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4. They that are not without sin, are not absolutely perfect; for to be perfect, is to have no sin; but the saints in this life are not without sin; 1 John i. 8. Matt. vi. 12. James iii. 2. Eccles. vii. 21. Isa. Ixiv. 6. but to what end should I multiply arguments or testimonies to this purpose? If all the saints of God have acknowledged themselves sinners all their days, always deprecated the justice of God, and appealed to mercy in their trial before God, if all our perfection by the blood of Christ, and we are justified not by the works of the law, but grace, this pharisaical figment may be rejected as the foolish imagination of men ignorant of the righteousness of God, and of him who is 'the end of the law for righteousness to them that do believe.'
But take perfection as it is often used in the Scripture, and ascribed to men of whom yet many great and eminent failings are recorded (which certainly were inconsistent with perfection absolutely considered) and so it denotes two things: 1. Sincerity, in opposition to hypocrisy. And 2. Universality, as to all the parts of obedience, in opposition to partiality, and halving with God. So we say, perfection is not only attainable by the saints of God, but is in every one of them; but this is not such a perfection as consists in a point, which if it deflects from, it ceases to be perfection; but such a condition as admits of several degrees, all lying in a tendency to that perfection spoken of; and the men of this perfection, are said to be perfect or upright in the Scripture; Psal. xxxvii. 14. cxix. 100, &c.
Not then to insist on all the places mentioned by Mr. B. in particular, they may all be referred to four heads: 1. Such as mention an unblamableness before God in Christ, which argues a perfection in Christ, but only sincerity in us; or 2. Such as mention a perfection in 'fieri,' but not in 'facto esse,' as we speak; a pressing towards perfection, but not a perfection obtained, or here obtainable; or 3. A comparative perfection in respect of others; or a perfection of sincerity, accompanied with universality of obedience, consistent with indwelling sin and many transgressions. The application of the several places mentioned to these rules, is easy, and lies at hand, for any that will take the pains to consider them. He proceeds,
If works be so necessary to salvation, as you have before
shewed from the Scripture, how cometh it to pass that Paul saith, We are justified by faith without works? Meant he to exclude all good works whatsoever, or only those of the law? How doth he explain himself? Rom. ii. 2. 28. We are justified by faith, without the works of the law.'
Ans. 1. How, and in what sense works are necessary to salvation, hath been declared, and therefore I remit the reader to its proper place.
2. A full handling of the doctrine of justification was waved before, and therefore I shall not here take it up, but content myself with a brief removal of Mr. B.'s attempts to deface it. I say then,
3. That Paul is very troublesome to all the Pharisees of this age, who therefore turn themselves a thousand ways to escape the authority of the word and truth of God (by him fully declared and vindicated against their forefathers), labouring to fortify themselves with distinctions, which, as they suppose, but falsely, their predecessors were ignorant of; Paul then, this Paul, denies all works, all works whatsoever, to have any share in our justification before God, as the matter of our righteousness, or the cause of our justification. For,
1. He excludes all works of the law, as is confessed. The works of the law are the works that the law requires. Now there is no work whatever that is good or acceptable to God, but it is required by the law; so that in excluding works of the law, he excludes all works whatever.
2. He expressly excludes all works done by virtue of grace, and after calling; which, if any, should be exempted from being works of the law. For though the law requires them, yet they are not done from a principle, nor to an end of the law; these Paul excludes expressly; Ephes. viii. 9, 10. By grace we are saved, not of works.' What works? Those which ́ we are created unto in Christ Jesus.'
3. All works, that are works, are excluded expressly, and set in opposition to grace in this business; Rom. xi. 5, 6. If it be of grace, it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace; but if it be of works, it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work;' and Rom. iv. 3-5.
4. All works are excluded that take off from the absolute freedom of the justification of sinners by the redemption
that is in Christ; Rom. iii. 17-27. Now this is not peculiar to any one sort of works, or to any one work, more than to another, as might be demonstrated; but this is not a place for so great a work, as the thorough handling of this doctrine requires. He adds,
'Can you make it appear from elsewhere, that Paul intended to exclude from justification, only the perfect works of the law, which leave no place for either grace or faith, and not such works as include both, and that by a justifying faith he meant a working faith, and such a one as is accompanied with righteousness?
'A. Eph. ii. 8-10. Rom. iv. 3-5. Rom. xi. 5, 6. iv. 14 -16. Gal. v. 6. Rom. i. 17, 18.'
Ans. 1. Still Paul and his doctrine trouble the man as they did his predecessors. That Paul excluded all works of what sort soever, from our justification, as precedaneous causes or conditions thereof, was before declared. Mr. B. would only have it, that the perfect works of the law only are excluded, when if any works take place in our justification with God, those only may be admitted, for certainly, if we are justified or pronounced righteous for our works, it must be for the works that are perfect, or else the judgment of God is not according to truth. Those only it seems are excluded, that only may be accepted; and imperfect works are substituted as the matter of a perfect righteousness; without which, none shall stand in the presence of God. But,
2. There is not one text of Scripture mentioned by Mr. B. whence he aims to evince his intention, but expressly denies what he asserts; and sets all works whatever in opposition to grace, and excludes them all, from any place in our justification before God. So that the man seems to have been infatuated by his pharisaism, to give direction for his own condemnation. Let the places be considered by the
3. The grace mentioned as the cause of our justification, is not the grace of God, bringing forth good works in us, which stand thereupon in opposition to the works of the law, as done in the strength of the law, but the free favour and grace of God towards us in Christ Jesus, which excludes all works of ours whatever, as is undeniably manifest; Rom. iv. 4. xi. 5, 6.
4. It is true, justifying faith is a living faith, purging the heart, working by love, and bringing forth fruits of obedience; but that its fruits of love and good works have any causal influence into our justification, is most false. We are justified freely by grace, in opposition to all fruits of faith whatever, which God hath ordained us to bring forth. That faith whereby we are justified, will never be without works, yet we are not justified by the works of it, but freely by the blood of Christ; how, and in what sense we are justified by faith itself, what part, office, and place, it hath in our justification, its consistency in its due place and office, with Christ's being our righteousness, and its receiving of remission of sins, which is said to be our blessedness, shall elsewhere, God assisting, be manifested.
What then hath Mr. B. yet remaining to plead in this business? the old abused refuge of opposing James to Paul, is fixed on. This is the beaten plea of Papists, Socinians, and Arminians. Saith he,
'What answer then would you give to a man, who wresting the words of Paul in certain places of his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians should bear you in hand, that all good works whatever, are excluded from justification and salvation, and that it is enough only to believe? James ii. 20-26.'
Ans. 1. He that shall exclude good works from salvation, so as not to be the way and means appointed of God, wherein we ought to walk, who seek and expect salvation from God; and affirms that it is enough to believe, though a man bring forth no fruits of faith or good works; if he pretend to be of that persuasion, on the account of any thing delivered by Paul, in the Epistles to the Romans or Galatians, doth wrest the words and sense of Paul, and is well confuted by that passage mentioned out of James.
But he that excluding all works from justification in the sense declared, affirming that it is by faith only, without works; and affirms, that the truth and sincerity of that faith, with its efficacy in its own kind for our justification, is evinced by works, and the man's acceptation with God thereon justified by them, doth not wrest the words nor sense of Paul, and speaks to the intendment of James.
2. Paul instructs us at large, how sinners come to be justified before God, and this is his professed design in his
Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. James professedly exhorting believers to good works, demands of them, how they will acquit themselves before God and man to be justified; and affirms that this cannot be done, but by works. Paul tells us what justification is; James describes justifying faith by its effects; but of this also elsewhere. To all this he subjoins :
'I would know of you, who is a just or righteous man? Is it not such a one as apprehendeth, and applieth Christ's righteousness to himself, or at most desires to do righteously; is not he accepted of God?
'A. 1 John iii. 7-10. 1 John ii. 29. Acts x. 34, 35. Ezek. xviii. 5-9.'
Ans. 1. He to whom God imputes righteousness, is righteous. This he doth to him,' who works not, but believes on him who justifies the ungodly;' Rom. iv. 5-7. there is then a righteousness without the works of the law; Phil. iii. 10. To apprehend and apply Christ's righteousness to ourselves, are expressions of believing unto justification, which the Scripture will warrant; John i. 12. 2 Cor. i. 30. He that believeth, so as to have Christ made righteousness to him, to have righteousness imputed to him, to be freely justified by the redemption that is in the blood of Jesus, he is just and this state and condition, as was said, is obtained by applying the righteousness of Christ to ourselves; that is, by receiving him, and his righteousness by faith, as tendered unto us in the offer and promises of the gospel.
Of desiring to do righteously, and what is intended by that expression, I have spoken before. But,
2. There is a twofold righteousness, a righteousness imputed whereby we are justified, and a righteousness inherent, whereby we are sanctified. These Mr. B. would oppose, and from the assertion of the one, argue to the destruction of the other; though they sweetly, and eminently comply in our communion with God. The other righteousness was before evinced. Even our sanctification also is called righteousness, and we are said to be just in that respect.
1. Because our faith and interest in Christ is justified thereby to be true, and such as will abide the fiery trial.
2. Because all the acts of it are fruits of righteousness; Rom vi. 19. 22.