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judged, for the sake of the obedience of Christ alone, which is imputed to him and received by faith.'
To justify is evidently a divine prerogative. It is God that justifieth.' That sovereign Being, against whom we have so greatly offended, whose law we have broken by ten thousand acts of rebellion against him, has the sole right of acquitting the guilty, and pronouncing them righteous, in the way of his own appointment. Jehovah, whose judgment is always according to truth, is the Justifier of all that believe in Jesus. Here grace reigns. For God, the infinitely wise God, appoints the way. God, the righteous and merciful God, provides the means. God, (let the divine name be repeatedly mentioned with profoundest reverence,) even the God of all grace, imputes the righteousness, and declares the sinner acquitted, in perfect agreement with the demands of his violated law, and the rights of his injured justice.
What is here, as well as in several passages of scripture, affirmed concerning God, considered essentially, is, in some places of the infallible word, more particularly appropriated personally to the Father.* It is manifest, notwithstanding, that all the Three Divine Persons in the Godhead are concerned in this grand affair; and each performs a distinct part in this particular, as also in the whole economy of salvation. The eternal Father is represented in the volume of inspiration, as appointing the way, and sending his own Son to perform the conditions requisite to our acceptance before him. The divine Son, as engaging to sustain the curse, and make the atonement; to fulfil the terms and provide the righteousness, by which we are justi fied. And the Holy Spirit, as revealing and testifying the perfection, suitableness, and freeness of the Saviour's work to the sinner; demonstrating his right to it, according to the gospel of sovereign grace; and, at the same time, witnessing to his conscience his justification by it in the court of heaven, which produces
* Rom. iii. 26. 2 Cor. v. 18, 19.
peace and joy in the heart.* Thus the triune of God justifies. And may we not ask, in the triumphant language of Paul, Who shall,' who can condemn?' If Jehovah pronounce the sinner acquitted, who in earth or hell shall reverse the sentence? If the Most High entirely justify, who shall bring in a second charge? There is no higher court to which any appeal can be made. There is no superior tribunal at which a complaint can be lodged against any of those happy souls, whose invaluable privilege it is to be justtified by the eternal God. When he acquits in judgment, he absolves from all guilt, he accepts as completely righteous; otherwise, a person, immediately after he is justified, must be supposed to stand in need of a further justification, which is highly absurd. This divine sentence shall never be made void by any unworthiness of him on whom it is passed, nor by all the accusations of Satan; but shall stand firmer than the everlasting hills, unshaken as the throne of God. This sentence (let me dwell on the ravishing truth, let my very soul feast on the precious doctrine-(this sentence being the justification of life, is pregnant with all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, with all the felicity of the world of glory.
Great, superlatively great, glorious, and divine, is the blessing of justification-most ardently to be sought, most thankfully to be enjoyed. Can any one, conscious of possessing it, cease to exult in God his Justifier; who, by being so, is also the God of his praise? Or who, that is sensible of his guilty, condemned condition, can cease to pray and most earnestly to long for it? O, sinner! are you insensible of the worth of this blessing of grace, and supinely negligent about it? then be assured that you are yet in your sins, and under condemnation. The justification of which we treat, is far from you. And what if you should never be justified? What if your affronted
*Rom. viii. 3. Heb. x. 7. Dan. ix. 24. Rom. v. 19. John xiv. 26. and xvi. 7, 8, 9, 10. 14.
Sovereign should swear in his wrath, that he will never pardon, never accept you; but that you shall die under the curse, already passed upon you? In such a case, though awful beyond conception, what could you have to object? You have trampled his authority under your feet, and cherished a spirit of the most malignant enmity against him. Your conscience tells you, that you have neither obeyed his law, nor loved his gospel; that you have had little concern whether He was pleased or offended, so that you could but gratify your impetuous lusts, and obtain your sordid purposes. You have, it may be, never considered the death of the Son of God as worthy of your serious notice, though the greatest and most wonderful event that ever took place in the universe, and the only thing which can save you from final condemnation and eternal ruin. Remember, thoughtless reader! that you have a cause depending, a cause which involves your all, to be tried at the bar of God, and before Jehovah your Judge, An eternal hell to be suffered, or an eternal heaven to be enjoyed, and that by you, will be the awful or glorious consequence of being cast or acquitted in judgment, Can you rest, then, can you take any comfort, while entirelyignorantwhether the Judge immortalwill absolve or condemn you? Consider the ground on which you stand, and the reason of the hope that is in you. A mistake about the way of acceptance with God will be attended with the utmost danger; such danger, that, where it is final, it is followed by inevitable and eternal ruin. May the God of grace, and the Father of light, awaken the sleepy consciences of the inconsiderate into an earnest solicitude about it! and direct the steps of such as are anxiously inquiring,' How shall men,' how shall we,' be just with God?'.
The persons to whom the wonderful favour is granted, are sinners, and the ungodly. For thus runs the divine declaration, 'To him that worketh, is the reward,' the blessing of justification and eternal life, as connected with it,not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that
justifieth,' whom? the righteous? the holy? the eminently pious? Nay, verily, but the ungodly;' his faith, or that in which he believes, is counted unto him for righteousness.'* From this remarkable text we learn, that the subjects of justification are such who are not only destitute of a perfect righteousness, but have performed no good works at all. Nor are they only described as having performed no good works, but also as being entirely destitute of every heavenly quality and righteous disposition. They are denominated ungodly, and considered as ungodly, when the ineffable blessing is bestowed upon them. The mere sinner, the ungodly person, he that worketh not, is the subject on whom grace is magnified, towards whom grace reigns in justification. Thus it is written in those sacred canons of our faith and practice, which are unalterable.
Before I dismiss this important passage, I would take the liberty of presenting my reader with the thoughts of Dr. Owen upon it. To say, he who worketh not, is justified through believing, is to say, that his works, whatever they be, have no influence into his justification; nor hath God, in justifying him, any respect unto them. Wherefore he alone who worketh not, is the subject of justification, the person to be justified. That is, God considereth no man's works, no man's duties of obedience, in his justification; seeing we are justified freely by his grace. And when God affirmeth expressly that he justifieth him who worketh not, and that freely by his grace, I cannot understand what place our works, or duties of obedience, can have in our justification. For why should we trouble ourselves to invent of what consideration they may be in our justification before God, when he himself affirms, that they are of none at all? Neither are the words capable of any evading interpretation. He that worketh not, is he that worketh not, let men say what they please, and distinguish as long as they will. And it is a boldness not to be justified, for any
* Rom. iv. 4, 5.
to rise up in opposition to such express divine testimonies; however they may be harnessed with philosophical notions and arguings, which are but as thorns and briers, which the word of God will pass through and consume. But the apostle further adds, in the description of the subject of justification, that God justifieth the ungodly. This is that expression which hath stirred up so much wrath among many, and on the account whereof, some seem to be much displeased with the apostle himself. If any other person dare but say that God justifieth the ungodly, he is presently reflected on, as one that by his doctrine would overthrow the necessity of godliness, holiness, obedience, or good works. For what need can there be for any of them, if God justifieth the ungodly? Howbeit, this is a periphrasis of God, that he is he who justifieth the ungodly. This is his prerogative and property; as such he will be believed and worshipped, which adds weight and emphasis unto the expression. And we must not forego this testimony of the Holy Ghost, let men be as angry as they please.
'But the difference is about the meaning of the words. If so, it may be allowed without mutual offence, though we should mistake their proper sense. Only it must be granted that God justifieth the ungodly. This is, say some, those who formerly were ungodly-not such who continue ungodly when they are justified. And this is most true. All that are justified, were before ungodly; and all that are justified, are at the same instant made godly. But the question is, Whether they are godly or ungodly, antecedently, in any moment of time, unto their justification? If they are considered as godly, and are so indeed, then the apostle's words are not true, that God justifieth the ungodly; for the contradictory proposition is true, God justifieth none but the godly. Wherefore, although in and with the justification of a sinner, he is made godly; for he is endowed with that faith which purifieth the heart, and is a vital principle of all obedience, and the conscience is purged from dead works