« VorigeDoorgaan »
JUSTIFICATION NOT FOUNDED ON WORKS.
all flesh.” (Num. xvi. 22.) “ O Thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.” (Psalm lxv. 2.) “The voice said, Cry; and he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass," &c. (Isa. xl. 6.) God is said to be “the God of all flesh." (Jer. xxxii. 27.) He has promised to “ pour out his Spirit upon all flesh.” (Joel ii. 28.) Christ has "power given to him over all flesh.” (John xvii. 2.) " And all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke iii. 6.) Now, as this is the ordinary sense of the term, we might assume, unless circumstances forbade us to do this, that such is its meaning in the passage now under consideration. The connexion, however, proves beyond all doubt that this is the case. The word “flesh" is evidently employed as equivalent with Jews and Gentiles, who comprehend the entire family of man. The apostle had just proved of both, that all, without a single exception, were, as sinners, guilty before God; and he draws from these premises the general conclusion, “that no flesh,” i. e., that neither Jew nor Gentile, “can be justified by law in the sight of God."
And what is meant by the term “law” here? Pelagians, Socinians, and other abettors of the doctrine of human merit, restrict its application to the ceremonial law. The apostle teaches us, they allege, that mere ritual observances, when moral duties are neglected, will not ensure the salvation of any man.
To this it is replied, First, That the bare consideration of the passage itself is sufficient to show, that such is not the meaning of the writer. He denies that any can be justified by the law to which he refers. Now what was that law? Surely not the ceremonial law of the Jews, “because, except the Jews themselves, none of the human race can either be accepted, or condemned, or even tried by that law; since the rest of mankind not only have never known it, but in many instances have been absolutely unable to obtain the knowledge of it; nor were they ever put under it; so that where there is no law, there is no transgression.”
Secondly, That the law by which no flesh can be justified, is that by which is the knowledge of sin ; since to impart that
PROVED BY SCRIPTURE.
knowledge is, as we are told at the close of the verse, the exclusive object of the law. Now, that it is the moral law which conveys the knowledge of sin, is placed beyond all doubt by the language which occurs in the seventh verse of the seventh chapter of this same epistle: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid! Nay, I had not known sin but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” Nothing can be clearer than that the reference here is to the moral law; since it is in that law that the prohibition of lust, i. e., covetousness, is contained.
Thirdly, That since the term “law” is anarthrous in the original, the passage should be rendered, “Wherefore by works of law,” not of the law, “no flesh shall be justified;" i. e., by works of law in the absolute sense: no man can be justified by any works whatever, of any law whatever, whether natural or revealed.
Finally, That to restrict the application of the term to the ceremonial law, would totally subvert the apostle's argument. The obvious design of Paulso obvious, indeed, is this design, that it is wonderful any one should deny, or even mistake it—is to show the necessity of being justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The 20th verse, the verse now under consideration, is a part of the premises on which this conclusion is built. But, if we understand by the term “law," the ceremonial law merely, how would these premises contribute to support the great general truth which it was the obvious aim of the writer to establish? It is useless to show merely that there is one law by which we cannot be justified, if there exist another by obedience to which life may be obtained. The term “law" must be understood indefinitely, universally; or the reasoning of the apostle fails to evince the necessity of the gospel method of salvation. By restricting the application of the term to mere ritual observances, we prevent the attainment of the great object of the apostle's life and labours; viz., to render it impossible for any to glory in the Divine presence.
The assertion, then, of the apostle in this verse, is, that the
PROVED BY SCRIPTURE.
ground of justification is not to be found in the recipient of the blessing; or that none are treated by God as righteous in reward of their own works. Let us now proceed to show that this assertion is in perfect conformity with the general current of his writings. “I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness came by the law," or by personal obedience to the law," then Christ is dead in vain.” (Gal. ii. 21.) “For as many as are of the works of the law,” i. e., as many as are expecting and striving to obtain justification as the reward of their own works, “are under the curse," (since they have not perfectly obeyed the law,) "for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” (Gal. iii. 10.) With the full recollection of this important declaration, he says, in the second chapter, ver. 15 and 16, “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” In the ninth chapter to the Romans, having exhibited the deplorable condition of his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, he proceeds to point out the actual source of all the evils that had befallen them; declaring that it was the radical mistake they had committed in reference to the important point of a sinner's acceptance with God;-a mistake which threw them, in point of privilege, behind the very Gentiles whom they despised. “What shall we say, then," is his language, “ that the Gentiles who followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith? But Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness, have not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because,” he adds, “ they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law.” (Chap. ix. 30–32.) In the commencement, also, of the tenth chapter, having most pathetically bewailed the state of his brethren, he proceeds again to ascribe it to their unscriptural method of seeking justifica
PROVED BY SCRIPTURE.
Being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they submitted not themselves to the righteousness of God."
These passages expressly declare that it is utterly impossible for a sinner, and for that very reason, to obtain justification by the deeds of the law. The same truth, let it be further observed, is also obviously implied in those parts of the inspired volume which declare that man is actually justified by faith, and not by works; since righteousness comes by faith, for the sole reason that it could not come by works. Had there been a law which could have given life," verily, righteousness would have been by that law." The
The very fact, then, that righteousness is said to come by faith, if it be a fact, proves, with all the certainty of a moral demonstration, that men are not justified, and cannot be justified, by law. It is impossible to conceive that Christ would have died in vain. Now, what saith the Scripture concerning the mode of justification ? “ Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. Now, to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness.” (Rom. iv. 3--5.) “ By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Chap. iii. 20—24.) “ Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Chap. v. 1.)
It is needless to multiply proofs that the notion of the possibility of obtaining justification by the deeds of the law, is directly negatived by the word of God.
2ndly. The very nature of gospel justification may be appealed to in proof of the assertion, that God does not justify any on the ground of their own works. If Divine justifica
BY THE NATURE OF THE CASE.
tion were in all respects the same as human,-if it were a judicial declaration that the sin, laid to the charge of an individual, had in point of fact not been committed by him, it would be clearly impossible not only for a sinner to be justified on the ground of his own works, but to be justified at all. No being in the universe could thus justify a transgressor, without falsehood. The God of perfect knowledge must mistake the character of the being at his bar, or the God of perfect truth must lose his faithfulness, and even his Divinity, before he could declare the sinner not to be a sinner, i. e., to justify him, on the ground of his works.
And though Divine and human justification are not identical, the impossibility of the justification of a sinner, on the ground of his own works, is not less apparent in reference to that modified view of the nature of the former, which has been presented in the preceding pages. For the individual whom God justifies is accounted, i. e., as we shall see, treated as if he were perfectly righteous. But all the members of the human family are sinners. How then can a God of wisdom, who cannot form a mistaken estimate of character, and a God of justice, who will render to all their due, treat any as righteous, (i. e., for their own sakes, or as the reward of their own works,) who are sinners; and who have not merely transgressed in one instance, but whose "sins are more in number than the hairs upon their heads, or the sands upon the seashore ?” To treat the righteous and the guilty alike, is surely contrary to our conceptions of that equity which should mark all the judicial proceedings of the moral Governor! Nay, to treat the righteous and the penitent alike, being a mode of conduct powerfully and directly calculated to defeat the end of moral government, must be equally impossible to the great Lord of all. No sinner can be treated as righteous for his own sake. We now pass on,
II. To observe, that the ground of justification is the allsufficient and perfect work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; including, in that expression, his perfect obedience even unto death. The following statements sufficiently prove this declaration : “ Therefore by the deeds of the law there