these days were pleading for justification, upon the account only of such works? or that such works were to be understood by the Law, as if the Law did command no other? or that such were Abrahamís works? or that Paul thought of none other, when he desired not to be found in his own righteousness Philippians 3: 9?
4. They were guilty of the same crime, who say, that Paul only excludes the Jewish Law: for if thereby they mean only the Ceremonial Law, it is manifest from what is said, that hereby self and man shall be much exalted, when justification is made to be by, and according to the works of the Moral Law. If they mean thereby the Judicial Law, then justification should be by the Moral Law; yea and by obedience to the Ceremonial Law, as well as by obedience to the Moral Law, quite contrary to the whole discourse of the Apostle. And if they mean all the Law, that was given to the Jews, then the Moral Law is included: and so all works
††††††††† are excluded, which are done in obedience to any Law of God.
5. It is no less injurious to truth, and favorable to proud self, to sat with Socinus, that Paul only excludes perfect works, done in full conformity to the perfect Law of God; but not our imperfect works, which through grace are accepted, and accounted our righteousness: for even these works being works of righteousness, which we do, would not exclude boasting, but give ground of glorying before men. Neither did Abraham, or Paul, or any other Saint suppose, that their works were perfect. Nor is it imaginable, that any in these days did plead for justification, by their own works, upon the account, that they were perfect, and wholly commensurate unto the Law. Nor doth Paul insinuate, in all his discourse, any such distinction, or give any ground to think, that imperfect works should be the ground of justification, when perfect works are not. And all this is grounded upon this gross mistake, that by faith, which the Apostle opposes to works, is meant our imperfect obedience unto the commands of God.
6. It is injurious, upon the same account, to say, that Paul only excludes such works, as are accompanied with a conceit of merit, and none else: for he excludes all works, without any such distinction, even the works of Abraham, (who, doubtless, was far from any such fond conceit, to think, that his works were meritorious) and all such works, as give ground of boasting before men, though not before God. And who will say, that even Adamís works, performed in innocence, had any proportion, in the balance of commutative justice, or would merit at Godís hand, ex condigno? And yet, sure, such works would have made the reward of debt, according to the compact. Yea, the Apostle, in his way of arguing, supposes, that works cannot be mentioned in this case, without merits; so that merit is inseparable from them. And shall we think, that Paul Philippians 3: 9, meant, by his own righteousness, only such works, as he expressly counted meritorious? Or that he could, or did account any of his works such?
7. It runs far in the same guilt, to say, that faith itself, which is our work, and considered as our act of obedience, is imputed to us for righteousness, and is that righteousness, upon which we are justified: for how easily might proud self lift up its head, and boast and say, it was justified, because of something within it, or because of one work of righteousness, done by it: and so glory in itself, and not in the Lord? For though it were granted, that faith were the gift of God yet that would sufficiently keep down pride, seeing such, as plead for justification by good works, will also grant, that these good works come from the grace of God, and are wrought by the Spirit: and yet such a justification would lay a foundation of boasting, and of glorying before men; and some would have more ground of boasting, than others, because of their stronger faith: and justification by his way, would as well be opposite to justification through Christ, and His imputed righteousness, and by grace, as justification by good works; for faith here would not be considered, as bringing in and laying
hold on a righteousness without, the righteousness of Christ imputed; but as a commanded duty, and as a piece of obedience to the Law; and would as well make the reward of debt ex congruo, & ex pacto, as if justification were by works.
8. It is of the same nature, to say, that Paul excludes the works of the Law, but not the works of the Gospel: for the same ground of pride, boasting and glorying should be laid, that would be laid, by pleading for the works of the Law: because these are still works of righteousness, which we do, and so opposite, in this matter, unto mercy, Titus 3: 3. And Paul, to exclude all boasting and glorying before men, opposes faith, (not considered in itself, but as laying hold on the righteousness of Christ, and as carrying the man out of himself to Christ for righteousness) unto works; and not Gospel works unto the works of the Law. And, sure, we cannot say, that none of Abrahamís works were Gospel works, or works required in the New Covenant, seeing even then he was a believer, when the object of his faith, or that which he laid hold on by faith, in the Gospel, which was preached unto him, was said to be imputed unto him for righteousness. And is it not plain, that if justification were upon the account of Gospel works, that God should not then be said to justify the ungodly; seeing he, who is clothed with a Gospel righteousness, cannot be called, or accounted an ungodly person? And yet faith looks out unto, and lays hold upon a God, that justifies the ungodly, Romans 4: 5. In a word, the asserting of this would be the same, upon the matter, with asserting of justification by the works of the Law: for whatever is required in the Gospel, is enjoined by the Law; and so is an act of obedience to the Law, which is our perfect rule of righteousness, and all our obedience must be in conformity thereunto.
9. It must also be accounted dangerous, for puffing up of self, to say, that we are justified by our inherent righteousness: for then the man could not say, that all his righteousness were as filthy rags, Isaiah 64: 6. Nor could that be true, which is Psalm 143: 3 for in thy sight no man living should be justified, to wit, if God should enter into judgment with him. Why should Job have abhorred himself Chapter 42: 6, if he had a righteousness within him, and had been justified by the Lord, upon the account of that inherent righteousness? And had not Paul as good ground, as any, to assert his justification by his personal inherent holiness and righteousness? Yet we hear of no such thing out of his mouth; but on the contrary, his accounting all things but loss and dung, that he might gain Christ, and be found in His righteousness, hath a far different import. How proud might man be, if he had it to say, that he was justified in the sight of God by works of righteousness, which he had done, or by his own inherent righteousness?
10. Nor will it much help the matter, to say, that this inherent righteousness is not the price laid down, but only the condition, or causa, sine qu a non, or the like: for still man would hereby have something to be proud of, and glory of before men; because, he would have it to say,
that his own inherent holiness was as well the ground of his justification, and the condition thereof, as Adamís obedience would have been the ground of his justification. And who knoweth not, that self can wax proud, and be puffed up, upon a smaller occasion, than is this? And is it not strange, that Paul never once made mention of this distinction? Shall we think, that Paul denied Abraham to be justified by works, because Abraham looked upon them, as the meritorious cause, and not as the condition only of his justification? or that Abraham indeed did so? or that Paul included them, as the condition of his justification, when he said, he desired not to be found in his own righteousness, meaning, not his own righteousness as a price, or as the meritorious cause of his acceptance? Why should David have spoken so absolutely, and said Psalm 143: 2, enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified, seeing, even though God should enter into judgment with his servants, they should be justified, as having fulfilled the condition? And why should he have said Psalm 130: 3, If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, o Lord, who shall stand? seeing, though the Lord should mark iniquities, yet where the person hath fulfilled the condition, and hath a personal inherent righteousness to hold up, as the fulfilling of the condition required, he is in case to stand in judgment, and to plead for his justification, and absolution, upon the account of his performing all the condition required: And would not vain man have great ground of boasting here?
11. Neither yet will it prevent this boasting, to say, that this inherent righteousness is but a subordinate righteousness, whereby we have right unto the merits of Christ, which are the principle righteousness, answering the demands of the Law: for if man have anything in himself, that can be called a righteousness, though but a subordinate righteousness, and yet such a righteousness, as gives right and ground to justification, though that justification be also called, only a subordinate justification, conformed to the New Covenant, and the condition thereof, he will soon boast, and account his justification not of free grace, but of due debt, conformed to the covenant: And though this be called, only a subordinate righteousness; yet proud self will account it the principle; because upon it depends all his justification; for thereby not only hath he a right unto Christís merits, but unto justification itself; this being called the proper condition of the New Covenant, wherein justification, adoption, &c. are promised (as they say) upon this condition. And will not proud man see, that he hath a price in his hand, and a complete righteousness, conformed to the covenant, to present unto God whereupon to seek and expect the reward of debt, according to the covenant? And so much the rather should we abstain from such expressions, in this matter, that we find no mention made of two righteousnesses, and of a two fold justification; the one subordinate, the other principle, in the Scriptures; but all expressions, in this matter, framed designedly to abase man, and make all appear to be of free grace, that he, who glories, may glory in the Lord. And as self will be ready, in this, to make that, which is called subordinate righteousness, a principal
righteousness; so it will have this fair and plausible ground to do so, to wit, that upon our own righteousness, we are immediately accepted of God, as righteous; especially when the merits of Christ are made subservient unto our personal righteousness, as procuring the New Covenant; and that therein our personal righteousness shall be accepted, and accounted perfect and complete, though it be not so in itself, and we thereupon immediately justified, and accepted of God as righteous; as they love to speak, who assert these things.
12. Though faith be indeed the mean of our justification, that is, the only thing required of us, in order to our interest in Christ, and actual participation of the benefits of his redemption, and of justification in the first place, according to the Gospel method: Yet it is too favorable to proud self, to call it such a condition, as hath a far more dangerous import; That is, (1.)† To call it a condition, and withal deny, that it is an instrumental cause, or that it is to be considered, in the matter of justification, as it lays hold on Christ, and his righteousness. (2.) To say, that the very act of faith, is imputed for righteousness; and that Paul is to be so understood in Romans 4, as speaking properly, and not metonymically. (3.) To say, that this is the righteousness, which is imputed to us, in order to justification, and not the righteousness of Christ, except as to its effects, in respect of some whereof, yea the chief and only immediate, it is equally imputed to all, reprobate, as well as elect. (4.) To say, that this faith is our gospel righteousness, and because a righteousness, is perfect, and adequate to the rule of the New Covenant. (5.) To say, that this faith hath the same place and consideration, and consequently, the same force and efficacy, in the New Covenant, that perfect obedience had in the Old Covenant with Adam. (6.) To say, that Christ hath purchased the New Covenant, and that this shall be the condition of persons partaking of the benefits thereof: and withal (7.) To say, that Christ hath died for all, and by his death made satisfaction to justice for the breach of the Law; and so purchased freedom from the curse of the Law to all, equally, at least conditionally; whereby it is apparent, that all are put in the state they once were in, and that equally; and now have new conditions proposed unto them, which, if they perform, they are righteous, and upon that performance are freed from the curse, and made heirs of glory: and thus the New Covenant is of the same nature and kind with the old, only its conditions are a little altered, and made more easy; and their performance of the condition must have a merit with it, at least, ex pacto, though not ex condigno; as neither Adamís perfect obedience could have had. And the performers of this condition, in this case, may reflect upon their own deed, and lay their weight on it, and, it being their righteousness, may plead upon it, as their immediate ground of right, before God, unto justification, and acceptance. Let any man now consider these things, and see whether or not, the asserting of faith being such a condition, as this, be not a plain gratification of proud self, and the laying down a ground for vain man to boast, and of glorying, though not before God, yet before
others; and whether this be not an ascribing more to faith, than is done by such, as, yielding it to be a condition, or the mean appointed of God, and required of us, in order to justification, say with all, that it is to be considered not in itself, nor as an act of our obedience; but as an instrument, or mean laying hold upon the righteousness of Christ without us, that it may be ours, and our only righteousness, whereupon we may expect, according to the Gospel justification and absolution, &c.
13. It tends too much to blow up proud self, to say, that if works of obedience be not the condition of our justification, yet they may be called the condition of our second justification, or of the continuance of our justification: for, as the Scriptures speak nothing of a second justification; so to assert our works to be the condition thereof, is to cross the argument of the Apostle, and manifestly to lay a foundation of glorying for man: for if even Abraham had been justified by works, a considerable time, after he was first justified, and first a believer, he should have had, whereof to glory, though not before God, as saith the Apostle, Romans 4: 2. And in verse 3, he proves that he was justified by faith, and that after he had been a believer; for that passage, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness, was not spoken of and at his first believing; and so cannot be properly meant of his first justification only; but some years thereafter: and therefore must be true, of his second justification, if there were any such; Yea, the just liveth by faith (a passage that the apostle uses (as we have seen) to prove justification by faith, both here in our text, and in Romans 1: 17) all along, both first and last; so that the beginning and continuance of this life of justification is by faith, and not by works.
14. It is also dangerous, to say, that the work of the Law, convincing of sin, with the effects and consequences thereof, sorrow, grief, anxiety, legal repentance, &c. are either dispositions, preparations or conditions of justification, or meritorious thereof by way of congruity; as if there were a certain and constituted connection betwixt these and the blessing of justification, made by any law or promise of God; and as if none could be justified, that had not these sensible and affecting effects going before. Sure, the asserting of this cannot but contribute much, to stir up and foster pride in man, and give occasion to think, that man himself hath done or suffered something, that calls for, procures, and, in congruity at least, merits justification.