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IS TO TREAT AS GUILTY OR RIGHTEOUS.
to, his being treated as a just man, for the sake or in reward of the righteousness of Immanuel.
The reader will hereafter see also, how completely this view of the nature of imputation subverts the whole fabric of Antinomianism, removing the very foundation on which it stands, and on which it can alone stand, a literal commutation of persons in the case of Christ and his people. We proceed, then, to an examination of Scripture phraseology with the view of showing that the phrases, to count sin or righteousness to an individual, really means to treat him as a sinful or a righteous man.
In Numbers xviii. 27, we read," And this your heaveoffering shall be reckoned (counted, imputed) unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshing-floor, and as the fulness of the wine-press;" i.e., the offerers would be treated as though they had offered, what in reality they did not offer. In the address of Shimei to David, we find the following expression, “ Let not my lord impute iniquity to me;" i. e., obviously, “Do not punish me.” The request cannot have been that David would count him innocent, (or if it were, counting him innocent, and not punishing him, are identical,) since he proceeds to say, “For thy servant doth know that I have sinned.” (2 Sam. xix. 20.) In reference to the Gentiles, the apostle Paul says, “If the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?" (Rom. ii. 26.) “Now when it is said,” very justly observes Dr. Russel, “ that his uncircumcision shall be counted unto him for circumcision, the meaning cannot be that it is actually counted to him ; for it is a merely negative thing, and therefore cannot properly be reckoned to him; the meaning must be, that he shall be treated as though he were circumcised, by having granted him all the blessings of the separated people of God, of whose separation to Jehovah, circumcision in its highest sense was a sign.” “And Rachael and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion of inheritance for us in our father's house? Are we not counted of him (imputed of him) strangers?” i. e., we are treated by him as strangers; not reckoned or considered strangers.
260 TO IMPUTE IS TO TREAT AS GUILTY OR RIGHTEOUS.
Hence they immediately add, "For he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.” (Gen. xxxi. 14, 15.) “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them ;" i.e., not inflicting punishment upon them for their sins, but making atonement. (2 Cor. v. 19.) “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin;" i. e., not inflict punishment on account of it. (Rom. iv. 8.)
To impute sinto an offender, or to lay it to his charge, is, then, to treat him as a guilty person, and is not merely a previous step to his being so treated. Not to impute sin, or not to lay it to his charge, is not to treat him as if he were guilty. To impute or count the sin of Adam to us, is to treat us as if we had committed it. To impute our sins to Christ, is to inflict upon him the punishment due to them. To impute his righteousness to us, is to treat us as if we possessed it. God counted sin to Christ by making him a sin-offering; for the offering of the bullock for a sin-offering, is said to be, the words being literally rendered, “making it sin.” (Num. viii. 12.)* God counts righteousness to us, or the righteousness of Christ to us, by giving us pardon and eternal life, in consequence, or in reward of it. When it is said, that faith is counted to the believer for righteousness, the meaning is not that God reckons his faith as if it were righteousness ; or that it is reckoned unto his receiving righteousness, (as Mr. Haldane says, for the words convey no meaning,) but simply, that he is treated as a righteous person ; and, consequently, the three forms of expression—to be justified by faith,—to have Christ's righteousness imputed to us,—and to have faith counted to us unto righteousness or justification, mean precisely the same thing, viz., to enjoy the blessings which God bestows upon men, in reward of that work of his Son, which he never con
* The reader is requested to refer also to chap. xii. 11. The leprosy of Miriam was the consequence of her sin and that of Aaron. The visitation upon her of this consequence of sin, was putting the sin upon her. And hence when Aaron implored of Moses that the leprosy might be removed, he uses the phraseology, “ Lay not the sin upon us :" i. e., let not the leprosy continue to rest upon us.
THE MORAL GROUND OF PARDON.
templates but with ineffable delight; and which constitutes “a moral basis for the extension of holy benevolence on a most widely extended scale, to such as in themselves were both wretched and worthless."
The attention of the reader is particularly directed to the above statement of the specific mode, in which the work of our Lord operated, to permit the Divine government to treat the guilty as if they were righteous. It formed a moral ground on which pardon, and all the blessings of salvation, might be imparted to men, in harmony with the claims and safety of moral government. Man had broken a law, the rectitude, and honour, and efficiency of which, it became the moral Governor to uphold. Had this been done by the literal execution of its sentence, the whole of the human family must have perished. An expedient, therefore, exhibiting the infinite grace of Jehovah, was resorted to;-an expedient, designed at once to save the honour and efficiency of the law, the character of the lawgiver, and the transgressor. The eternal Word interposed. He consented to do and to suffer all that was necessary to exhibit to the whole of the intelligent universe, in a most impressive and appalling manner, the infinite evil of sin, the complete perfection of the Divine law, and the utter fallacy of the hope, that under the government of the great Being from whom it emanated, transgression can ever be permitted to pass unpunished; and in this way, to render possible the extension of mercy to the guilty. To accomplish this gracious purpose, it was necessary for him to honour the precepts of the law, by obeying them; and its penalty, by suffering it; and thus to show that the law was righteous in all that it enjoined, as well as in all that it threatened. And it is entirely, as we have said, on the ground of this work, or as the reward of it; as a manifestation of the infinite complacency with which the Father rests in the work of his Son, displaying thereby his paramount regard to righteousness, that any members of the human family, whom nothing, no, not even the blood of Christ itself, can preserve from the desert of punish ment, thought it does preserve from the punishment itself, are treated as righteous. i. e., are justified.
THE MORAL GROUND OF PARDON.
“The principle involved in this procedure, viz. the principle of conferring benefits on many, from a regard to the moral worthiness of some distinguished individual, whom God highly approved,” says Mr. Bennet, (in a passage which I beg to quote for the purpose of fortifying my own opinions,) "is repeatedly recognized and exemplified in the scriptural history of Divine procedure. The children of one family were blessed of God for their father's sake; witness the family of Noah, on account of whose righteousness they were received into the ark, and so escaped the deluge. The natural descendants of Abraham at large were blessed with distinguishing national favours, and religious privileges, out of God's regard to his eminent piety and practical obedience, as we find from Gen. xxvi. 4, 5."
“ It is evident, however," he adds, and the remark is of the highest importance, “that the righteousness of these holy individuals did not pass over to their families and descendants, so as to render them either subjectively holy, or morally meritorious in the sight of God. It remained in their own persons, as the proper subjects of moral worth ; and the commendable excellency thereof was strictly confined to themselves. Nevertheless, in the providential dealings of God with their offspring, a high and honourable respect was had, and was declared of God to be had, to the righteousness and moral worth of these individuals; so that while his favours, conferred on their descendants, were unmerited by the recipients themselves, yet from their intimate relation to them, they were benefited in a manner consistent with moral rectitude.
"All this, I conceive, may elucidate to us the way in which the righteousness of the Mediator, joined with his sacrifice, is the moral ground of the gospel constitution, both in the pardon of sin to the penitent believer, and in his full acceptance before God. Christ himself perfectly fulfilled all righteousness; and the whole merit thereof rested in him alone; so as to found his own righteous claim to the recompense of reward."
-“But with respect to believers, they are said to be justified freely, by grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.' Rom. iii. 24. They have no personal merit, nor com
plete moral excellency of themselves; neither does the righteousness of the Mediator become subjectively theirs ; but, in all its perfection and moral worth, remains wholly in himself. They have no participation of his merits as Mediator and Redeemer ; which belong to him personally and exclusively, in consequence of his having trodden the wine-press alone, and of there being none of the people with him.'” (Isa. Ixiii. 3.)
All that passes over, or can actually pass over, from Christ to believers, is the reward of his righteousness. There is, indeed, a legal transfer of that righteousness to them. But this, is at the most, only the counting of it to them, the placing of it to their account; and the more frequently and attentively these latter forms of expression are examined, the more full and general will become, as I cannot but think, the conviction, that they are identical in meaning with treating them as righteous persons, in reward of the Saviour's work.
I am well aware it will be said, “But must not an individual be counted righteous,-must not the law consider him as such, before it can treat him as righteous ?" I answer, that he cannot be thus treated, without a moral basis for the extension of holy benevolence to him, such as that which is supplied by the obedience and sufferings of the Mediator; but now that the basis has been laid, the Divine government presents no obstacle to its communication ; and, in relation to the salvation of a being who is himself unholy and guilty, it will be found, unless we are greatly mistaken, to relieve no one difficulty, to suppose that the Divine Being first counts the righteousness of the surety to him, i. e., considers that as really belonging to him, which in point of fact does not, before he treats him as righteous. It introduces, indeed, a difficulty where otherwise there would have been none; since, as Mr. Bennet has happily and satisfactorily shown, “the practice of conferring benefits upon many, from regard to, and as an expression of approbation of, some eminently distinguished individual,” may be regarded as a law of the Divine government: while, on the other hand, the procedure supposed, viz., CONSIDERING a person what he really is not, and then TREATing him as if he had been what he is not, has no analogy in