It is shewn that the sinner is justified by the imputation of God’s righteousness; hence not by an implanted grace.
When we speak of the righteousness of God, we mean a righteousness which is distinct from that of the law. ‘For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth these things shall live by them.’ Rom. 10,5. The law is a rule of righteousness, hence if a man would keep it, he would be righteous; and thus he would be justified by the righteousness of the law. And as the obedience to the law would be a man’s own act, it is therefore, also called his own righteousness.
But we read that 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, &e.’ Rom. 3. 21, 22. God is righteous from eternity, and righteousness is essential to his character. But he being righteousness in the original, would not be a sufficient ground to justify a sinner; it would rather result in his condemnation; for righteousness and guilt are far opposite to each other. The apostle saith ‘But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.’ 1 Cor. 1, 30. Christ being made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, &c. shews that he was not always from eternity our wisdom, and righteousness; &c. because that which is from eternity has no commencement; hence cannot be made in the progress of time. In the fulness of time the Son of God was made flesh, put himself under the law; and by his obedience wrought out a righteousness. He being Jehovah, hence supreme, eternal righteousness in the self-original, his obedience to the law could not be to adorn, and justify his own character, ether in the sight of his Father, or in that of holy angels: for what act of obedience can justify self original righteousness? Hence as his obedience to the law was not necessary to justify himself, it is evident that it was rendered to justify sinners. Whereas God prepared Christ as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and he being God himself, and as his meritorious obedience in his incarnate state procured a righteousness; it is therefore, properly called God’s own righteousness. The prophet speaks of this righteousness — ‘In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’ Jerem. 23,6. That this has an allusion to Christ as a Saviour, is evident from the preceding verse: — ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment in the earth.’
The doctrine of imputation is founded in the scriptures, as well as in the common affairs of life. One man’s deeds, whether they be good, or evil may be imputed to another: provided he consents to the same; and when they are imputed they are considered as if they were his own. St. Paul exhorts Timothy ‘not to be a partaker of other men’s sins.’ 1 Tim. 5, 22. This may be done through official negligence, improper silence, and advice. Even the crimes of those, that lived in former ages may be imputed to succeeding generations. Our Saviour says ‘I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them, shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.’ Matth. 23, 34-35. Now Abel, and Cain who murdered him, lived many centuries before the Jews, whom Christ addressed; yet he declared that Cain’s sin should come upon them. Why so? Ans. The Jews manifested Cain’s mind, and works; instead of abhorring his example, they represented his person in their bloody conduct towards Christ, and many others 0f the holy martyrs. In this manner they became partakers of the first murder that ever was committed.
In like manner another’s good deeds may be imputed. God shews mercy unto thousands of them that love him, and keep his commandments. Exod 20, 6 — comp. ch. 34, 7. Thus the laudable deeds of ancestors may be imputed to their posterity. This is done, when their posterity imitate them in the same mind, by which they get into connexion with their deeds; and thus enjoy more ample blessings than they could otherwise expect. Thus we read that the righteous deed of Phinehas was imputed to his seed after him. Num. 25, 7 18 — comp. Ps. 106, 30, 31.
Imputation frequently takes place in the common affairs of life. As for instance: another’s wealth, valour, and wisdom may be imputed. I may have another’s wealth made my own by an heirship — when valient heroes in the field of battle obtain the victory over their enemies, it is imputed to their governments — the wise conduct of guardians is considered the same as if it were that of the orphans.
As it is evident that the deeds of another person, whether they be good, or evil may be imputed to us, it is not inconsistent to conclude that the meritorious obedience of Christ may also be imputed to us. But this imputation takes place, not by an imitation of Christ; but by faith. ‘For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.’ Rom. 4, 3. In this respect the imputation of Christ’s, righteousness is somewhat different from the imputation of other men’s acts.
As Abraham believed God, it is evident that he believed the promise made to him with respect to the Messiah; thus the object of his faith was counted to him for righteousness. Again — v. 23 and 24 the apostle shews, that not only Abraham was justified by an act of imputation, but that we also may be justified in the same manner. — ‘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.’
This imputation takes place by faith, not because faith is an amiable disposition of the mind, or an equivalent for the grace that is given; but because it is a condition of apprehension. Faith has Jesus Christ for its object. In so far as it has a relation to him as its object, in so far, by it righteousness is imputed. Faith apprehends Christ, hence by it his righteousness is imputed. As little as the servant’s petition, who owed his king ten thousand talents merited the remission of his debt — Math. 18 23, 27 ; so little faith merits the righteousness which is imputed by it. Neither was the servant’s ready consent to accept this pardon, a meritorius cause thereof; although without it he could not have been a partaker of the pardon. No deed can justly be imputed to another one, without his consent; nor can a gift be possessed by another one, except it be received; yet the consent does not merit the deed, nor the mere receiving, the offered gift. By faith we consent to, and receive the meritorious obedience of Christ. An unbeliever cannot be saved, notwithstanding he is ransomed by Christ, and invited to embrace him; because he rejects the righteousness, which would otherwise be imputed to him — ‘He that believeth not shall be damned.’ Mark 16, 16. As faith, in so far as it respects our justification, is a mere condition of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and that being perfect; for as much, as it is that of God manifested in the flesh we are justified by, and clothed with a righteousness, so perfect, and beautiful, that the heavenly Father can find no blemish.
In a social connexion, the virtues, or crimes of another may be imputed. Or to the members of a body, the properties of the principal may be attributed. Christ is the head, and his church the body. Eph. 1, 22, 23. ‘For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.’ ch. 5, 30. Thus we see, that all the members are connected with Christ their head. All the wisdom, and erudition in the head of a man are ascribed to his whole body. For instance we say, this is a learned man; although, we know that his hands, feet, and other members are not the seat of his erudition as that is in the head; yet the connexion of all the members with the head, causes that they are viewed together as one, and the properties of the principal i.e. the head ascribed to all of them. All believers are connected with Christ, and with him constitute a moral, social person; hence in him they are viewed by the Father, as a perfect man, righteous and spotless. Or, as the apostle expresses it — ‘Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ Eph. 4, 13. Thus it may easily be understood how the perfect righteousness of God is imputed by faith, and how we are arrayed with the garment of salvation.
The sinner is justified by the imputation of God’s righteousness. If so, he is not justified by any grace that the Holy Spirit may implant in the heart to create it anew; because it is absurd to suppose that the meritorious deeds of another should be implanted. They only may be imputed. Whatever is imputed, does not take place in, but out of the person to whom it is imputed. The sinner is not justified by an infusion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to effect the renovation of the heart. Let this be clearly understood. The question is not, whether the Holy Spirit infuses his gifts to renovate the heart, as this is readily admitted; but whether by this infusion, and renovation the sinner gets justified? That a sinner is not justified by this implanted grace, is evident from the following reasons:
1. God is the judge of all men; hence he judges all either as just, or unjust. He is omniscient; hence can never be mistaken in his judgment. He is the fountain of truth; hence he cannot judge a thing to be what it is not. The grace that is implanted in the heart is resisted by the flesh, for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, &c. Gal. 5, 17; and sin even easily besets the saints, Heb. 12, 1. Whilst in a saint the Spirit, and the flesh are at war with each other, the former has not yet gained the victory over the latter; and thus the righteousness in the heart is very imperfect. Now to suppose that God should judge this implanted grace, (which being resisted by the flesh does not work a perfect righteousness,) as perfect, would be to suppose that he either was mistaken in his judgment, or contrary to his veracity would account that which was spurious as genuine. To suppose either, would be absurd. As God cannot judge such an imperfect work as perfect, the infused grace cannot possibly be the cause of a sinner’s justification. But the righteousness which Christ wrought out is perfect; hence if that be imputed to the sinner by faith, he is clothed with a righteousness that is all-perfect.
2. The apostle argues ‘that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.’ Rom. 3, 28—comp. Eph. 2, 8, 9. As these texts exclude all legal works in the article of our justification, it follows that the implanted grace must be equally excluded. When the blessed Spirit produces meekness, humility, love, &c. in the heart, they are works of the law. They are properly called the works of the law, because it is the rule agreeable to which they are performed. All those good graces wrought by the Spirit, agree with the law; if they did not, they would be wrong; hence they are properly the works of the law. We are not justified by the works of the law, and as those infused graces are works of the law, it is evident that, we are not justified by such a gracious infusion.
3. A sinner is not only under condemnation, but sin also, in its natural consequences renders him extremely miserable. As little as fire that is nourished by fuel, can extinguish itself; so little the sinner by his own ability, can subdue his sinful desires. To quench the fire requires a different element; and to subdue sin, and arrest its baneful effects requires the Holy Spirit. He is the medicine to cure this the worst of all maladies, which otherwise is incurable. To grant and apply this medicine, to restrain, and finally to eradicate this disease, is the most invaluable of all blessings. But the man who is not justified, is under the curse; hence he cannot be blessed, as it would be absurd to suppose a man at the same time, and in the same relation, to be both blessed and cursed. Hence, as this implanted grace of the Spirit is an invaluable blessing; and if it should be granted to an unjustified man, who as such is cursed, it would follow, that he was both blessed and cursed, which would be self-contradictory. Thus it is evident, that this inward grace is not bestowed upon an unjustified man. As he is an enemy to God, he must first be reconciled.
But to this it might be objected, that the Holy Spirit must operate on a sinner by the gospel-ministry, even before be can believe, and thus be justified. I answer, although the Spirit operates on a sinner by the gospel-ministry; yet not to infuse his graces, nor create his heart anew; but only to induce him to believe, and thus be reconciled to God; and that hence, he may be in such a relation, as to receive this inward blessing. There is a difference between offering an enemy proposals of reconciliation, and granting him the blessings of citizen-ship. Are not the ministers of the gospel ambassadors for Christ, in his stead to beseech sinners to be reconciled to God? Even before the offer of reconciliation could be made by the gospel-ministry, the redemption of Christ, by which all sinners have a right to be justified, is presupposed. Sinners must first embrace this right, and become friends to God, before this inward blessing can be granted.
Where the Holy Ghost has implanted his graces in the heart, there must be life and salvation. ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.’ Gal. 5, 22. 23. Now when the Spirit in the heart has produced those blessed fruits, against which there is no law, there must already be a source of felicity, and the anticipation of the sweets in the regions of glory. If we have those graces of the Spirit, against which there is no law, there can be no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation, there must be life and salvation. Where the fruits of the Spirit are, there is also, the kingdom of God; and that is ‘righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost’ Rom. 14, 17. As those infused graces of the Spirit, constitute the very essence of our felicity: it is hence impossible for any one thereby to be justified. Because if we were saved by this implanted grace, it would be the same as to say, we must be saved that we might be saved; because this infused grace is the life of all our joys: for without it, the climes of glory would afford us no felicity. Those blessed fruits of the Spirit, enshrined in the heart, are an immortal source of bliss, and consolation; so that the soul walks with God, in sweet communion; notwithstanding it is assailed by many temptations, and afflicted by outward tribulations. As it would be absurd to say, that we must be saved to be saved, it is evident that no sinner can be justified by the implanted grace of the Spirit. Hence the sinner must be justified by having the righteousness of Christ imputed to him by faith, and then as a blessed consequence, the Spirit infuses his graces into the heart, which are life, and salvation.
4. The apostle says ‘Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.’ Rom. 3. 24. In the original we have δικαιούμενο δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι. δωρεάν which is used as an adverb, is properly the accusative of δωρεά, which signifies a donation; hence the obvious sense is, that we are justified by way of donation. The word χάρις which is translated Grace, alludes to a favour which implies forgiveness. Thus the word is used in other texts, as for instance: ‘To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: &c.’ In the original—Ώιδε τι χαριζεσθε. 2 Cor. 2, 10 ‘And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave (εχαρισατο) both.’ Luke 7, 42. Having forgiven you all trespasses.’ In the original — χαρισαμενος ημιν παντα τα παραπτωματα. Col. 2, 13. As this word signifies the favour or grace of forgiveness, and as the apostle says that by it we are justified freely, or by way of donation, it is evident that we are not justified by an infused grace, to create our hearts anew. But had the apostle intended to convey the idea, that God infused his graces into our hearts, by which we might be justified, his phraseology would have been different. He would not have said, that we are justified by God’s grace freely; but that God had put his Spirit into our hearts, by which we should be justified.
The apostle to the Ephesians, ch. 2, 4, 5 declares — ‘But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved). This shews that whilst we were dead in sin, the rich mercy, and the great love of God preceded; and is hence the cause, why his Spirit has quickened us.
Again — ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.’ Gal. 3, 13, 14. How plainly this text indicates that the promise of the Spirit is to be received by faith. By faith we are justified, and by faith we receive the promise of the Spirit; hence we are justified, before we receive the implanted gifts of the Spirit. See also Gal. 4, 6.
5. It has already been shewn that the grace infused into the heart, is yet imperfect, it being resisted by the flesh; hence as it only gradually subdues the flesh, so it also increases. But as the justification of a sinner consists in an act of pardon, it cannot be increased; because not only one, but all sins are pardoned: for if one should be excepted, there would be a ground for condemnation; if so, there could be no justification. That justification is not a gradual work, is also evident from sundry examples. I shall only mention two:
1. The publican. He prayed in the temple ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’; and we are informed, that he went down justified to his house rather than the Pharisee. Thus he was immediately justified; hence not by an infused grace, to create the heart anew. It requires much time, before the new man gets the ascendency over the flesh. The publican prayed ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ He must either have believed that his prayer would be granted, or that it would not. Did he not believe it, how then came it to pass that he was justified? It is absurd to say, that an unbeliever’s prayer will be granted. See James ch. 1, 6, 7. But did the publican believe that his prayer would be granted, it is hence evident that he was justified by the imputation of God’s righteousness.
2. The malefactor on the cross. When he was suspended by the side of our blessed Saviour, he said ‘Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’ By this he expressed his faith in Christ. Though he saw Christ in a dying state, yet did he believe that he was able to save; hence he must have anticipated his resurrection. The reply of our Saviour was ‘Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ Luke 23, 42, 43. Thus as the malefactor (being confined to the gibbet) was in the lowest state of ignominy, and on the verge of eternal destruction ; and yet horn thence, that same day was exalted into paradise, he must immediately have been justified; hence not by the implanted graces, but by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Although it cannot be denied, but what the inward grace immediately succeeded this act of pardon, and commenced its blessed operations; yet as that is never so perfect in this life, that God can find no fault in it, it cannot be a sufficient ground of the justification of a sinner.
Justification is a forensick term, and signifies the acquittal of a person that is impleaded in judgment. It may either imply a person that is acquitted, because he proved himself innocent of the charge; or he may be guilty, and yet, treated as if he were innocent. Thus in the scriptures:— ‘He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.’ Prov. 17, 15. ‘Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!’ Isa. 5. 22, 23. Comp. Exod. 23, 7. Deut. 25, 1
All men are impleaded in the divine judgment, declared guilty; and are under condemnation — for ‘all the world is guilty before God — Rom. 3, 19 — and ‘judgment was by one to condemnation — ch. 5, 16. When God justifies a penitent sinner, he absolves him from his sentence of condemnation: thus he flees from the wrath to come; or, he escapes the final execution of this sentence on the great day of judgment. Notwithstanding, to justify a person in a temporal tribunal, signifies to acquit him of the crime with which he had been charged; and in this respect the justification in the divine judgment is the same; yet the latter includes something more, which is superlatively benign, and glorious. When in a temporal tribunal, the culprit is even acquitted, and hence under no dread of punishment; yet he may afterwards be reproached, an indelible disgrace remains affixed to his character; hence enjoys no moral felicity. But when God justifies the guilty, he does not simply absolve him from the sentence of condemnation; so that he needs not to fear any future punishments; but he also, removes every disgrace, which would otherwise indelibly be fixed upon his character, in consequence of his former transgressions. Thus the scriptures declare — ‘Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.’ Rom. 4, 7—comp. Ps. 32, 1,2. ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.’ Ps. 103, 12. Now if our sins are not only pardoned, but also covered, and as far removed from us as the east is from the west, no disgrace can be attributed to us on their account: for what is covered, and far removed, is out of sight. Again — ‘Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth: who is he that condemned? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.’ Rom. 8, 33. 34.
The ground upon which the sinner is justified, is the meritorious obedience of Jesus Christ. It was uninterrupted and perfect. It being imputed to the sinner by faith, he is not only acquitted from the sentence of condemnation, but is also viewed as if he never had been guilty. If as it has already been shewn the deeds of another person may be imputed to us, we must then be viewed as innocent, when Christ’s righteousness is imputed. It is impossible naturally to view sin, as if it never had been committed; hence it can only morally be considered, as if we never had committed it, when Christ’s righteousness is imputed. Although sin yet remains in us, and its natural consequences may only measurably be arrested in their progress by the influence of the Holy Spirit; yet all the moral consequences cease, i.e. there is no condemnation, no disgrace attached to our persons; we are viewed as innocent; and are privileged to associate with the innumerable hosts of holy angels.
Since we are justified by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, it requires no longer time to complete it than is necessary to believe. It must therefore be erroneous to spend much time, in seeking to be good, or preparing ourselves with legal endeavours, before we dare venture to apprehend Christ by faith.
What multitudes of people, who for a number of years have been seeking salvation by the most sincere endeavours, and yet, have not obtained it! What may be the reason thereof? Is it because God has not received a sufficient recompense by their good works; so that they must perform more, to render themselves acceptable? No. As little as a corrupted tree can produce good fruits, so little they as unjustified sinners, can do such works, and even if they could, their former transgressions could not thereby be obliterated. Is it because God is not always ready, when the gospel is preached to grant this salvation; so that they must wait for a certain time, for him to make the means effectual? No. Whenever the gospel is preached to sinners, God is ready to save, to-day is the appointed time: for ‘To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts’ — Heb. 4, 7. The apostle saith ‘the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.’ Rom. 1, 16. He does not say that the gospel will be made, but that it is the power of God unto salvation; hence his blessed Spirit always, and inseparably accompanies it; so that there is no deficiency to be supplied in it. See lsa. 5, 1-4. The word of faith is nigh the sinner, it is even in his mouth, and in his heart. Rom. 10. 8. How can it be brought any nearer? The reason why such have not obtained salvation, is because they imagine they must become new creatures; or that they must have the fruits of the Spirit, before they can be entitled to believe in Christ; or they cannot conceive that this salvation is within more than their reach.
The renewal, or sanctification of the heart never precedes, but always, and infallibly succeeds justification. 1st, The Holy Ghost creates faith by the hearing of the gospel, by which, we apprehend the righteousness of Christ. 2d, By this our persons are justified. 3d, Because we are justified the Spirit renews our hearts. And 4th, Because we are in a state of renovation, our hearts get filled with the good graces of the Spirit; or we have such spiritual abilities to do good works.
When I say, the sinner is saved without the renovation of the heart, I mean he is saved from the curse of the law, that every moral obstruction is removed; so that the Spirit may commence his sanctifying operations: but I do not mean, that this renovation is not necessary to save him from his natural, sinful corruptions. We are not only under the curse of the law, hence obnoxious to future legal punishments; but sin is also attended with such natural consequences, which render us miserable; therefore this renovation becomes indispensably necessary, to arrest them in their pernicious progress.
When I say, the implanted graces, or fruits of the Spirit are a source of felicity, the blissful anticipation of the sweets in the regions of glory, I do not wish to be understood, as if the renovation of our nature was not previously necessary; but I mean that those fruits of the Spirit are not the renovation itself; but the blessed consequences thereof. There is a difference between the renewal itself, and those blessed fruits produced by it. In the exercise of those graces, there appears to be a happiness. The apostle says ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20,35. To give, is an act of goodness, in which as the apostle says, there is a blessedness. God is the greatest of all benefactors, and he takes delight in diffusing his goodness: for ‘the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.’ Ps. 33, 5. The man who as a Christian exercises goodness, faintly imitates God, in which there is a great blessedness. What are all the good works of a Christian, but a delight to him? St Paul delighted in the law of God after the inward man. Rom. 7,22. Whatever is a delight to a man, also becomes a motive for persevering in it. No marvel therefore, that the Christian is busy in doing all the good he can, when he finds in it a great felicity.
Although the renovation of the heart succeeds justification; nevertheless we must perpetually be kept by faith; because our renovation in this life remains imperfect, it being assailed by the flesh, the world, and Satan. Not only he, that is yet unjust, is to be justified by faith; but he also, who is already justified must live by faith — ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Gal, 3, 11. Thus because the believer is frequently captivated by the flesh, that he sins, he cannot remain just, without the intercession of Jesus Christ. ‘My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ 1 John 2, 1. From this text we learn that we have not only a pardon for our sins, when we get justified; but also, because we are constantly assailed by our spiritual enemies, and frequently overcome, we must avail ourselves of the intercession of Christ, who lives for ever; and whose righteousness is our perpetual ornament.
Although the renovation of the heart be necessary; yet as we are justified by, and constantly live by faith; and because of this justification, God commences this blessed work, it is evident that faith is the only condition of our salvation: for he that holds fast to the condition, will also find the blessed consequences, O my soul! do not imagine because God has commenced the work of renovation in thee, that thou shalt for the sake of the same, be able to stand in his judgment; but give all glory to Jesus, thy mediator; constantly fold fast to his righteousness; wrapped in it, thou wilt be pleasing to thy heavenly Father.