Faith is the only Condition on our part, of the
Continuance of Justification
††††††††† Having spoken of Justification, as to its beginning, or as to a believer entering into that state of life: and having spoken to some questions for further clearing of the truth: We come to speak a word or two of the continuance of this privilege and state. That it is a continuing and permanent state, we have seen above. The question then that we have to discuss is, upon what terms and conditions is this state continued, or what is it that the Lord requires in order thereunto, or whether anything more be required of us for continuing this relation, than was at first required to the making of it? That is, whether faith alone, or faith together with works of sincere obedience. Mr. Baxter, in his Confession p. 47. n.40, tells us that there is much more that goeth to the continuing and consummating of our justification, than doth at first to justify us as to the condition on our parts, to be performed to that end: This continuing of our state of justification, and not loosing of it, he makes one and the same, and that, which he requires, as necessary to the not-loosing or continuing of this state, he makes to be sincere obedience, and many particular materials of that obedience, as to be humble, to forgive others, to confess Christ, and suffer for him, if called to it.
††††††††† That we may know both the state of the difference, and the consequence thereof, we would premit these things.
††††††††† 1. It is readily and on all hands granted and yielded unto, that there is a holiness and personal obedience and conformity to the law, called for at the hands of all justified persons that are come to age. The denial therefore of what Mr. Baxter, and others that join with him, do here assert, cannot, with any show of reason, be loaded with this foul inference, that hereby we cry down, or lay aside all necessity of holiness, and of sincere obedience: for we still affirm that the law is in force, and obliges unto obedience, and that all such as are justified, have received a new frame and disposition of soul, inclining them to obedience; Yea and that they have now both peculiar
obligations unto holiness, and also advantages and helps thereunto: They are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that they should walk in them, Ephesians 2: 10.
††††††††† 2. Mr. Baxter tells us in his Confession, p. 102, that it is his strong opinion, and that he is confident of it, that no justified person shall ever lose his justification; and that God hath promised to cause them to persevere. This state then is not to be compared with other states, which are losable and changeable among men: nor can we with such freedom speak of conditions of not losing that, which is fully secured from all losing; as we may speak of the conditions of keeping and not losing that, which may be and oft is lost. We cannot then speak of the state of justification, as we do of marriage between man and woman: here there may be and are indeed conditions required of each part, in order to the keeping up of the relation, and they may be called conditions of not loosing that relation or privilege: and they may be called conditions of not loosing that relation or privilege: But as to justification, which is not so losable, to speak of conditions of not loosing it, may occasion apprehensions in the minds of men of it being losable. It were safer then, in my apprehension, to enquire how or what way is this state and relation continued? or what is required on our part, in order thereunto? than to enquire, what are the conditions of not loosing this state?
††††††††† 3. Seeing Mr. Baxter grants, Confession p. 109, that no new sin destroys their state of justification, nor makes them cease to be Godís reconciled children, seeing they are still united unto Christ, and have his Spirit, and have faith and repentance, (at least as to the habit) & (page 129.) That the habit of faith and repentance, which is ever in them, qualifies them for present remission of ordinary sins of infirmity, at least: And it is undeniable, that the Lordís Spirit preserves them from such sins as are inconsistent with a state of justification, or that make an intercision in that state, and consequently in their adoption and union with Christ: seeing, I say, all this is granted, to what purpose is such a question as this here moved and stated, anent the conditions of not loosing this state?
††††††††† 4. The term condition here is taken in the same sense that it was understood in, when the question was about the condition of our first entry into the state of justification: and so they must take it here for a proper legal antecedent potestative condition: for if by condition here were meant no more than consequent evangelic condition, the question only would be, What is the Lordís way, method and manner, how and by which he preserves his own, in that state of justification? But, according to their acceptation of the word condition, the question really comes to this, What is that, which believers betake themselves unto, and which they can, may, and should plead with God upon, for the continuance of their state, that is, of their reconciliation unto, and acceptance with God, of the pardon of their sins, and right to glory?
††††††††† 5. The question is not, what is the condition, or what is required on our part for keeping the sense and evidence of our justification in our own consciences. Many things may be useful herein, that yet cannot be called conditions of the continuance, or not loosing of justification: but the
justification here spoken of, is that which is before God, whereby the believer is indeed brought into a state of peace and reconciliation with God, and hath obtained a right unto the inheritance of life.
††††††††† 6. When we speak here of the continuance, or not loosing of justification, the justification spoken of must be that relation, whereinto the believer is already brought: for that only can be said to be continued, while we are living, and that only can be said properly to be lost, or not lost, which a man hath: These seem then to be two distinct questions. What is the condition of our final absolution in judgment, and what is the condition of the continuance of our justification here; which Mr. Baxter seems to confound in his Confession, page 83, as the Papists do confound their second justification with the last judgment, when they are pleading for works, being required as the causes thereof.
††††††††† 7. Though, as we have seen before, justification imports more than remission of sins; yet in this question of the condition of the continuance of justification, the matter seems to be brought to this issue; whether works of obedience be the condition of future remission of sins, in the justified. And though these may be conceived of, as distinct questions, yet the clearing of the way of the remission of future sins, may serve much to clear the present question; for if it be found, that the same course is taken for remission of future sins, that was taken at first, it will be manifest, that justification is continued upon the same terms, or in the same manner, that it was at first obtained, if properly we can speak at all of the conditions of its continuance.
††††††††† Having premitted these things, the question is, Whether faith alone, or works alone, or faith with works, are the conditions required on our part, for the continuance, or not loosing of the state of justification? And I judge as faith alone was required at first, in order to justification, so that alone is to be called the condition of the continuance of justification: or that the condition both of our first installing in that state of justification, and of the continuance of the privilege, or of believers continuing in that state, is the same grace of faith. Yet these two things would be noted. 1. Though the first act of faith in Christ, doth suffice to the entering of a soul into the state of justification; yet we do not mean, that that one first solitaire, and numerical act suffices for all time coming, albeit it suffices for making up of the relation, according to the appointment of God; for the same faith is to continue in its habit; yea and in its actings. So that we state not the question so strictly, as Mr. Baxter seems to do, Confession page 47, when from the continuance of the habit of faith, and from the renewing acts of that faith, required after the first act of faith, he infers, that much more goes to the continuing of our justification, than doth at first justify us. But our question is about the addition of sincere obedience which he there mentions. 2. When we suppose the continuance of faith, not only as to its habit, but as to its renewed actings, we do not suppose, that the actings and effects, or concomitants of faith afterward, are every way the same, with what they were at first; so that we may also yield to this
difference, and grant that something more may be requisite afterward. Particularly, in order to the remission of some heinous sin, in the acting of faith, or in the effects or concomitants thereof, at least as to measure, or outward significations, to wit, in Godly sorrow, humiliation, forgiving of others, restitution, or the like; and yet it will still remain true, that justification is continued by faith, and not by works.
††††††††† For the proof of what we conceive to be truth, we lay down these grounds, both from Scripture and reason.
††††††††† 1. The words of the text, whereupon we are, do evince this: for it is said, the just liveth by faith: And, as was cleared at the beginning of our discourse, the words, as used by the Prophet Habakkuk, from whom they are cited, are spoken of such, as were already believers and justified; and pointed out the way, how they were to have a life, in an evil time; and how they were to continue, or be kept in that state of favor with God, whereinto they were brought: to wit by faith; for the just shall live by his faith; and accordingly the same words are cited by the Apostle in Hebrews 10: 38, 39. Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them, that draw back, unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. Where living by faith is opposed to drawing back; to wit, through unbelief; and as drawing back is unto perdition, so believing is to the saving of the soul; and therefore the continuation of this life of justification unto the end, even unto the final salvation of the soul, is by faith. This life of justification, as it is begun by faith (as the Apostle evinces Romans 1: 17 and in our present text citing in both places these same words, for that end) so it is continued by faith, as the only condition thereof. And to say, that the particle only is not here added; and therefore, other works of obedience must be, or may be adjoined here, in this matter, notwithstanding it be said, the just liveth by faith, were in effect to destroy the Apostleís argument, in our text, where he uses this same expression, without the addition of only, to prove, that we are not justified by the works of the law. Therefore, as this assertion, that the just live by faith, proves justification by faith without the works of the law; so the same proves the continuation of justification, without the works of the law, as the condition thereof.
††††††††† 2. The grounds and causes of justification, mentioned by the Apostle, Romans 3: 22, 24, 25, 26, hold good as well in the continuation, as in the first beginning of justification; for there, as well as here, the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested, even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them, that believe: for there is no difference. Justification first and lastly is free by his grace, through the redemption, that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood. And yet there is not the least hint given, that the matter is altered, in the continuation of justification.
††††††††† 3. As the beginning of justification is so contrived, as all boasting is taken away, so must the continuance thereof be conceived to be. But if
works be admitted, as conditions of the continuation of justification, though they be denied to be the condition of the beginning thereof, all boasting shall not be excluded, contrary to Romans 3: 27. For if a sinner, after that he is justified by the merit of Christ, at first, should have it to say, that for the continuance of his justification, he were beholden to his own works, he should surely have matter of boasting in himself, in so far at least. Papists think to evade this argument against their second justification by works, by saying that all these good works are not of themselves, but of the Father of lights. But this shift will not help, for all these works are not the righteousness of Christ, but are works of righteousness, which we do, and are excluded in this matter, as occasioning boasting, or giving ground thereunto; as the next argument will more fully clear.
††††††††† 4. Abraham is said to have righteousness imputed unto him, and faith imputed unto righteousness, and so to be justified by faith, not only when he was first justified, but many years after, even when he offered up Isaac his son, Romans 4 and James 2: 21, 23. So he was justified first and last, as to have no ground of glorying, and therefore not by works, Romans 4: 1, 3, 4. But it will be said, that the Apostle James says expressly, in the place cited, that our father Abraham was justified by works, when he had offered his Son Isaac on the altar. Answer: Not to engage in the whole explication and vindication of that passage of Scripture here, which is of late to good purpose, and most satisfyingly done by the learned Dr. Owen; I only say, that Abraham being justified by works, was such, as thereby the Scripture was fulfilled; which says, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness, &c. verse 23. Now if Abraham had been justified by works, properly so taken, the Scripture had not been fulfilled, which said, he was justified by faith, but the contrary had been made good, to wit, that works were imputed to him, and he was justified by them, as by his righteousness. But the meaning is, that Abraham was justified by faith, a true faith, that proved itself such, in time of a trial, by works of obedience, and particularly by obedience to that command, whereby the Lord tried or tempted him, Genesis 22: 1, 2, and by such a faith as wrought with his works, and was perfected, or discovered and manifested to be real, after the trial of the fire, James 2: 22. It is a good direction that the learned Camero gives here, Op. fol. pag. 83, that we should hold fast the scope of the Apostle James, and to this end, that we should take notice of the Apostleís proposition, and of the conclusion thereof. The proposition is set down, verse 14, What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works, can faith, (or that faith) save him. Whereby we see, that the Apostleís scope is to prove, that that faith, which the man supposes he hath, who hath no works, is not that faith, by which we are justified and saved; and that because it is unprofitable to poor indigent brethren, in necessity (verses 15 and 16) is dead (verses 17, 20) it cannot be shown by works (verse 18) it is a faith that devils have (verse 19). All which and what follows is cleared from the conclusion verse 26 Ėfor as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
††††††††† 5. It will always hold true, that God is he who justifies the ungodly and so justifies him, that worketh not, but him to whom faith is counted for righteousness, Romans 4: 5. But if the continuance of justification were by works, and works were counted for righteousness, in order to the continuance of justification; God should not continue to be the justifier of the ungodly: but should justify the ungodly at first, and thereafter justify the Godly; whereof the text gives not the least hint.
††††††††† 6. The instance of David clears this also, Romans 4: 6, 7, 8. For David is there (Psalm 32) speaking of himself, long after he was first justified, and yet his words saying, blessed are they, whose iniquities are forgiven, &c. prove justification by faith, without the works of the Law (which the Apostleís scope, and the end, for which he adduces this prove; and we must not think, that any of his probations are impertinent) but this they could not prove, if the continuance of justification were by works, and not by faith only; as is manifest; for who can infer, that the beginning of justification is by faith alone, from this, that the continuance of justification is by works? But when the continuation of justification is by faith alone, it follows manifestly, that the beginning of it must be by faith alone. Yea, it is hence also manifest, that pardon of sins committed after justification, is not had by works, but by the imputation of righteousness, without works, for Paul says, David describes the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputes righteousness, without works: And how did David describe this? When he said, blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, &c.
††††††††† 6. Paul tells us, Romans 5: 2, that as by Christ, we have access by faith into grace, so in the same we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Access into this grace must import the state of justification, and as this is by faith, so is the standing and abiding therein; and consequently, the continuance of justification: and there is no word of works here at all, in this whole affair.
††††††††† 7. Paul likewise confirms this, in his own experience, Galatians 2: 20, where he tells us, how, and what way he lived unto God, being dead to the law, to wit by the faith of the Son of God: and as this was true of the life of sanctification: so much more of the life of justification, both as begun and as continued; for the whole life of a Christian, now crucified with Christ, and living unto God, is here spoken to: and this is in opposition to the works of the law, as is clear from verse 16, and from the following verse 21.
††††††††† 8. The same is confirmed by the doctrine of the Apostle Ephesians 2: 8, 9, 10 Ėfor by grace are ye saved, through faith Ėnot of works lest any man should boast: for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them. This salvation takes in both the beginning, continuance and end of our life, of justification; and all this is by faith alone, and it is expressly said, not to be by works, and that, lest any man should boast (which confirms our third argument) and these works are works of Gospel obedience, and he tells us of another end and use of these, than to be the condition of the continuance of our justification, even to be the way we should walk in, according to the fore-ordination
of God, and carry as his own workmanship, created thereunto.
††††††††† 9. We have the Apostleís own practice again set before us, to clear this matter, Philippians 3: 9, where he tells us, what was his main design and work, not at first only, when he was justified, but long thereafter, to show what was his constant design, and should be to the end; even labor to be found in Christ, renouncing his own righteousness, and to seek to be hid under and covered with that righteousness, which is through the faith of Christ, and which is of God by faith: So that, as he believed in Jesus Christ, that he might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law, Galatians 2: 16, so here he shows, that he will continue in this exercise to the end.
†††††††† 10. We may add to these, that passage of Paul, Titus 3: 5, 6, 7, Not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us (and this salvation, surely, will take in the continuation of justification) by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ, our Lord: that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life. And when he wills Titus in the following verse, to affirm, that they which have believed in God, may be careful to maintain good works, as being good and profitable unto men; he adds nothing of their being the condition of the continuance of our justification, as surely, he had a fair occasion to do, if the matter were so: but he had fully excluded them from all interest therein, verse 5.
††††††††† We may add to these a few reasons:
††††††††† 1. Is it not considerable, in this point, that Paul speaking so frequently and disputing at such a length of justification and clearing so many things about it; yet, in all his discourses thereupon, he never mentions this condition (to wit works of obedience) of its continuance. And, which is also considerable, though he oftentimes presses to holiness, and uses many arguments to that end; yet he never makes mention of this place and office it hath, in and about the continuance of justification; which surely, is supposed by the asserters, to be a mighty argument unto the constant exercise of holiness.
††††††††† 2. We have proved above, that justification at first is by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, received by faith; and we have shown, that faith in justification specially eyes the righteousness of Christ, and rests thereupon. If then our personal obedience be brought in to be the condition of the continuance of justification, Christís righteousness is quite laid aside from having any further interest therein, and the believer is never, after the first time, to act faith upon the righteousness of Christ; and the reason is, because works do not act so upon the righteousness of Christ, as faith doth; neither have they that capacity to do so. But how absurd is it to think or say, that the believer hath no more to do with Christís righteousness? And how contrary is it to the fixed resolution of Paul, Philippians 3: 9. And how inconsistent with the whole scope of the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes, and wherein is the
righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, the just shall live by faith, Romans 1: 16, 17? If it be said, that this cannot militate against such, as take in faith with works, I answer: It will militate against such; for works cannot act upon the righteousness of Christ, as faith doth; and therefore if faith and works concur as conditions, in one and the same manner, faith is not here considered, as acting on the righteousness of Christ, but only as a work, and another moral virtue: and so the righteousness of Christ is quite excluded.
††††††††† 3. Believers by faith in Christ, are completely justified, as to their state and have all their bygone iniquities pardoned, and they are accepted as children in his favor, John 1: 12. They are made heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, Romans 8: 17, and are discharged (as Mr. Baxter grants himself Confession p. 102, concl. 9) from all guilt of eternal punishment, yea and of all destructive punishment in this life. Yea they are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the Law, Acts 13: 39. They are blessed, Romans 4: 5, 6. And all this is so fixed, that none can lay anything to their charge, Romans 8: 33, 34. Yea they are said to have everlasting life, John 5: 24. Now, seeing all this is by faith: what necessity is there for another condition, beside this same faith, keeping fast by Christ, unto the continuance of this state? If it be said, that notwithstanding hereof, they are liable to future sins, and these must also be forgiven; and in reference to the pardon of these, other conditions may be required, and in that respect, these may be called conditions of continued justification.
††††††††† 4. The answer to this will furnish us with another argument; for answer therefore I say: Works are not the condition of pardon of after sins, but faith going to Christ, and washing in his blood, I John 2: 1, 2. If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins. Christ is here proposed to sinning believers, in his priestly office, as the object of their faith, in order to pardon: And Mr. Baxter, in the forecited place, concl. 11 says, that whenever the justified do commit any sin, they have a present and effectual certain remedy at hand for their pardon, that is, the merit of Christís blood, and his intercession, the love of God, the promise of pardon, in which they have interest, and the Spirit to excite them to faith and repentance. No word of works of obedience, as condition here. David in order to the obtaining of the pardon of his sin, did betake himself to the free mercy of God, that he might get his sin covered, his iniquities forgiven, and his sin not imputed unto him; Psalm 32: 1, 2. And this was, in Paulís judgment Romans 4: 6, 7, 8, a betaking himself to imputed righteousness without works. So he betook himself to mercy, and withal he desired to be purged with hyssop, Psalm 51: 1, 7, which looked to the blood of Christ, that only sprinkles consciences. Hebrews 9: 13, 14, 22.
††††††††† 5. If justification be continued upon condition of works, we enquire what these works are? Are herein comprehended all commanded duties? or all that is required of justified persons by way of duty? then a failure in any of these, whether by omission, or commission, should cause an intercision
of that state, and a breach of that relation: but this is utterly false. Yea, if so, the justified should become unjustified every day, for no man lives and sins not. The reason of the consequence is, because the non-performance of the condition, upon which the state and relation of the justified is continued, must make a breach in that state. If it be said, that not every sin, but only such sins as are inconsistent with the state of justification, will make an intercision, then it must consequently be said, that upon these alone, or on the non-performance of these alone doth the continuation of justification depend, as on a condition. And what be these? Davidís sin, I hope, nor Peterís sin, were none of these. And whatever they may be, I suppose it will be granted, (except by Arminians) that there is sufficient provision against these lain in, in the New Covenant of Grace; and that such, as are justified indeed, shall never fall into such sins. And then, what need it be said, that the state of justification is continued upon such terms?
††††††††† 6. By this way, proud nature should have occasion to boast, and say, It was of Godís grace and mercy, that I was brought into a justified state, and had all my former sins pardoned; but for my abiding and continuing therein; and for the pardon of all my sins, that I have committed, or do commit since, I am beholden to my own Gospel-obedience immediately; for remissions is granted, and my justification continued, upon condition of my personal and Gospel-obedience. But how inconsistent this is with the whole strain of the Gospel, cannot be unknown. We nowhere read, that our sins are pardoned, or not imputed to us, in or by our evangelic obedience; but as we are justified freely by grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Romans 3: 24, so it is in and through him, and his blood, that we are washed, and our sins purged away, Matthew 26: 28, Revelation 1: 5, Ephesians 1: 7, Colossians 1: 14.
††††††††† 7. The daily experience of the people of God, may clear to us, what that is, upon which their state is continued; and upon which they seek and obtain new emission of their new transgressions, and show us, that it is not their own personal obedience; but the grace and mercy of God, in Jesus Christ: for it is to this they betake themselves daily, both in reference to their being kept in the favor of God, and in reference to their getting new extracts of pardon; it is to the blood of sprinkling they go daily, that there they may be washed, and cleansed from all their sins and failings. It is to this fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem that they run with their sins and uncleanness, Zachariah 13: 1, for it is his blood alone, that cleanses from all sin, I John 1: 7. And so they find by experience, that they stand only by faith, and that it is through faith in this blood, that they are kept in the favor of God, and get their sins pardoned.
††††††††† These proofs may serve for confirmation of what we say, Let us now see what Mr. Baxter says for the contrary.
††††††††† In his Confession, p. 47, he adduces three arguments. The first is this. The word expressly constitutes these conditions of our not losing our state of
justification, or of continuing it. And this he tells us, he hath formerly showed in many Scriptures, meaning, I suppose, the passages he had immediately before cited on the margin. But to these I answer in general that not one of them makes mention of the continuance of our justification, or of our not losing of it: and therefore it cannot be said from these, that the word expressly constitutes these conditions of our not losing justification. But we shall consider them particularly.
††††††††† Matthew 12: 36, 37, speaks not of justification, whereof we are now treating, but of the last judgment, and we see no cause of confounding this justification, whereof we speak, or its continuance, with the last judgment, as Papists do confound their second justification with this judgment; and abuse the same Scriptures here adduced by Mr. Baxter and the like, to prove their second justification to be by works.
††††††††† James 2: 24 speaks not of the continuance or not losing of justification; but of the very beginning of justification, which is not by a dead faith, as devils have; but by a faith that is working, and making the soul prompt and ready to yield all obedience unto the Lord: and this is the true meaning of the words, as was shown above, and the whole scope of the place evidences. Will Mr. Baxter say, that by a dead faith, and by a faith that cannot save, and by a faith that is in devils and is attended with no Christian love, we are brought into a justified state at first? No surely: and yet this is the faith, that James opposes unto works, or rather unto a working faith, whereby we are justified first and last, as was Abraham verse 21, whose faith was such, as it wrought with his works, and by the same was manifest to be what it was, the true and saving faith of Godís elect. And surely, this faith of Abraham, and the faith that wrought in Rehab, was another sort of faith, than is the faith of devils, or that faith, that is but a dead carcass.
††††††††† Matthew 6: 14, 15 speaks of remission of sins: and I suppose, it will not be said, that everyone who forgives his neighbor, doth thereby and thereupon obtain remission of his own sins, at the hands of God; otherwise heathens, and wicked persons may be said to have their sins pardoned before God, because they may forgive others some wrongs done unto themselves. If it be said, that such cannot forgive others aright, not having a principle of grace, and not being in Christ, then true, but then we see, that it is not this forgiving abstractly considered, that is spoken of here, but a forgiving, flowing from faith and principled thereby; and so the meaning of the place is, that without such a faith in Christ, as principles and prompts to the pardoning of others, we can expect no pardon of our own sins from God; nor have ground to suppose that we are indeed pardoned of God: our forgiving of others then is here mentioned as the native effect, and evident sign of faith; as our Commentators manifest upon the place, speaking against the Papists. See Pareus, Gualter and others. Pareus particularly disproves the Papists gloss; and says, that our pardoning of others must follow upon Godís pardoning of us, as he clears from Matthew 18, and will not have
our forgiving of others said to be the causa sine qua non of our obtaining remission from God. This place then says that while we cannot find in our heart a readiness cheerfully and heartily to forgive others, we have no ground to imagine that our sins are pardoned; for all such as are pardoned of God, have this Christian disposition flowing from faith in Christ: They may have this, as to the seed and root; but till it grow up to yield its fruit, they want the evidence of their faith and consequently of pardon.
††††††††† I John 1: 9 means such a confession of sins, as is accompanied with the making use by faith of the blood of Christ, that cleanses from all sin, verse 7, and with a running to the Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is a propitiation for sins, chapter 2: 1, 2. Most wicked persons, as Saul may make confession of their sis; but not so as to run to the fountain, the blood of sprinkling: and by a confession, that is not accompanied with this acting, they can attain to no remission before God: and therefore faith only acting in humble confession to the glory of God, and to the taking of the shame to themselves, is the condition of pardon, and of continuance of justification, as to this.
††††††††† Revelation 22: 14 is also abused by the Papists to prove their second justification to be by works. The word e)cousi/a, here used, doth not always denote right, or jus: for it sometimes signifies mere freedom, liberty and power to do such a thing, as I Corinthians 9: 4, 5, 6. And so here the words import, that such as do his commandments, are blessed; for thereby they have free access unto the tree of life, unto Christ, their objective blessedness, which is the same with that, which is commonly said, viz. that works of obedience are the way of the Kingdom, but not the cause of reigning. It will not suit with the Gospel, to say, that by our works of obedience we buy a right to the tree of life, even in part, or in subordination to Christís blood; for Christ hath purchased the whole right: and nothing of ours must be joined, as a part of that price, otherwise must we have a proportionable share of the glory to ourselves. Nor can it be said, that by our works of obedience we obtain a right to Christ and to his merits: for before we have a right to Christ, we can do no works of Christian obedience, and Christ alone hath bought to us both Grace and Glory: But our works of Christian obedience, though they cannot precede our right to, yet they may go before our possession of the inheritance purchased; now right and possession are different things. But in fine we say, that this place, speaking of the possession of glory, is not apposite to the purpose now in hand, for justification is different from glorification, Romans 8: 30. And of justification, as continued are we here speaking.
††††††††† John 15: 3 Ė 10. Verses 3 and 9 can prove nothing, in reference to what we are upon. Verse 4 shows that there is no fruitfulness in grace, but by a constant abiding in, and sucking of sap by faith from Christ the true Vine, which none deny. Verse 8 shows that by fruitfulness in good, the Father is glorified, and thereby a demonstration is given to the world, who are indeed the true Disciples of Christ. Verse 6, holds forth the dreadful punishment that attends Apostates; but we hope, true believers are secured
against full and final apostasy. Verse 10 proves indeed, that keeping of Christís commands, is a mean to keep the sense of our being beloved of Christ fresh in our souls, and to enjoy the fruits of his love of beneficence: but says nothing of good works being the condition of our continuance in the state of justification: unless we will also say, that Christís obedience was the condition of his continuing in the state of justification.
††††††††† I John 2: 24 &c. proves that full and final apostasy from the faith and truth of the gospel will indeed cut off from all interest in Christ, and from benefit by him: but as true believers are secured from this, as verse 27 clears, so this will only prove that continuance in faith, is the condition of continuance of justification.
††††††††† Matthew 18: 35 only proves (and so confirms what was said to Matthew 6: 14) that such as do not from their hearts forgive their brethren their trespasses, can have no ground of assurance, that God hath forgiven them theirsÖour cruelty and unmercifulness towards our brethren may give us sufficient ground to doubt of our pardon, whatever seeming assurance we had formerly. So that this place seaks nothing of the condition of our pardon, but of the condition rather of our sense, feeling and grounded assurance of pardon; which is a far different thing.
††††††††† These are the Scriptures, whereby he would prove his first argument. His second argument is this, Our first faith having the true nature of a covenanting with Christ, and giving ourselves to him, and taking him for our Lord and Redeemer: therefore it follows, that as the Covenant-making and accepting was of necessity as the condition of our first right and remission; so is our covenant keeping of the same necessity to our continued right. And that God is, as it were, disobliged, if we should not keep covenant. And the keeping hath more in it, than the bare making. No covenant relations usually are entered among men, but the covenant keeping is more than the making; and the conditions of their continued right more than of their first right. So it is with a subject to his Prince, wife to a husband, soldier to a commander, scholar to his teacher, servant to his master, &c. Promising will give them the first right, but performing (in the essentials) must continue it, or it will cease: for the end of the promise was its performance: and in that respect faith, which is the covenant, is inferior to obedience, which is promised, though in other respects it may be superior.
††††††††† Answer: (1.) Though justifying faith be also a covenanting faith, and so unites the soul with Christ; yet in order to justification, it hath not (to use his words) the true nature of a covenanting with Christ, nor a giving up ourselves to him: but rather it is a receiving and resting on him, and his righteousness, and a fleeing to his merits for refuge. (2.) Nor doth faith, in order to justification, (as we cleared above) receive Christ, or go to him, as Lord and King, but rather as Priest. (3.) Nor doth the receiving of Christ at first, as king, formally include obedience, or a promise of obedience; as was also manifested above. (4.) Therefore, from this first acting of faith in order to justification, it can no way follow that obedience, or covenant keeping (as he speaks) is the condition of our continued right, or of our continued justification. (5.) What God
promised upon covenant keeping, he is, it is true, disobliged from giving so to speak, when the covenant is not kept: But we find not that he hath promised justification or the continuance thereof upon these terms. (6.) There is no covenant among men that can fully quadrate, with Godís covenanting with us, or with the matter of justification, about which we are now speaking. The sentences of judges absolving the debtor, upon the payment of the Cautioner instructed, agrees more with this; and we find not in such sentences any such like conditions, mentioned of their continuance of force. (7.) Some of these relations or covenants mentioned are purely alien, being betwixt a master and his servant, and the captain and the soldier; these are mere mercenary contracts, having obedience and service for their only end, and promising a reward upon that condition. Our justification hath no likeness to this. (8.) Even in these relations, every act of disobedience, or non-performance of the duties required, doth not dissolve the relation; and therefore it cannot be said, that upon the contrary performance, as a condition, the continuing of the relation depends; Mr. Baxter seeing this, adds a restriction, (in the essentials.) And in our case, I would enquire, what he will call essential? It must be that, surely, the contrary whereof is inconsistent with a justified state: and what can this be, but a total apostasy? From which there is full security laid-in, in the New Covenant, (which is not in any of the covenants among men, which he hath mentioned.) And this total apostasy must include a full renouncing of Christ, and his righteousness, as to justification: and this rather would say, that the continuance of justification depends on the continuance of faith, adhering to Christ and his righteousness: and to this I shall willingly assent. And this takes away the force of the third argument which he adduces saying:
††††††††† If there were no more necessary to the continuing of our justification, but only the same thing which did constitute it, then we should be justified by no other act of faith, to our lives end, but only the first instantaneous act; and so our faith, after that instant, should never more be justifying faith. But that is false, &c. Answer: This whole argument I yield unto, for I plead not against the interest of faith here; but against our works being the condition of continued justification, as was said above.