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by the blood of Christ; yet, antecedently unto his justification, he is ungodly, and considered as ungodly; as one that worketh not; as one whose duties and obedience contribute nothing to his justification. As he worketh not, all works are excluded from being the cause; and, as he is ungodly, from being the condition of his justification.'*
Again: That the sinner, the ungodly person, is the only subject of justification, appears from hence :The Spirit of God, speaking in the scripture, repeatedly declares that we are justified by grace; and grace, as already observed, stands in direct opposition to works; all works and worthiness of every kind and every degree. Whoever, therefore, is justified by grace, is considered as absolutely unworthy, in that very instant when the glorious blessing is vouchsafed to him. This momentous truth is set in the strongest light, in the following emphatical words: 'Being justified freely by his grace.'* Freely, by grace. If these words do not prove that justification is entirely free, without the least respect to any supposed holy qualities in the sinner, or any good works performed by him antecedent to his being possessed of the unspeakable favour, I think it is impossible to express any such thing. The most fruitful in vention would be at a loss to contrive a form of words better adapted to express the communication of any benefit, in a way of freest favour. This text informs us, that, in regard to God, justification is an act of pure, unmixed grace; exclusive of all good works, and absolutely independent on any such thing as human worthiness; and, in respect to us, that it is entirely without cause, for so the adverb, in the original, signifies. The word freely does not so immediately respect, either the blessing itself, or the Giver, as it does the state and character of the persons to whom the inestimable blessing is granted. It denotes that there is no cause in them, why they should be thus treated by a righteous God. In this sense the origi* Dr. Owen on Justification, chap. viii. 'Doreau.' Septuag.
+ Rom. iii. 24.
nal word is used and translated in the following passage, 'They hated me without a cause.'* Was the holy, the harmless Jesus, hated by the malevolent Jews without the least cause in himself? Certainly, to suppose or assert the contrary, would be a contradiction to the sacred text, and blasphemy against the Son of God. The person, therefore, that is justified freely by grace, is accepted without any cause in himself. Nothing in him or about him is considered by the sovereign Dispenser as every favour, when he bestows the blessing, or preparing or qualifying for it.
Hence it appears that if we regard the persons who are justified, and their state, prior to the enjoyment of the immensely glorious privilege, divine grace appears and reigns in all its magnificence and glory. There are no conditions or prerequisites, no terms to be fulfilled, or good qualities to be obtained, either with or without the divine assistance, in order to a full discharge before the eternal Judge. Justification is a blessing of pure grace, as well as transcendently excellent. So the true believer esteems it, and as such rejoices in it. In this, as in every other part of his salvation, he is willing to be nothing, less than nothing, that grace may reign, that grace may be all in all.
The various facts and testimonies produced from sacred writ, when treating about the freeness of pardon, equally prove the point under consideration; and might, together with many others, be adduced and pleaded on the present occasion. For he that is pardoned is justified; and he that is justified is pardoned, as before observed. Consequently, if our pardon be free, our justification cannot be conditional. But, to avoid prolixity, I shall not further enlarge in proof of the glorious truth; only would just observe-that so great a blessing, yet absolutely free, so divine a favour, yet suspended on no condition to be performed by the sinner, discovers astonishing grace. This must silence the fears and raise the hopes of the guilty, the accurs
* John v. 25. Psalm xxxv. 19. lxix 4.
ed, the self-condemned. And may their hopes be raised by such a consideration, and by beholding the glory of that infinite Being, whose honour and sovereign prerogative it is, to be inviolably just, yet the 'Justifier of the ungodly.'
Having considered the previous state of the person whom God justifies, and the freeness with which the important and most necessary blessing is bestowed upon him; theway appointed in the eternal counsels, and revealed in the everlasting gospel, in which the condemned criminal may be honourably acquitted before the divinetribunal,and accepted as righteous,nowdemands our attentive regard. Here we behold the immaculate holiness of the Deity, and the strict justice of the Lawgiver, harmonizing with his tenderest mercy and freest favour. Nor can it be otherwise. The Judge of all the earth must do right. He can acquit none without a righteousness. For, to justify a person, and to pronounce him righteous, are the same thing. Justification is evidently a forensic term, and the thing intended by it a judicial act. So that, were a person to be justified without a righteousness, the judgment would not be according to truth; it would be a false and unrighteous sentence.
Again: The righteousness by which we are justified must be perfect; must be equal to the demands of that law, according to which the sovereign Judge proceeds in our justification. Every judge, it is evident, must have some rule by which to proceed in his judicial capacity. This rule is the law. To talk of passing judgment, without having any regard to a law, is absurd, and involves a contradiction. For to judge is nothing else but to determine whether the object of judgment be according to rule. A judge first considers what is fact, and then comparing the fact with the rule of action, he pronounces it right or wrong, and approves or condemns the performer of it. An imperfect obedience, therefore, before a judge, is not righteousness. For righteousness is no other than a complete conformity to that law which is
the rule of our conduct. To accept of any obedience short of the rule, instead of that which perfectly answers it, is to act, not in the capacity of a righteous. judge, but under the character of an absolute sovereign. So Jehovah himself declares, that he will by no means clear the guilty' in judgment; that he will not at all acquit the wicked; and, consequently, that he will justify none without a perfect righteousness. That obedience, therefore, which is available for the grandest of all purposes, must answer the demands of the law. It must be such as will vindicate the honour of divine justice and eternal truth, in declaring the subject of justification completely righteous. Yes, reader, it must be such as you may venture to plead, without the least imputation of arrogance, at the throne of grace and the bar of judgment; such to which you may warrantably ascribe your happiness in the heavenly world, and in which you may glory to all eternity. Many persons talk of I know not what conditions justification-some supposing one thing, and some another, to be the condition of it. But hence it appears, that the only condition of our acceptance with God is a perfect righteousness. This the law requires, nor does the gospel substitute another. And as the divine law can have no more, so it will admit of no less. Such persons, therefore, who think of any thing short of a complete obedience being sufficient, let them call the supposed condition by what name they please, would do well to consider how they can free themselves from the charge of Antinomianism. For the gospel does not, in any degree, make void the law. So far from it, that the voice of the gospel, aud the death of Christ, demonstrate Jehovah to be absolutely inflexible as to all that his holy law requires or forbids. The way in which sinners are justified does not in the least infringe on its rights. For, considered as moral, it is unalterable and eternal. Perfect obedience was demanded by it of man, while in a state of innocence, as the condition of life. Perfect obedience it still requires of man, though in a state of
apostacy. And perfect obedience it must have, either at our own or a surety's hand, or we must fall eternally under its curse.
Where, then, shall we find, or how shall we obtain, a justifying righteousness? Shall we flee to the law for relief? Shall we apply, with diligence and zeal, to the performance of duty, in order to attain the desired end? Such a procedure, though it might flatter our pride, would betray our ignorance, disappoint our hopes, and issue in eternal ruin. The apostle of the Gentiles, when professedly handling the doctrine of justification, positively affirms, and strongly proves, that there is no acceptance with God' by the works of the law.' Now, the works of the law are those duties of piety and humanity which the law requires. Nor can any acceptable obedience be performed, which is not required by that law which demands perfect love to God, and perfect love to man. So that when the infallible teacher exludes the works of the law from having any concern in our justification, he entirely rejects all our works, all our duties, of every kind. But let us hear his words, and consider their import.
By the deeds of the law,' by our own obedience to it, however sincere, shall no flesh be justified,' accepted of God, and pronounced righteous in his sight.' The reason is evident: for by the law is the knowledge of sin,' as in opposition to the divine revealed will, and as deserving an everlasting curse.* If so, it is absolutely impossible that we should be justified by it; for a law which proves us guilty, is far from pronouncing us righteous in the eye of the Lawgiver. The law entered,' was repromulged at Sinai, that the offence might abound, that the abundance of our iniquities might be manifested, and their exceeding sinfulness appear.'+ The law workethwrath, it reveals the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. It fastens a charge of guilt
*Rom. iii. 20. Gal. ii. 16.
+ Rom. v. 20.