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LECTURE XIV.

JUSTIFICATION.

The great blessing indicated by this term, comprehends the whole of one of two classes of blessings, the bestowment of which upon the chosen to salvation, is essential to the accomplishment of the Saviour's ultimate purposes of mercy with respect to them ;-essential, indeed, to his attainment of that reward, the hope and prospect of which sustained him under the unparalleled sufferings he was called to endure. It was to secure to himself the honour of leading “many sons to glory,” that he "endured the cross, and despised the shame." But the individuals who were to be thus ultimately blessed, were legally incapacitated to enter into that world where this glory is to be experienced; and, also, morally incapacitated to derive happiness from its possession, even had not the legal bar placed it utterly beyond their reach. They were both guilty and depraved. They had broken that most perfect law whose righteous award is death to every transgressor; and those unholy propensities which had led to this rebellion, and which would have prompted them to persist in it, rendered them totally unfit for heaven. It was, therefore, necessary that the Saviour should remove both the legal and the moral barrier, against the accomplishment of his ultimate purposes of mercy,

and the attainment of his own reward. necessary that he should give them, as it is generally stated, and very properly stated, a title to heaven, and a moral meetness for heaven ;—that he should pardon their sins, accept them as righteous, and renew them after his own image, before he could bring them to the mansions prepared for them above. This he does by conferring upon them the two important blessings of justification and sanctification ; which

It

was

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DISTINGUISHED FROM SANCTIFICATION.

may be regarded, perhaps, as comprehending every thing that the Saviour bestows upon his people to secure their happiness and prosperity in this world, and to prepare them for glory.

The first of these blessings is now to form the topic of inquiry; and every thing in reference to it, which it is deemed desirable or important to state, may be comprehended under the following heads; viz., the nature, the grounds, and the means of Justification.

1.- THE NATURE OF JUSTIFICATION.

ness.

Every successful attempt to develop the precise nature of this exalted privilege, must carefully distinguish it from other blessings with which it is sometimes confounded. Let it be observed, therefore, that it is not the making of a person righteous by producing a change in the moral state of his mind,-a change from the love of sin to the love of righteous

This is Sanctification, from which it is with great caution distinguished by the sacred writers. Christ is said to be made unto us,“ wisdom and righteousness, or justification, " and sanctification,” &c. Justification, in short, is not a change of character, but of state; not a change of disposition in reference to the precepts of the Divine law, but of condition in regard to the promises and threatenings of that law.” The term which expresses the blessing is a forensic term; it may, therefore, be expedient to point out its exact and literal acceptation, when it occurs in reference to the proceedings of a human court of judicature; and then to examine how far this sense of the term will apply to the case of a sinner before God.

To justify, then, in the first of these cases, is to pronounce a sentence acquitting an individual of some crime which had been laid to his charge. Justification itself is, therefore, either the act of pronouncing this sentence of acquittal, or the acquittal itself.

It supposes that an accusation had been brought against the individual, and that it had been found to be false

one ;

and the formal sentence of the court in which they utter and record their opinion, that the charge is really

a

AND FROM HUMAN JUSTIFICATION.

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false—that the accused person stands right in the view of the law-that he has not laid himself open to its sanctions, and its penalty; but that, notwithstanding the attempt to blast his character, he is fully entitled to receive from the judge, and the community at large, whatever measure of honour and reward is attached to perfect obedience to the law, is his justification.

Now, as the condition of an individual, when brought to believe the gospel, is described by the term “justified,” it is manifest that there must be a sufficient analogy between the justification of a sinner in the sight of God, and that legal declaration of righteousness which, as we have said, is uttered concerning an individual at a human tribunal, to warrant the application to it of that term. At the same time we must not venture to draw the conclusion, that justification with God, and with man, are in all respects identical. Such a conclusion has, indeed, been drawn by some, and has led them into great and dangerous errors; perverting all their views on the important point of a sinner's acceptance with God, and enkindling feelings of self-confidence, and pride, and presumption, from the display of which true Christian humility and piety shrink back with instinctive abhorrence.

It becomes, then, a point of great importance to ascertain, and to state distinctly, both the respects in which Divine and human justification agree, and in which they differ; and, perhaps, one of the best modes of exhibiting the points of agreement, is to describe the points of difference. This has been done very accurately by a late excellent writer, whose words, for the double purpose of explaining and fortifying my own views upon this important subject, I quote : “ He that is justified in an earthly court, unless it be for want of evidence, (which cannot possibly apply in this case,"i. e., at the Divine tribunal,) is considered as being really innocent; and his justification is no other than an act of justice done to him. He is acquitted because he appears to deserve acquittal. This, however, is not the justification of the gospel, which is of grace, through the redemption of Jesus Christ. Justification, in the first case, in proportion as it confers honour upon the justified, re

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DIVINE AND HUMAN JUSTIFICATION

flects dishonour on his accusers; while, in the last, the justice of every charge is admitted, and no dishonour reflected on any party except himself. Justification among men is opposed not only to condemnation, but even to pardon; for, in order to this, the prisoner must be found guilty, whereas in justification he is found innocent. But gospel justification, though distinguishable from pardon, yet is not opposed to it; on the contrary, pardon is an essential branch of it. Pardon, it is true, only removes the curse due to sin, while justification confers the blessing of eternal life ; but without the former we could not possess the latter. He that is justified requires to be pardoned, and he that is pardoned is also justified. Hence a blessing is pronounced on him whose iniquities are forgiven; hence also the apostle argues from the non-imputation of sin to the imputation of righteousness; considering the blessedness of him to whom God imputeth not sin, as a description of the blessedness of him to whom he imputeth righteousness without works. Finally, justification at a human bar prevents condemnation ; but gospel justification finds the sinner under condemnation, and delivers him from it. It is described as passing from death to life. From these dissimilarities, and others, which, I doubt not, might be pointed out, it must be evident to every thinking mind, that, though there are certain points of likeness, sufficient to account for the use of the term, yet we are not to learn the Scripture doctrine of justification from what is so called in the judicial proceedings of human courts, and in various particulars cannot safely reason from one to the other."

These statements by Mr. Fuller evince the propriety of the remark by which they were introduced, viz., that one of the best modes of showing in what respects Divine and human justification agree, is to point out the respects in which they differ; since it becomes now perfectly manifest that the agreement is to be traced, chiefly, if not exclusively, in the effects which flow from them. A man who is justified by his fellow men, i. e., pronounced righteous in the view of the law, enjoys the results or consequences of righteousness. A man who is justified by God enjoys, in like manner, the results or conse

ARE ANALOGOUS IN THEIR RESULTS.

22 KOJ

quences of righteousness ;-and, therefore, though the grounds on which these results are enjoyed in the two cases, are widely and essentially different,—the former individual enjoying them for his own sake, and the latter for the sake of Christ,the term justification is applied, and very properly applied, to both.

To justify an individual, when God is the Justifier, is not, then, to pronounce him innocent, or righteous, since no men are really so; nor by any conceivable process whatever can they be made actually so: but it is either to count him righteous, i.e., to treat him (as we shall afterwards see) as if he were righteous,--or to declare that the Divine government will so treat him, for a reason, or on a ground, which will be afterwards noticed. I do not mention it now, simply because it might tend to embarrassment, by diverting, in some measure at least, the thoughts of the reader from the one single point on which I would fix his attention. And, if such be the meaning of the phrase, \" to justify,” it follows that to be in a justified state, is not either to be pronounced just, or to be made actually just,-for both are impossible in the case of a sinner : but it is to be treated as if we were just; or rather, perhaps, to be in the state of those whom God declares that he will treat as if they were just; i. e., it is to be in the faith of Christ; for the Divine declaration is, that believers are the persons who shall be treated as if they were just. And this declaration is to be sought for, not in that volume to which no creature has access, recording the secret purposes of God, but in that other volume which he has graciously laid open to the inspection of all,--even that blessed word which says, “He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.”.“ Justification,” says Mr. Fuller, “is our standing acquitted by the revealed will of God declared in the gospel. As the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, in the curses of his law; so the righteousness of God is revealed," -“ in the declarations of the gospel. It is in this revelation of the mind of God in his word, I conceive, that the sentence both of condemnation and justification consists. He whom the Scriptures bless, is blessed; and he whom they curse, is cursed."*

* Works, vol. vii..p. 410.

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