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and must always be, the standard of proof and appeal on all the cardinal doctrines of Christianity. If man by nature is "destitute of holiness, and inclined to evil, and only evil, and that continually," the Word of God must teach it in plain, unambiguous language. It is a source of great satisfaction that on all questions involving the highest good of mankind, we have an infallible guide. In Genesis 6:5 we read, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." In Genesis 8:21 it is written, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." In Psalm 51: 5 David says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." In Psalm 58:3 it is recorded, "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." Job 15: 14:"What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" Jeremiah 17:9: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" These passages teach, first, that depravity is inherent-that man is born into the world with a fallen, corrupt nature; and second, that this depravity is total-total in the sense that there is no natural goodness in him. Every faculty and power of the soul is corrupted and vitiated. The thought and the imagination are evil, and toward evil continually. There is no soundness in him. Every part is affected. By the suffering and death of Jesus Christ the guilt of original sin is removed, but the effect remains, so that every power and faculty of the soul is tinged, polluted, vitiated.
In Romans 3: 10-23 Paul gives a description of the moral state of man. "There is none righteous, no, not They are all gone out of the way; There is none that doeth good, no, not one. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." By a careful study of the apostle's argument it will be seen that it covers the whole ground of human depravity. "None righteous," not even one that possessed a righteous principle; they are all gone out of the way. If
there were no natural evil propensities in the heart, the universal going away from God could not be accounted for. "The Bible doctrine most evidently is that we are born with an unholy and sinful nature." All are equally involved and equally helpless, and but for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ no one could ever be recovered from this fearful wreck.
In this article of the Confession it is declared that "except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven." This is the plain doctrine our Lord taught to Nicodemus. He did not say, You may, or might, be born again, but "Ye must be born again." Whence this absolute necessity? If man is born into the world with a pure and sinless nature, why must he be born again? The words," born of the flesh," do not, as some suppose, mean the body literally, but refer to our native sinfulness and pollution. Nicodemus had been born of the flesh literally, but now he must be born of the spirit. "Every man must have two births, one from heaven, the other from earth; one of his body, the other of his soul." Paul uses the word flesh in allusion not to the body, literally, but to the moral nature of the soul (Galatians 5:17). He says, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit." In Romans 8: 13 we read, "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." In verse 8 he says, "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." By the term "flesh" in these passages the apostle evidently means the moral nature of man, and this is the sense in which our Lord uses it in his discourse to Nicodemus.
In Romans 8:7: "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Whence this carnal mind? Whence this rebellious spirit? This carnal mind is "enmity against God." It is its very nature. It is not, and cannot be, subjected to the will of God. With this rebellious nature every one is born into the world. The Word of God, experience, and observation all confirm this. Hence arises the absolute necessity of being born again. Thus the article under review says, "We believe that man is fallen from original righteousness, and apart from the grace of our
Lord Jesus Christ, is not only entirely destitute of holiness, but is inclined to evil, and only evil, and that continually; and that except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven." The doctrine set forth in this article is not only in harmony with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, but also with the doctrine taught and believed by the great body of evangelical Christians.
THE CONFESSION OF FAITH
We believe that penitent sinners are justified before God, only by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and not works; yet that good works in Christ are acceptable to God, and spring out of a true and living faith.
THIS article contains two cardinal propositions: first, justification by faith only; second, good works.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ONLY.
Justification by faith only is a fundamental doctrine, and should be studied with great care. It is a doctrine upon which no one can afford to be mistaken. Luther styles it the article of a standing or falling church. Christianity contains a complete system of doctrines, none of which can be dropped out without marring the whole system. As the student advances along the line of Christian doctrine, he will be more and more delighted and surprised at its completeness. He will see that nothing can be added to or taken from it. It is one complete whole.
Justification, in law, means "the showing in court of a sufficient reason why a party charged, or accused, did that for which he is called to answer." In theology it means "the treating of sinful man as though he were just; to pardon, to absolve." It may also be defined as the accepting of penitent believers as righteous through the merits of Christ; not by the imputation of Christ's active righteousness, nor by the imputation of his active and passive righteousness together, but through, or on account of, his passive righteousness.
Mr. Watson says that "justification and the remission or forgiveness of sin are substantially the same thing." Mr. Otterbein said that "justification and the pardon of sin are one and the same gracious gift." To show that
this is the true idea of this doctrine, we will turn to the Scriptures - Acts 13:38, 39: "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Christ] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." Now read Romans 3:25, 26: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." It will be seen at once that justification and the remission or forgiveness of sins mean substantially the same thing. Each sustains the same relation to the righteousness of Christ. On account of the righteousness of Christ, who died for (instead of) us, we are justified, forgiven, or pardoned. When a penitent believer is justified he is pardoned, and when he is pardoned he is justified.
It should be kept in mind that we are not justified or pardoned on account of anything we have done, or can do. Neither are we justified or pardoned by the mere prerogative of the Almighty. The true, and indeed the only possible, ground of our justification is the atonement made by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. If satisfaction had not been rendered to the divine law, God could not have been just and at the same time justified or pardoned the guilty. This, as we have seen, is clearly taught in Romans 3:25, 26. There must be a perfect righteousness somewhere. A perfect law was broken and nothing less than a perfect righteousness could satisfy its claims. It must in every way be equal to the demand. The righteousness of Christ was not, as in the case of a righteous man relatively perfect, but absolutely perfect. "He knew no sin"; he was a "Lamb without spot." Jesus Christ was the only being in the universe who could render satisfaction to the law.
Do the Scriptures warrant us in the belief that the atonement made by Christ was vicarious and propitiatory? As this doctrine is more fully treated under Article III.,