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room for boasting. If we were justified by faith itself, considered as a duty of ours, or if the Law-giver had respect to any conformity to God in us, as the cause, or reason, of the sentence, there would be no meaning in such language as this: To him that WORKETH NOT, but BELIEVETH on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
The language of the Apostle to the Galatians goes not only to exclude obedience to the ceremonial and the moral law, but obedience to law in general, as the ground of justification. The reason given why the law is not against the promises, or why it cannot furnish an objection to the free grace of the gospel, is this: If there had been A LAW which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. This is equal to saying, the patient was given up, as incurable by law, before the promised grace of the gospel took him in hand: whatever, therefore, is done by the latter cannot be objected to by the former. The terms vóμos and έx vóμov, law, and by the law, in Gal. iii. 21, as observed by Dr. Guyse, show it, according to Mr. Locke's rule of interpretation, to relate to law in general, or to any or every law. But, if the works of every law be excluded, all distinctions between ceremonial and moral, or between moral and evangelical, are of no account.
3. Being justified freely by grace is itself directly opposed to being justified by works. The term grace denotes free favour to the unworthy. If God had been obliged, in justice or in honour, to have done what he has done; if the law by which we were condemned were too strict, or the penalty annexed to it too severe; if Christ, and the offer of salvation through him, were a compensation given us on account of the injury we received from our connexion with our first parents, that which is called grace, would not be grace, but debt. There is just so much grace in the gospel as there is justice in the law, and no more. The opposition between grace and works, in this important concern, is so clear in itself, and so plainly marked by the apostle, that one can scarcely conceive, how it can be honestly mistaken : If it be by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.
But, strong as the term grace is, the Apostle adds to its force. As though it were not enough for him to affirm, that we are justi
fied by grace, he says, we are justified freely by his grace. There is, doubtless, a redundancy in the expression; but the design of it is to strengthen the thought. Thus, when he would forcibly express his idea of future glory, he uses a kind of tautology for the purpose, calling it a FAR MORE EXCEEDING and eternal weight of glory. We are not only justified without any desert, on our part, but contrary to it. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are his thoughts, in the forgiveness of sin, higher than our thoughts, and his ways than our ways. They who are justified are said to receive abundance of grace, or grace abounding over all the aboundings of sin, Sin reigns over our species, subjugating them all to death but grace conquers the conqueror, reigning through righteousness to eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.
4. The terms used relative to gospel-justification, render it evident, that it is not our own righteousness that is imputed to us, but the righteousness of another. Abraham believed God, and it was COUNTED unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But he that believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is COUNTED for righteousness.-David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God IMPUTETH righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not IMPUTE sin. The terms imputed and counted, in this connexion, are manifestly used to express, not that just reckoning of righteousness to the righteous, which gives to every man his due, but that gracious reckoning of righteousness to the unrighteous, as though he were rightWhen the uncircumcised Gentile kept the law, his uncircumcision was counted for circumcision: not that it really was such, but was graciously reckoned, in the divine administration, as if it were. When Paul, writing to Philomon concerning Onesimus, says, If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account, he did not mean, that he should treat him according to his deserts, but that he should forgive and accept him, for his sake.
When faith is said to be counted for righteousness, it is as relating to Christ. The faith by which Abraham was justified had
immediate relation to him as the promised seed ; and it is easy to perceive, in the New Testament accounts of justifying faith, a marked attention to the same thing. Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.-BY HIM all that believe are justified from all things.-That God might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. "It is evident," says President Edwards, "that the subject of justification is looked upon as destitute of any righteousness in himself, by that expression, It is counted, or imputed, to him for righteousness. The phrase, as the Apostle uses it here, (Rom. iv. 5.) and in the context, manifestly imports, that God, of his sovereign grace, is pleased, in his dealings with the sinner, to take and regard that which, indeed is not righteousness, and in one that has no righteousness, so that the conse. quence shall be the same as if he had righteousness; and which may be from the respect that it bears to something which is indeed righteous. It is as if he had said “As to him that works, there is no need of any gracious reckoning, or counting it for righteousness, and causing the reward to follow as if it were a righteousness : for if he has works, he has that which is a righteousness in itself, to which the reward properly belongs.'
5. The rewards promised, in the scriptures, to good works, suppose the parties to be believers in Christ; and so, being accepted in him, their works also are accepted, and rewarded, for his sake. That good works have the promise of salvation, is beyond dispute. Nothing that God approves shall go unrewarded. The least expression of faith and love, even the giving of a cup of cold water to a disciple of Christ, because he belongs to him, will insure everlasting life. But neither this, nor any other good work, can be a ground of justification, inasmuch as it is subsequent to it. For works to have any influence on this blessing, they require to precede it: but works before faith are never acknowledged by the scriptures
* Sermon on Justification, p.9.
to be good. It was testified of Enoch, that he pleased God; from whence the apostle to the Hebrews infers, that he was a believer, inasmuch as without fuith it is impossible to please God. "It does not consist with the honour of the Majesty of the King of heaven and earth, to accept of any thing from a condemned malefactor, condemned by the justice of his own holy law, till that condemnation be removed."* The Lord had respect first to Abel, and then to his offering. Even those works which are the expressions of faith and love, have so much sinful imperfection attached to them, that they require to be presented by an intercessor on our behalf. The most spiritual sacrifices are no otherwise acceptable to God than by Jesus Christ.
Perhaps I ought not to conclude this part of the subject without noticing the apparent opposition between Paul and James; the one teaching that we are justified. by faith, without the deeds of the law; the other, that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. The words are, doubtless, apparently opposite; and so are those of Solomon, when he directs us, in one proverb, not to answer, and, in the next, to answer a fool according to his folly. In reconciling these apparently opposite counsels, we are led, by the reasons given for each, to understand the terms as used in different senses; the first, as directing us not to answer a fool in a foolish manner, for this would make us like unto him; the last, to answer him in a way suited to expose his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. In like manner, the terms faith and justification were used by Paul and James in a different sense. By faith, Paul meant that which worketh by love, and is productive of good fruits; but James speaks of a faith which is dead, being alone. By justification, Paul means the acceptance of a sinner before God; but James refers to his being approved of God as a true Christian. "Both these apostles bring the case of Abraham in illustration of their principles; but then, it is to be observed, they refer to different periods and circumstances in the life of that patriarch. Paul, in the first instance, says of Abraham, that he was justified by faith, while yet uncircumcised: this was his justification in the
*President Edwards's Sermon on Justification.
sight of God, and was without any consideration of his works. James refers to a period some years subsequent to this, when, in the offering up of his son, he was justified by works also; that is, his faith was shown to be genuine by its fruits. Paul therefore refers to the acceptance of a sinner; James to the approbation of a saint."*
Supported by this body of scripture-evidence, as well as by the experience we have had of the holy and happy influence of the doctrine, I trust we shall continue unmoved in our adherence to it. Let others boast of the efficacy of their own virtues, we, with the Apostle, will count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord; will count all things but dung, that we may win Christ, and be found in him, not having our own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
* The word 'Justification' is used in this sense, Matt. xii. 37. 1 Cor. iv. 4. See Williams' Vindication against Belsham, pp. 145, 146.