The Righteousness of Christ is the Special Object of
Faith in Justification
††††††††† Considering what hath been said at some length above, concerning the imputation of the Surety-Righteousness of Christ, in order to justification, we needed not insist on this here; seeing if what is said touching that fundamental point hold, this will not endure much debate. Yet because Mr. Baxter in his Apology against Mr. Blake, ß 11, is pleased to tell us that faith, which is the justifying condition, is not terminated on the righteousness of Christ: And that it is a mere fancy and delusion to speak of receiving a righteousness that we may be justified constitutive thereby, in such a sense, as if the righteousness were first to be made ours, in order of nature before our justification, and then justification follow, because we are righteous.
††††††††† But, surely, this eying of, laying hold on, and leaning to the righteousness of Christ, holds clear correspondence with the experience of the children of God, not only at their first conversion, when delivered from under the convictions of sin, and the terrors of the law; but even afterward, when exercised with new assaults from Satan, objecting unto them their unworthiness, and filthiness, and hence inferring their exclusion from the face of God: for then their main quieting refuge is the righteousness of Christ; wherein they seek only to be found, acknowledging in themselves, they are but sinners, and so rejecting their own worth and holiness, as too ragged to cover the shame of their nakedness, wherein they have the Apostle Paul going before them, Philippians 3: 8, 9, (which may also serve, for a scriptural proof and ground of the truth in hand.) He rejects all these things, wherein once he gloried, and he did now (even long after his conversion, while a prisoner at Rome and after all his great labor and pains in spreading the Gospel) count all things (nothing is here excepted) but loss (saith Paul) for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness (it is not good that Mr. Baxter should carp at writers and preachers for speaking and teaching after this manner, as he doth, Cath. Theol. Mor. Works ß176,) which is of the law; but that, which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. This says clearly that in order to justification before God, faith lays hold on a righteousness, which is of God, and which is had by the faith of Christ.
††††††††† And this Surety-Righteousness of Christ is that which can only prove suitable unto the case of a wakened sinner, pressed with the guilt of sin, and seeing justice armed against him, stopping his way to life, because of his unrighteousness. What can be more welcome unto such a sinner, than the news of a righteousness, and of having Christ to become the Lord his righteousness, as made of God righteousness? And what can his faith grip to more earnestly, than to this righteousness, that he may be covered therewith, and think with joy of appearing before God? How else shall he think to be justified by God, who is just, even when the justifier of a believing sinner. He knows, that God is righteous, and will not acquit the guilty; and therefore he must have a righteousness, that he may be in case to stand before the righteous God: So that he can have no peace, till by faith he have interest in the Surety Righteousness of Jesus Christ; for he knows, that he hath none of his own, and that there is none anywhere else to be had.
††††††††† And further, this way doth exceedingly serve to demonstrate, upon the one hand, the righteousness of God, who will not justify without a righteousness, or one that hath no righteousness; and upon the other hand, it commends the riches of the free grace and mercy of God, when the sinner sees, how free love hath provided such an all sufficient remedy, a righteousness against which, no exception can be made, and a righteousness, under the wings of which, he may safely hide and shelter himself, and being covered
with which, he may rest confident of acceptance, and so may with full peace of mind rest here, and rely upon it. As also it serves exceedingly to abase man in his own eyes, and to make him forever keep a low sail, and walk humbly before this God, and give him the glory of all.
††††††††† Hence this righteousness is called the righteousness of faith, or of Christ believed in, and laid hold on, Romans 4: 13, and the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, Romans 3: 22, Philippians 3: 9, and a righteousness through the faith of Christ, ibid. All these and the like expressions do manifestly say, that faith lays hold on a righteousness, even on the righteousness of God. And this righteousness is said to be unto all, and upon all that believe, Romans 3: 22, ei)j pa/ntaj kai\ e)pi pa/ntaj, and imputed, or reckoned upon their score, Romans 4: 24. Mr. Baxter in the forecited book, Cath. Theol. ß 131, says that the meaning Romans 4: 24 is no more, but that God reputes, or judges us righteous. But how can he repute us righteous, unless we have a righteousness, either of our own, or from some other: of ourselves we have not a righteousness, unless he accounts believing all our righteousness, against which we have said enough above; and the very words of the text will not admit of this gloss, as was also shown above. If it be the righteousness of Christ, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification, verse 25, then it is a fit object for faith to lay hold on, it being Christís Surety Righteousness, or the righteousness, which he performed and wrought out, when he was delivered for our offenses; and which was publicly declared to be accepted, when he was raised again for our justification. And regardless of whatever Mr. Baxter thinks, this is and must be so far made our own, through the gracious imputation of God, that the righteous God, whose judgment is according to truth, may pronounce us righteous, and accept us as such. But Mr. Baxter says, Imputing righteousness to us, is a consequent act (after faith) of God as judge, and not an antecedent donation. Yet it is such a consequent act of God, as necessarily presupposes Godís free antecedent donation. For it is God reckoning that righteousness upon the believerís score, in order to the justifying of him thereupon; and because this righteousness must be given, we not having it of ourselves, there must be a free donation antecedent, and this is the ground for faithís accepting thereof, and receiving of it. And he himself says immediately before this, that God, giving us all the effects, or salvation merited, in itself properly, is said also not unfitly to give us the merit or righteousness, which procured them, that is, as it was paid to God for us, to procure them. And if so, why doth he inveigh so much, in the foregoing pages, against the orthodox doctrine of imputation; seeing he must know that they do not say that God doth give us the very habits of holiness (as he speaks there) which were in Christ, nor the transient acts which he performed, nor the very sufferings which he underwent, nor the relation of righteousness satisfactory and meritorious, as it was that numerical relation, which immediately resulted from Christís own habits, acts and sufferings. They dream of no such translation of accidents, but only say that seeing (as Mr. Baxter here and elsewhere says) this satisfactory righteousness was paid to God for them,
and accepted of God, as a complete and satisfactory righteousness, they by faith coming to be united unto Christ (according to the way and method which the Lord hath wisely condescended upon) have an interest in that satisfactory righteousness, as legally made over unto them, and therefore have the benefits purchased thereby; as when a stranger, who was not under the obligation, comes to pay the debt of a debtor lying in prison, the payment must in law sense be made, and accounted the debtors, or put upon his score, and received upon his account, ere he can therefore be relieved out of prison.
††††††††† But in the fore-cited place against Mr. Blake, he makes this righteousness and remission all one thing: and indeed if it were so, it could not belong to the object of faith, otherwise, than as an end, intended to be obtained thereby. But to us remission is a benefit purchased by this righteousness, and follows upon our having interest therein through faith, according to the appointment of God: a pardoned man, as such, is not a righteous man. But he tells us there that our divines of the Assembly do perfectly define justifying faith to be a receiving and resting upon Christ alone for salvation, as he is offered in the Gospel. It is of dangerous consequence to define justifying faith to be the receiving of justification, or righteousness. Answer: Here we have justification and righteousness made one and the same, which with me, differ as cause and effect; our divines of the Assembly give a more full definition or description of justifying faith in the Larger Catechism, and there tell us, that thereby the convinced sinner receives and rests upon Christ, and (N.B.) his righteousness therein (i.e. in the Gospel) held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation. And if Mr. Baxter would say so much, as is here, this debate would be at an end, and yet I find not this among his exceptions against the Catechism, in his Confession. And when our divines mention this receiving and resting upon Christís righteousness, they make not justifying faith to be a receiving of justification; but the one the cause of the other: And he adds a little thereafter, (which is considerable to our present purpose) that receptio Ethica activa of justification, or of righteousness (for they are both one thing with him) goes before justification, as a small and secondary part of condition, it being the accepting of Christ himself, that is the main condition: And we never spoke of receiving by faith of Christís Righteousness, as exclusive of receiving Christ himself. He next tells us that Christís satisfaction or redemption (solvendo pretium) and merit, cannot properly be received by us; for they are not in themselves given to us. We grant the price was paid to God, but it being paid to God for us, it may be imputed to us, and reckoned upon our score; and we may that way receive it by faith, and lean our soul upon it, to the end, that the fruit of it may be given to us. And likewise he grants ibid. that justifying faith doth as necessarily respect Christís satisfaction and merit, as it doth our justification thereby procured. If he will grant that that justifying faith respects Christís satisfaction and merit, as the cause, in which we are to have an interest, and under which we must refuge ourselves, and upon the account of which we are to be
accepted of God, and accounted righteous in his sight, all is granted that I desire.
††††††††† But his following exceptions are founded upon a manifest mistake of his own, taking this righteousness, whereof we speak, and justification, for one and the same thing: For he says, to say therefore, that the justifying act of faith, is only the receiving of Christís righteousness, or of justification, is to exclude the receiving of Christ himself, any way, even to exclude him as satisfier from the justifying act: and to exclude from that act his redemption by bloodshed, satisfaction and merit. The mistake here is palpable: for we look on righteousness, which faith receives, as the cause, and on justification as the effect. When this righteousness of Christ, the causa procatarctica of our justification, is received by faith, it is impossible, but Christ himself must be received as a satisfier: his redemption, bloodshed, satisfaction and merit, cannot be excluded; for therein was the righteousness, which faith lays hold upon, in order to justification. He adds for confirmation, for if it be only the receiving of righteousness, that is the justifying act, then it is neither the receiving of Christ himself, nor yet the acknowledgment of his satisfaction and redemption by his blood. But this is nothing but what was said, repeated again. Neither do we say, that the justifying act of faith, as it is called, is a receiving of Christís righteousness, as distinct from himself: nor is it imaginable, how Christís righteousness can be received, without acknowledgment of his satisfaction, and of the redemption by his blood.
††††††††† How he can say, that Christís righteousness and our justification, are but one and the same thing, I do not understand, when he himself says, Cath. Theol. of Moral Works, sect 13, n. 208, that our first constitutive justification (which is what we are here speaking of, to wit, that by which a soul is brought from an unrighteous to a righteous state, as he speaks, n. 207) is in its nature a right to impunity and to life, or glory. Now surely, this relation, or relative state is one thing, and the righteousness of Christ, the ground and meritorious cause thereof is a far other thing. And when he says, Apology against Mr. Eyre ß 4, that he is well content to call Christís righteousness of satisfaction the matter of ours, and that the imputation of Christís righteousness, taken for donation, is the form of constitutive justification, and that sentential adjudication of Christís righteousness to us, is the form of our sentential justification.
††††††††† That faith in order to justification doth in a special manner, eye the righteousness of Christ, is clear from Isaiah 45: 24, 25, Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness; and then follows, In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified. This truth is also clearly held forth, when faith in the matter of justification is called faith in Christís blood, Romans 3: 25. For when faith lays hold on the blood of Christ, it cannot but lay hold on his Surety righteousness, whom God set forth to be a propitiation; and in and through whom there was a redemption wrought, verse 24, for this blood was the redemption money, the price paid, in order to redemption, I Peter 1: 18, 19. And the blessedness of justification is through the imputation of righteousness, without our works, Romans 4: 6, and therefore faith, in order to
the obtaining of this blessedness, must eye and rely upon this righteousness which is the righteousness of him, who was delivered for our offenses and was raised for our justification, verse 25, where we may also observe a manifest difference betwixt this righteousness, (which consists in his being delivered for our offenses) and our justification; the one being the cause (as was said) and the other the effect.
††††††††† Moreover, this same truth is clear from Romans 5: 17, where we read of the receiving of the gift of righteousness, which is by faith, and that in order to a reigning in life by one Jesus Christ: where also we see a difference put betwixt this gift of righteousness and reigning in life; which is also more clear in the following verse 18, Even so by the righteousness of the one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life: this righteous one, to wit, one Jesus Christ, is the cause, and the justification of life, is the effect: And further this difference is again held forth in verses 19 Ė 21. Our being made righteous is different from the obedience of one Christ Jesus; and by the imputation of this obedience to us, do we become righteous, as our being made sinners is different from Adamís act of disobedience; and we are made sinners by the imputation of it to us. And as sin and death are different, when it is said, that sin hath reigned unto death; so eternal life is different from righteousness when it is said, so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life.
††††††††† We need say no more of this, seeing it clearly follows, from what was formerly at length confirmed; to wit, that justification is by the righteousness of Christ imputed.