In Justification there is a State of
††††††††† Having premised these three particulars, not unworthy of our consideration, and serving to prepare the way unto what followeth to be spoken unto; we come now more particularly to handle the words, and to see what may be drawn out of them for our information and edification, that we may be instructed concerning the nature of this noble privilege, and concerning the way, how it is brought about, and persons may be made partakers thereof, as also stirred up unto a right improvement of the truth herein, whether we be already made partakers thereof, or are yet strangers thereunto.
††††††††† We intend not (as we hinted at the beginning) to touch upon, far less to discuss at length, all the many and perplexed controversies, that are moved, both of old and of late, by men of different principles and persuasions. Nor do we intend to handle the several arguments, which the Apostle adduces for confirmation of the truth, in this matter, but our purpose only being to touch upon, and at least, to endeavor the clearing of some of the principle questions, moved in this matter, in reference to the forementioned ends, we shall satisfy ourselves, at present, with speaking to such particulars, as the text will give grounds for.
††††††††† The words having been cleared, and the scope of the Apostle declared, which cannot be hid from the eyes of any, who will read the purpose, there are only two things, which call for our consideration; First, the conclusion, which the Apostle is disproving and confuting with a manifesto; to wit, that no man is justified in the sight of God by the Law, or by the works of the Law. Next, The argument, which the Apostle makes use of, to this end; for the just shall live by faith.
††††††††† The Apostleís way of arguing here, and elsewhere, with the same, or
the like argument, whereby he states an inconsistency, yea an opposition, between justification by Law, and justification by faith, saith, that it will not be very necessary to speak much to that, which is here the Apostleís conclusion; that is, to clear, that justification is not by the works of the Law: for the clearing of justification by faith will enforce that of itself. We shall not therefore insist upon that, howbeit we may in end, consider, what is said by some for justification by works, and what way such think to shun the odium, of manifestly contradicting the Apostle, and of maintaining that error, which he sets himself so peremptorily against, as acted by the Spirit of God.
††††††††† The principle thing then, which we have here to do, is to consider the import of the Apostleís argument, for the just shall live by faith, yet we are not to consider these words, in their just length and breadth, nor particularly, in reference to the use, which the prophet Habakkuk makes of them, Habakkuk 2: 4, and this same Apostle Hebrews 10: 38, (of this we have spoken elsewhere.) But only in reference to the use, which the Apostle here makes of them, in clearing up the way, how justification is brought about. And considering them in this respect, we will have two things only to take notice of; First óthe assertion of justification by faith. Next óthe influence, that this assertion hath into the Apostleís conclusion; to wit, that therefore justification is not by the law, nor by the works of the law.
††††††††† In speaking to the first, we will have occasion to speak both to the beginning, the nature and ground of this change, made in justification, as also to the continuance of that state of justification. And then we will have occasion to show, how both the beginning and continuance of justification is by faith: for as the sinner at first becomes just, or is brought into a justified state by faith, so is he carried on and continues in that state of life, to the end: this being always true, that first and last, the just lives by faith; faith begins, and faith carries on this life, until the justified man be glorified.
††††††††† The Apostle (that we may come to speak something to clear the nature of this state of justification) is asserting justification by faith, to cry down justification by the law, or by the works of the law, which some false teachers were persuading those Galatians to believe; and he adduces a passage of Scripture, which says, the just shall live by faith, thereby giving us to understand, that the just man, or the justified man, is a living man; for the just liveth. And it is too narrow, to interpret this life, of eternal life; and this would make the Apostleís argument very obscure; we must therefore understand it of a life begun here, which shall certainly end in glory: and this is most consonant both to the prophetís scope, and to the scope of the Apostle here.
††††††††† Whence we may gather, that justification is by faith, there is a real life obtained: by justification the soul is brought into a new state of life; and by it, such as were really dead, are really made alive. This may be further cleared from these particulars following.
††††††††† 1. Such are said to be born again John 3: 5 not only by the Spirit, which
may import sanctification, but also by water, which may import justification, wherein iniquities are pardoned, and the soul is washed from its guilt, through the blood of Jesus Christ, represented by the water in baptism. Thus are they also put into a new state, being delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the Kingdom of His dear Son, Colossians 1: 13. Christ now owns them, as His, and Satan has no more power and jurisdiction over them, their guilt being removed, and their sins being pardoned: for, because of sin hath Satan, as a jailor, had power over them, as so many prisoners, but sin being taken away, in their justification, they are loosed from his bonds, and delivered from his prison and power. We see Paul was sent Acts 26: 18 To open eyes, and to turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, &c.
††††††††† 2. Hereby they are brought into a state of salvation, and being out of harmís way, they are said to be saved, being now in a state of life and salvation, through Jesus Christ, Ephesians 2: 5, 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith: and how was this? It was by Christ, together with whom they were quickened; when before they were dead in sins and trespasses, v. 5. So Titus 3: 5 Not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. But how was this work of salvation begun? See verse 7. That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life. So that as justification makes way for adoption; so it brings souls into a safe state, a state of salvation; so as they, in a sense, are already denominated, saved; that is, brought out of the state of death, and put into a state of salvation: Thus are they also said, to be quickened together with Him, (i.e. Christ) having forgiveness of all their sins, Colossians 2: 13. This will be further clear, if we consider how ó
††††††††† 3. Those, who are justified, shall certainly be saved, not only in respect of the decree and purpose of God; but in respect also of the Gospel constitution, and the declared will of God. Therefore saith the Apostle Romans 8: 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them, which are in Christ Jesus. And all such, as are in Christ Jesus, are justified; as the Gospel cleareth. And again more clearly, verse 30 And whom he justified, them he also glorified. The connection between these two is indissoluble. So does the Apostle not only assert, but he confirms this, Romans 5: 9 Much more being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. And again, verse 17, For if by one manís offense death reigned by one, much more they, which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness. (That is, who welcome, embrace and receive the rich offer of grace, and the righteousness of Christ, freely and graciously presented in the Gospel to all that will accept thereof) shall reign in the life by one Jesus Christ. So likewise, verse last, That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign thru righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ, our Lord.
††††††††† 4. They who are justified, are brought into a state of blessedness, and therefore may well be said to live, or to be made partakers of a life, Romans 4: 6, 7, 8. Even as David also describe the man, unto whom God imputes
righteousness, without works; saying, blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man, to whom the Lord will not impute sin. See Psalm 32: 1, 2. If then they be brought into a state of blessedness, they must be in a state of life; for death and blessedness are inconsistent.
††††††††† 5. They are said to be redeemed; and consequently brought out of the state of death, wherein they were, Ephesians 1: 7, In whom we have redemption, through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. In and by justification is this forgiveness of sins, whereby they are made partakers of a redemption. See Colossians 1: 14 where the same is asserted by the Apostle.
††††††††† For further clearing of this, let us see wherein this life consists; and then we shall not only see, that it is really a life, but also, that it is a special and excellent life. To this end therefore, let us consider these following particulars.
††††††††† 1. Hereby they have remission and pardon of their iniquities, as was now cleared, and is manifest from Romans 3: 24, 25. Being justified freely by this grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation for the remission of sins, that are past, &c. And by this remission and pardon of sins, they have a freedom and exemption from the curse and wrath of God, that was lying upon them, and to which they were obnoxious by sin and guilt, original and actual, which they were to be charged with, that being the penalty threatened in the law, even death and the curse of God; for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the law, to do them, Galatians 3: 10, Deuteronomy 27: 26. O how excellent a life is this, to be delivered from the wrath of the Almighty, sin-revenging God, and from the curse and malediction of the great Legislator, and dreadful judge? How rightly may they be said to live, who are freed from the sentence of death, to which they were liable; from the penalty of the broken Law of the great God of Heaven and Earth; and from that doom, that all, who shall not share of this rich privilege of redemption, shall be made to hear at length, depart from me, ye cursed, &c. A person guilty of death, and lying in chains, looking for nothing but the sentence and doom to be given out against him, would think himself a living man, if instead of that sentence, which he was every hour looking for, he should hear of a free and gracious pardon. Much more may this state of remission be looked upon as a state of life. (2) They are hereby freed from that death, slavery and tyranny, which the law did exercise over them before, and does exercise over all such, as are not yet justified, for as the Law discovers sin, Romans 3: 20, so it works wrath, Romans 4: 15, and thereby hath dominion over a man, binding him over in chains, as it were, unto the wrath and curse of God. But Christ hath now delivered them from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for them, Galatians 3: 13. And they by faith having fled to him, are pardoned, and the law hath no more to say, especially it is satisfied by the cautioners being made a curse, and having fulfilled it in our nature and place, Romans 8: 3, 4. Thus are they freed from and
dead to the Law by the body of Christ, Romans 7: 4. O what a noble, sweet and refreshing life is this, to be free of this slavery and bondage, whereby the Law is always lying about the neck of the poor sinner, the curse and wrath of God, as oft as he sins. And add to this ó (3.) that they are freed from the just and well grounded management of the Law against them by Satan, or a wakened conscience. I say just and well grounded management; for I grant, the Devil and a misinformed conscience can bring forth the Law, and terrify with a true believer, by charging him with the transgressions thereof, even after these transgressions are pardoned; but this is unjust and illegal; and the believer is under no obligation to acknowledge these charges, or to admit them, but, on the contrary, to reject them, as being groundless, and contrary to the tenor of the Gospel. But the unbeliever and unjustified soul is laid open to all these fearful charges and dreadful challenges, to all those summons, that are as so many poisoned darts, shot into his very heart, every one of which is a death to him, which he sees not how to avoid. Must not then this be a considerable and noble heavenly life, to have sin pardoned and thereby be freed from these soul affrighting, heart piercing, conscience burning, and mind tormenting accusations, charges, libels, and dittayes, brought home and delivered by the wicked accuser of the brethren, and a wakened enlightened conscience? Must there not be many lives in this one?
††††††††† 2. Hereby they have peace and reconciliation with God, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, Romans 5: 1. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, II Corinthians 5: 18, 19. They are now reconciled, Romans . So Colossians , And (having made peace, through the blood of His cross) by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself. Herein also they have received the atonement, Romans 5: 11. And the enmity is abolished, Ephesians , and stain v. 16. So that the enmity on both hands is taken away; they are reconciled unto the Lord, who before were alienated and enemies in their minds by wicked works, Colossians .† And the atonement being made, the wrath of God is ceased towards them, and that Law-wrath, under which they did formerly lie, is quite removed, and they are no more looked upon, nor dealt with as enemies, but owned and regarded, as reconciled friends. And who can express the good and sweet of this life, or who can conceive what heaven lies wrapped up here? How justly may he be accounted a dead man, who is an outlaw and a rebel to God, who tastes nothing of the kindness and friendship of God, gets nothing from Him, as from a friend, but all as from an enemy, even all the outward favors he enjoys in the world; how great and glorious so-ever they be, in the eyes of men? And, on the other hand, how happy is he, and how justly and deservedly may he be called a living man, who can call God his friend; go to him as to a friend; receive all from him as from a friend, how inconsiderable so-ever in the eyes of the world the things be, which he gets. This is a life, the good, the advantage, the joy, the comfort, the peace of which, who can express?
††††††††† 3. Hereby they are absolved and acquitted from all, that could be justly laid to their charge: for justification in Scripture, is expressive of a juridical act of a just judge, absolving a person from the guilt laid to his charge, and from the sentence of the Law, due upon the account of that, where with he was charged; and never doth denote a making of righteous by infusing of righteousness, or by making any real physical change within, whatever Papists say, as we see, Deuteronomy 25: 1, II Samuel 15: 4, Proverbs 17: 15, Isaiah 50: 8, I Kings 8: 31, 32, Exodus 23: 7, Matthew 12: 37, Luke 7: 29, 16: 15. And in multitudes more places. O! what a life is here, when a poor self-condemned sinner stands before the Judge, the righteous Lord, and has his sins charged upon him, and the Law brought forth, cursing every transgressor, for every transgression, and justice appearing against him, calling for the execution of the sentence, according to the Law, and for death and vengeance due by Law; and upon all this can look for nothing but doom and present execution of the dreadful sentence: what a life, I say, is it for such a sinner; standing in this posture, to have a sentence of absolution pronounced, and be openly declared righteous, and not worthy of death, and free of the charge given in against him: and thus it is with believers, according to the Gospel constitution; for though they have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, in themselves; yet now are they justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, and that by faith, Romans 3: 22, 23, 28. Galatians 2: 16. Though they were unrighteous, fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners; yet now are they justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, I Corinthians 6: 9, 10, 11. God justified the ungodly, Romans 4: 5. The circumcision by faith and the uncircumcision thru faith, Romans 3: 30.
††††††††† 4. The ground of this sentence of absolution, passed upon them, or in their favor, will more manifest both the reality and excellency of this life. Though they in themselves have been, and are sinners and ungodly, and cannot plead not guilty, nor adduce any ground in themselves where upon they can plead exemption from the penalty of the Law; but as they stand guilty in Law, so they stand convicted in their own consciences, their mouths are stopped, and they are become guilty, Romans 3: 19. They know and acknowledge that they have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, verse 23, and so can expect nothing, but death and destruction, if the Lord should enter with them in judgment, and mark iniquity, Psalm 130: 3, and 143: 2. Yet, the judgment of the Lord being always according to truth, Romans 2: 2, such as he pronounces righteous, and absolves from the sentence of the Law, as such, must be righteous; for to justify the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, Proverbs 17: 15. And seeing they are not, neither can be, righteous in themselves, nor have a righteousness of their own, which they can present to justice, and in which they can appear before God, who is a righteous judge, they must needs have a righteousness from some other; and this is a surety-righteousness, the righteousness of the Mediator and Cautioner, Jesus Christ, imputed to them, and received by faith. And being
clothed with this noble robe of righteousness, with Christ, who is the Lord our Righteousness, and bears this name and title, Jeremiah 23: 6, and who is made of God unto us righteousness I Corinthians 1: 30, they may be looked upon as living indeed. In the Lord have they righteousness, and upon this account, in the Lord are they justified, and shall glory, Isaiah 45: 24, 25. This is the righteousness of God, without the Law, which is manifested by the Law and the prophets; the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe. Romans 3: 21, 22. This is that faith, or object of faith, that was imputed to Abraham for righteousness, Romans 4: 3, 5, 9. And the righteousness, that God imputes without works verses 6 and 11. This is the righteousness of faith, through which the promise is, verse 13. This is the righteousness, that shall be imputed to all, who believe on Him, that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, verse 24. This is the free gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, that hath abounded unto many, Romans 5: 15. This is that abundance of grace, and gift of righteousness, which believers receive, whereby they reign in life, by one Jesus Christ, verse 17, and that righteousness of one; by which the free gift comes upon all believers, unto justification of life, verse 18, and that righteousness, through which grace reigns unto eternal life by Jesus Christ, our Lord, verse 21. This is the righteousness of the Law, fulfilled in us, by Godís own Son, whom He sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, Romans 8: 2, 3. This is Godís righteousness, to which the Jews would not submit, but went about to establish their own righteousness: for Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believes, Romans 0: 3, 4. It is that righteousness, which is of faith, which the Gentiles have attained, who followed not after righteousness; and which Israel did not attain to, though they followed after the Law of righteousness, because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the Law, for they stumbled at that stumbling stone, Romans 9: 30, 31, 32. By this are believers made the righteousness of God in Him, who, though He knew no sin, yet was made sin for us. II Corinthians 5: 21. This is that righteousness, which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness, which is of God by faith, Philippians 3: 7, 8, 9, which Paul desired only to be found in, and that in opposition to his own righteousness, which is of the Law; and for which he did account all things, which formerly were gain to him, to be loss and dung. Now, what a noble life of safety and security is this, for a poor naked sinner, void of all righteousness, and thereby exposed to the lash of the Law, to the curse and wrath of God, to be covered with a complete and perfect righteousness, consisting in full satisfaction to all the demands of the Law, both for doing and suffering; with which the self-condemned sinner may now, with boldness and confidence, think of approaching unto, and appearing before the Tribunal of God? Who can express the serenity of soul, the inward peace, calmness, and quietness of mind, the joy, cheerfulness, and exulting of heart, that follows hereupon? How is the drooping, sinking, dead and discouraged soul, that hath any sense or feeling of this, revived and quickened? And howbeit the sense of it be away (as often it happens) yet the change, that is hereby made, when the Lord imputes this righteousness of Christ and
causes the soul by faith to embrace it, and accept of it, is as a resurrection from the dead.
††††††††† 5. They
have as a benefit, necessarily following upon, and inseparably accompanying
this justification, the noble and rich privilege of adoption: For to as
many, as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, John 1:
12. And all those, that are justified, receive Him and His righteousness,
and rest upon it. Being thus redeemed from under the Law, they receive the
adoption of sons, Galatians 4: 5. And being justified by His grace, they
are made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life, Titus 3: 7. And by
this as their state is demonstrated to be a state of life; so the many and
exceeding great and rich, yea incomprehensibly glorious and excellent favors,
advantages, and privileges, that lie in the womb of this comprehensive
privilege, show their life to be an excellent life: for (1) Being thus adopted,
they have a new relation unto God, as their Father, and they are His children,
taken into His family: they have His name put upon them, they are called by His
name, or His name is called upon them, Jeremiah 14: 9. Then is that word made good, II Corinthians 6: 18 I will be a Father unto you,
and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord God Almighty. Then is
He their God in a peculiar manner, and they are His people, Jeremiah 31: 1.
Then have they written upon them the name of Christís God, and the name of the
heart of man to conceive, and say, all that is mine, through Jesus Christ I am served heir thereunto, and have begun position thereof, in mine Head and Elder brother Jesus Christ? (4.) Being adopted, they have the earnest of the Spirit, sealing them to the day of redemption: for in Christ they have obtained an inheritance, and are sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, Ephesians 1: 11, 13, 14, & 4: 30. And who can express what a life this is? (5.) Being adopted, they have free access to the throne of grace with boldness, God being their father, the door stands open, and they may approach with liberty, freedom, and filial boldness; for through Christ, they have an access by the Spirit unto the Father, Ephesians 2: 18. And in Him, they have boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of Him, Ephesians 3: 12. They may now come boldly unto the throne of grace, that they may obtain mercy, and find grace for help in time of need, Hebrews 4: 16. By Him they have access by faith into the grace, wherein they stand Romans 5: 2. And here certainly is a life, the riches of the joy and comfort whereof cannot be expressed. (6.) Being adopted, they receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby they are delivered from that Spirit of Bondage, under which they were formerly; and are now principled, spirited and emboldened to cry Abba, Father, Romans 8: 15. That slavish fear, under which they sometime were, is away, and they have now the reverential fear of children, which doth not hinder, but encourages them to approach, with freedom and enlargement of spirit and now they have the Spirit of prayer and supplication, whereby they can call on God, as their father in Christ; because they are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son, into their hearts crying Abba, Father, Galatians 4: 6. What a resurrection from death unto life is this, to have heart and tongue loosed, and to be in case to speak unto the Father, in the language of the Spirit through Jesus Christ? (7.) Being adopted, they have a right to all privileges of the sons of God, and are under the Fatherly care, inspection, provision, protection, leading, teaching, and chastisement of their kind God and Father. Psalm 103: 13, Proverbs 3: 11, 12; 14: 26, Matthew 6: 30, 32, I Peter 5: 7, Hebrews 12: 6. And o! What a bundle of mercies of life is here? The believer may welcome all the dispensations of God, and receive them, as out of the hand of a tender hearted father; and say, Thus and thus doth my Father unto me; this is the hand and working of a Father about me: This how sharp so ever it seem to be, yet is the effect of tender love, and flows from the heart and bowels of a kind and compassionate Father to me.
††††††††† 6. Their justification saith, They are translated out of nature, and delivered from that death, under which they did lie formerly, unable to perform any, even the least, vital act of life. For before justification, they are united unto Christ by faith, life is begun in their soul, the seed of life is beginning to bud in them, and to bring forth fruit, when they are enabled to believe, and to act faith upon, and to receive Jesus Christ, as He is offered in the Gospel. The spiritual life is in them, and is working, when it moves them Christ-ward, and powerfully draws and inclines their soul
to close with Christ. This faith is the work of the Spirit of God alone; it is not of ourselves, but the gift of God, Ephesians 2: 8. This believing is according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, Ephesians 1: 19, 20. Therefore is the Spirit called, the Spirit of Faith, which all believers have II Corinthians 4: 13. In order to the effectual producing of this grace of faith in the soul, their minds are enlightened to understand spiritually and savingly, the things of God, Acts 26: 18. For God reveals them unto them by His Spirit, who only knows the things of God; which Spirit they have received, that they might know the things, that are freely given them of God, I Corinthians 2: 10, 11, 12. Now they have received the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in knowledge of Him, the eyes of their understandings being enlightened, Ephesians 1: 17, 18. And as their minds are changed, so is their heart; for the heart of stone is taken away, and the heart of flesh is given, according to the promise, Ezekiel 36: 26, and their wills are renewed and inclined unto good: They have gotten the one heart, and the new Spirit, Ezekiel 11: 19. The Lord hath wrought in them both to will and to do, Philippians 2: 13. Their heart is circumcised to love the Lord, according to the promise Deuteronomy 30: 6. And the Lord hath put His Spirit in them Ezekiel 26: 27, and thereby hath drawn them unto Christ, John , 45. All which says, that the life of God and of grace is begun in their souls; and the Spirit of life hath taken possession of them, and abides there and works.
††††††††† These things clear, how justly the justified soul may be said to live; and in what respects, the justified state is a real state of life.