††††††††††† It is the true wisdom of a Christian to understand aright and with a spiritual eye to discern the great difference between the Law and the Gospel, the Covenant of Works and that of Grace, the Legal and Evangelical Justification, the ignorance whereof is the great cause of most errors this day among professed Christians. When our blessed Savior came into the world, he found flowing out of this bad fountain a multitude of heresies in the Jewish Church, deceived by the Pharisees, blind leaders of a blind people, erecting and establishing their own Righteousness before the throne of God. And it is certain that our Lord Jesus Christ was rejected by the Jews, because they could not believe their own unrighteousness, misery and condemnation by the Law, nor be made to seek in the Messiah, in his suffering and satisfaction, the true expiation of sins and a complete righteousness, sufficient to eternal happiness. Certainly they understood not the promises, especially that of Isaiah chapter 53, neither looked they to the end of the Ceremonial economy and Law which was to be abolished, II Corinthians 3: 13. Of this Judaic error we have a clear example in the Apostle Paul, before his conversion a Pharisee, and by his great Masters well instructed in the letter of the Law. For he looking upon himself, and not understanding the nature of the Law in its spiritual meaning, was in his own eyes no sinner, but a just man, living, and having a right to pretend a sentence of justification before God upon the account of his works according to the Law. But when it pleased God to reveal his Son to his soul, he could count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, and desire only to be found in him, not having his own righteousness which is of the Law, but that which is through the Faith of Christ; the Righteousness which is of God by Faith, Philippians 3: 8, 9. And so became a great example of all true converts and believers, and his conversion a demonstration of this evangelical doctrine, that no man is justified by his works, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed and by faith received and applied.
††††††††† No doubt, Christian reader, but this doctrine is the whole scope of the same Apostle in his epistles to the Romans and Galatians. For having proved both Jews and Gentiles to be all under sin, and supposing consequently that by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified in the sight of God, he shows, that all elect sinners coming short of the glory of God, must be justified freely by his grace through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be our propitiation through faith in his blood, so that all boasting may be excluded; which cannot be, if a man could be justified by his works. Yea the Apostle, Chapter 4, gives a demonstration of this doctrine out of the examples of Abraham and David, to whom after conversion, righteousness is imputed and sin pardoned by faith in the promise. In his epistle to the Galatians, he likewise presses this doctrine against the heresy of judaizing ministers, who would have mingled the Law with the Gospel, and rejects their sentence as another Gospel worthy to be anathematized, with everyone who teaches it, though even an Angel from Heaven; since he said upon the matter, that Christ is dead in vain, as we see in Chapter 1: 8, 11, Chapter 2: 21.
††††††††† How happy were the Church in these days, if the Doctrine of Gospel-Justification did continue pure, and could be propagated and transmitted to the following ages! But it is too manifest that the Christian Church, by heathenish and Jewish errors upon the one hand, and by Pelagian infusions on the other, hath lost a great deal of her primitive sincerity and purity. Certainly the Roman superstitions, tending only to the establishing of human righteousness in Godís sight, are clear demonstrations of a corrupted doctrine, yea of that Apostasy of the latter times so oft foretold by the Apostle Paul. For we see that Popery is wholly erected upon Judaic and Pelagian righteousness, proceeding from the bitter root of the heathenish free-will, whereby the corruption of nature is denied, sin excused, the faculties of nature, as sufficient to all good works, asserted; especially when they are sustained by a sufficient grace given to all men for obtaining eternal happiness. But this great error, worthy of the Apostleís anathema, was abominable in the eyes of our Protestant Fathers: and therefore the doctrine of a contrary Gospel-Justification was the greatest reason of separation, especially when they heard the trumpet from Heaven sounding and crying, come out of Babel, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. And herein we must admire the wonderful providence of God that the Protestants did agree in this point of Justification, even when their minds were distracted about the Doctrine of the Lordís Supper: and it is known how careful the Lutherans are, even to this day, in following the Doctrine of their Master in this great Article.
alas! it is a sad and lamentable thing, that Arminians (being fomented by the
Kings of France and Spain as the immediate way to introduce Popery, saith
Wilson in his History of Great Britain page 119,) when they adopted the
Pelagian grounds, did forsake the imputation of the righteousness of Christ,
because they could not join this great mystery of the Gospel with the opinions
of Universal Grace and Redemption, as appears in the writings of Episcopius,
Curcellaeus, Limburgh, and others, filled not only with Arminian, but also with
wicked Socinian errors against the divinity and satisfaction of our Savior
Jesus Christ. And how could it be thought, that those books should have been
accepted and approved by Reformed Divines and Churches, as we see they are in
††††††††† But, O
my brethren, ye are out of the way, ye have left your first love! Remember
therefore from whence ye are fallen, and repent, and do the first works!
Remember the former days and years! Remember your former Divines at the
beginning of the Reformation, Juel, Whitaker, Perkins, and other glorious stars
once shining in your country! Remember the Apology of your Church against that
what great iniquity is it now to neglect this grace, and, leaving the
principles of Protestant religion, to rely upon, and trust to our own works for
salvation? My brethren, how think ye to mingle the Law with the Gospel? the righteousness of Christ with your own? your faith, depending alone upon your Savior, with your
works? What will ye say, when you will die, and this weighty case of conscience
comes to be resolved, how shall my poor, guilty and sinful soul be justified
before a righteous God? How can ye thus prepare the way to return, and lead
your followers back again unto
††††††††† Yet glory be to God in the highest, who hath reserved by his grace many Protestant and learned Divines against these and the like errors. And hence we have the learned labors of the worthy J. Burgess, J. Owen, A. Pitcairn and other eminent Divines, worthy to be remembered in all ages. And those great Doctors we may very warrantably add the worthy Author of the following Treatise Mr. John Brown, whose praise lives deservedly in the Churches, and whose light did for a considerable space shine here in our low-countries, when through the iniquity of the times, he was because of his zeal, piety, faithfulness and good conscience obliged to leave his native land. Yet he was not idle: for while he was here he wrote, with a great deal of wisdom, against the philosophers of this time, who would subject the Scriptures to philosophy, setting up human reason for a rule of Scripture-interpretations. Moreover, he was known in our Churches by his books of the perpetual morality of the Sabbath, written with a great efficacy of arguments, and approved by Fr. Spanheym, that worthy and most famous Divine of our age; besides what other treatises he wrote in English. But we have here his work of Justification as a Posthumous, full of wisdom, doctrine and piety. The author had committed the care of it to his very intimate and dear acquaintance, the Reverend and Learned Mr. James Koelman, who, while he was alive, had the care of it at the press: but before the work was perfected, he was called home to his Masterís joy, after he had faithfully served God in his generation. And I being now desired to prefix the accustomed ceremony of an epistle to this excellent book of Mr. John Brown, I undertook it most cheerfully with all my heart. For I must give testimony to the Reverend and Learned Author of this work, that he wisely expounds the mysteries of justification according to the Doctrine of the Gospel, and the principles of the Reformed Churches: that he confirms the expounded Doctrine with efficacious arguments able to stop the mouths of all adversaries; that he prudently dissolves all their oppositions; that he shows himself a true Christian Minister, and a Scribe well instructed by the Holy Spirit unto the Kingdom of God. And therefore this excellent book was worthy to be printed, to be esteemed and loved among the best Treatises upon this great and weighty Doctrine of Justification. I need say no more, the work will speak for itself, and the judicious readerís own experience will testify that it is written in the demonstration of the Spirit and Power, profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness and consolation of penitent souls. I pray the God of all grace, that he would give the readers the spirit of wisdom and of a sound mind, that having the eyes of their understand enlightened, they may know what are the great mysteries of redemption, and may be sound in the Faith in order to this fundamental point of Justification here expounded and vindicated, with this full persuasion of mind that the Reformed profession is the true way of Salvation, able to save a sinner eternally, according to the Covenant of Grace revealed in the Gospel.
S.S. Th. D. & Prof.
Dabam Ultraj. 1 April 1695.