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THE WORK OF CHRIST IS THE GROUND.
shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” “But now the righteousness of God” (i. e., the righteousness which he has provided)* “ 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.” (Rom. ii. 20—22.) “Being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Chap. v. 9.) “ Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Ver. 18, 19.) “For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth these things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise: Say not in thine heart, who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above,) or, who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Chap. x. 3—10.) “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor. i. 30.) “ And this is his name whereby he shall be called, Jehovah our Righteousness.” (Jer. xxii. 6.)
In addition to the foregoing passages, which expressly declare that the perfect obedience even unto death of the Son of God is the ground of justification, we may refer to those
* Vide Haldane's Exposition of Romans on this text.
THE WORK OF CHRIST IS THE GROUND.
which affirm its gratuitous nature, as teaching the same thing. If we are justified freely, by the grace of God, our own works cannot manifestly be the ground of our justification. The man who is treated as righteous because he is actually righteous, is under no obligation to the moral Governor for thus treating him. He has a claim to justification which cannot be equitably resisted. Hence the apostle says, “ Now to him that worketh the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” · The reward can only be reckoned of grace when it is not bestowed on account of the works of him who receives it; when it is given without any consideration at all ; or when, as in the case of the justification of sinners, that consideration is the worthiness of another. Then the reward is of grace.
I have exhibited (and the attention of the reader is especially directed to this point) the perfect work of our Lord, including, in this phrase, his obedience and his sufferings, i.e., his obedience even unto death, as constituting the ground on which the guilty (i.e., in themselves) are treated as if they were righteous, because I apprehend this mode of statement rescues us from many of the difficulties in which those are involved who adopt a more systematic and technical phraseology. It is the opinion of many, who make that distinction between what are called the active and passive obedience of our Lord, to which reference has been more than once made, that atonement was made by his death, and that justification flows exclusively from his obedience. It is impossible, so it appears to me, to reconcile this opinion with the declaration of the apostle, that we are justified by the blood of Christ. It is true, he adds, in the same chapter, that we are made righteous by his obedience; still that does not contradict or neutralize the previous declaration : and it ought, moreover, to be remembered, that the obedience to which he refers comprehended his death. I scarcely think it would ever have been doubted, that believers are treated as righteous, though actually and personally guilty, for the sake not of one part of the Redeemer's work alone, but on the ground of the entire work, had not certain mistakes existed in reference to the public representative character of our Lord,-mistakes, which appear to
DANGER OF MISCONCEPTION.
me to have arisen from incautiously pushing truth into error; and which have powerfully contributed to obscure the simple majesty of scriptural doctrine and statement. I must be permitted to dwell at some length on this point, as it is one of great importance in itself, and is, moreover, adapted to show in what manner the practice of dividing the one work of our blessed Lord into separate parts, and ascribing a distinct office to each of them, originated.
“ That the Lord Jesus Christ sustained a public character, or that his mediatorial engagements were undertaken and performed on the behalf, and for the benefit of others, is rendered manifest by the similitude which the apostle represents, in the 5th chapter of the Romans, as existing between him and Adam.” Yet it is very possible to misinterpret the language in which this most important truth is taught ;--to err by attaching to some of the terms in which we are in the habit of stating it, too literal a signification; and by permitting what takes place at a human tribunal, when an individual is justified, to govern too completely our views in reference to the justification of a sinner before God. At a human tribunal no man can be justified without a perfect righteousness; since to justify him is to pronounce him faultless in the eye of the law. We infer, accordingly, that all who are justified at the bar of God must possess a perfect righteousness, which can only be obtained by imputation, their own being imperfect. The perfect righteousness of Christ, their legal representative, is therefore, we conclude, counted to them, or reckoned as theirs; and hence they enter heaven, and have a right to enter heaven, as righteous persons. Now, if all this be soberly and not too literally explained ;-if the intention be merely to intimate, by a phraseology somewhat technical, and allusive to the proceedings which take place in earthly judicatories, that it is really for the sake, or on the ground, of the work of Christ,-in token of the moral Governor's approbation of it, or in reward of it—that any who are themselves guilty are treated, or can be treated, as if they were righteous, no sentiment can be more just, and certainly none more important. Unfortunately, however, the statements of which we
THE NOTION OF A LITERAL TRANSFER
are now speaking, have not always been soberly explained. “Gospel truths have been squared," "according to human measures and models.” Resembling processes have been represented as identical ones. Mistakes in reference to the relation existing between Christ and his people, as well as to the imputation of his righteousness to them, have been committed by numbers, the practical influence of which has been, in various instances, most deplorable. In the hope of guarding the reader against similar misconceptions, and of elucidating the subject more fully, I will call his attention to two or three distinct views of the nature of imputation.
The first is the opinion of those who conceive of the imputation of the Saviour's righteousness to believers, as consisting not in the mere communication to them of the consequences of that righteousness-nor even in the legal counting of that righteousness to them; but in an actual and literal transfer of it to them. As a necessary counterpart of this sentiment, they hold that Christ became actually a sinner. “Hast thou been an idolater,” says Dr. Crisp, "a blasphemer, a despiser of God's word, a profaner of his name and ordinances, a thief, a liar, a drunkard ? If thou hast part in Christ, all these transgressions of thine become actually the transgressions of Christ, and so cease to be thine, and thou ceasest to be a transgressor from the time that they were laid upon Christ, to the last hour of thy life ; so that now thou art not an idolater, a persecutor, a thief, a liar, &c.; thou art not a sinful
person. Reckon whatever sin you commit, when, as you have part in Christ, you are all that Christ was, and Christ is all that you were, as his.” (Vide Crisp’s Sermons, p. 270.) And again, “Believers think that they find their trangressions in their own consciences, and they imagine there is a sting of this poison still behind, wounding them; but, beloved, if this principle be received as a truth, that God hath laid thine iniquities upon Christ, how can thy transgressions, belonging to Christ, be found in thy heart and conscience ? Is thy conscience Christ ?" (P. 269.)
The pen of the author has literally trembled while transcribing these atrocious passages, libelling most profanely and
OF CHRIST'S RIGHTEOUSNESS EXAMINED.
foully, as they do, that Holy Lamb of God, who “offered himself without spot,” and, when he endured the vengeance due to our sins,“ suffered the just for the unjust." Yet Dr. Crisp was perfectly consistent with himself, and with his principles, in these shocking statements ; for there cannot be a literal transfer of the Saviour's righteousness to us, without a corresponding literal transfer of our sin and guilt to him. If we become really righteous, Christ became really a sinner. We demand, then,
First, plain scriptural authority for a sentiment so injurious in its moral influence upon man—so dishonourable to the Saviour. The partisans of the system would probably reply, that God is said to have laid upon Christ.the iniquities of his people ;—that the Saviour bare our sins in his own body," &c. We reply, that the obvious meaning of these passages is, that Christ endured the consequences, or the punishment, of our sins; and hence it is said, in the latter of them, that “ Christ bare our sins in his own body upon the tree.” Nosober-minded interpreter of Scripture can imagine that such declarations were intended to intimate that our pollution and guilt were literally transferred to Him. But then it is said, we shall be told, that Christ was made sin for us. Undoubtedly he was, we reply, but not a sinner, as the scape-goat of old, which no one imagines to have become a sinner. He was made sin in the sense, as some suppose, of having our sin legally counted to him, so as that he should endure its consequences; or, as others imagine, in the sense of being made a " sin-offering"
And if it be retorted upon us, that it is not said he was made a " sin-offering,” we answer, neither is it said that he was made a sinner, but sin; which, it is obvious to remark, as naturally means a sacrifice for sin, as a participator of sin. We observe,
Secondly, that this notion of an actual transfer of character between Christ and believers, is at utter variance with those " confessions and lamentations of believers which are recorded in Scripture ;” and with those petitions for forgiveness which we are commanded to present daily unto God. “Consistently with the system opposed,” says Mr. Fuller, " these confessions