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no difficulty in the pardon, which does not occur in the expiation, of future sins. It should be considered that we are speaking of a Divine transaction; and that, to him whose prerogative it is to justify the ungodly, the future is as the past, as fully known and equally the subject of his purposes and proceedings. When a sinner believes, he obtains an interest in the atonement which was made for all his sins. It is not conceivable, therefore, that only a part of his sins should be pardoned; the blood of Christ, which secures him against condemnation for those which are past and present, must secure him, at the same time, with respect to those which are future. This is all that is meant by the pardon of these sins. He is placed in such a situation, that they shall not be imputed to him. He is delivered from the curse, or the sentence pronounced upon the transgressors of the law; so that, although he may afterwards transgress, the sentence shall not pass upon him. He may daily offend, for there is no man that “ liveth and sinneth not;” but whatever his own apprehensions may be, God is at peace with him : “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness; their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Hence it appears, that the pardon granted in justification is irrevocable. The man whom his sovereign has forgiven for one act of rebellion, may revolt from his allegiance a second time, and again fall under his displeasure. But “the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.” We must not imagine that, like an earthly prince, he frequently changes the objects of his love, and that those who are his favourites to-day, may incur his hatred tomorrow. A foundation is laid for the permanent exercise of his mercy and good-will towards believers, in the never-failing efficacy of the atonement of his Son. His blood answers every charge, covers every sin, enforces every plea, and itself pleads with irresistible eloquence in behalf of those for whom it was shed. The sins into which the believer may fall through the treachery of his heart and the influence of temptation, are not a reason why his pardon should be revoked. Conscious of demerit, he may dread the consequence and be alarmed when he thinks of divine justice, which he has offended and cannot appease; but while repentance and humiliation are his duty, his fears of final condemnation are unfounded, because the sin which disquiets him was expiated on the cross, and the justice before which he trembles requires his absolution.
“ Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity.”+ Man would have been blessed if he had never sinned, and, continuing to obey his Creator, had enjoyed the happiness which would have flowed from his favour. Since he has fallen, he can now only be blessed when the anger of God is averted from him, and he is treated as if he were innocent.
The forgiveness of sins is not the only blessing which is implied in justification. Although a criminal were fully pardoned, yet, if nothing more were done, he would have no title to the privileges and rewards which were promised to obedient subjects. It is necessary that the sinner should not only be delivered from guilt, but should also be accounted righteous, or treated, on some valid ground, as if he had fulfilled the demands of the law.
Some indeed maintain, that justification consists solely in the remission of sins; but it may be easily shown that this is a mistake. The Scripture describes this privilege as comprehending the imputation of righteousness to us, and as the constituting of us righteous before God, when it speaks of the “blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works."| "As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."'S The term, to justify,
* Rom. iv, 6.
Rom. v. 19.
implies something more than the pardon of sin, for it signifies to pronounce a person to be just; and the criminal is not just in the eye of the law, merely because he is pardoned. There is, indeed, now no charge which can be alleged against him as the reason why he should be condemned and punished; but there is a great difference between simple innocence and righteousness. Righteousness supposes that the whole law has been fulblled; innocence imports only that it has not been transgressed. I may remark by the way, that even innocence is not the effect of pardon, because pardon pre-supposes that the law has been violated ; and the only effect of it in respect of a believer, is to place him in the same situation with an innocent person in so far that the penalty will not be executed any more upon the one than upon the other. No man can be pronounced just by him who judges according to truth, unless he be possessed of justice or righteousness. In the case of a sinner, therefore, the imputation of righteousness is pre-supposed as the ground of his justification, which, consequently, implies something more than simple remission. Besides, let it be considered that, although the remission of sins is a blessing of incalculable value, it does not fully answer the design of the substitution of Christ in our room, or the expectations and desires of the sinner. The object of his suretyship and sacrifice was, not only to reconcile us to God, but to restore the happiness which we had forfeited by disobedience; and the sinner who believes, aims at the enjoyment of a complete and everlasting salvation. But the whole effect of pardon is to deliver a criminal from punishment; it does not reinstate him in the favour of his prince. Were nothing more, therefore, included in justification than the pardon of sin, this privilege might be enjoyed, while at the same time the person was destitute of a title to heaven. Perhaps the reason that some theological writers are so eager to confine justification to the remission of sins is, that a right to future felicity being still wanting, room may be left for the introduction of works as the procuring cause of it.
But Jesus Christ will not share his glory with those whom he saves, nor does he bestow his blessings by halves. Those who are forgiven, are made heirs according to the hope of eternal life, and a righteousness is imparted to them which is the foundation of their claim to it. Were a sinner merely pardoned, he would be acquitted, but not properly justified. The law of God would still have a demand upon him, because, although he did not owe the debt of suffering, he would still owe the debt of obedience. The privilege would be incomplete ; his state would be imperfect; and although secured against the danger of being cast into hell, he would be in the utmost uncertainty whether he should ever be admitted to the happiness of heaven.
There are two ways in which a man may become righteous. First, he may become righteous by his personal obedience. “He that doeth righteousness, says John, " is righteous."* In this way, Adam would have been righteous,
“ if he had faithfully exerted in the service of God the moral power with which he was endowed. In this way, those angels are righteous who kept their first estate when many of their fellows apostatized, and who are now confirmed in holiness beyond the possibility of failure. In this way, some imagine that fallen man may become righteous, because, in their opinion, he has not lost his original ability to obey; or, if it is in some degree impaired, God has lowered his demands to meet our infirmity. Secondly, a man may become righteous by imputation. If he cannot himself fulfil the law, another, taking his place, and coming under his obligations, may fulfil it in his name ; and the obedience of this surety may be placed to his account. Jesus Christ, for example, might become the representative of all mankind, or of a portion of
• John iii. 7.
mankind, and, by obeying the precepts of the law in their stead, might bring an everlasting righteousness, which should be reckoned to them as the ground of their justification.
The justification of a sinner must be founded, either upon his personal righteousness, or upon the righteousness of Christ. The grand question is, to which of these is he indebted for acceptance with God?
The Apostle Paul repeatedly declares, “ that by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” . I have no doubt that his meaning was distinctly apprehended by those whom he addressed; but the spirit of controversy has endeavoured to involve it in obscurity, and even to put a sense upon his words directly contrary to what he certainly intended. It has been asked, of what law does he speak ? and what are the works which he excludes from justification ? By the law, some understand the ceremonial law: and their design in so limiting it, is to prove that, notwithstanding the express exclusion of works, we may be justified, in part, at least, by our obedience to the moral precepts. But to suppose Paul to have used so many arguments as are brought forward in his epistles, to show that we are not justified by the works of the ceremonial law, is to represent him as having spent much time and labour in vain ; for there is no evidence that there were any persons in his days, who imagined that eternal life could be obtained by ceremonial observances alone. It is plain, from several parts of his writings, that, by the law, he meant the ten commandments which were engraven upon two tables of stone ; but, in the more extensive acceptation of the term, it signified the law of Moses, comprehending moral as well as ceremonial precepts, and was the name for the whole system of duties which God had enjoined upon his people by the ministry of that illustrious man. Admitting, then, that the apostle refers to the law of Moses, we have an answer ready to the second question, What works are excluded from justification ? All works are excluded, without exception ; the works of the first and the second table ; moral and ceremonial works; every act of man, performed in obedience to a commandment of God. Nothing is more absurd and perverse, than to ask what works are meant to be excluded, when Paul in twenty places has excluded works in general, without once hinting that he intended only those of a particular kind. The subject is perfectly intelligible to those who are willing to understand ; and all the difficulties and objections which have been started, arise from aversion to his doctrine..
In proving that a man cannot be justified by the works of the law, we may begin by observing, that the point is determined by this single consideration, that he is a sinner, and that his present conduct, however dutiful, cannot compensate for his past disobedience. He is bound to obey, every moment of his life ; and consequently, the obedience which he now performs, being due by a prior obligation, cannot, as if it were a free gift or gratuitous service, cancel the debt which he had formerly contracted. There is not a single sentence of Scripture which authorises us to think, that, if a man who has transgressed shall return to his duty, his past offences will be overlooked. Such an idea is contrary to common sense, and to the express sanction of the law. “The soul that sinneth it shall die."'* Hence we see, that by works alone justification is impossible. The utmost which the opponents of our doctrine can plead for, is, that our justification is in part owing to our works. The fact, that all men are guilty, demonstrates that some expedient must be found to appeasc our offended Creator, and that we must be indebted to something more efficacious than our repentance and amendment of life for the pardon of our sins. But, passing this difficulty which meets us at the outset, I observe, that the obedience which the law of God demands is so high, that he must be miser
. Ezek. xviii. 20.
ably ignorant of the present state of human nature, who imagines that
of the descendants of Adam is able to perform it.
First, The law demands obedience to all its precepts.—“Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” It is thus that Paul quotes these words of Moses, “ Cursed is he that confirmeth not the words of this law, to do them."* The chief difference is, that the word “all” is inserted by the apostle; but the original passage implies universal obedience, as well as the quotation. The law is a declaration of the will of the supreme Lord, and the authority which enacted it, extends alike to all its precepts. Whatever duty is enjoined in the law, there is the same reason for performing it as for performing any other, name15, the command of the lawgiver. If a single duty is omitted the law is not fulfilled ; and so high is this matter carried, that the Scripture declares, that “ he who offendeth in one point, is guilty of all.”+ He virtually subverts all the precepts by the violation of one ; for, by disowning the Divine authority in this instance, he in fact disowns it in every instance. All the precepts depend upon the will of the Lawgiver; and, if his will is not a sufficient reason for obedience in one case, it cannot be a sufficient reason in another. Our claim, then, to the favour of God will be invalidated by omission, as well as by positive transgression; and it is preposterous to dream of making one duty a compensation for another. The law admits of no lower terms.
We must give all or nothing. We may now ask the man who seeks to be justified by works, whether he thinks himself able to comply with this demand? whether he has always performed his duty in its full extent? whether he has never neglected it, or forgotten it, or omitted it through ignorance; for ignorance, let it be remembered, is not an excuse unless it be invincible. If God has published his law, and we through inattention and carelessness are unacquainted with its contents, our ignorance is voluntary, and we shall in vain hope for impunity. Although a man may have done many things, yet, if he have not done every thing, his plea is lost; for, to justify him in such circumstances would be to declare falsely, that he has fulfilled the whole law, while in truth he had fulfilled only a part of it.
Secondly, The law demands obedience absolutely perfect. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”! This is the sum of the law, and the standard of our duty. It requires such love to God as is worthy of him who is intinitely excellent and good; the highest love of which our nature is capable; love not merely sincere, but perfect; love which not only prevails over opposite affections, but extinguishes them, and reigns alone in the heart. It is inconsistent with the perfection of this love, that it should ever lean towards any rival, that it should be suspended for a single moment, that it should abate and languish in its exercise. The law is violated by the slightest remission of its intensity, or by the temporary cessation of its activity in producing the proper fruits and expressions of it. The love to our fellow men which is required, is equally perfect. We must love our neighbour as ourselves ; if not with a love exactly of the same degree, yet certainly of equal sincerity ; desiring his welfare as we desire our own, and willingly exerting ourselves to promote it. A regard to our own interests is not to be laid aside ; but it must be so moderated as not to degenerate into selfishness. Not only hatred and malice are transgressions of the law, but even indifference to our brethren ; nay, it is violated not only by indifference, but by a love not sufficiently ardent, and by efforts not sufficiently vigorous for their good. In
• Gal. iii. 10. Deut. xxvii. 26.
+ James ii. 10.
* Matt. xxi, 37-39.
short, the law demands not only the form, but the spirit of obedience. It demands, in every act of obedience, the full exertion of all the moral power with which we were originally endowed by our Creator. There must be no languid endeavours, no cold and feeble services. No motives must influence our minds but the right ones; no ultimate end must be proposed but the glory of God. Nothing must be wanting in matter or in manner, in external actions or in internal principles; for a deficiency in the measure or degree of our obedience, would prove fatal to our hopes. Enough, I presume, has been said to show that no man can be justified by the works of the law.
I shall add, however, in the last place, that the law demands an uninterrupted course of obedience to the end of our lives. In the case of Adam, the time of trial was limited and probably would have soon terminated. But in our case, I know of no limitation ; there is no period within the bounds of our mortal existence at which we might claim the reward. Every day calls for new labour; every year extends the term of our service, and multiplies the probabilities of a failure; it is only when the shades of evening descend, that man finishes his task and retires to rest. We must not therefore think that we have attained, and are already perfect; but, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth to those which are before, we must press towards the mark, if we would bear away the prize of immortality. This we must do, notwithstanding our natural disposition to grow weary of every exercise which is long continued, and in the face of many discouragements and temptations, calculated to divert our attention from our duty, to seduce our affections, and to create impatience of restraint. Should these causes overcome our resolution ; should we suspend our services for a time ever so short; should we begin to faint, or even admit a wish to be released from our obligations, we should immediately become criminal in the eye of the law, and forfeit all claim to the expected recompence. He who runs a race will not be crowned, although he run well, unless he reach the goal.
The plan of justification by works appears to be absolutely impracticable. The labour is difficult, and man is weak and inconstant. If we take into the account the strength and waywardness of his passions, his liableness to error, the obstacles which lie in his way, and the numerous causes by which his attention may be diverted from his duty, disgust and weariness may be created, and opposite considerations may obtain a predominant influence upon his mind, we shall be convinced of the probability, or rather the certainty, that he will fail, not in one instance only, but in a thousand. There is no man that liveth and sinneth not in deed, or word, or thought. Besides the invincible difficulties attendant upon this plan of justification, it is in itself comfortless, and a source of continual anxiety to every person who in earnest attempts it. No such thing is possible as the assurance of hope ; his mind is a stranger to
and joy which arise from the belief of the record of the Gospel, because a fear must always haunt him, that, after all his pains, he shall in some unpropitious hour lose his labour. “When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it."* The spirit, therefore, by which he is necessarily animated, is a spirit of bondage, which from its nature destroys the value of his obedience by converting it into the task of a slave, who toils under the dread of the lash.
In an inquiry, whether it is possible to be justified by works, it was necessary to ascertain what are the requisitions of the law. The law is the standard of works; and if they are not conformable to it, the hopes founded upon