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and Christ, which there is not between him and others; and which is signified by those metaphorical expressions in Scripture, of being in Christ,' being members of Christ,' &c.
“2nd. This relation, or union to Christ, whereby Christians are said to be in Christ, (whatever it be,) is the ground of their right to his benefits. This needs no proof; the reason of the thing, at the first blush, demonstrates it. It is exceedingly evident also from Scripture: 'He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life.' (1 John v. 12; 1 Cor. i. 30.) First, we must be in him, and then he will be made righteousness or justification to us.' "The union of the members of the body with the head, is the ground of their partaking of the life of the head; it is the union of the branches to the stock, which is the ground of their partaking of the sap and life of the stock; it is the relation of the wife to the hus band, that is the ground of her joint interest in the estate ; they are looked upon in several respects as one in law. So there is a legal union between Christ and true Christians ; so that as all (Socinians excepted) allow, one in some respects is accepted for the other by the supreme Judge,
“ 3rd. And thus it is that faith is the qualification in any person that renders it meet in the sight of God that he should be looked upon as having Christ's satisfaction and righteousness belonging to him, viz., because it is that in him which, on his part, makes up this union between him and Christ. By what has been just observed, it is a person's being, according to the Scripture phrase, in Christ, that is the ground of his satisfaction and merits belonging to him; and a right to the benefits procured thereby. The reason of it is plain; it is easy to see how our having Christ's merits and benefits belonging to us, follows from our having (if I may so speak) Christ himself belonging to us, or our being united to him. And if so, it must be easy to see how, or in what manner, that in a person which on his part makes up the union between his soul and Christ, should be the thing on the account of which God looks on it as meet that he should have Christ's merits belonging to him.” (Sermon 1st, on Justification.)
Now the attentive reader will immediately perceive that the
substantial truths so fully and ably developed in the preceding extracts, viz., that the one work of the Redeemer is the exclusive ground of justification ; that justification is received not by works, but by faith, and yet that it is not bestowed as the reward of faith, but of the Saviour's righteousness ;-the reader will perceive, it is imagined, that these truths, which constitute all that is of radical importance on the subject, are precisely those which have been unfolded in previous Lectures. I am constrained, however, to express the doubt I feel, whether the correctness of some of the minor statements, or, perhaps, I should rather say, of some parts of the phraseology, can be sustained. And, in the present day, when every point of evangelical truth, and when every mode of stating it, are likely to undergo a more thorough and sifting examination than any to which they have as yet been subjected, it is of more importance than some persons are aware of, not to contend pertinaciously for any form of expression which will not endure this test. With every disposition to sit down contented with the statements of these eminent men of God, I cannot deliver myself from the impression that they contain more of apparent than of real information. If the President had not unfortunately conceived it unnecessary to explain what he meant by union with Christ, it is possible that his language would have been somewhat different. Faith, he says, in substance at least, seçures justification by uniting the believer to Christ, which union (not faith) constitutes, as he imagines, the basis of the imputation to him of the Saviour's righteousness. Now this statement obviously assumes, as the reader cannot fail to observe, that to believe the gospel, and to be in Christ, though inseparably united, are yet different things, or the latter member of the sentence would identify itself with the former.
If the phrases, " to be a believer,” and “to be in Christ," are only two modes of expressing the same thing, the one statement being figurative, and the other literal, the President, in declaring that union to Christ is the basis of imputation, really says nothing more than that faith is the basis; and, further, that faith justifies because it is faith. Let, then, the reader examine the following passages, and ask himself
TO BE IN CHRIST, AND TO BELIEVE, IDENTICAL.
whether the two phrases, of which we are speaking, mean different things, or the same thing. “But to as many as received him, to them
to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John i. 12.) “ Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, &c., --who also were in Christ before me." (Rom. xvi. 7.) “ If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” (2 Cor. v. 17.) “ There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. vii. 1.) Compare this with chap iïi. 26, “ to declare his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John iii. 36.) Compare with this the language of the same writer, (1 John v. 12,)“ He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” What can be more manifest than that the language of the epistle contains nothing more than a figurative statement of the truth more literally presented to us in the gospel ? And hence, in the following verse, the apostle adds, “ These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God," &c. (Verse 13.)
Sufficient, it is presumed, has been said, to show that the expressions, “to have faith-and to have, or receive Christ-to be a believer--and to be in Christ," are only different modes, the one simple and the other figurative, of expressing the same thing. We, indeed, with a certain looseness of phraseology in which we are apt to indulge, speak of faith as the instrument by which we receive Christ, (as if believing the gospel and receiving Christ were not identical,) or by which we receive justification. But, in strict accuracy, that which faith RECEIVES is the truth concerning Christ. The blessing of justification is, indeed, invariably enjoyed in connexion with the reception of the truth, i. e., God bestows it upon every believer; but faith can only be said figuratively to receive it: and the phraseology is evidently open to the objection which Erskine brings against it, viz., that it supposes our justification to have been in existence before we believe ; since
DIFFERENT KINDS OF UNION.
we cannot receive any thing, the existence of which is, in the order of nature, subsequent to the act of reception. In harmony with these remarks, and confirmatory of them, it is observable, that though believers are, in the New Testament, figuratively represented as being in Christ, they are not said to be united to him by faith ; since that would be in effect to say that we become believers by faith. Nor we said to be justified by being in Christ, but by believing.”
The reader must not so misconceive me as to imagine that I entertain the slightest doubt in reference to the fact, that there exists an union between Christ and his people. The sole object has been to show, that when President Edwards tells us that faith unites to Christ, and that the union thus formed is the basis of justification, he makes a distinction without a difference, and, indeed, utters an identical proposition,-since, in ordinary Scripture style, to be a believer, and to be in Christ, mean the same thing. There are, indeed, other senses in which the phrase, “ to be in Christ,” may be understood; but in neither of them would Messrs. Fuller and Edwards contend, that "to be in Christ " is the basis of imputation. A vital union, for instance, subsists between Christ and his people--an union of heart, if we may so speak. The thoughts, affections, and prayers of the Christian ascend to the Saviour; and the love, and care, and gracious communications of the Saviour, descend to him. And since Christ suffered, not for himself, but for the benefit of others,—and since the Spirit was not intended to be poured out upon all flesh, so as to bring all men to the enjoyment of the blessings of his salvation, but upon the chosen to salvation exclusively, the latter may be said to have been chosen in Christ, to have been in him, “ before the foundation of the world.” It will not be pretended, however, that union in this latter sense is effected by faith. It is in one respect the cause of faith. Nor can we represent vital union, which in fact identifies itself with sanctification, as the basis of imputation, without endangering the doctrine of justification by faith, without the deeds of the law. What, then, is that union to Christ which, being the
result of faith, must of course differ from it, that is thus represented as the basis of imputation ?
Mr. Haldane, in his late Exposition of the five first (first five) chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, seems to hint at the existence of an union which is mysterious and incomprehensible in its nature. We have heard others express a similar opinion. It is probable that Jonathan Edwards, applying his notions of the connexion which existed between Adam and his posterity, to that which exists between Christ and his people, would agree with them. I am quite free to say, that I have never been satisfied with the statements of this writer in reference to that connexion. With Principal Hill, I am constrained to think, that they " are repugnant to that distinct
which enters into our notion of accountable beings, as essential to that character.” I wish to say no more on this point, than, that it ought not to form a recommendation of any statement, that it throws unnecessary mystery around the subject to which it refers.
Most Calvinistic writers, perhaps, represent faith as effecting a legal union between Christ and his people; and they further regard this union as the basis of imputation—they illustrate it by the case of Adam. A legal union was constituted between Adam and his posterity, to serve as the basis of the imputation of his sin to them. A legal union must also, they conceive, exist between Christ and believers, to serve as the basis of the imputation of his righteousness to them. In the former case, the union is effected by the natural birth ; in the latter, by the spiritual birth; or, in other words, faith is the instrument by which an individual is brought into that state of legal union to the Saviour in consequence of which the righteousness of the latter is imputed to him. Now there is much of substantial and important truth in this representation; yet it is not perfectly correct in the sense which they attach to the words they have employed. It obviously assumes what we have already denied, and venture again to deny, that the relation which Adam and Christ sustained to their respective seeds, is perfectly identical with