The Doctrine

of

Justification by Faith,

through

the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ;

explained, confirmed, and vindicated

by

John Owen
       (1616-1683)
 


Search the Scriptures — John v. 29


Prefatory note

There is a pregnant and striking passage in one of the charges of Bishop Horsley, which may be said to embody the substance and intimate the scope of the following work on justification, — a work which has been esteemed one of the best productions of Dr Owen. “That man is justified,” says Horsley, “by faith, without the works of the law, was the uniform doctrine of our first Reformers. It is a far more ancient doctrine, — it was the doctrine of the whole college of apostles; it is more ancient still, — it was the doctrine of the prophets; it is older than the prophets, — it was the religion of the patriarchs; and no one who has the least acquaintance with the writings of the first Reformers will impute to them, more than to the patriarchs, the prophets, or apostles, the absurd opinion, that any man leading an impenitent, wicked life, will finally, upon the mere pretence of faith (and faith connected with an impenitent life must always be a mere pretence), obtain admission into heaven.”

Dr Owen, in the “general considerations” with which he opens the discussion of this momentous subject, shows that the doctrine of justification by faith was clearly declared in the teaching of the ancient church. Among other testimonies, he adduces the remarkable extract from the epistle to Diognetus, which, though commonly printed among the works of Justin Martyr, has been attributed by Tillemont to some author in the first century. Augustine, in his contest with Pelagian error, powerfully advocated the doctrines of grace. That he clearly apprehended the nature of justification by grace appears from the principle so tersely enunciated by him, “Opera bona non faciunt justum, sed justificatus facit bona opera.” The controversy, however in which he was the great champion of orthodox opinions, turned mainly upon the renovation of the heart by a divine and supernatural influence; not so directly on the change of state effected by justifying grace. It was the clear apprehension and firm grasp of this doctrine which ultimately emancipated Luther from the thraldom of Romish error, and he clung to it with a zeal proportioned to his conviction of the benefit which his own soul had derived from it. He restored it to its true place and bearings in the Christian system, and, in emphatic expression of its importance, pronounced it “Articulus stantis aut cadentis ecclesiæ.” It had to encounter, accordingly, strong opposition from all who were hostile to the theology of the Reformation. Both Socinus and Bellarmine wrote against it, — the former discussing the question in connection with his general argument against orthodox views on the subject of the person and work of Christ; the latter devoting a separate treatise expressly to the refutation of the doctrine of the Reformed churches regarding justification. Several Roman Catholic authors followed in his wake, to whom Dr Owen alludes in different parts of his work. The ability with which Bellarmine conducted his argument cannot be questioned; though sometimes, in meeting difficulties and disposing of objections to his views from Scripture, he evinces an unscrupulous audacity of statement. His work still continues, perhaps the ablest and most systematic attempt to overthrow the doctrine of justification by faith. In supplying an antidote to the subtle disquisitions of the Romish divine, Dr Owen is in reality vindicating that doctrine at all the points where the acumen of his antagonist had conceived it liable to be assailed with any hope of success.

To counteract the tendency of the religious mind when it proceeded in the direction of Arminianism, Calvinistic divines, naturally engrossed with the points in dispute, dwelt greatly on the workings of efficacious grace in election, regeneration, and conversion, if not to the exclusion of the free offer of the gospel, at least so as to cast somewhat into the shade the free justification offered in it. The Antinomianism which arose during the time of the Commonwealth has been accounted the reaction from this defect. Under these circumstances, the attention of theologians was again drawn to the doctrine of justification. Dissent could not, in those times, afford to be weakened by divisions; and partly under the influence of his own pacific dispositions, and partly to accomplish a public service to the cause of religion, Baxter made an attempt to reconcile the parties at variance, and to soothe into unity the British churches. Rightly conceiving that the essence of the question lay in the nature of justification, he published in 1649 his “Aphorisms on Justification,” in opposition to the Antinomian tendencies of the day, and yet designed to accommodate the prevailing differences; on terms, however, that were held to compromise the gratuitous character of justification. He had unconsciously, by a recoil common in every attempt to reconcile essentially antagonistic principles, made a transition from the ground of justification by faith, to views clearly opposed to it. Though his mind was the victim of a false theory, his heart was practically right; and he subsequently modified and amended his views. But to his “Aphorisms” Bishop Barlow traces the first departure from the received doctrine of the Reformed churches on the subject of justification. In 1669, Bishop Bull published his “Apostolical Harmony,” with the view of reconciling the apostles Paul and James. There is no ambiguity in regard to his views as to the ground of a sinner’s acceptance with God. According to Bull “faith denotes the whole condition of the gospel covenant; that is, comprehends in one word all the works of Christian piety.” It is the just remark of Bickersteth, that “under the cover of justification by faith, this is in reality justification by works.”

A host of opponents sprung up in reply to Baxter and Bull; but they were not left without help in maintaining their position. In support of Baxter, Sir Charles Wolsley, a baronet of some reputation, who had been a member of Cromwell’s Council of State, and who sat in several parliaments after the Restoration, published, in 1667, his “Justification Evangelical.” In a letter to Mr Humfrey, author of the “Peaceable Disquisition,” published subsequently to Owen’s work and partly in refutation of it, Sir Charles, referring to Dr Owen, remarks, “I suppose you know his book of Justification was written particularly against mine.” There is reason to believe that Owen had a wider object in view than the refutation of any particular treatise. In the preface to his great work, which appeared in 1677, he assures the reader that, whatever contests prevailed on the subject of justification, it was his design to mingle in no personal controversy with any author of the day. Not that his reasonings had no bearing on the pending disputes, for, from the brief review we have submitted of the history of this discussion, it is clear that, with all its other excellencies, the work was eminently seasonable and much needed; but he seems to have been under a conviction, that in refuting specially Socinus and Bellarmine, he was in effect disposing of the most formidable objections ever urged against the doctrine of justification by grace, while he avoided the unpleasantness of personal collision with the Christian men of his own times whose views might seem to him deeply erroneous on the point; and the very coincidence of these views, both in principle and tendency, with Socinian and Popish heresies, would suggest to his readers, if not a conclusive argument against them, at least a good reason why they should be carefully examined before they were embraced. His work, therefore, is not a meagre and ephemeral contribution to the controversy as it prevailed in his day, and under an aspect in which it may never again be revived. It is a formal review of the whole amount of truth revealed to us in regard to the justification of the sinner before God; and, if the scope of the treatise is considered, the author cannot be blamed for prolixity in the treatment of a theme so wide. On his own side of the question, it is still the most complete discussion in one language of the important doctrine to which it relates. Exception has been taken to the abstruse definitions and distinctions which he introduces. He had obviously no intention to offend in this way; for, at the close of chap. XIV, he makes a quaint protest against the admission of “exotic learning,” “philosophical notions,” and “arbitrary distinctions,” into the exposition of spiritual truth. In the refutation of complicated error, there is sometimes a necessity to track it through various sinuosities; but, in the main, the treatise is written in a spirit which proves how directly the author was resting on divine truth as the basis of his own faith and hope, and how warily he strove and watched that his mind might not “be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

“A curious fact,” says Mr Orme, “respecting this book, is mentioned in the Life of Mr Joseph Williams, of Kidderminster:— ‘At last, the time of his (Mr Grimshawe’s, an active clergyman of the Church of England) deliverance came. At the house of one of his friends he lays his hand on a book, and opens it, with his face towards a pewter shelf. Instantly his face is saluted with an uncommon flash of heat. He turns to the title-page, and finds it to be Dr Owen on Justification. Immediately he is surprised with such another flash. He borrows the book, studies it, is led into God’s method of justifying the ungodly, has a new heart given unto him; and now, behold, he prays!’ Whether these flashes were electrical or galvanic, as Southey in his Life of Wesley supposes, it deserves to be noticed, that it was not the flash but the book which converted Grimshawe. The occurrence which turned his attention to it, is of importance merely as the second cause, which, under the mysterious direction of Providence, led to a blessed result.”

Analysis. — The causes, object, nature, and use of faith are successively considered, chap. I–III. The nature of justification is next discussed; — first, under an inquiry into the meaning of the different terms commonly employed regarding it; and, secondly, by a statement of the juridical and forensic aspect under which it is represented in Scripture, IV. The theory of a twofold justification, as asserted by the Church of Rome, and another error which ascribes the initial justification of the sinner to faith, but the continuance of his state as justified to his own personal righteousness, are examined, and proved untenable, V. Several arguments are urged in disproof of a third erroneous theory, broached and supported by Socinians, that justification depends upon evangelical righteousness as the condition on which the righteousness of Christ is imputed, VI. A general statement follows of the nature of imputation, and of the grounds on which imputation proceeds, VII. A full discussion ensues of the doctrine that sin is imputed to Christ, grounded upon the mystical union between Christ and the church, the suretiship of the former in behalf of the church, and the provisions of the new covenant, VIII. The chief controversies in regard to justification are arranged and classified, and the author fixes on the point relating to the formal cause of justification as the main theme of the subsequent reasonings, IX.

At this stage, the second division of the treatise may be held to begin, — the previous disquisitions being more of a preliminary character. The scope of what follows is to prove that the sinner is justified, through faith, by the imputed righteousness of Christ. This part of the work embraces four divisions; — general arguments for the doctrine affirmed; testimonies from Scripture in support of it; the refutation of objections to it; and the reconciliation of the passages in the Epistles of Paul and James which have appeared to some to be inconsistent.

Under the head of general arguments, he rebuts briefly the general objections to imputation, and contends for the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as the ground of justification; — first, from the insufficiency of our own righteousness, or, in other words, from the condition of guilt in which all men are by nature involved, X.; secondly, from the nature of the obedience required unto justification, according to the eternal obligation of the divine law, XI.; and, as a subsidiary and collateral consideration, from the necessity which existed that the precept of the law should be fulfilled as well as that atonement should be rendered for the violation of it, — in short, from the active as well as the passive righteousness of Christ; and here the three objections of Socinus, that such an imputation of Christ’s obedience is impossible, useless, and pernicious, receive a detailed confutation, XII.; thirdly, from the difference between the two covenants, XIII.; and fourthly, from the express terms in which all works see excluded from justification in Scripture, XIV.; while faith is exhibited in the gospel as the sole instrument by which we are interested in the righteousness of Christ, XV. The testimony of Scripture is then adduced at great length, — passages being quoted and commented on from the prophets, XVI.; from the evangelists, XVII.; and from the epistles of Paul, XVIII. The objections to the doctrine of justification are reviewed, and the chief objection, — namely, that the doctrine overthrows the necessity of holiness and subverts moral obligation, — is repelled by a variety of arguments, XIX. Lastly, the concluding chapter is devoted to an explanation of the passages in Paul and James which are alleged to be at variance but which are proved to be in perfect harmony, XX. — Ed.


To the reader

I shall not need to detain the reader with an account of the nature and moment of that doctrine which is the entire subject of the ensuing discourse; for although sundry persons, even among ourselves, have various apprehensions concerning it, yet that the knowledge of the truth therein is of the highest importance unto the souls of men is on all hands agreed unto. Nor, indeed, is it possible that any man who knows himself to be a sinner, and obnoxious thereon to the judgment of God, but he must desire to have some knowledge of it, as that alone whereby the way of delivery from the evil state and condition wherein he finds himself is revealed. There are, I confess, multitudes in the world who, although they cannot avoid some general convictions of sin, as also of the consequents of it, yet do fortify their minds against a practical admission of such conclusions as, in a just consideration of things, do necessarily and unavoidably ensue thereon. Such persons, wilfully deluding themselves with vain hopes and imaginations, do never once seriously inquire by what way or means they may obtain peace with God and acceptance before him, which, in comparison of the present enjoyment of the pleasures of sin, they value not at all. And it is in vain to recommend the doctrine of justification unto them who neither desire nor endeavour to be justified. But where any persons are really made sensible of their apostasy from God, of the evil of their natures and lives, with the dreadful consequences that attend thereon, in the wrath of God and eternal punishment due unto sin, they cannot well judge themselves more concerned in any thing than in the knowledge of that divine way whereby they may be delivered from this condition. And the minds of such persons stand in no need of arguments to satisfy them in the importance of this doctrine; their own concernment in it is sufficient to that purpose. And I shall assure them that, in the handling of it, from first to last, I have had no other design but only to inquire diligently into the divine revelation of that way, and those means, with the causes of them, whereby the conscience of a distressed sinner may attain assured peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. I lay more weight on the steady direction of one soul in this inquiry, than on disappointing the objections of twenty wrangling or fiery disputers. The question, therefore, unto this purpose being stated, as the reader will find in the beginning of our discourse, although it were necessary to spend some time in the explication of the doctrine itself, and terms wherein it is usually taught, yet the main weight of the whole lies in the interpretation of scripture testimonies, with the application of them unto the experience of them who do believe, and the state of them who seek after salvation by Jesus Christ. There are, therefore, some few things that I would desire the reader to take notice of, that he may receive benefit by the ensuing discourse; at least, if it be not his own fault, be freed from prejudices against it, or a vain opposition unto it.

1. Although there are at present various contests about the doctrine of justification, and many books published in the way of controversy about it, yet this discourse was written with no design to contend with or contradict any, of what sort or opinion soever. Some few passages which seem of that tendency are, indeed, occasionally inserted; but they are such as every candid reader will judge to have been necessary. I have ascribed no opinion unto any particular person, — much less wrested the words of any, reflected on their persons, censured their abilities, taken advantage of presumed prejudices against them, represented their opinions in the deformed reflections of strained consequences, fancied intended notions, which their words do not express, nor, candidly interpreted, give any countenance unto, — or endeavoured the vain pleasure of seeming success in opposition unto them; which, with the like effects of weakness of mind and disorder of affections, are the animating principles of many late controversial writings. To declare and vindicate the truth, unto the instruction and edification of such as love it in sincerity, to extricate their minds from those difficulties (in this particular instance) which some endeavour to cast on all gospel mysteries, to direct the consciences of them that inquire after abiding peace with God, and to establish the minds of them that do believe, are the things I have aimed at; and an endeavour unto this end, considering all circumstances, that station which God has been pleased graciously to give me in the church, has made necessary unto me.

2. I have written nothing but what I believe to be true, and useful unto the promotion of gospel obedience. The reader may not here expect an extraction of other men’s notions, or a collection and improvement of their arguments, either by artificial reasonings or ornament of style and language; but a naked inquiry into the nature of the things treated on, as revealed in the Scripture, and as evidencing themselves in their power and efficacy on the minds of them that do believe. It is the practical direction of the consciences of men, in their application unto God by Jesus Christ for deliverance from the curse due unto the apostate state, and peace with him, with the influence of the way thereof unto universal gospel obedience, that is alone to be designed in the handling of this doctrine. And, therefore, unto him that would treat of it in a due manner, it is required that he weigh every thing he asserts in his own mind and experience, and not dare to propose that unto others which he does not abide by himself, in the most intimate recesses of his mind, under his nearest approaches unto God, in his surprisals with dangers, in deep afflictions, in his preparations for death, and most humble contemplations of the infinite distance between God and him. Other notions and disputations about the doctrine of justification, not seasoned with these ingredients, however condited unto the palate of some by skill and language, are insipid and useless, immediately degenerating into an unprofitable strife of words.

3. I know that the doctrine here pleaded for is charged by many with an unfriendly aspect towards the necessity of personal holiness, good works, and all gospel obedience in general, yea, utterly to take it away. So it was at the first clear revelation of it by the apostle Paul, as he frequently declares. But it is sufficiently evinced by him to be the chief principle of, and motive unto, all that obedience which is accepted with God through Jesus Christ, as we shall manifest afterwards. However, it is acknowledged that the objective grace of the gospel, in the doctrine of it, is liable to abuse, where there is nothing of the subjective grace of it in the hearts of men; and the ways of its influence into the life of God are uncouth unto the reasonings of carnal minds. So was it charged by the Papists, at the first Reformation, and continues yet so to be. Yet, as it gave the first occasion unto the Reformation itself, so was it that whereby the souls of men, being set at liberty from their bondage unto innumerable superstitious fears and observances, utterly inconsistent with true gospel obedience, and directed into the ways of peace with God through Jesus Christ, were made fruitful in real holiness, and to abound in all those blessed effects of the life of God which were never found among their adversaries. The same charge as afterwards renewed by the Socinians, and continues still to be managed by them. But I suppose wise and impartial men will not lay much weight on their accusations, until they have manifested the efficacy of their contrary persuasion by better effects and fruits than yet they have done. What sort of men they were who first coined that system of religion which they adhere unto, one who knew them well enough, and sufficiently inclined unto their Antitrinitarian opinions, declares in one of the queries that he proposed unto Socinus himself and his followers. “If this,” says he, “be the truth which you contend for, whence comes it to pass that it is declared only by persons ‘nulla pietatis commendatione, nullo laudato prioris vitæ exemplo commendatos; imo ut plerumque videmus, per vagabundos, et contentionum zeli carnalis plenos homines, alios ex castris, aulis, ganeis, prolatam esse. Scrupuli ab excellenti viro propositi, inter oper. Socin.’ ” The fiercest charges of such men against any doctrines they oppose as inconsistent with the necessary motives unto godliness, are a recommendation of it unto the minds of considerative men. And there cannot be a more effectual engine plied for the ruin of religion, than for men to declaim against the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and other truths concerning the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as those which overthrow the necessity of moral duties, good works, and gospel obedience; whilst, under the conduct of the opinions which they embrace in opposition unto them, they give not the least evidence of the power of the truth or grace of the gospel upon their own hearts, or in their lives. Whereas, therefore, the whole gospel is the truth which is after godliness, declaring and exhibiting that grace of God which teaches us “to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly in this world;” we being fallen into those times wherein, under great and fierce contests about notions, opinions, and practices in religion, there is a horrible decay in true gospel purity and holiness of life amongst the generality of men, I shall readily grant that, keeping a due regard unto the only standard of truth, a secondary trial of doctrines proposed and contended for may and ought to be made, by the ways, lives, walkings, and conversations of them by whom they are received and professed. And although it is acknowledged that the doctrine pleaded in the ensuing discourse be liable to be abused, yea, turned into licentiousness, by men of corrupt minds, through the prevalence of vicious habits in them (as is the whole doctrine of the grace of God by Jesus Christ); and although the way and means of its efficacy and influence into universal obedience unto God, in righteousness and true holiness, be not discernible without some beam of spiritual light, nor will give an experience of their power unto the minds of men utterly destitute of a principle of spiritual life; yet, if it cannot preserve its station in the church by this rule, of its useful tendency unto the promotion of godliness, and its necessity thereunto, in all them by whom it is really believed and received in its proper light and power, and that in the experience of former and present times, I shall be content that it be exploded.

4. Finding that not a few have esteemed it compliant with their interest to publish exceptions against some few leaves which, in the handling of a subject of another nature, I occasionally wrote many years ago on this subject, I am not without apprehensions, that either the same persons or others of a like temper and principles, may attempt an opposition unto what is here expressly tendered thereon. On supposition of such an attempt, I shall, in one word, let the authors of it know wherein alone I shall be concerned. For, if they shall make it their business to cavil at expressions, to wrest my words, wire-draw inferences and conclusions from them not expressly owned by me, — to revile my person, to catch at advantages in any occasional passages, or other unessential parts of the discourse, — labouring for an appearance of success and reputation to themselves thereby, without a due attendance unto Christian moderation, candour, and ingenuity, — I shall take no more notice of what they say or write than I would do of the greatest impertinencies that can be reported in this world. The same I say concerning oppositions of the like nature unto any other writings of mine, — a work which, as I hear, some are at present engaged in. I have somewhat else to do than to cast away any part of the small remainder of my life in that kind of controversial writings which good men bewail, and wise men deride. Whereas, therefore, the principal design of this discourse is to state the doctrine of justification from the Scripture, and to confirm it by the testimonies thereof, I shall not esteem it spoken against, unless our exposition of Scripture testimonies, and the application of them unto the present argument, be disproved by just rules of interpretation, and another sense of them be evinced. All other things which I conceive necessary to be spoken unto, in order unto the right understanding and due improvement of the truth pleaded for, are comprised and declared in the ensuing general discourses to that purpose. These few things I thought meet to mind the reader of.

J. O.

From my study, May the 30th, 1677.


General considerations previously necessary unto the explanation of the doctrine of justification


First, The general nature of justification — State of the person to be justified antecedently thereunto, Rom. iv. 5; iii. 19; i. 32; Gal. iii. 10; John iii. 18, 36; Gal. iii. 22 — The sole inquiry on that state — Whether it be any thing that is our own inherently, or what is only imputed unto us, that we are to trust unto for our acceptance with God — The sum of this inquiry — The proper ends of teaching and learning the doctrine of justification — Things to be avoided therein

That we may treat of the doctrine of justification usefully unto its proper ends, which are the glory of God in Christ, with the peace and furtherance of the obedience of believers, some things are previously to be considered, which we must have respect unto in the whole process of our discourse. And, among others that might be insisted on to the same purpose, these that ensue are not to be omitted:—

1. The first inquiry in this matter, in a way of duty, is after the proper relief of the conscience of a sinner pressed and perplexed with a sense of the guilt of sin. For justification is the way and means whereby such a person does obtain acceptance before God, with a right and title unto a heavenly inheritance. And nothing is pleadable in this cause but what a man would speak unto his own conscience in that state, or unto the conscience of another, when he is anxious under that inquiry. Wherefore, the person under consideration (that is, who is to be justified) is one who, in himself, is asebēs, Rom. iv. 5, — “ungodly;” and thereon hupodikos tō Theō, chap. iii. 19, — “guilty before God;” that is, obnoxious, subject, liable, tō dikaiōmati tou Theou, chap. i. 32, — to the righteous sentential judgment of God, that “he who committeth sin,” who is any way guilty of it, is “worthy of death.” Hereupon such a person finds himself hupo kataran, Gal. iii. 10, — under “the curse,” and “the wrath of God” therein abiding on him,” John iii. 18, 36. In this condition he is anapologētos, — without plea, without excuse, by any thing in and from himself, for his own relief; his “mouth is stopped,” Rom. iii. 19. For he is, in the judgment of God, declared in the Scripture, sunkekleismenos huphhamartian, Gal. iii. 22, — every way “shut up under sin” and all the consequents of it. Many evils in this condition are men subject unto, which may be reduced unto those two of our first parents, wherein they were represented. For, first, they thought foolishly to hide themselves from God; and then, more foolishly, would have charged him as the cause of their sin. And such, naturally, are the thoughts of men under their convictions. But whoever is the subject of the justification inquired after, is, by various means, brought into his apprehensions who cried, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

2. With respect unto this state and condition of men, or men in this state and condition, the inquiry is, What that is upon the account whereof God pardons all their sins, receives them into his favour, declares or pronounces them righteous and acquitted from all guilt, removes the curse, and turns away all his wrath from them, giving them right and title unto a blessed, immortality or life eternal? This is that alone wherein the consciences of sinners in this estate are concerned. Nor do they inquire after any thing, but what they may have to oppose unto or answer the justice of God in the commands and curse of the law, and what they may betake themselves unto for the obtaining of acceptance with him unto life and salvation.

That the apostle does thus, and no otherwise, state this whole matter, and, in an answer unto this inquiry, declare the nature of justification and all the causes of it, in the third and fourth chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, and elsewhere, shall be afterwards declared and proved. And we shall also manifest, that the apostle James, in the second chapter of his epistle, does not speak unto this inquiry, nor give an answer unto it; but it is of justification in another sense, and to another purpose, whereof he treats. And whereas we cannot either safely or usefully treat of this doctrine, but with respect unto the same ends for which it is declared, and whereunto it is applied in the Scripture, we should not, by any pretences, be turned aside from attending unto this case and its resolution, in all our discourses on this subject; for it is the direction, satisfaction, and peace of the consciences of men, and not the curiosity of notions or subtlety of disputations, which it is our duty to design. And, therefore, I shall, as much as I possibly may, avoid all these philosophical terms and distinctions wherewith this evangelical doctrine has been perplexed rather than illustrated; for more weight is to be put on the steady guidance of the mind and conscience of one believer, really exercised about the foundation of his peace and acceptance with God, than on the confutation of ten wrangling disputers.

3. Now the inquiry, on what account, or for what cause and reason, a man may be so acquitted or discharged of sin, and accepted with God, as before declared, does necessarily issue in this:— Whether it be any thing in ourselves, as our faith and repentance, the renovation of our natures, inherent habits of grace, and actual works of righteousness which we have done, or may do? Or whether it be the obedience, righteousness, satisfaction, and merit of the Son of God our mediator, and surety of the covenant, imputed unto us? One of these it must be, — namely, something that is our own, which, whatever may be the influence of the grace of God unto it, or causality of it, because wrought in and by us, is inherently our own in a proper sense; or something which, being not our own, nor inherent in us, nor wrought by us, is yet imputed unto us, for the pardon of our sins and the acceptation of our persons as righteous, or the making of us righteous in the sight of God. Neither are these things capable of mixture or composition, Rom. xi. 6. Which of these it is the duty, wisdom, and safety of a convinced sinner to rely upon and trust unto, in his appearance before God, is the sum of our present inquiry.

4. The way whereby sinners do or ought to betake themselves unto this relief, on supposition that it is the righteousness of Christ, and how they come to be partakers of, or interested in, that which is not inherently their own, unto as good benefit and as much advantage as if it were their own, is of a distinct consideration. And as this also is clearly determined in the Scripture, so it is acknowledged in the experience of all them that do truly believe. Neither are we in this matter much to regard the senses or arguing of men who were never thoroughly convinced of sin, nor have ever in their own persons “fled for refuge unto the hope set before them.”

5. These things, I say, are always to be attended unto, in our whole disquisition into the nature of evangelical justification; for, without a constant respect unto them, we shall quickly wander into curious and perplexed questions, wherein the consciences of guilty sinners are not concerned; and which, therefore, really belong not unto the substance or truth of this doctrine, nor are to be immixed therewith. It is alone the relief of those who are in themselves hupodikoi tō Theō, — guilty before, or obnoxious and liable to, the judgment of God, — that we inquire after. That this is not any thing in or of themselves, nor can so be, — that it is a provision without them, made in infinite wisdom and grace by the mediation of Christ, his obedience and death therein, — is secured in the Scripture against all contradiction; and it is the fundamental principle of the gospel, Matt. xi. 28.

6. It is confessed that many things, for the declaration of the truth, and the order of the dispensation of God’s grace herein, are necessary to be insisted on, — such are the nature of justifying faith, the place and use of it in justification, and the causes of the new covenant, the true notion of the mediation and suretiship of Christ, and the like; which shall all of them be inquired into. But, beyond what tends directly unto the guidance of the minds and satisfaction of the souls of men, who seek after a stable and abiding foundation of acceptance with God, we are not easily to be drawn unless we are free to lose the benefit and comfort of this most important evangelical truth in needless and unprofitable contentions. And amongst many other miscarriages which men are subject unto, whilst they are conversant about these things, this, in an especial manner, is to be avoided.

7. For the doctrine of justification is directive of Christian practice, and in no other evangelical truth is the whole of our obedience more concerned; for the foundation, reasons, and motives of all our duty towards God are contained therein. Wherefore, in order unto the due improvement of them ought it to be taught, and not otherwise. That which alone we aim (or ought so to do) to learn in it and by it, is how we may get and maintain peace with God, and so to live unto him as to be accepted with him in what we do. To satisfy the minds and consciences of men in these things, is this doctrine to be taught. Wherefore, to carry it out of the understandings of ordinary Christians, by speculative notions and distinctions, is disserviceable unto the faith of the church; yea, the mixing of evangelical revelations with philosophical notions has been, in sundry ages, the poison of religion. Pretence of accuracy, and artificial skill in teaching, is that which gives countenance unto such a way of handling sacred things. But the spiritual amplitude of divine truths is restrained hereby, whilst low, mean, philosophical senses are imposed on them. And not only so, but endless divisions and contentions are occasioned and perpetuated. Hence, when any difference in religion is, in the pursuit of controversies about it, brought into the old of metaphysical respects and philosophical terms, whereof there is polus nomos entha kai entha — sufficient provision for the supply of the combatants on both sides, — the truth for the most part, as unto any concernment of the souls of men therein, is utterly lost and buried in the rubbish of senseless and unprofitable words. And thus, in particular, those who seem to be well enough agreed in the whole doctrine of justification, so far as the Scripture goes before them, and the experience of believers keeps them company, when once they engage into their philosophical definitions and distinctions, are at such an irreconcilable variance among themselves, as if they were agreed on no one thing that does concern it. For as men have various apprehensions in coining such definitions as may be defensible against objections, which most men aim at therein; so no proposition can be so plain, (at least in “materia probabili,”) but that a man ordinarily versed in pedagogical terms and metaphysical notions, may multiply distinctions on every word of it.

8. Hence, there has been a pretence and appearance of twenty several opinions among Protestants about justification, as Bellarmine [1] and Vasquez, [2] and others of the Papists, charge it against them out of Osiander, [3] when the faith of them all was one and the same, Bellar., lib v. cap. 1; Vasq. in 1, 2, quest. 113, disp. 202; whereof we shall speak elsewhere. When men are once advanced into that field of disputation, which is all overgrown with thorns of subtleties, perplexed notions, and futilous terms of art, they consider principally how they may entangle others in it, scarce at all how they may get out of it themselves. And in this posture they oftentimes utterly forget the business which they are about, especially in this matter of justification, — namely, how a guilty sinner may come to obtain favour and acceptance with God. And not only so, but I doubt they oftentimes dispute themselves beyond what they can well abide by, when they return home unto a sedate meditation of the state of things between God and their souls. And I cannot much value their notions and sentiments of this matter, who object and answer themselves out of a sense of their own appearance before God; much less theirs who evidence an open inconformity unto the grace and truth of this doctrine in their hearts and lives.

9. Wherefore, we do but trouble the faith of Christians, and the peace of the true church of God, whilst we dispute about expressions, terms, and notions, when the substance of the doctrine intended may be declared and believed, without the knowledge, understanding, or use of any of them. Such are all those in whose subtle management the captious art of wrangling does principally consist. A diligent attendance unto the revelation made hereof in the Scripture, and an examination of our own experience thereby, is the sum of what is required of us for the right understanding of the truth herein. And every true believer, who is taught of God, knows how to put his whole trust in Christ alone, and the grace of God by him, for mercy, righteousness, and glory, and not at all concern himself with those loads of thorns and briers, which, under the names of definitions, distinctions, accurate notions, in a number of exotic pedagogical and philosophical terms, some pretend to accommodate them withal.

10. The Holy Ghost, in expressing the most eminent acts in our justification, especially as unto our believing, or the acting of that faith whereby we are justified, is pleased to make use of many metaphorical expressions. For any to use them now in the same way, and to the same purpose, is esteemed rude, undisciplinary, and even ridiculous; but on what grounds? He that shall deny that there is more spiritual sense and experience conveyed by them into the hearts and minds of believers (which is the life and soul of teaching things practical), than in the most accurate philosophical expressions, is himself really ignorant of the whole truth in this matter. The propriety of such expressions belongs and is confined unto natural science; but spiritual truths are to be taught, “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” God is wiser than man; and the Holy Ghost knows better what are the most expedient ways for the illumination of our minds with that knowledge of evangelical truths which it is our duty to have and attain, than the wisest of us all. And other knowledge of or skill in these things, than what is required of us in a way of duty, is not to be valued.

It is, therefore, to no purpose to handle the mysteries of the gospel as if Hilcot and Bricot, Thomas and Gabriel, with all the Sententiarists, [4] Summists, and Quodlibetarians of the old Roman peripatetical school, were to be raked out of their graves to be our guides. Especially will they be of no use unto us in this doctrine of justification. For whereas they pertinaciously adhered unto the philosophy of Aristotle, who knew nothing of any righteousness but what is a habit inherent in ourselves, and the acts of it, they wrested the whole doctrine of justification unto a compliance wherewithal. So Pighius [5] himself complained of them, Controv. 2, “Dissimulare non possumus, hanc vel primam doctrinæ Christianæ partem (de justificatione) obscuratam magis quam illustratam a scholasticis, spinosis plerisque quæstionibus, et definitionibus, secundum quas nonnulli magno supercilio primam in omnibus autoritatem arrogantes,” etc.


[1] A cardinal, who, according to Bayle, had “the best pen for controversy of his day.” He was born in Tuscany in 1542, ordained by the celebrated Jansenius in 1569, was professor of theology for seven years at Louvain, in 1576 gave controversial lectures at Rome, was made cardinal in 1599, and archbishop of Capua in 1602; which, three years after, he quitted for Rome, where he died in 1621. His controversial works fill three large folio volumes. His work on the temporal power of the pope was condemned at Paris, because he claimed for the pope the right to depose princes; and yet because he asserted this right to be not direct, but indirect, his book was placed by Pope Sixtus V. on the Index Expurgatorius. — Ed.

[2] A Roman Catholic writer on morals and theology, whose works were published at Leyden in 1620. — Ed.

[3] Andrew Osiander, or in German, Hosemann, was born in Franconia 1498, became a preacher at Nuremburg in 1522, and professor of theology in the University of Königsberg in 1548. He died in 1522. He was among the first of the Protestant divines that broached heretical views. He denied the forensic character of justification, confounded it with sanctification, and held that man is justified not by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in satisfying and obeying the moral law, but by our participation, through faith, in the essential righteousness of Christ as God. He was, nevertheless, an able and learned man, though proud and dogmatic in temper. He wrote a valuable “Harmonia Evangelica.” — Ed.

[4] Sententiarii were scholastic theologians, who commented on the sentences of Lombard. See vol i. p. 224. [Peter Lombard. Born near Novara, in Lombardy — died in 1164, bishop of Paris — called “Magister Sententiarum,” from one of his works, which is a compilation of sentences from the Fathers, arranged so as to form a system of Divinity, and held in high repute during mediæval times. It appeared in 1172.] Summa Theologica, was the scholastic term for a system of divinity. — Ed.

[5] There were two writers, uncle and nephew, of the same name, Pighi, and both born at Campen, in the Dutch province of Overyssel. The uncle (1490–1542) wrote in defence of the Romish hierarchy. — Ed.


Secondly, A due consideration of God, the Judge of all, necessary unto the right stating and apprehension of the doctrine of justification, Rom. viii. 33; Isa. xliii. 25; xlv. 25; Ps. cxliii. 2; Rom. iii. 20 — What thoughts will be ingenerated hereby in the minds of men, Isa. xxxiii. 14; Micah vi. 6, 7; Isa. vi. 5 — The plea of Job against his friends, and before God, not the same, Job xl. 3–5, xliii. 4–6 — Directions for visiting the sick given of old — Testimonies of Jerome and Ambrose — Sense of men in their prayers, Dan. ix. 7, 18; Ps. cxliii. 2, cxxx. 3, 4 — Paraphrase of Austin on that place — Prayer of Pelagius — Public liturgies

Secondly, A due consideration of him with whom in this matter we have to do, and that immediately, is necessary unto a right stating of our thoughts about it. The Scripture expresses it emphatically, that it is “God that justifieth,” Rom. viii. 33; and he assumes it unto himself as his prerogative to do what belongs thereunto. “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins,” Isa. xliii. 25. And it is hard, in my apprehension, to suggest unto him any other reason or consideration of the pardon of our sins, seeing he has taken it on him to do it for his own sake; that is, “for the Lord’s sake,” Dan. ix. 17, in whom “all the seed of Israel are justified,” Isa. xlv. 25. In his sight, before his tribunal, it is that men are justified or condemned. Ps. cxliii. 2, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” And the whole work of justification, with all that belongs thereunto, is represented after the manner of a juridical proceeding before God’s tribunal; as we shall see afterwards. “Therefore,” says the apostle, “by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight,” Rom. iii. 20. However any man be justified in the sight of men or angels by his own obedience, or deeds of the law, yet in his sight none can be so.

Necessary it is unto any man who is to come unto a trial, in the sentence whereof he is greatly concerned, duly to consider the judge before whom he is to appear, and by whom his cause is finally to be determined. And if we manage our disputes about justification without continual regard unto him by whom we must be cast or acquitted, we shall not rightly apprehend what our plea ought to be. Wherefore the greatness, the majesty, the holiness, and sovereign authority of God, are always to be present with us in a due sense of them, when we inquire how we may be justified before him. Yet is it hard to discern how the minds of some men are influenced by the consideration of these things, in their fierce contests for the interest of their own works in their justification: “Precibus aut pretio ut in aliquâ parte hæreant.” But the Scripture does represent unto us what thoughts of him and of themselves, not only sinners, but saints also, have had, and cannot but have, upon near discoveries and effectual conceptions of God and his greatness. Thoughts hereof ensuing on a sense of the guilt of sin, filled our first parents with fear and shame, and put them on that foolish attempt of hiding themselves from him. Nor is the wisdom of their posterity one jot better under their convictions, without a discovery of the promise. That alone makes sinners wise which tenders them relief. At present, the generality of men are secure, and do not much question but that they shall come off well enough, one way or other, in the trial they are to undergo. And as such persons are altogether indifferent what doctrine concerning justification is taught and received; so for the most part, for themselves, they incline unto that declaration of it which best suits their own reason, as influenced with self-conceit and corrupt affections. The sum whereof is, that what they cannot do themselves, what is wanting that they may be saved, be it more or less, shall one way or other be made up by Christ; either the use or the abuse of which persuasion is the greatest fountain of sin in the world, next unto the depravation of our nature. And whatever be, or may be, pretended unto the contrary, persons not convinced of sin, not humbled for it, are in all their ratiocinations about spiritual things, under the conduct of principles so vitiated and corrupted. See Matt. xviii. 3, 4. But when God is pleased by any means to manifest his glory unto sinners, all their prefidences and contrivances do issue in dreadful horror and distress. An account of their temper is given us, Isa. xxxiii. 14, “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” Nor is it thus only with some peculiar sort of sinners. The same will be the thoughts of all guilty persons at some time or other. For those who, through sensuality, security, or superstition, do hide themselves from the vexation of them in this world, will not fail to meet with them when their terror shall be increased, and become remediless. Our “God is a consuming fire;” and men will one day find how vain it is to set their briers and thorns against him in battle array. And we may see what extravagant contrivances convinced sinners will put themselves upon, under any real view of the majesty and holiness of God, Mic. vi. 6, 7, “Wherewith,” says one of them, “shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? will the Lord be pleased with thousand of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Neither shall I ever think them meet to be contended withal about the doctrine of justification who take no notice of these things, but rather despise them.

This is the proper effect of the conviction of sin, strengthened and sharpened with the consideration of the terror of the Lord, who is to judge concerning it. And this is that which, in the Papacy, meeting with an ignorance of the righteousness of God, has produced innumerable superstitious inventions for the appeasing of the consciences of men who by any means fall under the disquietments of such convictions. For they quickly see that nothing of the obedience which God requires of them, as it is performed by them, will justify them before this high and holy God. Wherefore they seek for shelter in contrivances about things that he has not commanded, to try if they can put a cheat upon their consciences, and find relief in diversions.

Nor is it thus only with profligate sinners upon their convictions; but the best of men, when they have had near and efficacious representations of the greatness, holiness, and glory of God, have been cast into the deepest self-abasement, and most serious renunciation of all trust or confidence in themselves. So the prophet Isaiah, upon his vision of the glory of the Holy One, cried out, “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips,” chap. vi. 5; — nor was he relieved but by an evidence of the free pardon of sin, verse 7. So holy Job, in all his contests with his friends, who charged him with hypocrisy, and his being a sinner guilty in a peculiar manner above other men, with assured confidence and perseverance therein, justified his sincerity, his faith and trust in God, against their whole charge, and every parcel of it. And this he does with such a full satisfaction of his own integrity, as that not only he insists at large on his vindication, but frequently appeals unto God himself as unto the truth of his plea; for he directly pursues that counsel, with great assurance, which the apostle James so long after gives unto all believers. Nor is the doctrine of that apostle more eminently exemplified in any one instance throughout the whole Scripture than in him; for he shows his faith by his works, and pleads his justification thereby. As Job justified himself, and was justified by his works, so we allow it the duty of every believer to be. His plea for justification by works, in the sense wherein it is so, was the most noble that ever was in the world, nor was ever any controversy managed upon a greater occasion.

At length this Job is called into the immediate presence of God, to plead his own cause; not now, as stated between him and his friends, whether he were a hypocrite or no, or whether his faith or trust in God was sincere; but as it was stated between God and him, wherein he seemed to have made some undue assumptions on his own behalf. The question was now reduced unto this, — on what grounds he might or could be justified in the sight of God? To prepare his mind unto a right judgment in this case, God manifests his glory unto him, and instructs him in the greatness of his majesty and power. And this he does by a multiplication of instances, because under our temptations we are very slow in admitting right conceptions of God. Here the holy man quickly acknowledged that the state of the case was utterly altered. All his former pleas of faith, hope, and trust in God, of sincerity in obedience, which with so much earnestness he before insisted on, are now quite laid aside. He saw well enough that they were not pleadable at the tribunal before which he now appeared, so that God should enter into judgment with him thereon, with respect unto his justification. Wherefore, in the deepest self-abasement and abhorrence, he betakes himself unto sovereign grace and mercy. For “then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no farther,” Job xl. 3–5. And again, “Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself; and repent in dust and ashes,” chap. xlii. 4–6. Let any men place themselves in the condition wherein now Job was, — in the immediate presence of God; let them attend unto what he really speaks unto them in his word, — namely, what they will answer unto the charge that he has against them, and what will be their best plea before his tribunal, that they may be justified. I do not believe that any man living has more encouraging grounds to plead for an interest in his own faith and obedience, in his justification before God, than Job had; although I suppose he had not so much skill to manage a plea to that purpose, with scholastic notions and distinctions, as the Jesuits have; but however we may be harnessed with subtle arguments and solutions, I fear it will not be safe for us to adventure farther upon God than he durst to do.

There was of old a direction for the visitation of the sick, composed, as they say, by Anselm, [6] and published by Casparus Ulenbergius, [7] which expresses a better sense of these things than some seem to be convinced of:— “Credisne te non posse salvari nisi per mortem Christi? Respondet infirmus, ‘Etiam.’ Tum dicit illi, Age ergo dum superest in te anima, in hâc solâ morte fiduciam tuam constitue; in nullâ aliâ re fiduciam habe, huic morti te totum committe, hâc solâ te totum contege totum immisce te in hac morte, in hac morte totum te involve. Et si Dominus te voluerit judicare, dic, ‘Domine, mortem Domini nostri Jesu Christi objicio inter me et tuum judicium, aliter tecum non contendo.’ Et si tibi dixerit quia peccator es, dic, ‘Mortem Domini nostri Jesu Christi pono inter me et peccata mea.’ Si dixerit tibi quod meruisti damnationem; dic, ‘Domine, mortem Domini nostri Jesu Christi obtendo inter te et mala merita mea, ipsiusque merita offero pro merito quod ego debuissem habere nec habeo.’ Si dixerit quod tibi est iratus, dic, ‘Domine, mortem Domini Jesu Christi oppono inter me et iram tuam;’ ” — that is, “Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved but by the death of Christ? The sick man answers, ‘Yes;’ then let it be said unto him, Go to, then, and whilst thy soul abideth in thee, put all thy confidence in this death alone, place thy trust in no other thing; commit thyself wholly to this death, cover thyself wholly with this alone, cast thyself wholly on this death, wrap thyself wholly in this death. And if God would judge thee, say, ‘Lord, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and thy judgment; and otherwise I will not contend or enter into judgment with thee.’ And if he shall say unto thee that thou art a sinner, say, ‘I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and my sins.’ If he shall say unto thee that thou hast deserved damnation, say, ‘Lord, I put the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and all my sins; and I offer his merits for my own, which I should have, and have not.’ If he say that he is angry with thee, say, ‘Lord, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and thy anger.’ ” Those who gave these directions seem to have been sensible of what it is to appear before the tribunal of God, and how unsafe it will be for us there to insist on any thing in ourselves. Hence are the words of the same Anselm in his Meditations: “Conscientia mea meruit damnationem, et pœnitentia mea non sufficit ad satisfactionem; set certum est quod misericordia tua superat omnem offensionem;” — “My conscience has deserved damnation, and my repentance is not sufficient for satisfaction; but most certain it is that thy mercy aboundeth above all offence.” And this seems to me a better direction than those more lately given by some of the Roman church; — such as the prayer suggested unto a sick man by Johan. Polandus, lib. Methodus in adjuvandis morientibus: “Domine Jesu, conjunge, obsecro, obsequium meum cum omnibus quæ tu egisti, et passus es ex tam perfecta charitate et obedientia. Et cum divitiis satisfactionum et meritorum dilectionis, patri æterno, illud offere digneris.” Or that of a greater author, Antidot. Animæ, fol. 17, “Tu hinc o rosea martyrum turba offer pro me, nunc et in hora mortis meæ, merita, fidelitatum, constantiæ, et pretiosi sanguinis, cum sanguine agni immaculati, pro omnium salute effusi.” Jerome, long before Anselm, spake to the same purpose: “Cum dies judicii aut dormitionis advenerit, omnes manus dissolventur; quibus dicitur in alio loco, confortamini manus dissolutæ; dissolventur autem manus, quia nullum opus dignum Dei justitia reperiatur, et non justificabitur in conspectu ejus omnis vivens, unde propheta dicit in psalmo, ‘Si iniquitates attendas Domine, quis sustinebit,’ ” lib. 6 in Isa. xiii. 6, 7; — “When the day of judgment or of death shall come, all hands will be dissolved” (that is, faint or fall down); “unto which it is said in another place, ‘Be strengthened, ye hands that hang down.’ But all hands shall be melted down” (that is, all men’s strength and confidence shall fail them), “because no works shall be found which can answer the righteousness of God; for no flesh shall be justified in his sight. Whence the prophet says in the psalm, ‘If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquity, who should stand?’ ” “And Ambrose, to the same purpose: “Nemo ergo sibi arroget, nemo de meritis glorietur, nemo de potestate se jactet, omnes speremus per Dominum Jesum misericordiam invenire, quoniam omnes ante tribunal ejus stabimus. De illo veniam, de illo indulgentiam postulabo. Quænam spes alia peccatoribus?” in Ps. cxix. Resh, — “Let no man arrogate any thing unto himself, let no man glory in his own merits or good deeds, let no man boast of his power: let us all hope to find mercy by our Lord Jesus; for we shall all stand before his judgment-seat. Of him will I beg pardon, of him will I desire indulgence; what other hope is there for sinners?”

Wherefore, if men will be turned off from a continual regard unto the greatness, holiness, and majesty of God, by their inventions in the heat of disputation; if they do forget a reverential consideration of what will become them, and what they may betake themselves unto when they stand before his tribunal; they may engage into such apprehensions as they dare not abide by in their own personal trial. For “how shall man be just with God?” Hence it has been observed, that the schoolmen themselves, in their meditations and devotional writings, wherein they had immediate thoughts of God, with whom they had to do, did speak quite another language as to justification before God than they do in their wrangling, philosophical, fiery disputes about it. And I had rather learn what some men really judge about their own justification from their prayers than their writings. Nor do I remember that I did ever hear any good man in his prayers use any expressions about justification, pardon of sin, and righteousness before God, wherein any plea from any thing in ourselves was introduced or made use of. The prayer of Daniel has, in this matter, been the substance of their supplications: “O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces. We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; for thine own sake, O my God,” Dan. ix. 7, 18, 19. Or that of the psalmist, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified,” Ps. cxliii. 2. Or, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared,” Ps. cxxx. 3, 4. On which words the exposition of Austin is remarkable, speaking of David, and applying it unto himself: “Ecce clamat sub molibus iniquitatum suarum. Circumspexit se, circumspexit vitam suam, vidit illam undique flagitiis coopertam; quacunque respexit, nihil in se boni invenit: et cum tanta et tam multa peccata undique videret, tanquam expavescens, exclamavit, ‘Si iniquitates observaris Domine, quis sustinebit?’ Vidit enim prope totam vitam humanam circumlatrari peccatis; accusari omnes conscientias cogitationius suis; non inveniri cor castum præsumens de justitia; quod quia inveniri non potest, præsumat ergo omnium cor de misericordi Domini Dei sui, et dicat Deo, ‘Si iniquitates observaris Domine, Domine quis sustinebit?’ Quæ autem est spes? quoniam apud te propitiatio est.” And whereas we may and ought to represent unto God, in our supplications, our faith, or what it is that we believe herein, I much question whether some men can find in their hearts to pray over and plead before him all the arguments and distinctions they make use of to prove the interest of our works and obedience in our justification before him, or “enter into judgment” with him upon the conclusions which they make from them. Nor will many be satisfied to make use of that prayer which Pelagius taught the widow, as it was objected to him in the Diospolitan Synod: “Tu nosti, Domine, quam sanctæ, quam innocentes, quam puræ ab omni fraude et rapina quas ad te expando manus; quam justa, quam immaculata labia et ab omni mendacio libera, quibus tibi ut mihi miserearis preces fundo;” — “Thou knowest, O Lord, how holy, how innocent, how pure from all deceit and rapine, are the hands which I stretch forth unto thee; how just, how unspotted with evil, how free from lying, are those lips wherewith I pour forth prayers unto thee, that thou wouldst have mercy on me.” And yet, although he taught her so to plead her own purity, innocency, and righteousness before God, he does it not as those whereon she might be absolutely justified, but only as the condition of her obtaining mercy. Nor have I observed that any public liturgies (the mass-book only excepted, wherein there is a frequent recourse unto the merits and intercession of saints) do guide men in their prayers before God to plead any thing for their acceptance with him, or as the means or condition thereof, but grace, mercy, — the righteousness and blood of Christ alone.

Wherefore I cannot but judge it best (others may think of it as they please), for those who would teach or learn the doctrine of justification in a due manner, to place their consciences in the presence of God, and their persons before his tribunal, and then, upon a due consideration of his greatness, power, majesty, righteousness, holiness, — of the terror of his glory and sovereign authority, to inquire what the Scripture and a sense of their own condition direct them unto as their relief and refuge, and what plea it becomes them to make for themselves. Secret thoughts of God and ourselves, retired meditations, the conduct of the spirit in humble supplications, deathbed preparations for an immediate appearance before God, faith and love in exercise on Christ, speak other things, for the most part, than many contend for.


[6] Anselm was born in 1033, at Aosta, in Piedmont, became archbishop of Canterbury in 1093, and died in 1109. His works extend to three folio volumes. He spent a troubled life in maintaining the usurpations of the clergy and the church against the kings of England. He developed very fully the doctrine of substitution in the atonement. See his treatise, Cur Deus-homo?Ed.

[7] An author who published a catechism of Roman Catholic doctrine at Cologne in 1582. — Ed.


Thirdly, A due sense of our apostasy from God, the depravation of our nature thereby, with the power and guilt of sin, the holiness of the law, necessary unto a right understanding of the doctrine of justification — Method of the apostle to this purpose, Rom. i., ii., iii. — Grounds of the ancient and present Pelagianism, in the denial of these things — Instances thereof — Boasting of perfection from the same ground — Knowledge of sin and grace mutually promote each other

Thirdly. A clear apprehension and due sense of the greatness of our apostasy from God, of the depravation of our natures thereby, of the power and guilt of sin, of the holiness and severity of the law, are necessary unto a right apprehension of the doctrine of justification. Therefore, unto the declaration of it does the apostle premise a large discourse, thoroughly to convince the minds of all that seek to be justified with a sense of these things, Rom. i., ii., iii. The rules which he has given us, the method which he prescribes, and the ends which he designs, are those which we shall choose to follow. And he lays it down in general, “That the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;” and that “the just shall live by faith,” chap. i. 17. But he declares not in particular the causes, nature, and way of our justification, until he has fully evinced that all men are shut up under the state of sin, and manifested how deplorable their condition is thereby; and in the ignorance of these things, in the denying or palliating of them, he lays the foundation of all misbelief about the grace of God. Pelagianism, in its first root, and all its present branches, is resolved whereinto. For, not apprehending the dread of our original apostasy from God, nor the consequence of it in the universal depravation of our nature, they disown any necessity either of the satisfaction of Christ or the efficacy of divine grace for our recovery or restoration. So upon the matter the principal ends of the mission both of the Son of God and of the Holy Spirit are renounced; which issues in the denial of the deity of the one and the personality of the other. The fall which we had being not great, and the disease contracted thereby being easily curable, and there being little or no evil in those things which are now unavoidable unto our nature, it is no great matter to he freed or justified from all by a mere act of favour on our own endeavours; nor is the efficacious grace of God any way needful unto our sanctification and obedience; as these men suppose.

When these or the like conceits are admitted, and the minds of men by them kept off from a due apprehension of the state and guilt of sin, and their consciences from being affected with the terror of the Lord, and curse of the law thereon, justification is a notion to be dealt withal pleasantly or subtlety, as men see occasion. And hence arise the differences about it at present, — I mean those which are really such, and not merely the different ways whereby learned men express their thoughts and apprehensions concerning it.

By some the imputation of the actual apostasy and transgression of Adam, the head of our nature, whereby his sin became the sin of the world, is utterly denied. Hereby both the grounds the apostle proceeds on in evincing the necessity of our justification, or our being made righteous by the obedience of another, and all the arguments brought in the confirmation of the doctrine of it, in the fifth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, are evaded and overthrown. Socinus, de Servator. par. iv. cap. 6, confesses that place to give great countenance unto the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; and therefore he sets himself to oppose, with sundry artifices, the imputation of the sin of Adam unto his natural posterity. For he perceived well enough that, upon the admission thereof, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto his spiritual seed would unavoidably follow, according unto the tenor of the apostle’s discourse.

Some deny the depravation and corruption of our nature, which ensued on our apostasy from God, and the loss of his image; or, if they do not absolutely deny it, yet they so extenuate it as to render it a matter of no great concern unto us. Some disease and distemper of the soul they will acknowledge, arising from the disorder of our affections, whereby we are apt to receive in such vicious habits and customs as are in practice in the world; and, as the guilt hereof is not much, so the danger of it is not great. And as for any spiritual filth or stain of our nature that is in it, it is clean washed away from all by baptism. That deformity of soul which came upon us in the loss of the image of God, wherein the beauty and harmony of all our faculties, in all their acting in order unto their utmost end, did consist; that enmity unto God, even in the mind, which ensued thereon; that darkness which our understandings were clouded, yea, blinded withal, — the spiritual death which passed on the whole soul, and total alienation from the life of God; that impotency unto good, that inclination unto evil, that deceitfulness of sin, that power and efficacy of corrupt lusts, which the Scriptures and experience so fully charge on the state of lost nature, are rejected as empty notions or fables. No wonder if such persons look upon imputed righteousness as the shadow of a dream, who esteem those things which evidence its necessity to be but fond imaginations. And small hope is there to bring such men to value the righteousness of Christ, as imputed to them, who are so unacquainted with their own unrighteousness inherent in them. Until men know themselves better, they will care very little to know Christ at all.

Against such as these the doctrine of justification may be defended, as we are obliged to contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints, and as the mouths of gainsayers are to be stopped; but to endeavour their satisfaction in it, whilst they are under the power of such apprehensions, is a vain attempt. As our Saviour said unto them unto whom he had declared the necessity of regeneration, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you heavenly things?” so may we say, If men will not believe those things, whereof it would be marvellous, but that the reason of it is known, that they have not an undeniable evidence and experience in themselves, how can they believe those heavenly mysteries which respect a supposition of that within themselves which they will not acknowledge?

Hence some are so far from any concernment in a perfect righteousness to be imputed unto them, as that they boast of a perfection in themselves. So did the Pelagians of old glory in a sinless perfection in the sight of God, even when they were convinced of sinful miscarriages in the sight of men; as they are charged by Jerome, lib. ii. Dialog.; and by Austin, lib. 2 contra Julian., cap. 8. Such persons are not “subjecta capacia auditionis evangelicæ.” Whilst men have no sense in their own hearts and consciences of the spiritual disorder of their souls, of the secret continual acting of sin with deceit and violence, obstructing all that is good, promoting all that is evil, defiling all that is done by them through the lusting of the flesh against the Spirit, as contrary unto it, though no outward perpetration of sin or actual omission of duty do ensue thereon, who are not engaged in a constant watchful conflict against the first motions of sin, — unto whom they are not the greatest burden and sorrow in this life, causing them to cry out for deliverance from them, — who can despise those who make acknowledgments in their confession unto God of their sense of these things, with the guilt wherewith they are accompanied, — [they] will, with an assured confidence, reject and condemn what is offered about justification through the obedience and righteousness of Christ imputed to us. For no man will be so fond as to be solicitous of a righteousness that is not his own, who has at home in a readiness that which is his own, which will serve his turn. It is, therefore, the ignorance of these things alone that can delude men into an apprehension of their justification before God by their own personal righteousness. For if they were acquainted with them, they would quickly discern such an imperfection in the best of their duties, such a frequency of sinful irregularities in their minds and disorders in their affections, such an unsuitableness in all that they are and do, from the inward frames of their hearts unto all their outward actions, unto the greatness and holiness of God, as would abate their confidence in placing any trust in their own righteousness for their justification.

By means of these and the like presumptuous conceptions of unenlightened minds, the consciences of men are kept off from being affected with a due sense of sin, and a serious consideration how they may obtain acceptance before God. Neither the consideration of the holiness or terror of the Lord, nor the severity of the law, as it indispensably requires a righteousness in compliance with its commands; nor the promise of the gospel, declaring and tendering a righteousness, the righteousness of God, in answer whereunto; nor the uncertainty of their own minds upon trials and surprisals, as having no stable ground of peace to anchor on; nor the constant secret disquietment of their consciences, if not seared or hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, can prevail with them whose thought are prepossessed with such slight conceptions of the state and art of sin to fly for refuge unto the only hope that is set before them, or really and distinctly to comport with the only way of deliverance and salvation.

Wherefore, if we would either teach or learn the doctrine of justification in a due manner, a clear apprehension of the greatness of our apostasy from God, a due sense of the guilt of sin, a deep experience of its power, all with respect unto the holiness and law of God, are necessary unto us. We have nothing to do in this matter with men, who, through the fever of pride, have lost the understanding of their own miserable condition. For, “Natura sic apparet vitiata, ut hoc majoris vitii sit non videre,” Austin. The whole need not the physician, but the sick. Those who are pricked unto the heart for sin, and cry out, “What shall we do to be saved?” will understand what we have to say. Against others we must defend the truth, as God shall enable. And it may be made good by all sorts of instances, that as men rise in their notions about the extenuation of sin, so they fall in their regard unto the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is no less true also, on the other hand, as unbelief works in men a disesteem of the person and righteousness of Christ, they are cast inevitably to seek for countenance unto their own consciences in the extenuation of sin. So insensibly are the minds of men diverted from Christ, and seduced to place their confidence in themselves. Some confused respect they have unto him, as a relief they know not how nor wherein; but they live in that pretended height of human wisdom, to trust to themselves. So they are instructed to do by the best of the philosophers: “Unum bonum est, quod beatæ vitæ causa et firmamentum est, sibi fidere,” Senec. Epist. xxxi. Hence, also, is the internal sanctifying grace of God, among many, equally despised with the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. The sum of their faith, and of their arguments in the confirmation of it, is given by the learned Roman orator and philosopher. “Virtutem,” says he, “nemo unquam Deo acceptam retulit; nimirum rectè. Propter virtutem enim jure landamur, et in virtute rectè gloriamur, quod non contingeret, si donum a Deo, non a nobis haberemus,” Tull. de Nat. Deor.


Fourthly, Opposition between works and grace, as unto justification — Method of the apostle, in the Epistle to the Romans, to manifest this opposition — A scheme of others contrary thereunto — Testimonies witnessing this opposition — Judgment to be made on them — Distinctions whereby they are evaded — The uselessness of them — Resolution of the case in hand by Bellarmine, Dan. ix. 18; Luke xvii. 10

Fourthly. The opposition that the Scripture makes between grace and works in general, with the exclusion of the one and the assertion of the other in our justification, deserves a previous consideration. The opposition intended is not made between grace and works, or our own obedience, as unto their essence, nature, and consistency, in the order and method of our salvation; but only with respect unto our justification. I do not design herein to plead any particular testimonies of Scripture, as unto their especial sense, or declaration of the mind of the Holy Ghost in them, which will afterward be with some diligence inquired into; but only to take a view which way the eye of the Scripture guides our apprehensions, and what compliance there is in our own experience with that guidance.

The principal seat of this doctrine, as will be confessed by all, is in the Epistles of Paul unto the Romans and Galatians, whereunto that also to the Hebrews may be added: but in that unto the Romans it is most eminently declared; for therein is it handled by the apostle ex professo at large, and that both doctrinally and in the way of controversy with them by whom the truth was opposed. And it is worth our consideration what process he makes towards the decoration of it, and what principles he proceeds upon therein.

He lays it down as the fundamental maxim which he would proceed upon, or as a general thesis, including the substance of what he designed to explain and prove, that in the gospel the “righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith,” Rom. i. 17. All sorts of men who had any knowledge of God and themselves, were then, as they must be always, inquiring, and in one degree or other labouring, after righteousness. For this they looked on, and that justly, as the only means of an advantageous relation between God and themselves. Neither had the generality of men any other thoughts, but that this righteousness must be their own, — inherent in them, and performed by them; as Rom. x. 3. For as this is the language of a natural conscience and of the law, and suited unto all philosophical notions concerning the nature of righteousness; so whatever testimony was given of another kind in the law and the prophets (as such a testimony is given unto a “righteousness of God without the law,” chap. iii. 21), there was a vail upon it, as to the understanding of all sorts of men. As, therefore, righteousness is that which all men seek after, and cannot but seek after, who design or desire acceptance with God; so it is in vain to inquire of the law, of natural conscience, of philosophical reason, after any righteousness but what consists in inherent habits and acts of our own. Neither law, nor natural conscience, nor reason, do know any other. But in opposition unto this righteousness of our own, and the necessity thereof, testified unto by the law in its primitive constitution, by the natural light of conscience, and the apprehension of the nature of things by reason, the apostle declares, that in the gospel there is revealed another righteousness, which is also the righteousness of another, the righteousness of God, and that from faith to faith. For not only is the righteousness itself reveals alien from those other principles, but also the manner of our participation of it, or its communication unto us, “from faith to faith” (the faith of God in the revelation, and our faith in the acceptation of it, being only here concerned), is an eminent revelation. Righteousness, of all things, should rather seem to be from works unto works, — from the work of grace in us to the works of obedience done by us, as the Papists affirm. “No,” says the apostle, “it is ‘from faith to faith;’ ” whereof afterward.

This is the general thesis the apostle proposes unto confirmation; and he seems therein to exclude from justification every thing but the righteousness of God and the faith of believers. And to this purpose he considers all persons that did or might pretend unto righteousness, or seek after it, and all ways and means whereby they hoped to attain unto it, or whereby it might most probably be obtained, declaring the failing of all persons, and the insufficiency of all means as unto them, for the obtaining a righteousness of our own before God. And as unto persons, —

1. He considers the Gentiles, with all their notions of God, their practice in religious worship, with their conversation thereon: and from the whole of what might be observed amongst them, he concludes, that they neither were nor could be justified before God; but that they were all, and most deservedly, obnoxious unto the sentence of death. And whatever men may discourse concerning the justification and salvation of any without the revelation of the righteousness of God by the gospel, “from faith to faith,” it is expressly contradictory to his whole discourse, chap. i., from verse 19 to the end.

2. He considers the Jews, who enjoyed the written law, and the privileges wherewith it was accompanied, especially that of circumcision, which was the outward seal of God’s covenant: and on many considerations, with many arguments, he excludes them also from any possibility of attaining justification before God, by any of the privileges they enjoyed, or their own compliance wherewithal, chap. ii. And both sorts he excludes distinctly from this privilege of righteousness before God, with this one argument, that both of them sinned openly against that which they took for the rule of their righteousness, — namely, the Gentiles against the light of nature, and the Jews against the law; whence it inevitably follows, that none of them could attain unto the righteousness of their own rule. But he proceeds farther, unto that which is common to them all; and, —

3. He proves the same against all sorts of persons, whether Jews or gentiles, from the consideration of the universal depravation of nature in them all, and the horrible effects that necessarily ensue thereon in the hearts and lives of men, chap. iii; so evidencing that as they all were, so it could not fall out but that all must be shut up under sin, and come short of righteousness. So, from persons he proceeds to things, or means of righteousness. And, —

4. Because the law was given of God immediately, as the whole and only rule of our obedience unto him, and the works of the law are therefore all that is required of us, these may be pleaded with some pretence, as those whereby we may be justified. Wherefore, in particular, he considers the nature, use, and end of the law, manifesting its utter insufficiency to be a means of our justification before God, chap. iii. 19, 20.

5. It may be yet objected, that the law and its works may be thus insufficient, as it is obeyed by unbelievers in the state of nature, without the aids of grace administered in the promise; but with respect unto them who are regenerate and do believe, whose faith and works are accepted with God, it may be otherwise. To obviate this objection, he gives an instance in two of the most eminent believers under the Old Testament, — namely, Abraham and David, declaring that all works whatever were excluded in and from their justification, chap. iv.

On these principles, and by this gradation, he peremptorily concludes that all and every one of the sons of men, as unto any thing that is in themselves, or can be done by them, or be wrought in them, are guilty before God, obnoxious unto death, shut up under sin, and have their mouths so stopped as to be deprived of all pleas in their own excuse; that they had no righteousness wherewith to appear before God; and that all the ways and means whence they expected it were insufficient unto that purpose.

Hereon he proceeds with his inquiry, how men may be delivered from this condition, and come to be justified in the sight of God. And in the resolution hereof he makes no mention of any thing in themselves, but only faith, whereby we receive the atonement. That whereby we are justified, he says, is “the righteousness of God which is by the faith of Christ Jesus;” or, that we are justified “freely by grace through the redemption that is in him,” chap. iii. 22–24. And not content here with this answer unto the inquiry how lost convinced sinners may come to be justified before God, — namely, that it is by the “righteousness of God, revealed from faith to faith, by grace, by the blood of Christ,” as he is set forth for a propitiation, — he immediately proceeds unto a positive exclusion of every thing in and of ourselves that might pretend unto an interest herein, as that which is inconsistent with the righteousness of God as revealed in the gospel, and witnessed unto by the law and the prophets. How contrary their scheme of divinity is unto this design of the apostle, and his management of it, who affirm, that before the law, men were justified by obedience unto the light of nature, and some particular revelations made unto them in things of their own especial private concernment; and that after the giving of the law, they were so by obedience unto God according to the directions thereof! as also, that the heathen might obtain the same benefit in compliance with the dictates of reason, — cannot be contradicted by any who have not a mind to be contentious.

Answerable unto this declaration of the mind of the Holy Ghost herein by the apostle, is the constant tenor of the Scripture speaking to the same purpose. The grace of God, the promise of mercy, the free pardon of sin, the blood of Christ, his obedience, and the righteousness of God in him, rested in and received by faith, are everywhere asserted as the causes and means of our justification, in opposition unto any thing in ourselves, so expressed as it uses to express the best of our obedience, and the utmost of our personal righteousness. Wherever mention is made of the duties, obedience, and personal righteousness of the best of men, with respect unto their justification, they are all renounced by them, and they betake themselves unto sovereign grace and mercy alone. Some places to this purpose may be recounted.

The foundation of the whole is laid in the first promise; wherein the destruction of the work of the devil by the suffering of the seed of the woman is proposed as the only relief for sinners, and only means of the recovery of the favour of God. “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” Gen. iii. 15. “Abraham believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness,” Gen. xv. 6. “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat; and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited,” Lev. xvi. 21, 22. “I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only,” Ps. lxxi. 16. “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared,” Ps. cxxx. 3, 4. “Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified,” Ps. cxliii. 2. “Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust?” Job iv. 18, 19. “Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me,” Isa. xxvii. 4, 5. “Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength: in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory,” chap. xlv. 24, 25. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities,” chap. liii. 6, 11. “This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness,” Jer. xxiii. 6. “But ye are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” Isa. lxiv. 6. “He shall finish the transgression, and make an end of sins, and make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness,” Dan. ix. 24. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” John i. 12. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life,” chap. iii. 14, 15. “Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” Acts xiii. 38, 39. “That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me,” chap. xxvi. 18. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” Rom. iii. 24–28. “For if Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scriptures 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 to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as 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,” chap. iv. 2–8. “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous,” chap. v. 15–19. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” chap. viii. 1–4. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” chap. x. 4. “And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work,” chap. xi. 6. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” 1 Cor. i. 30. “For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Cor. v. 21. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh he justified,” Gal. ii. 16. “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” chap. iii. 11–13. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” Eph. ii. 8–10. “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” Phil. iii. 8, 9. “Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” 2 Tim. i. 9. “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” Tit. iii. 7. “Once in the end of the world has he appeared, to put away sin,” Heb. ix. 26, 28. “Having by himself purged our sins,” chap. i. 3. “For by one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified,” chap. x. 14. “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin,” 1 John i. 7. Wherefore, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen,” Rev. i. 5, 6.

These are some of the places which at present occur to remembrance, wherein the Scripture represents unto us the grounds, causes, and reasons, of our acceptation with God. The especial import of many of them, and the evidence of truth that is in them, will be afterwards considered. Here we take only a general view of them. And every thing in and of ourselves, under any consideration whatever, seems to be excluded from our justification before God, faith alone excepted, whereby we receive his grace and the atonement. And, on the other side, the whole of our acceptation with him seems to be assigned unto grace, mercy, the obedience and blood of Christ; in opposition unto our own worth and righteousness, or our own works and obedience. And I cannot but suppose that the soul of a convinced sinner, if not prepossessed with prejudice, will, in general, not judge amiss whether of these things, that are set in opposition one to the other, he should betake himself unto, that he may be justified.

But it is replied, — These things are not to be understood absolutely, and without limitations. Sundry distinctions are necessary, that we may come to understand the mind of the Holy Ghost and sense of the Scripture in these ascriptions unto grace, and exclusions of the law, our own works and righteousness from our justification. For, — 1. The law is either the moral or the ceremonial law. The latter, indeed, is excluded from any place in our justification, but not the former. 2. Works required by the law are either wrought before faith, without the aid of grace; or after believing, by the help of the Holy Ghost. The former are excluded from our justification, but not the latter. 3. Works of obedience wrought after grace received may be considered either as sincere only, or absolutely perfect, according to what was originally required in the covenant of works. Those of the latter sort are excluded from any place in our justification, but not those of the former. 4. There is a twofold justification before God in this life, — a first and a second; and we must diligently consider with respect unto whether of these justifications any thing is spoken in the Scripture. 5. Justification may be considered either as to its beginning or as unto its continuation; — and so it has divers causes under these diverse respects. 6. Works may be considered either as meritorious ex condigno, so as their merit should arise from their own intrinsic worth; or ex congruo only, with respect unto the covenant and promise of God. Those of the first sort are excluded, at least from the first justification: the latter may have place both in the first and second. 7. Moral causes may be of many sorts: preparatory, dispository, meritorious, conditionally efficient, or only sine quibus non. And we must diligently inquire in what sense, under the notion of what cause or causes, our works are excluded from our justification, and under what notions they are necessary thereunto. And there is no one of these distinctions but it needs many more to explain it; which, accordingly, are made use of by learned men. And so specious a colour may be put on these things, when warily managed by the art of disputation, that very few are able to discern the ground of them, or what there is of substance in that which is pleaded for; and fewer yet, on whether side the truth does lie. But he who is really convinced of sin, and, being also sensible of what it is to enter into judgment with the holy God, inquires for himself, and not for others, how he may come to be accepted with him, will be apt, upon the consideration of all these distinctions and sub-distinctions wherewith they are attended, to say to their authors, “Fecistis probè, incertior sum multo, quam dudum.” My inquiry is, How shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? How shall I escape the wrath to come? What shall I plead in judgment before God, that I may be absolved, acquitted, justified? Where shall I have a righteousness that will endure a trial in his presence? If I should be harnessed with a thousand of these distinctions, I am afraid they would prove thorns and briers, which he would pass through and consume.

The inquiry, therefore is, upon the consideration of the state of the person to be justified, before mentioned and described, and the proposal of the reliefs in our justification as now expressed, whether it be the wisest and safest course for such a person seeking to be justified before God, to betake himself absolutely, his whole trust and confidence, unto sovereign grace, and the mediation of Christ, or to have some reserve for, or to place some confidence in, his own graces, duties, works, and obedience? In putting this great difference unto umpirage, that we may not be thought to fix on a partial arbitrator we shall refer it to one of our greatest and most learned adversaries in this cause. And he positively gives us in his determination and resolution in those known words, in this case: “Propter incertitudinem propriæ justitiæ, et periculum inanis gloriæ, tutissimum est fiduciam totam in solâ misericordiâ Dei et benignitate reponere,” Bellar. de Justificat., lib. v. cap. 7, prop. 3; — “By reason of the uncertainty of our own righteousness, and the danger of vain glory, it is the safest course to repose our whole trust in the mercy and kindness or grace of God alone.”

And this determination of this important inquiry he confirms with two testimonies of Scripture, as he might have done it with many more. But those which he thought meet to mention are not impertinent. The first is Dan. ix. 18, “We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies;” and the other is that of our Saviour, Luke xvii. 10, “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants.” And after he has confirmed his resolution with sundry testimonies of the fathers, he closes his discourse with this dilemma: “Either a man has true merits, or he has not. If he has not, he is perniciously deceived when he trusts in any thing but the mercy of God alone, and seduces himself, trusting in false merits; if he has them, he loses nothing whilst he looks not to them, but trusts in God alone. So that whether a man have any good works or no, as to his justification before God, it is best and safest for him not to have any regard unto them, or put any trust in them.” And if this be so, he might have spared all his pains he took in writing his sophistical books about justification, whose principal design is to seduce the minds of men into a contrary opinion. And so, for aught I know, they may spare their labour also, without any disadvantage unto the church of God or their own souls, who so earnestly contend for some kind of interest or other for our own duties and obedience in our justification before God; seeing it will be found that they place their own whole trust and confidence in the grace of God by Jesus Christ alone. For to what purpose do we labour and strive with endless disputations, arguments, and distinctions, to prefer our duties and obedience unto some office in our justification before God, if; when we have done all, we find it the safest course in our own persons to abhor ourselves with Job in the presence of God, to betake ourselves unto sovereign grace and mercy with the publican, and to place all our confidence in them through the obedience and blood of Christ?

So died that great emperor, Charles V, as Thuanus [8] gives the account of his Novissima. So he reasoned with himself: “Se quidem indignum esse, qui propriis meritis regnum cœlorum obtineret; set Dominum Deum suum qui illud duplici jure obtineat, et Patris hæreditate, et passionis merito, altero contentum esse, alterum sibi donare; ex cujus dono illud sibi merito vendicet, hacque fiducia fretus minime confundatur; neque enim oleum misericordiæ nisi in vase fiduciæ poni; hanc hominis fiduciam esse a se deficientis et innitentis domino suo; alioquin propriis meritis fidere, non fidei esse sed perfidiæ; peccata deleri per Dei indulgentiam, ideoque credere nos debere peccata deleri non posse nisi ab eo cui soli peccavimus, et in quem peccatum non cadit, per quem solum nobis peccata condonentur;” — “That in himself he was altogether unworthy to obtain the kingdom of heaven by his own works or merits; but that his Lord God, who enjoyed it on a double right or title, by inheritance of the Father, and the merit of his own passion, was contented with the one himself, and freely granted unto him the other; on whose free grant he laid claim thereunto, and in confidence thereof he should not be confounded; for the oil of mercy is poured only into the vessel of faith or trust: that this is the trust of a man despairing in himself, and resting in his Lord; otherwise, to trust unto his own works or merits, is not faith, but treachery: that sins are blotted out by the mercy of God; and therefore we ought to believe that our sins can be pardoned by him alone, against whom alone we have sinned, with whom there is no sin, and by whom alone sins are forgiven.”

This is the faith of men when they come to die, and those who are exercised with temptations whilst they live. Some are hardened in sin, and endeavour to leave this world without thoughts of another; some are stupidly ignorant, who neither know nor consider what it is to appear in the presence of God, and to be judged by him; some are seduced to place their confidence in merits, pardons, indulgences, and future suffrages for the dead: but such as are acquainted with God and themselves in any spiritual manner, who take a view of the time that is past, and approaching eternity, into which they must enter by the judgment-seat of God, however they may have thought, talked, and disputed about their own works and obedience, looking on Christ and his righteousness only to make up some small defects in themselves, will come at last unto a universal renunciation of what they have been, and are, and betake themselves unto Christ alone for righteousness or salvation. And in the whole ensuing discourse I shall as little as is possible immix myself in any curious scholastical disputes. This is the substance of what is pleaded for, — that men should renounce all confidence in themselves, and every thing that may give countenance whereunto; betaking themselves unto the grace of God by Christ alone for righteousness and salvation. This God designs in the gospel, 1 Cor. i. 29–31; and herein, whatever difficulties we may meet withal in the explication of some propositions and terms that belong unto the doctrine of justification, about which men have various conceptions, I doubt not of the internal concurrent suffrage of them who know any thing as they ought of God and themselves.


[8] For a notice of Thuanus, see vol. viii. 612. [Jacques-Auguste de Thou, born at Paris in 1553, was made one of the presidents of the Parlement de Paris in 1594. The first eighteen books of his History were published in 1604. Though a Roman Catholic, he gives a candid and graphic description of the horrors of St Bartholemew’s day; on which account, and for other similar reasons, his work was placed on the “Index Expurgatorius,” in 1609.] — Ed.


Fifthly, A commutation as unto sin and righteousness, by imputation, between Christ and believers, represented in the Scripture — The ordinance of the scapegoat, Lev. xvi. 21, 22 — The nature of expiatory sacrifices, Lev. iv. 29, etc. — Expiation of an uncertain murder, Deut. xxi. 1–9 — The commutation intended proved and vindicated, Isa. liii. 5, 6; 2 Cor. v. 21; Rom. viii. 3, 4; Gal. iii. 13, 14; 1 Pet. ii. 24; Deut. xxi. 23 — Testimonies of Justin Martyr, Gregory Nyssen, Augustine, Chrysostom, Bernard, Taulerus, Pighius, to that purpose — The proper actings of faith with respect thereunto, Rom. v. 11; Matt. xi. 28; Ps. xxxviii. 4; Gen. iv. 13; Isa. liii. 11; Gal. iii. 1; Isa. xlv. 22; John iii. 14, 15 — A bold calumny answered

Fifthly. There is in the Scripture represented unto us a commutation between Christ and believers, as unto sin and righteousness; that is, in the imputation of their sins unto him, and of his righteousness unto them. In the improvement and application hereof unto our own souls, no small part of the life and exercise of faith does consist.

This was taught the church of God in the offering of the scapegoat: “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities,” Lev. xvi. 21, 22. Whether this goat sent away with this burden upon him did live, and so was a type of the life of Christ in his resurrection after his death; or whether he perished in the wilderness, being cast down the precipice of a rock by him that conveyed him away, as the Jews suppose; it is generally acknowledged, that what was done to him and with him was only a representation of what was done really in the person of Jesus Christ. And Aaron did not only confess the sins of the people over the goat, but he also put them all on his head, וְנָתַן אֹתָם עַל־רֹאשׁ הַשָּׂעִיר, — “And he shall give them all to be on the head of the goat.” In answer whereunto it is said, that he bare them all upon him. This he did by virtue of the divine institution, wherein was a ratification of what was done. He did not transfuse sin from one subject into another, but transferred the guilt of it from one to another; and to evidence this translation of sin from the people unto the sacrifice, in his confession, “he put and fixed both his hands on his head.” Thence the Jews say, “that all Israel was made as innocent on the day of expiation as they were on the day of creation;” from verse 30. Wherein they came short of perfection or consummation thereby the apostle declares, Heb. x. But this is the language of every expiatory sacrifice, “Quod in ejus caput sit;” — “Let the guilt be on him.” Hence the sacrifice itself was called חַטָּאת and אָשָׁם, — “sin” and “guilt,” Lev. iv. 29; vii. 2; x. 17. And therefore, where there was an uncertain murder, and none could be found that was liable to punishment thereon, that guilt might not come upon the land, nor the sin be imputed unto the whole people, a heifer was to be slain by the elders of the city that was next unto the place where the murder was committed, to take away the guilt of it, Deut. xxi. 1–9. But whereas this was only a moral representation of the punishment due to guilt, and no sacrifice, the guilty person being not known, those who slew the heifer did not put their hands on him, so as to transfer their own guilt to him, but washed their hands over him, to declare their personal innocence. By these means, as in all other expiatory sacrifices, did God instruct the church in the transferring of the guilt of sin unto Him who was to bear all their iniquities, with their discharge and justification thereby.

So “God laid on Christ the iniquities of us all,” that “by his stripes we might be healed,” Isa. liii. 5, 6. Our iniquity was laid on him, and he bare it, verse 11; and through his bearing of it we are freed from it. His stripes are our healing. Our sin was his, imputed unto him; his merit is ours, imputed unto us. “He was made sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might become the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Cor. v. 21. This is that commutation I mentioned: he was made sin for us; we are made the righteousness of God in him. God not imputing sin unto us, verse 19, but imputing righteousness unto us, does it on this ground alone that “he was made sin for us.” And if by his being made sin, only his being made a sacrifice for sin is intended, it is to the same purpose; for the formal reason of any thing being made an expiatory sacrifice, was the imputation of sin unto it by divine institution. The same is expressed by the same apostle, Rom. viii. 3, 4, “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” The sin was made his, he answered for it; and the righteousness which God requires by the law is made ours: the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, not by our doing it, but by his. This is that blessed change and commutation wherein alone the soul of a convinced sinner can find rest and peace. So he “has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham might come on us,” Gal. iii. 13, 14. The curse of the law contained all that was due to sin. This belonged unto us; but it was transferred on him. He was made a curse; whereof his hanging on a tree was the sign and token. Hence he is said to “bear our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. ii. 24; because his hanging on the tree was the token of his bearing the curse: “For he that is hanged is the curse of God,” Deut. xxi. 23. And in the blessing of faithful Abraham all righteousness and acceptation with God is included; for Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.

But because some, who, for reasons best known unto themselves, do take all occasions to except against my writings, have in particular raised an impertinent clamour about somewhat that I formerly delivered to this purpose, I shall declare the whole of my judgment herein in the words of some of those whom they can pretend no quarrel against, that I know of.

The excellent words of Justin Martyr deserve the first place: Autos ton idion huion apedoto lutron huper hēmōn, ton hagion huper anomōn, ton akakon huper tōn kakōn, ton dikaion huper tōn adikōn, ton aphtharton huper tōn phthartōn, ton athanaton huper tōn thnētōn; ti gar allo tas hamartias hēmōn ēdunēthē kalupsai, ē ekeinou dikaiosunē? en tini dikaiōthēnai dunaton tous anomous hēmas kai asebeis, ē en monō tō huiō tou Theou? ō tēs glukeias antallagēs, ō tēs anexichniastou dēmiourgias, ō tōn aprosdokētōn euergesiōn; hina anomia men pollōn en dikaiō heni krubē, dikaiosunē de henos pollous anomous dikaiōsē, Epist. ad Diognet.; — “He gave his Son a ransom for us; — the holy for transgressors; the innocent for the nocent; the just for the unjust; the incorruptible for the corrupt; the immortal for mortals. For what else could hide or cover our sins but his righteousness? In whom else could we wicked and ungodly ones be justified, or esteemed righteous, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet permutation, or change! O unsearchable work, or curious operation! O blessed beneficence, exceeding all expectations that the iniquity of many should be hid in one just one, and the righteousness of one should justify many transgressors.” And Gregory Nyssen speaks to the same purpose: Metatheis gar pros eauton ton tōn hēmōn hamartiōn rhupon, metedōke moi tēs heautou katharotētos, koinōnon me tou heautou kallous apergasamenos, Orat. 2 in Cant.; — “He has transferred unto himself the filth of my sins, and communicated unto me his purity, and made me partaker of his beauty.” So Augustine, also: “Ipse peccatum ut nos justitia, nec nostra sed Dei, nec in nobis sed in ipso; sicut ipse peccatum, non suum sed nostrum, nec in se sed in nobis constitutum,” Enchirid. ad Laurent., cap. xli.; — “He was sin, that we might be righteousness; not our own, but the righteousness of God; not in ourselves, but in him; as he was sin, not his own, but ours, — not in himself, but in us.” The old Latin translation renders those words, Ps. xxii. 1, דִּבְרֵי שַׁאֲגָתִי — “Verba delictorum meorum.” He thus comments on the place: “Quomodo ergo dicit, ‘Delictorum meorum?’ nisi quia pro delictis nostris ipse precatur; et delicta nostra delicta sua fecit, ut justitiam suam nostram justitiam faceret;” — “How says he, ‘Of my sins?’ Because he prayeth for our sins; he made our sins to be his, that he might make his righteousness to be ours. Ō tēs glukeias antallagēs; — “O sweet commutation and change!” And Chrysostom, to the same purpose, on those words of the apostle, — “That we might be made the righteousness of God in him:” Poios tauta logos, poios, tauta parastēsai dunēsetai nous? ton gar dikaion, phēsin, epoiēsen hamartōlon, hina tous hamartōlous poiēsē dikaious; mallon dē oude houtōs eipen; allho pollō meizon ēn; ou gar hexin ethēken, allautēn tēn tanonta monon, alla ton mēde gnonta amartian; hina kai hēmeis genōmetha, ouk eipe, dikaioi, alla dikaiosunē, kai Theou dikaiosunē, Theou gar estin hautē, hotan mē ex ergōn (hotan kai kēlida anankē tina mē heurethēnai) allapo charitos dikaiōthōmen, entha pasa hamartia ēphanistai, 2 Epist. ad Corinth. cap. v. Hom. 11; — “What word, what speech is this? What mind can comprehend or express it? For he says, ‘He made him who was righteous to be made a sinner, that he might make sinners righteous.’ Nor yet does he say so neither, but that which is far more sublime and excellent; for he speaks not of an inclination or affection, but expresses the quality itself. For he says not, he made him a sinner, but sin; that we might be made, not merely righteous, but righteousness, and that the righteousness of God, when we are justified not by works (for if we should, there must be no spot found in them), but by grace, whereby all sin is blotted out.” So Bernard also, Epist. cxc., ad Innocent:— “Homo siquidem qui debuit; homo qui solvit. Nam ‘si unus,’ inquit, ‘pro omnibus mortuus est, ergo omnes mortui sunt;’ ut videlicet satisfactio unius omnibus imputetur, sicut omnium peccata unus ille portavit: nec alter jam inveniatur, qui forisfecit, [9] alter qui satisfecit; quia caput et corpus unus est Christus.” And many more speak unto the same purpose. Hence Luther, before he engaged in the work of reformation, in an epistle to one George Spenlein, a monk, was not afraid to write after this manner: “Mi dulcis frater, disce Christum et hunc crucifixum, disce ei cantare, et de teipso desperans dicere ei; tu Domine Jesu es justitia mea, ego autem sum peccatum tuum; tu assumpsisti meum, et dedisti mihi tuum; assumpsisti quod non eras, et dedisti mihi quod non eram. Ipse suscepit te et peccata tua fecit sua, et suam justitiam fecit tuam; maledictus qui hæc non credit!Epist. an. 1516, tom. 1.

If those who show themselves now so quarrelsome almost about every word that is spoken concerning Christ and his righteousness, had ever been harassed in their consciences about the guilt of sin, as this man was, they would think it no strafe matter to speak and write as he did. Yea, some there are who have lived and died in the communion of the church of Rome itself, that have given their testimony unto this truth. So speaks Taulerus, Meditat. Vitæ Christ. cap vii.Christus omnia mundi peccata in se recepit, tantumque pro illis ultro sibi assumpsit dolerem cordis, ac si ipse ea perpetrasset;” — “Christ took upon him all the sins of the world, and willingly underwent that grief of heart for them, as if he himself had committed them.” And again, speaking in the person of Christ: “Quandoquidem peccatum Adæ multum abire non potest, obsecro te Pater cœlestis, ut ipsum in me vindices. Ego enim omnia illius peccata in me recipio. Si hæc iræ tempestas, propter me orta est, mitte me in mare amarissimæ passionis;” — “Whereas the great sin of Adam cannot go away, I beseech thee, heavenly Father, punish it in me. For I take all his sins upon myself. If, then, this tempest of anger be risen for me, cast me into the sea of my most bitter passion.” See, in the justification of these expressions, Heb. x. 5–10. The discourse of Albertus Pighius to this purpose, though often cited and urged, shall be once again repeated, both for its worth and truth, as also to let some men see how fondly they have pleased themselves in reflecting on some expressions of mine, as though I had been singular in them. His words are, after others to the same purpose: “Quoniam quidem inquit (apostolus) Deus erat in Christo, mundum reconcilians sibi, non imputans hominibus sua delicta, et deposuit apud nos verbum reconciliationis; in illo ergo justificamur coram Deo, non in nobis; non nostrâ sed illius justitiâ, quæ nobis cum illo jam communicantibus imputatur. Propriæ justitiæ inopes, extra nos, in illo docemur justitiam quærere. Cum inquit, ui peccatum non noverat, pro nobis peccatum fecit; hoc est, hostiam peccati expiatricem, ut nos efficeremur justitia Dei in ipso, non nostrâ, sed Dei justitiâ justi efficimur in Christo; quo jure? Amicitiæ, quæ communionem omnium inter amicos facit, juxta vetus et celebratissimum proverbium; Christo insertis, conglutinatis, et unitis, et sua nostra facit, suas divitias nobis communicat, suam justitiam inter Patris judicium et nostram injustitiam interponit, et sub ea veluti sub umbone ac clypeo a divina, quam commeruimus, ira nos abscondit, tuetur ac protegit; imo eandem nobis impertit et nostram facit, qua tecti ornatique audacter et secure jam divino nos sistamus tribunali et judicio: justique non solum appareamus, sed etiam simus. Quemadmodum enim unius delicto peccatores nos etiam factos affirmat apostolus: ita unius Christi justitiam in justificandis nobis omnibus efficacem esse; et sicut per inobedientiam unius hominis peccatores constituti sunt multi, sic per obedientiam unius justi (inquit) constituentur multi. Hæc est Christi justitia, ejus obedientia, qua voluntatem Patris sui perfecit in omnibus; sicut contrà nostra injustitia est nostra inobedientia, et mandatorum Dei prævaricatio. In Christi autem obedientia quod nostra collocatur justitia inde est, quod nobis illi incorporatis, ac si nostra esset, accepta ea fertur: ut eâ ipsâ etiam nos justi habeamur. Et velut ille quondam Jacob, quum nativitate primogenitus non esset, sub habitu fratris occultatus, atque ejus veste indutus, quæ odorem optimum spirabat, seipsum insinuavit patri, ut sub aliena persona benedictionem primogenituræ acciperet: ita et nos sub Christi primogeniti fratris nostri preciosa puritate delitescere, bono ejus odore fragrare, ejus perfectione vitia nostra sepeliri et obtegi, atque ita nos piissimo Patri ingerere, ut justitiæ benedictionem ab eodem assequamur, necesse est.” And afterwards: “Justificat ergo nos Deus Pater bonitate suâ gratuitâ, qua nos in Christo complectitur, dum eidem insertos innocentiâ et justitiâ Christi nos induit; quæ una et vera et perfecta est, quæ Dei sustinere conspectum potest, ita unam pro nobis sisti oportet tribunali divini judicii et veluti causæ nostræ intercessorem eidem repræsentari: qua subnixi etiam hic obtineremus remissionem peccatorum nostrorum assiduam: cujus puritate velatæ non imputantur nobis sordes nostræ, imperfectionum immunditiæ, sed veluti sepultæ conteguntur, ne in judicium Dei veniant: donec confecto in nobis, et plane extincto veteri homine, divina bonitas nos in beatam pacem cum novo Adam recipiat;” — “ ‘God was in Christ,’ says the apostle, ‘reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto men their sins,’ [‘and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.’] In him, therefore, we are justified before God; not in ourselves, not by our own, but by his righteousness, which is imputed unto us, now communicating with him. Wanting righteousness of our own, we are taught to seek for righteousness without ourselves, in him. So he says, ‘Him who knew no sin, he made to be sin for us’ (that is, an expiatory sacrifice for sin), ‘that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’ We are made righteous in Christ, not with our own, but with the righteousness of God. By what right? the right of friendship, which makes all common among friends, according unto the ancient celebrated proverb. Being ingrafted into Christ, fastened, united unto him, he makes his things ours, communicates his riches unto us, interposes his righteousness between the judgment of God and our unrighteousness: and under that, as under a shield and buckler, he hides us from that divine wrath which we have deserved, he defends and protects us therewith; yea, he communicates it unto us and makes it ours, so as that, being covered and adorned therewith, we may boldly and securely place ourselves before the divine tribunal and judgment, so as not only to appear righteous, but so to be. For even as the apostle affirms, that by one man’s fault we were all made sinners, so is the righteousness of Christ alone efficacious in the justification of us all: ‘And as by the disobedience of one man many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man,’ says he, ‘many are made righteous.’ This is the righteousness of Christ, even his obedience, whereby in all things he fulfilled the will of his Father; as, on the other hand, our unrighteousness is our disobedience and our transgression of the commands of God. But that our righteousness is placed in the obedience of Christ, it is from hence, that we being incorporated into him, it is accounted unto us as if it were ours; so as that therewith we are esteemed righteous. And as Jacob of old, whereas he was not the first-born, being hid under the habit of his brother, and clothed with his garment, which breathed a sweet savour, presented himself unto his father, that in the person of another he might receive the blessing of the primogeniture; so it is necessary that we should lie hid under the precious purity of the First-born, our eldest brother, be fragrant with his sweet savour, and have our sin buried and covered with his perfections, that we may present ourselves before our most holy Father, to obtain from him the blessing of righteousness.” And again: “God, therefore, does justify us by his free grace or goodness, wherewith he embraces us in Christ Jesus, when he clotheth us with his innocence and righteousness, as we are ingrafted into him; for as that alone is true and perfect which only can endure in the sight of God, so that alone ought to be presented and pleaded for us before the divine tribunal, as the advocate of or plea in our cause. Resting hereon, we here obtain the daily pardon of sin; with whose purity being covered, our filth, and the uncleanness of our imperfections are not imputed unto us, but are covered as if they were buried, that they may not come into the judgment of God; until, the old man being destroyed and slain in us, divine goodness receives us into peace with the second Adam.” So far he, expressing the power which the influence of divine truth had on his mind, contrary to the interest of the cause wherein he was engaged, and the loss of his reputation with them; for whom in all other things he was one of the fiercest champions. And some among the Roman church, who cannot bear this assertion of the commutation of sin and righteousness by imputation between Christ and believers, no more than some among ourselves, do yet affirm the same concerning the righteousness of other men: “Mercaturam quandam docere nos Paulus videtur. Abundatis, inquit, vos pecunia, et estis inopes justitiæ; contra, illi abundant justitia et sunt inopes pecuniæ; fiat quædam commutatio; date vos piis egentibus pecuniam quæ vobis affluit, et illis deficit; sic futurum est, ut illi vicissim justitiam suam qua abundant, et qua vos estis destituti, vobis communicent.” Hosius, [10] De Expresso Dei Verbo, tom. 2 p. 21. But I have mentioned these testimonies, principally to be a relief unto some men’s ignorance, who are ready to speak evil of what they understand not.

This blessed permutation as unto sin and righteousness is represented unto us in the Scripture as a principal object of our faith, — as that whereon our peace with God is founded. And although both these (the imputation of sin unto Christ, and the imputation of righteousness unto us) be the acts of God, and not ours, yet are we by faith to exemplify them in our own souls, and really to perform what on our part is required unto their application unto us; whereby we receive “the atonement,” Rom. v. 11. Christ calls unto him all those that “labour and are heavy laden,” Matt. xi. 28. The weight that is upon the consciences of men, wherewith they are laden, is the burden of sin. So the psalmist complains that his “sins were a burden too heavy for him,” Ps. xxxviii. 4. Such was Cain’s apprehension of his guilt, Gen. iv. 13. This burden Christ bare, when it was laid on him by divine estimation. For so it is said, וַעֲוֹנֹתָם הוּא יִסְבֹּל, Isa. liii. 11, — “He shall bear their iniquities” on him as a burden. And this he did when God made to meet upon him “the iniquity of us all,” verse 6. In the application of this unto our own souls, as it is required that we be sensible of the weight and burden of our sins and how it is heavier than we can bear; so the Lord Christ calls us unto him with it, that we may be eased. This he does in the preachings of the gospel, wherein he is “evidently crucified before our eyes,” Gal. iii. 1. In the view which faith has of Christ crucified (for faith is a “looking unto him,” Isa. xlv. 22; lxv. 1, answering their looking unto the brazen serpent who were stung with fiery serpents, John iii. 14, 15), and under a sense of his invitation (for faith is our coming unto him, upon his call and invitation) to come unto him with our burdens, a believer considers that God has laid all our iniquities upon him; yea, that he has done so, is an especial object whereon faith is to act itself, which is faith in his blood. Hereon does the soul approve of and embrace the righteousness and grace of God, with the infinite condescension and love of Christ himself. It gives its consent that what is thus done is what becomes the infinite wisdom and grace of God; and therein it rests. Such a person seeks no more to establish his own righteousness, but submits to the righteousness of God. Herein, by faith, does he leave that burden on Christ which he called him to bring with him, and complies with the wisdom and righteousness of God in laying it upon him. And herewithal does he receive the everlasting righteousness which the Lord Christ brought in when he made an end of sin, and reconciliation for transgressors.

The reader may be pleased to observe, that I am not debating these things argumentatively, in such propriety of expressions as are required in a scholastic disputation; which shall be done afterwards, so far as I judge it necessary. But I am doing that which indeed is better, and of more importance, — namely, declaring the experience of faith in the expressions of the Scripture, or such as are analogous unto them. And I had rather be instrumental in the communication of light and knowledge unto the meanest believer, than to have the clearest success against prejudiced disputers. Wherefore, by faith thus acting are we justified, and have peace with God. Other foundation in this matter can no man lay, that will endure the trial.

Nor are we to be moved, that men who are unacquainted with these things in their reality and power do reject the whole work of faith herein, as an easy effort of fancy or imagination. For the preaching of the cross is foolishness unto the best of the natural wisdom of men; neither can any understand them but by the Spirit of God. Those who know the terror of the Lord, who have been really convinced and made sensible of the guilt of their apostasy from God, and of their actual sins in that state, and what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God, — seeking thereon after a real solid foundation whereon they may be accepted with him, — have other thoughts of these things, and do find believing a thing to be quite of another nature than such men suppose. It is not a work of fancy or imagination unto men, to deny and abhor themselves, to subscribe unto the righteousness of God in denouncing death as due to their sins, to renounce all hopes and expectations of relief from any righteousness of their own, to mix the word and promise of God concerning Christ and righteousness by him with faith, so as to receive the atonement, and wherewithal to give up themselves unto a universal obedience unto God. And as for them unto whom, through pride and self-conceit on the one hand, or ignorance on the other, it is so, we have in this matter no concernment with them. For unto whom these things are only the work of fancy, the gospel is a fable.

Something unto this purpose I had written long since, in a practical discourse [11] concerning “Communion with God.” And whereas some men of an inferior condition have found it useful, for the strengthening themselves in their dependencies on some of their superiors, or in compliance with their own inclinations, to cavil at my writings and revile their author, that book has been principally singled out to exercise their faculty and good intentions upon. This course is steered of late by one Mr Hotchkis, in a book about justification, wherein, in particular, be falls very severely on that doctrine, which, for the substance of it, is here again proposed, p. 81. And were it not that I hope it may be somewhat useful unto him to be a little warned of his immoralities in that discourse, I should not in the least have taken notice of his other impertinencies. The good man, I perceive, can be angry with persons whom he never saw, and about things which he can not or will not understand, so far as to revile them with most opprobrious language. For my part, although I have never written any thing designedly on this subject, or the doctrine of justification, before now, yet he could not but discern, by what was occasionally delivered in that discourse, that I maintain no other doctrine herein but what was the common faith of the most learned men in all Protestant churches. And the reasons why I am singled out for the object of his petulancy and spleen are too manifest to need repetition. But I shall yet inform him of what, perhaps, he is ignorant, — namely, that I esteem it no small honour that the reproaches wherewith the doctrine opposed by him is reproached do fall upon me. And the same I say concerning all the reviling and contemptuous expressions that his ensuing pages are filled withal. But as to the present occasion, I beg his excuse if I believe him not, that the reading of the passages which he mentions out of my book filled him with “horror and indignation,” as he pretends. For whereas he acknowledges that my words may have a sense which he approves of (and which, therefore, must of necessity be good and sound), what honest and sober person would not rather take them in that sense, then wrest them unto another, so as to cast himself under the disquietment of a fit of horrible indignation? In this fit I suppose it was, if such a fit, indeed, did befall him (as one evil begets another), that he thought he might insinuate something of my denial of the necessity of our own personal repentance and obedience. For no man who had read that book only of all my writings, could, with the least regard to conscience or honesty, give countenance unto such a surmise, unless his mind was much discomposed by the unexpected invasion of a fit of horror. But such is his dealing with me from first to last; nor do I know where to fix on any one instance of his exceptions against me, wherein I can suppose he had escaped his pretended fit and was returned unto himself, — that is, unto honest and ingenuous thoughts; wherewith I hope he is mostly conversant. But though I cannot miss in the justification of this charge by considering any instance of his reflections, yet I shall at present take that which he insists longest upon, and fills his discourse about it with most scurrility of expressions. And this is in the 164th page of his book, and those that follow; for there he disputes fiercely against me for making this to be an undue end of our serving God, — namely, that we may flee from the wrath to come. And who would not take this for an inexpiable crime in any, especially in him who has written so much of the nature and use of threatening under the gospel, and the fear that ought to be in generated by them in the hearts of men, as I have done? Wherefore so great a crime being the object of them all, his revilings seem not only to be excused but allowed. But what if all this should prove a wilful prevarication, not becoming a good man, much less a minister of the gospel? My words, as reported and transcribed by himself, are these: “Some there are that do the service of the house of God as the drudgery of their lives; the principle they yield obedience upon is a spirit of bondage unto fear; the rule they do it by is the law in its dread and rigour, exacting it of them to the utmost without mercy or mitigation; the end they do it for is to fly from the wrath to come, to pacify conscience, and to seek for righteousness as it were by the works of the law.” [12] What follow unto the same purpose he omits, and what he adds as my words are not so, but his own; ubi pudor, ubi fides? That which I affirmed to be a part of an evil end, when and as it makes up one entire end, by being mixed with sundry other things expressly mentioned, is singled out, as if I had denied that in any sense it might be a part of a good end in our obedience: which I never thought, I never said; I have spoken and written much to the contrary. And yet, to countenance himself in this disingenuous procedure, besides many other untrue reflections, he adds that I insinuate, that those whom I describe are Christians that seek righteousness by faith in Christ, p. 167. I must needs tell this author that my faith in this matter is, that such works as these will have no influence in his justification; and that the principal reason why I suppose I shall not, in my progress in this discourse, take any particular notice of his exceptions, either against the truth or me, — next unto this consideration, that they are all trite and obsolete, and, as to what seems to be of any force in them, will occur unto me in other authors from whom they are derived, — is, that I may not have a continual occasion to declare how forgetful he has been of all the rules of ingenuity, yea, and of common honesty, in his dealing with me. For that which gave the occasion unto this present unpleasing digression, — it being no more, as to the substance of it, but that our sins were imputed unto Christ, and that his righteousness is imputed unto us, — it is that in the faith whereof I am assured I shall live and die, though he should write twenty as learned books against it as those which he has already published; and in what sense I do believe these things shall be afterwards declared. And although I judge no men upon the expressions that fall from them in polemical writings, wherein, on many occasions, they do affront their own experience, and contradict their own prayers; yet, as to those who understand not that blessed commutation of sins and righteousness, as to the substance of it, which I have pleaded for, and the acting of our faith with respect thereunto, I shall be bold to say, “that if the gospel be hid, it is hid to them that perish.”


[9] Forisfacio, a word of monkish Latinity, signifying to sin or offend. — Ed

[10] Stanislaus Hosius was a Roman Catholic author. His collected works passed though several editions, of which the earliest seems to have been one published at Paris in 1552. His treatise, “De Expresso Dei Verbo,” was also published separately in 1610. — Ed.

[11] See vol. ii. of his works. — Ed.

[12] See Owen on Communion with God, vol. ii. of his works. — Ed.


Sixthly, Introduction of grace by Jesus Christ into the whole of our relation unto God, and its respect unto all the parts of our obedience — No mystery of grace in the covenant of works — All religion originally commensurate unto reason — No notions of natural light concerning the introduction of the mediation of Christ and mystery of grace, into our relation to God, Eph. i. 17–19 — Reason, as corrupted, can have no notions of religion but what are derived from its primitive state — Hence the mysteries of the gospel esteemed folly — Reason, as corrupted, repugnant unto the mystery of grace — Accommodation of spiritual mysteries unto corrupt reason, wherefore acceptable unto many — Reasons of it — Two parts of corrupted nature’s repugnancy unto the mystery of the gospel:— 1. That which would reduce it unto the private reason of men — Thence the Trinity denied, and the incarnation of the Son of God; without which the doctrine of justification cannot stand — Rule of the Socinians in the interpretation of the Scripture. 2. Want of a due comprehension of the harmony that is between all the parts of the mystery of grace — This harmony proved — Compared with the harmony in the works of nature — To be studied — But it is learned only of them who are taught of God; and in experience — Evil effects of the want of a due comprehension hereof — Instances of them — All applied unto the doctrine of justification

Sixthly. We can never state our thoughts aright in this matter, unless we have a clear apprehension of, and satisfaction in, the introduction of grace by Jesus Christ into the whole of our relation unto God, with its respect unto all parts of our obedience. There was no such thing, nothing of that nature or kind, in the first constitution of that relation and obedience by the law of our creation. We were made in a state of immediate relation unto God in our own persons, as our creator, preserver, and rewarder. There was no mystery of grace in the covenant of works. No more was required unto the consummation of that state but what was given us in our creation, enabling us unto rewardable obedience. “Do this, and live,” was the sole rule of our relation unto God. There was nothing in religion originally of that which the gospel celebrates under the name of the grace, kindness, and love of God, whence all our favourable relation unto God does now proceed, and whereinto it is resolved; nothing of the interposition of a mediator with respect unto our righteousness before God, and acceptance with him; — which is at present the life and soul of religion, the substance of the gospel, and the centre of all the truths revealed in it. The introduction of these things is that which makes our religion a mystery, yea, a “great mystery,” if the apostle may be believed, 1 Tim. iii. 16. All religion at first was suited and commensurable unto reason; but being now become a mystery, men for the most part are very unwilling to receive it. But so it must be; and unless we are restored unto our primitive rectitude, a religion suited unto the principles of our reason (of which it has none but what answer that first state) will not serve our turns.

Wherefore, of this introduction of Christ and grace in him into our relation unto God, there are no notions in the natural conceptions of our minds; nor are they discoverable by reason in the best and utmost of its exercise, 1 Cor. ii. 14. For before our understanding were darkened, and our reason debased by the fall, there were no such things revealed or proposed unto us; yea, the supposition of them is inconsistent with, and contradictory unto, that whole state and condition wherein we were to live to God, — seeing they all suppose the entrance of sin. And it is not likely that our reason, as now corrupted, should be willing to embrace that which it knew nothing of in its best condition, and which was inconsistent with that way of attaining happiness which was absolutely suited unto it: for it has no faculty or power but what it has derived from that state; and to suppose it is now of itself suited and ready to embrace such heavenly mysteries of truth and grace as it had no notions of, nor could have, in the state of innocence, is to suppose that by the fall our eyes were opened to know good and evil, in the sense that the serpent deceived our first parents with an expectation of. Whereas, therefore, our reason was given us for our only guide in the first constitution of our natures, it is naturally unready to receive what is above it; and, as corrupted, has an enmity thereunto.

Hence, in the first open proposal of this mystery, — namely, of the love and grace of God in Christ, of the introduction of a mediator and his righteousness into our relation unto God, in that way which God in infinite wisdom had designed, — the whole of it was looked on as mere folly by the generality of the wise and rational men of the world, as the apostle declares at large, 1 Cor. i.; neither was the faith of them ever really received in the world without an act of the Holy Ghost upon the mind in its renovation. And those who judge that there is nothing more needful to enable the mind of man to receive the mysteries of the gospel in a due manner but the outward proposal of the doctrine thereof, do not only deny the depravation of our nature by the fall, but, by just consequence, wholly renounce that grace whereby we are to be recovered. Wherefore, reason (as has been elsewhere proved), acting on and by its own innate principles and abilities, conveyed unto it from its original state, and as now corrupted, is repugnant unto the whole introduction of grace by Christ into our relation unto God, Rom. viii. 7. An endeavour, therefore, to reduce the doctrine of the gospel, or what is declared therein concerning the hidden mystery of the grace of God in Christ, unto the principles and inclinations of the minds of men, or reason as it remains in us after the entrance of sin, — under the power, at least, of those notions and conceptions of things religious which it retains from its first state and condition, — is to debase and corrupt them (as we shall see in sundry instances), and so make way for their rejection.

Hence, very difficult it is to keep up doctrinally and practically the minds of men unto the reality and spiritual height of this mystery; for men naturally do neither understand it nor like it: and therefore, every attempt to accommodate it unto the principles and inbred notions of corrupt reason is very acceptable unto many, yea, unto the most; for the things which such men speak and declare, are, without more ado, — without any exercise of faith or prayer, without any supernatural illumination, — easily intelligible, and exposed to the common sense of mankind. But whereas a declaration of the mysteries of the gospel can obtain no admission into the minds of men but by the effectual working of the Spirit of God, Eph. i. 17–19, it is generally looked on as difficult, perplexed, unintelligible; and even the minds of many, who find they cannot contradict it, are yet not at all delighted with it. And here lies the advantage of all them who, in these days, do attempt to corrupt the doctrine of the gospel, in the whole or any part of it; for the accommodation of it unto the common notions of corrupted reason is the whole of what they design. And in the confidence of the suffrage hereof, they not only oppose the things themselves, but despise the declaration of them as enthusiastical canting. And by nothing do they more prevail themselves than by a pretence of reducing all things to reason, and contempt of what they oppose, as unintelligible fanaticism. But I am not more satisfied in any thing of the most uncontrollable evidence, than that the understandings of these men are no just measure or standard of spiritual truth. Wherefore, notwithstanding all this fierceness of scorn, with the pretended advantages which some think they have made by traducing expressions in the writings of some men, it may be improper, it maybe only not suited unto their own genius and capacity in these things, we are not to be “ashamed of the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”

Of this repugnancy unto the mystery of the wisdom and grace of God in Christ, and the foundation of its whole economy, in the distinct operations of the persons of the holy Trinity therein, there are two parts or branches:—

1. That which would reduce the whole of it unto the private reason of men, and their own weak, imperfect management thereof. This is the entire design of the Socinians. Hence, —

(1.) The doctrine of the Trinity itself is denied, impugned, yea, derided by them; and that solely on this account. They plead that it is incomprehensible by reason; for there is in that doctrine a declaration of things absolutely infinite and eternal, which cannot be exemplified in, nor accommodated unto, things finite and temporal. This is the substance of all their pleas against the doctrine of the holy Trinity, that which gives a seeming life and sprightly vigour to their objections against it; wherein yet, under the pretence of the use and exercise of reason, they fall, and resolve all their reasonings into the most absurd and irrational principles that ever the minds of men were besotted withal. For unless you will grant them that what is above their reason, is, therefore, contradictory unto true reason; that what is infinite and eternal is perfectly comprehensible, and in all its concerns and respects to be accounted for; that what cannot be in things finite and of a separate existence, cannot be in things infinite, whose being and existence can be but one; with other such irrational, yea, brutish imaginations; all the arguments of these pretended men of reason against the Trinity become like chaff that every breath of wind will blow away. Hereon they must, as they do, deny the distinct operations of any persons in the Godhead in the dispensation of the mystery of grace; for if there are no such distinct persons, there can be no such distinct operations. Now, as upon a denial of these things no one article of faith can be rightly understood, nor any one duty of obedience be performed unto God in an acceptable manner; so, in particular, we grant that the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ cannot stand.

(2.) On the same ground the incarnation of the Son of God is rejected as atopōn atopōtaton, — the most absurd conception that ever befell the minds of men. Now it is to no purpose to dispute with men so persuaded, about justification; yea, we will freely acknowledge that all things we believe about it are graōdeis muthoi, — no better than old wives’ tales, — if the incarnation of the Son of God be so also. For I can as well understand how he who is a mere man, however exalted, dignified, and glorified, can exercise a spiritual rule in and over the hearts, consciences, and thoughts of all the men in the world, being intimately knowing of and present unto them all equally at all times (which is another of their fopperies), as how the righteousness and obedience of one should be esteemed the righteousness of all that believe, if that one be no more than a man, if he be not acknowledged to be the Son of God incarnate.

Whilst the minds of men are prepossessed with such prejudices, nay, unless they firmly assent unto the truth in these foundations of it, it is impossible to convince them of the truth and necessity of that justification of a sinner which is revealed in the gospel. Allow the Lord Christ to be no other person but what they believe him to be, and I will grant there can be no other way of justification than what they declare; though I cannot believe that ever any sinner will be justified thereby. These are the issues of an obstinate refusal to give way unto the introduction of the mystery of God and his grace into the way of salvation and our relation unto him.

And he who would desire an instance of the fertility of men’s inventions in forging and coining objections against heavenly mysteries, in the justification of the sovereignty of their own reason, as unto what belongs to our relation unto God, need go no farther than the writings of these men against the Trinity and incarnation of the eternal Word. For this is their fundamental rule, in things divine and doctrines of religion, — That not what the Scripture says is therefore to be accounted true, although it seems repugnant unto any reasonings of ours, or is above what we can comprehend; but what seems repugnant unto our reason, let the words of the Scripture be what they will, that we must conclude that the Scripture does not say so, though it seem never so expressly so to do. “Itaque non quia utrumque Scripture dicat, propterea hæc inter se non pugnare concludendum est; sed potius quia hæc inter se pugnant, ideo alterutrum a Scriptura non dici statuendum est,” says Schlichting [13] ad Meisn. Def. Socin. p. 102; — “Wherefore, because the Scripture affirms both these” (that is the efficacy of God’s grace and the freedom of our wills), “we cannot conclude from thence that they are not repugnant; but because these things are repugnant unto one another, we must determine that one of them is not spoken in the Scripture:” — no, it seems, let it say what it will. This is the handsomest way they can take in advancing their own reason above the Scripture; which yet savours of intolerable presumption. So Socinus [14] himself, speaking of the satisfaction of Christ, says, in plain terms: “Ego quidem etiamsi non semel sed sæpius id in sacris monumentis scriptum extaret, non idcirco tamen ita prorsus rem se habere crederem, ut vos opinamini; cum enim id omnino fieri non possit non secus atque in multis aliis Scripturæ Testimoniis, una cum cæteris omnibus facio; aliquâ, quæ minus incommoda videretur, interpretatione adhibitâ, eum sensum ex ejusmodi verbis elicerem qui sibi constaret;” — “For my part, if this (doctrine) were extant and written in the holy Scripture, not once, but often, yet would I not therefore believe it to be so as you do; for where it can by no means be so (whatever the Scripture says), I would, as I do with others in other places, make use of some less incommodious interpretation, whereby I would draw a sense out of the words that should be consistent with itself.” And how he would do this he declares a little before: “Sacra verba in alium sensum, quam verba sonant, per inusitatos etiam tropos quandoque explicantur.” He would explain the words into another sense than what they sound or propose, by unusual tropes. And, indeed, such uncouth tropes does he apply, as so many engines and machines, to pervert all the divine testimonies concerning our redemption, reconciliation, and justification by the blood of Christ.

Having therefore fixed this as their rule, constantly to prefer their own reason above the express words of the Scripture, which must, therefore, by one means or other, be so perverted or wrested as to be made compliant therewith, it is endless to trace them in their multiplied objections against the holy mysteries, all resolved into this one principle, that their reason cannot comprehend them, nor does approve of them. And if any man would have an especial instance of the serpentine wits of men winding themselves from under the power of conviction by the spiritual light of truth, or at least endeavouring so to do, let him read the comments of the Jewish rabbins on Isaiah, chap. liii., and of the Socinians on the beginning of the Gospel of John.

2. The second branch of this repugnancy springs from the want of a due comprehension of that harmony which is in the mystery of grace, and between all the parts of it. This comprehension is the principal effect of that wisdom which believers are taught by the Holy Ghost. For our understanding of the wisdom of God in a mystery is neither an art nor a science, whether purely speculative or more practical, but a spiritual wisdom. And this spiritual wisdom is such as understands and apprehends things, not so much, or not only in the notion of them, as in their power, reality, and efficacy, towards their proper ends. And, therefore, although it may be very few, unless they be learned, judicious, and diligent in the use of means of all sorts, do attain unto it clearly and distinctly in the doctrinal notions of it; yet are all true believers, yea, the meanest of them, directed and enabled by the Holy Spirit, as unto their own practice and duty, to act suitably unto a comprehension of this harmony, according to the promise that “they shall be all taught of God.” Hence, those things which appear unto others contradictory and inconsistent one with another, so as that they are forced to offer violence unto the Scripture and their own experience in the rejection of the one or the other of them, are reconciled in their minds and made mutually useful or helpful unto one another, in the whole course of their obedience. But these things must be farther spoken unto.

Such an harmony as that intended there is in the whole mystery of God. For it is the most curious effect and product of divine wisdom; and it is no impeachment of the truth of it, that it is not discernible by human reason. A full comprehension of it no creature can in this world arise unto. Only, in the contemplation of faith, we may arrive unto such an understanding admiration of it as shall enable us to give glory unto God, and to make use of all the parts of it in practice as we have occasion. Concerning it the holy man mentioned before cried out, Ō anexichniastou dēmiourgias; — “O unsearchable contrivance and operations.” And so is it expressed by the apostle, as that which has an unfathomable depth of wisdom in it, Ō bathos ploutou, etc. — “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding Rom. xi. 33–36. See to the same purpose, Eph. iii. 8–10.

There is a harmony, a suitableness of one thing unto another, in all the works of creation. Yet we see that it is not perfectly nor absolutely discoverable unto the wisest and most diligent of men. How far are they from an agreement about the order and motions of the heavenly bodies, of the sympathies and qualities of sundry things here below, in the relation of causality and efficiency between one thing and another! The new discoveries made concerning any of them, do only evidence how far men are from a just and perfect comprehension of them. Yet such a universal harmony there is in all the parts of nature and its operations, that nothing in its proper station and operation is destructively contradictory either to the whole or any part of it, but every thing contributes unto the preservation and use of the universe. But although this harmony be not absolutely comprehensible by any, yet do all living creatures, who follow the conduct or instinct of nature, make use of it, and live upon it; and without it neither their being could be preserved, nor their operations continued.

But in the mystery of God and his grace, the harmony and suitableness of one thing unto another, with their tendency unto the same end, is incomparably more excellent and glorious than that which is seen in nature or the works of it. For whereas God made all things at first in wisdom, yet is the new creation of all things by Jesus Christ ascribed peculiarly unto the riches, stores, and treasures of that infinite wisdom. Neither can any discern it unless they are taught of God; for it is only spiritually discerned. But yet is it by the most despised. Some seem to think that there is no great wisdom in it; and some, that no great wisdom is required unto the comprehension of it: few think it worth the while to spend half that time in prayer, in meditation, in the exercise of self-denial, mortification, and holy obedience, doing the will of Christ, that they may know of his word, to the attaining of a due comprehension of the mystery of godliness, as some do in diligence, study, and trial of experiments, who design to excel in natural or mathematical sciences. Wherefore there are three things evident herein:—

1. That such an harmony there is in all the parts of the mystery of God, wherein all the blessed properties of the divine nature are glorified, our duty in all instances is directed and engaged, our salvation in the way of obedience secured, and Christ, as the end of all, exalted. Wherefore, we are not only to consider and know the several parts of the doctrine of spiritual truths but their relation, also, one unto another, their consistency one with another in practice, and their mutual furtherance of one another unto their common end. And a disorder in our apprehensions about any part of that whose beauty and use arises from its harmony, gives some confusion of mind with respect unto the whole.

2. That unto a comprehension of this harmony in a due measure, it is necessary that we be taught of God; without which we can never be wise in the knowledge of the mystery of his grace. And herein ought we to place the principal part of our diligence, in our inquiries into the truths of the gospel.

3. All those who are taught of God to know his will, unless it be when their minds are disordered by prejudices, false opinions, or temptations, have an experience in themselves and their own practical obedience, of the consistency of all parts of the mystery of God’s grace and truth in Christ among themselves, — of their spiritual harmony and cogent tendency unto the sane end. The introduction of the grace of Christ into our relation unto God, makes no confusion or disorder in their minds, by the conflict of the principles of natural reason, with respect unto our first relation unto God, and those of grace, with respect unto that whereunto we are renewed.

From the want of a due comprehension of this divine harmony it is, that the minds of men are filled with imaginations of an inconsistency between the most important parts of the mystery of the gospel, from whence the confusions that are at this day in Christian religion do proceed.

Thus the Socinians can see no consistency between the grace or love of God and the satisfaction of Christ, but imagine if the one of them be admitted, the other must be excluded out of our religion. Wherefore they principally oppose the latter, under a pretence of asserting and vindicating the former. And where these things are expressly conjoined in the same proposition of faith, — as where it is said that “we are justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,” Rom. iii. 24, 25, — they will offer violence unto common sense and reason, rather than not disturb that harmony which they cannot understand. For although it be plainly affirmed to be a redemption by his blood, as he is a propitiation, as his blood was a ransom or price of redemption, yet they will contend that it is only metaphorical, — a mere deliverance by power, like that of the Israelites by Moses. But these things are clearly stated in the gospel; and therefore not only consistent, but such as that the one cannot subsist without the other. Nor is there any mention of any especial love or grace of God unto sinners, but with respect unto the satisfaction of Christ as the means of the communication of all its effects unto them. See John iii. 16; Rom. iii. 23–25; viii. 30–33; 2 Cor. v. 19–21; Eph. i. 7, etc.

In like manner, they can see no consistency between the satisfaction of Christ and the necessity of holiness or obedience in them that do believe. Hence they continually clamour, that, by our doctrine of the mediation of Christ, we overthrow all obligations unto a holy life. And by their sophistical reasonings unto this purpose, they prevail with many to embrace their delusion, who have not a spiritual experience to confront their sophistry withal. But as the testimony of the Scripture lies expressly against them, so those who truly believe, and have real experience of the influence of that truth into the life of God, and how impossible it is to yield any acceptable obedience herein without respect thereunto, are secured from their snares.

These and the like imaginations arise from the unwillingness of men to admit of the introduction of the mystery of grace into our relation unto God. For suppose us to stand before God on the old constitution of the covenant of creation, which alone natural reason likes and is comprehensive of, and we do acknowledge these things to be inconsistent. But the mystery of the wisdom and grace of God in Christ cannot stand without them both.

So, likewise, God’s efficacious grace in the conversion of sinners, and the exercise of the faculties of their minds in a way of duty, are asserted as contradictory and inconsistent. And although they seem both to be positively and frequently declared in the Scripture, yet, say these men, their consistency being repugnant to their reason, let the Scripture say what it will, yet is it to be said by us that the Scripture does not assert one of them. And this is from the same cause; men cannot, in their wisdom, see it possible that the mystery of God’s grace should be introduced into our relation and obedience unto God. Hence have many ages of the church, especially the last of them, been filled with endless disputes, in opposition to the grace of God, or to accommodate the conceptions of it unto the interests of corrupted reason.

But there is no instance more pregnant unto this purpose than that under our present consideration. Free justification, through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, is cried out against, as inconsistent with a necessity of personal holiness and obedience: and because the Socinians insist principally on this pretence, it shall be fully and diligently considered apart; and that holiness which, without it, they and others deriving from them do pretend unto, shall be tried by the unerring rule.

Wherefore I desire it may be observed, that in pleading for this doctrine, we do it as a principal part of the introduction of grace into our whole relation unto God. Hence we grant, —

1. That it is unsuited, yea foolish, and, as some speak, childish, unto the principles of unenlightened and unsanctified reason or understandings of men. And this we conceive to be the principal cause of all the oppositions that are made unto it, and all the deprivations of it that the church is pestered withal. Hence are the wits of men so fertile in sophistical cavils against it, so ready to load it with seeming absurdities, and I know not what unsuitableness unto their wondrous rational conceptions. And no objection can be made against it, be it never so trivial, but it is highly applauded by those who look on that introduction of the mystery of grace, which is above their natural conceptions, as unintelligible folly.

2. That the necessary relation of these things, one unto the other, — namely, of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and the necessity of our personal obedience, — will not be clearly understood, nor duly improved, but by and in the exercise of the wisdom of faith. This we grant also; and let who will make what advantage they can of this concession. True faith has that spiritual light in it, or accompanying of it, as that it is able to receive it, and to conduct the soul unto obedience by it. Wherefore, reserving the particular consideration hereof unto its proper place, I say, in general, —

(1.) That this relation is evident unto that spiritual wisdom whereby we are enabled, doctrinally and practically, to comprehend the harmony of the mystery of God, and the consistency of all the parts of it, one with another.

(2.) That it is made evident by the Scripture, wherein both these things — justification through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and the necessity of our personal obedience — are plainly asserted and declared. And we defy that rule of the Socinians, that seeing these things are inconsistent in their apprehension or unto their reason, therefore we must say that one of them is not taught in the Scripture: for whatever it may appear unto their reason, it does not so to ours; and we have at least as good reason to trust unto our own reason as unto theirs. Yet we absolutely acquiesce in neither, but in the authority of God in the Scripture; rejoicing only in this, that we can set our seal unto his revelations by our own experience. For, —

(3.) It is fully evident in the gracious conduct which the minds of them that believe are under, even that of the Spirit of truth and grace, and the inclinations of that new principle of the divine life whereby they are acted; for although, from the remainders of sin and darkness that are in them, temptations may arise unto a continuation in sin because grace has abounded, yet are their minds so formed and framed by the doctrine of this grace, and the grace of this doctrine, that the abounding of grace herein is the principal motive unto their abounding in holiness, as we shall see afterward.

And this we aver to be the spring of all those objections which the adversaries of this doctrine do continually endeavour to entangle it withal. As, — 1. If the passive righteousness (as it is commonly called), that is, his death and suffering, be imputed unto us, there is no need, nor can it be, that his active righteousness, or the obedience of his life, should be imputed unto us; and so on the contrary: for both together are inconsistent. 2. That if all sin be pardoned, there is no need of the righteousness; and so on the contrary, if the righteousness of Christ be imputed unto us, there is no room for, or need of, the pardon of sin. 3. If we believe the pardon of our sins, then are our sins pardoned before we believe, or we are bound to believe that which is not so. 4. If the righteousness of Christ be imputed unto us, then are we esteemed to have done and suffered what, indeed, we never did nor suffered; and it is true, that if we are esteemed ourselves to have done it, imputation is overthrown. 5. If Christ’s righteousness be imputed unto us, then are we as righteous as was Christ himself. 6. If our sins were imputed unto Christ, then was he thought to have sinned, and was a sinner subjectively. 7. If good works be excluded from any interest in our justification before God, then are they of no use unto our salvation. 8. That it is ridiculous to think that where there is no sin, there is not all the righteousness that can be required. 9. That righteousness imputed is only a putative or imaginary righteousness, etc.

Now, although all these and the like objections, however subtilely managed (as Socinus boasts that he had used more than ordinary subtlety in this cause, — “In quo, si subtilius aliquanto quam opus esse videretur, quædam a nobis disputata sunt,” De Servat., par. iv., cap. 4.), are capable of plain and clear solutions, and we shall avoid the examination of none of them; yet at present I shall only say, that all the shades which they cast on the minds of men do vanish and disappear before the light of express Scripture testimonies, and the experience of them that do believe, where there is a due comprehension of the mystery of grace in any tolerable measure.


[13] See vol. ii. 349. [Jonas Schlichtingius was a Socinian author. He wrote “A Confession of Christian Faith, published in the name of the Churches which in Poland acknowledge one God, and his only begotten Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.” If appeared in the year 1642.] The works of this Socinian author form one volume in the “Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum.” — Ed.

[14] See vol. ii. 392. [The two Sozzini were descended from an honourable family, and were both born at Siena, — Lælius, the uncle in 1525, and his nephew, Faustus, in 1539. The former became addicted to the careful study of the Scriptures, forsaking the legal profession, for which he had undergone some training; and acquiring, in furtherance of his favourite pursuit, the Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic languages. He is said to have been one of the forty individuals who held meetings for conference on religious topics, chiefly at Vicenza, and who sought to establish a purer creed, by rejection of certain doctrines on which all the divines of the Reformation strenuously insisted. To these Vicentine “colleges,” as the meetings were termed, Socinians have been accustomed to trace the origin of their particular tenets. Dr M’Crie, in his “History of the Reformation in Italy” (p. 154), assigns strong reasons for discarding this account of the origin of Socinianism as unworthy of credit. Lælius never committed himself during his life to a direct avowal of his sentiments, and was on terms of intercourse and correspondence with the leading Reformers; intimating, however, his scruples and doubts to such an extent, that his soundness in the faith was questioned, and he received an admonition from Calvin. He left Italy in 1547, travelled extensively, and at length settled in Zürich, where he died in 1562, leaving behind him some manuscripts, to which Dr Owen alludes, and of which his nephew availed himself, in reducing the errors held in common by uncle and nephew to the form of a theological system. The nephew, Faustus, had rather a chequered life. Tainted at an early age with the heresy of his uncle, he was under the necessity of quitting Siena; and after having held for twelve years some honourable offices in the court of the Duke of Tuscany, he repaired to Basle, and for three years devoted himself to theological study. The doubts of the uncle rose to the importance of convictions in the mind of the nephew. In consequence of divisions among the reformers of Transylvania, who had become Antitrinitarians, he was sent for by Blandrata, one of their leaders, to reason Francis David out of some views he held regarding the adoration due to Christ. The result was, that David was cast into prison, where he died, — Socinus using no influence to restrain the Prince of Transylvania from such cruel intolerance; a fact too often forgotten by some who delight in reproaching Calvin for the death of Servetus. He visited Poland in 1579; but before his visit, the Antitrinitarians of that country had, by resolutions of their synods in 1563 and 1565, withdrawn from the communion of other churches, and published a Bible and a Catechism, — commonly known, from Rakau, the town in which it was first published, as the “Racovian Catechism.” Faustus Socinus was not at first well received by his Polish brethren; but he overcame their aversion to him, which at one time was so strong that he was nearly torn to pieces by a mob. He acquired considerable influence amongst them; managed to compose their differences, and became so popular, that his co-religionists adopted the name of Socinians, in preference to their old name of Unitarians. He died in 1604. His tracts were collected into two folio volumes of the “Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum.” Starting with mistaken views of private judgment, he inferred, from competency of reason to determine the credibility of doctrine; but his views differed from modern Rationalism, inasmuch as he adhered more to historical Christianity as the basis of his principles, and was by no means so free in impugning the authenticity of Scripture, when it bore against his system. His heresies assumed a shape more positive and definite than is generally fancied, and affected the doctrines of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ (on which his views were somewhat akin to Arianism), the necessity of an atonement, the nature of repentance, the efficacy of grace, the sacraments, and the eternity of future punishments.] — Ed.


Seventhly, General prejudices against the imputation of the righteousness of Christ: — 1. That it is not in terms found in the Scripture, answered. 2. That nothing is said of it in the writings of the evangelists, answered, John xx. 30, 31 — Nature of Christ’s personal ministry — Revelations by the Holy Spirit immediately from Christ — Design of the writings of the evangelists. 3. Differences among Protestants themselves about this doctrine, answered — Sense of the ancients herein — What is of real difference among Protestants, considered

Seventhly. There are some common prejudices, that are usually pleaded against the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; which, because they will not orderly fall under a particular consideration in our progress, may be briefly examined in these general previous considerations:—

1. It is usually urged against it, that this imputation of the righteousness of Christ is nowhere mentioned expressly in the Scripture. This is the first objection of Bellarmine against it. “Hactenus,” says he, “nullum omnino locum invenire putuerunt, ubi legeretur Christi justitiam nobis imputari ad justitiam; vel nos justos esse per Christi justitiam nobis imputatam,” De Justificat., lib. ii. cap. 7; — an objection, doubtless, unreasonably and immodestly urged by men of this persuasion; for not only do they make profession of their whole faith, or their belief of all things in matters of religion, in terms and expressions nowhere used in the Scripture, but believe many things also, as they say, with faith divine, not at all revealed or contained in the Scripture, but drained by them out of the traditions of the church. I do not, therefore, understand how such persons can modestly manage this as an objection against any doctrine, that the terms wherein some do express it are not rhētōs, — found in the Scripture just in that order of one word after another as by them they are used; for this rule may be much enlarged, and yet be kept strait enough to exclude the principal concerns of their church out of the confines of Christianity. Nor can I apprehend much more equity in others, who reflect with severity on this expression of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as unscriptural, as if those who make use thereof were criminal in no small degree, when themselves, immediately in the declaration of their own judgment, make use of such terms, distinctions, and expressions, as are so far from being in the Scripture, as that it is odds they had never been in the world, had they escaped Aristotle’s mint, or that of the schools deriving from him.

And thus, although a sufficient answer has frequently enough (if any thing can be so) been returned unto this objection in Bellarmine, yet has one of late amongst ourselves made the translation of it into English to be the substance of the first chapter of a book about justification; though he needed not to have given such an early intimation unto whom he is beholding for the greatest part of his ensuing discourse, unless it be what is taken up in despiteful revilings of other men. For take from him what is not his own, on the one hand, and impertinent cavils at the words and expressions of other men, with forged imputations on some of them, on the other, and his whole book will disappear. But yet, although he affirms that none of the Protestant writers, who speak of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us (which were all of them, without exception, until of late), have precisely kept to the form of wholesome words, but have rather swerved and varied from the language of the Scripture; yet he will excuse them from open error, if they intend no more thereby but that we are made partakers of the benefits of the righteousness of Christ. But if they intend that the righteousness of Christ itself imputed unto us (that is, so as to be our righteousness before God, whereon we are pardoned and accepted with him, or do receive the forgiveness of sins, and a right to the heavenly inheritance), then are they guilty of that error which makes us to be esteemed to do ourselves what Christ did; and so on the other side, Christ to have done what we do and did, chap. 2, 3. But these things are not so. For, if we are esteemed to have done any thing in our own persons, it cannot be imputed unto us as done for us by another; as it will appear when we shall treat of these things afterwards. But the great and holy persons intended, are as little concerned in the accusations or apologies of some writers, as those writers seem to be acquainted with that learning, wisdom, and judgment, wherein they did excel, and the characters whereof are so eminently conspicuous in all their writings.

But the judgment of most Protestants is not only candidly expressed, but approved of also by Bellarmine himself in another place. “Non esset,” says he, “absurdum, si quis diceret nobis imputari Christi justitiam et merita; cum nobis donentur et applicentur; ac si nos ipsi Deo satisfecissemus.” De Justif., lib. ii., cap. 10; — “It were not absurd, if any one should say that the righteousness and merits of Christ are imputed unto us, when they are given and applied unto us, as if we ourselves had satisfied God.” And this he confirms with that saying of Bernard, Epist. ad Innocent. cxc., “Nam ‘si unus pro omnibus mortuus est, ergo omnes mortui sunt,’ ut videlicet satisfactio unius omnibus imputetur, sicut omnium peccata unus ille portavit.” And those who will acknowledge no more in this matter, but only a participation quovis modo, one way or other, of the benefits of the obedience and righteousness of Christ, wherein we have the concurrence of the Socinians also, might do well, as I suppose, plainly to deny all imputation of his righteousness unto us in any sense, as they do, seeing the benefits of his righteousness cannot be said to be imputed unto us, what way soever we are made partakers of them. For to say that the righteousness of Christ is imputed unto us, with respect unto the benefits of it, when neither the righteousness itself is imputed unto us, nor can the benefits of it be imputed unto us, as we shall see afterward, does minister great occasion of much needless variance and contests. Neither do I know any reason why men should seek countenance unto this doctrine under such an expression as themselves reflect upon as unscriptural, if they be contented that their minds and sense should be clearly understood and apprehended; — for truth needs no subterfuge.

The Socinians do now principally make use of this objection. For, finding the whole church of God in the use of sundry expressions, in the declaration of the most important truths of the gospel, that are not literally contained in the Scripture, they hoped for an advantage from thence in their opposition unto the things themselves. Such are the terms of the Trinity, the incarnation, satisfaction, and merit of Christ, as this also, of the imputation of his righteousness. How little they have prevailed in the other instances, has been sufficiently manifested by them with whom they have had to do. But as unto that part of this objection which concerns the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto, believers, those by whom it is asserted do say, —

(1.) That it is the thing alone intended which they plead for. If that be not contained in the Scripture, if it be not plainly taught and confirmed therein, they will speedily relinquish it. But if they can prove that the doctrine which they intend in this expression, and which is thereby plainly declared unto the understandings of men, is a divine truth sufficiently witnessed unto in the Scripture; then is this expression of it reductively scriptural, and the truth itself so expressed a divine verity. To deny this, is to take away all use of the interpretation of the Scripture, and to overthrow the ministry of the church. This, therefore, is to be alone inquired into.

(2.) They say, the same thing is taught and expressed in the Scripture in phrases equipollent. For it affirms that “by the obedience of one” (that is Christ), “many are made righteous,” Rom. v. 19; and that we are made righteous by the imputation of righteousness unto us, “Blessed is the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,” chap. iv. 6. And if we are made righteous by the imputation of righteousness unto us, that obedience or righteousness whereby we are made righteous is imputed unto us. And they will be content with this expression of this doctrine, — that the obedience of Christ whereby we are made righteous, is the righteousness that God imputes unto us. Wherefore, this objection is of no force to disadvantage the truth pleaded for.

2. Socinus objects, in particular, against this doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and of his satisfaction, that there is nothing said of it in the Evangelists, nor in the report of the sermons of Christ unto the people, nor yet in those of his private discourses with his disciples; and he urges it vehemently and at large against the whole of the expiation of sin by his death, De Servator., par. iv., cap. 9. And as it is easy “malis inventis pejora addere,” this notion of his is not only made use of and pressed at large by one among ourselves, but improved also by a dangerous comparison between the writings of the evangelists and the other writings of the New Testament. For to enforce this argument, that the histories of the gospel, wherein the sermons of Christ are recorded, do make no mention of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ (as in his judgment they do not), nor of his satisfaction, or merit, or expiation of sin, or of redemption by his death (as they do not in the judgment of Socinus), it is added by him, that for his part he is apt to admire our Saviour’s sermons, who was the author of our religion, before the writings of the apostles, though inspired men. Whereunto many dangerous insinuations and reflections on the writings of St Paul, contrary to the faith and sense of the church in all ages, are subjoined. See pp. 240, 241.

But this boldness is not only unwarrantable, but to be abhorred. What place of Scripture, what ecclesiastical tradition, what single precedent of any one sober Christian writer, what theological reason, will countenance a man in making the comparison mentioned, and so determining thereon? Such juvenile boldness, such want of a due apprehension and understanding of the nature of divine inspiration, with the order and design of the writings of the New Testament, which are the springs of this precipitate censure, ought to be reflected on. At present, to remove this pretence out of our way, it may be observed, —

(1.) That what the Lord Christ taught his disciples, in his personal ministry on the earth, was suited unto that economy of the church which was antecedent unto his death and resurrection. Nothing did he withhold from them that was needful to their faith, obedience, and consolation in that state. Many things he instructed them in out of the Scripture, many new revelations he made unto them, and many times did he occasionally instruct and rectify their judgments; howbeit he made no clear, distinct revelation of those sacred mysteries unto them which are peculiar unto the faith of the New Testament, nor were to be distinctly apprehended before his death and resurrection.

(2.) What the Lord Christ revealed afterward by his Spirit unto the apostles, was no less immediately from himself than was the truth which he spoke unto them with his own mouth in the days of his flesh. An apprehension to the contrary is destructive of Christian religion. The epistles of the apostles are no less Christ’s sermons than that which he delivered on the mount. Wherefore —

(3.) Neither in the things themselves, nor in the way of their delivery or revelation, is there any advantage of the one sort of writings above the other. The things written in the epistles proceed from the same wisdom, the same grace, the same love, with the things which he spoke with his own mouth in the days of his flesh, and are of the same divine veracity, authority, and efficacy. The revelation which he made by his Spirit is no less divine and immediate from himself, than what he spoke unto his disciples on the earth. To distinguish between these things, on any of these accounts, is intolerable folly.

(4.) The writings of the evangelists do not contain the whole of all the instructions which the Lord Christ gave unto his disciples personally on the earth. For he was seen of them after his resurrection forty days, and spoke with them of “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God,” Acts i. 3; and yet nothing hereof is recorded in their writings, but only some few occasional speeches. Nor had he given before unto them a clear and distinct understanding of those things which were delivered concerning his death and resurrection in the Old Testament; as is plainly declared, Luke xxiv. 25–27. For it was not necessary for them, in that state wherein they were. Wherefore, —

(5.) As to the extent of divine revelations objectively, those which he granted, by his Spirit, unto his apostles after his ascension, were beyond those which he personally taught them, so far as they are recorded in the writings of the evangelists. For he told them plainly, not long before his death, that he had many things to say unto them which “then they could not bear,” John xvi. 12. And for the knowledge of those things, he refers them to the coming of the Spirit to make revelation of them from himself, in the next words, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you,” verses 13, 14. And on this account he had told them before, that it was expedient for them that he should go away, that the Holy Spirit might come unto them, whom he would send from the Father, verse 7. Hereunto he referred the full and clear manifestation of the mysteries of the gospel. So false, as well as dangerous and scandalous, are those insinuations of Socinus and his followers.

(6.) The writings of the evangelists are full unto their proper ends and purposes. These were, to record the genealogy, conception, birth, acts, miracles, and teachings of our Saviour, so far as to evince him to be the true, only-promised Messiah. So he testifies who wrote the last of them: “Many other signs truly did Jesus, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” John xx. 30, 31. Unto this end every thing is recorded by them that is needful unto the ingenerating and establishing of faith. Upon this confirmation, all things declared in the Old Testament concerning him — all that was taught in types and sacrifices — became the object of faith, in that sense wherein they were interpreted in the accomplishment; and that in them this doctrine was before revealed, shall be proved afterward. It is, therefore, no wonder if some things, and those of the highest importance, should be declared more fully in other writings of the New Testament than they are in those of the evangelists.

(7.) The pretence itself is wholly false; for there are as many pregnant testimonies given unto this truth in one alone of the evangelists as in any other book of the New Testament, — namely, in the book of John. I shall refer to some of them, which will be pleaded in their proper place, chap. i. 12, 17; iii. 14–18, 36; v. 24.

But we may pass this by, as one of those inventions concerning which Socinus boasts, in his epistle to Michael Vajoditus, that his writings were esteemed by many for the singularity of things asserted in them.

3. The difference that has been among Protestant writers about this doctrine is pleaded in the prejudice of it. Osiander, in the entrance of the reformation, fell into a vain imagination, that we were justified or made righteous with the essential righteousness of God, communicated unto us by Jesus Christ. And whereas he was opposed herein with some severity by the most learned persons of those days, to countenance himself in his singularity, he pretended that there were twenty different opinions amongst the Protestants themselves about the formal cause of our justification before God. This was quickly laid hold on by them of the Roman church, and is urged as a prejudice against the whole doctrine, by Bellarmine, Vasquez, and others. But the vanity of this pretence of his has been sufficiently discovered; and Bellarmine himself could fancy but four opinions among them that seemed to be different from one another, reckoning that of Osiander for one, De Justificat., lib. ii., cap. 1. But whereas he knew that the imagination of Osiander was exploded by them all, the other three that he mentions are indeed but distinct parts of the same entire doctrine. Wherefore, until of late it might be truly said, that the faith and doctrine of all Protestants was in this article entirely the same. For however they differed in the way, manner, and methods of its declaration, and too many private men were addicted unto definitions and descriptions of their own, under pretence of logical accuracy in teaching, which gave an appearance of some contradiction among them; yet in this they generally agreed, that it is the righteousness of Christ, and not our own, on the account whereof we receive the pardon of sin, acceptance with God, are declared righteous by the gospel, and have a right and title unto the heavenly inheritance. Hereon, I say, they were generally agreed, first against the Papists, and afterwards against the Socinians; and where this is granted, I will not contend with any man about his way of declaring the doctrine of it.

And that I may add it by the way, we have herein the concurrence of the fathers of the primitive church. For although by justification, following the etymology of the Latin word, they understood the making us righteous with internal personal righteousness, — at least some of them did so, as Austin in particular, — yet that we are pardoned and accepted with God on any other account but that of the righteousness of Christ, they believed not. And whereas, especially in their controversy with the Pelagians, after the rising of that heresy, they plead vehemently that we are made righteous by the grace of God changing our hearts and natures, and creating in us a principle of spiritual life and holiness, and not by the endeavours of our own free will, or works performed in the strength thereof, their words and expressions have been abused, contrary to their intention and design.

For we wholly concur with them, and subscribe unto all that they dispute about the making of us personally righteous and holy by the effectual grace of God, against all merit of works and operations of our own free will (our sanctification being every way as much of grace as our justification, properly so called); and that in opposition unto the common doctrine of the Roman church about the same matter: only they call this our being made inherently and personally righteous by grace, sometimes by the name of justification, which we do not. And this is laid hold on as an advantage by those of the Roman church who do not concur with them in the way and manner whereby we are so made righteous. But whereas by our justification before God, we intend only that righteousness whereon our sins are pardoned, wherewith we are made righteous in his sight, or for which we are accepted as righteous before him, it will be hard to find any of them assigning of it unto any other causes than the Protestants do. So it is fallen out, that what they design to prove, we entirely comply with them in; but the way and manner whereby they prove it is made use of by the Papists unto another end, which they intended not.

But as to the way and manner of the declaration of this doctrine among Protestants themselves, there ever was some variety and difference in expressions; nor will it otherwise be whilst the abilities and capacities of men, whether in the conceiving of things of this nature, or in the expression of their conceptions, are so various as they are. And it is acknowledged that these differences of late have had by some as much weight laid upon them as the substance of the doctrine generally agreed in. Hence some have composed entire books, consisting almost of nothing but impertinent cavils at other men’s words and expressions. But these things proceed from the weakness of some men, and other vicious habits of their minds, and do not belong unto the cause itself. And such persons, as for me, shall write as they do, and fight on until they are weary. Neither has the multiplication of questions, and the curious discussion of them in the handling of this doctrine, wherein nothing ought to be diligently insisted on but what is directive of our practice, been of much use unto the truth itself, though it has not been directly opposed in them.

That which is of real difference among persons who agree in the substance of the doctrine, may be reduced unto a very few heads; as, — (1.) There is something of this kind about the nature of faith whereby we are justified, with its proper object in justifying, and its use in justification. And an instance we have herein, not only of the weakness of our intellects in the apprehension of spiritual things, but also of the remainders of confusion and disorder in our minds; at least, how true it is that we know only in part, and prophesy only in part, whilst we are in this life. For whereas this faith is an act of our minds, put forth in the way of duty to God, yet many by whom it is sincerely exercised, and that continually, are not agreed either in the nature or proper object of it. Yet is there no doubt but that some of them who differ amongst themselves about these things, have delivered their minds free from the prepossession of prejudices and notions derived from other artificial reasonings imposed on them, and do really express their own conceptions as to the best and utmost of their experience. And notwithstanding this difference, they do yet all of them please God in the exercise of faith, as it is their duty, and have that respect unto its proper object as secures both their justification and salvation. And if we cannot, on this consideration, bear with, and forbear, one another in our different conceptions and expressions of those conceptions about these things, it is a sign we have a great mind to be contentious, and that our confidences are built on very weak foundations. For my part, I had much rather my lot should be found among them who do really believe with the heart unto righteousness, though they are not able to give a tolerable definition of faith unto others, than among them who can endlessly dispute about it with seeming accuracy and skill, but are negligent in the exercise of it as their own duty. Wherefore, some things shall be briefly spoken of in this matter, to declare my own apprehensions concerning the things mentioned, without the least design to contradict or oppose the conceptions of others.

(2.) There has been a controversy more directly stated among some learned divines of the Reformed churches (for the Lutherans are unanimous on the one side), about the righteousness of Christ that is said to be imputed unto us. For some would have this to be only his suffering of death, and the satisfaction which he made for sin thereby, and others include therein the obedience of his life also. The occasion, original, and progress of this controversy, the persons by whom it has been managed, with the writings wherein it is so, and the various ways that have been endeavoured for its reconciliation, are sufficiently known unto all who have inquired into these things. Neither shall I immix myself herein, in the way of controversy, or in opposition unto others, though I shall freely declare my own judgment in it, so far as the consideration of the righteousness of Christ, under this distinction, is inseparable from the substance of the truth itself which I plead for.

(3.) Some difference there has been, also, whether the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us, or the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, may be said to be the formal cause of our justification before God; wherein there appears some variety of expression among learned men, who have handled this subject in the way of controversy with the Papists. The true occasion of the differences about this expression has been this, and no other: Those of the Roman church do constantly assert, that the righteousness whereby we are righteous before God is the formal cause of our justification; and this righteousness, they say, is our own inherent, personal righteousness, and not the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us: wherefore they treat of this whole controversy — namely, what is the righteousness on the account whereof we are accepted with God, or justified — under the name of the formal cause of justification; which is the subject of the second book of Bellarmine concerning justification. In opposition unto them, some Protestants, contending that the righteousness wherewith we are esteemed righteous before God, and accepted with him, is the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us, and not our own inherent, imperfect, personal righteousness, have done it under this inquiry, — namely, What is the formal cause of our justification? Which some have said to be the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, — some, the righteousness of Christ imputed. But what they designed herein was, not to resolve this controversy into a philosophical inquiry about the nature of a formal cause, but only to prove that that truly belonged unto the righteousness of Christ in our justification which the Papists ascribed unto our own, under that name. That there is a habitual, infused habit of grace, which is the formal cause of our personal, inherent righteousness, they grant: but they all deny that God pardons our sins, and justifies our persons, with respect unto this righteousness, as the formal cause thereof; nay, they deny that in the justification of a sinner there either is, or can be, any inherent formal cause of it. And what they mean by a formal cause in our justification, is only that which gives the denomination unto the subject, as the imputation of the righteousness of Christ does to a person that he is justified.

Wherefore, notwithstanding the differences that have been among some in the various expression of their conceptions, the substance of the doctrine of the reformed churches is by them agreed upon and retained entire. For they all agree that God justifies no sinner, — absolves him not from guilt, nor declares him righteous, so as to have a title unto the heavenly inheritance, — but with respect unto a true and perfect righteousness; as also, that this righteousness is truly the righteousness of him that is so justified; that this righteousness becomes ours by God’s free grace and donation, — the way on our part whereby we come to be really and effectually interested therein being faith alone; and that this is the perfect obedience or righteousness of Christ imputed unto us: in these things, as they shall be afterwards distinctly explained, is contained the whole of that truth whose explanation and confirmation is the design of the ensuing discourse. And because those by whom this doctrine in the substance of it is of late impugned, derive more from the Socinians than the Papists, and make a nearer approach unto their principles, I shall chiefly insist on the examination of those original authors by whom their notions were first coined, and whose weapons they make use of in their defence.


Eighthly, Influence of the doctrine of justification into the first Reformation — Advantages unto the world by that Reformation — State of the consciences of men under the Papacy, with respect unto justification before God — Alterations made therein by the light of this doctrine, though not received — Alterations in the Pagan unbelieving world by the introduction of Christianity — Design and success of the first reformers herein — Attempts for reconciliation with the Papists in this doctrine, and their success — Remainders of the ignorance of the truth in the Roman church — Unavoidable consequences of the corruption of this doctrine

Eighthly. To close these previous discourses, it is worthy our consideration what weight was laid on this doctrine of justification at the first Reformation, and what influence it had into the whole work thereof. However the minds of men may be changed as unto sundry doctrines of faith among us, yet none can justly own the name of Protestant, but he must highly value the first Reformation: and they cannot well do otherwise whose present even temporal advantages are resolved thereinto. However, I intend none but such as own an especial presence and guidance of God with them who were eminently and successfully employed therein. Such persons cannot but grant that their faith in this matter, and the concurrence of their thoughts about its importance, are worthy consideration.

Now it is known that the doctrine of justification gave the first occasion to the whole work of reformation, and was the main thing whereon it turned. This those mentioned declared to be “Articulus stantis aut cadentis eccleseæ,” and that the vindication thereof alone deserved all the pains that were taken in the whole endeavour of reformation. But things are now, and that by virtue of their doctrine herein, much changed in the world, though it be not so understood or acknowledged. In general, no small benefit redounded unto the world by the Reformation, even among them by whom it was not, nor is received, though many bluster with contrary pretensions: for all the evils which have accidentally ensued thereon, arising most of them from the corrupt passions and interests of them by whom it has been opposed, are usually ascribed unto it; and all the light, liberty, and benefit of the minds of men which it has introduced, are ascribed unto other causes. But this may be signally observed with respect unto the doctrine of justification, with the causes and effects of its discovery and vindication. For the first reformers found their own, and the consciences of other men, so immersed in darkness, so pressed and harassed with fears, terrors, and disquietments under the power of it, and so destitute of any steady guidance into the ways of peace with God, as that with all diligence (like persons sensible that herein their spiritual and eternal interest was concerned) they made their inquiries after the truth in this matter; which they knew must be the only means of their deliverance. All men in those days were either kept in bondage under endless fears and anxieties of mind upon the convictions of sin, or sent for relief unto indulgences, priestly pardons, penances, pilgrimages, works satisfactory of their own, and supererogatory of others, or kept under chains of darkness for purgatory unto the last day. Now, he is no way able to compare things past and present, who sees not how great an alteration is made in these things even in the papal church. For before the Reformation, whereby the light of the gospel, especially in this doctrine of justification, was diffused among men, and shone even into their minds who never comprehended nor received it, the whole almost of religion among them was taken up with, and confined unto, these things. And to instigate men unto an abounding sedulity in the observation of them, their minds were stuffed with traditions and stories of visions, apparitions, frightful spirits, and other imaginations that poor mortals are apt to be amazed withal, and which their restless disquietments gave countenance unto.

 

Somnia, terrores magici, miracula, sagæ

Nocturni lemures, portentaque Thessala,

[Hor., Ep. ii. 2, 209.]

were the principal objects of their creed, and matter of their religious conversation. That very church itself comparatively at ease from these things unto what it was before the Reformation; though so much of them is still retained as to blind the eyes of men from discerning the necessity as well as the truth of the evangelical doctrine of justification.

It is fallen out herein not much otherwise than it did at the first entrance of Christianity into the world. For there was an emanation of light and truth from the gospel which affected the minds of men, by whom yet the whole of it, in its general design, was opposed and persecuted. For from thence the very vulgar sort of men became to have better apprehensions and notions of God and his properties, or the original and rule of the universe, than they had arrived unto in the midnight of their paganism. And a sort of learned speculative men there were, who, by virtue of that light of truth which sprung from the gospel, and was now diffused into the minds of men, reformed and improved the old philosophy, discarding many of those falsehoods and impertinencies wherewith it had been encumbered. But when this was done, they still maintained their cause on the old principles of the philosophers. And, indeed, their opposition unto the gospel was far more plausible and pleadable than it was before. For after they had discarded the gross conceptions of the common sort about the divine nature and rule, and had blended the light of truth which brake forth in Christian religion with their own philosophical notions, they made a vigorous attempt for the reinforcement of heathenism against the main design of the gospel. And things have not, as I said, fallen out much otherwise in the Reformation. For as by the light of truth which therein brake forth, the consciences of even the vulgar sort are in some measure freed from those childish affrightments which they were before in bondage unto; so those who are learned have been enabled to reduce the opinions and practices of their church into a more defensible posture, and make their opposition unto the truths of the gospel more plausible than they formerly were. Yea, that doctrine which, in the way of its teaching and practice among them, as also in its effects on the consciences of men, was so horrid as to drive innumerable persons from their communion in that and other things also, is now, in the new representation of it, with the artificial covering provided for its former effects in practice, thought an argument meet to be pleaded for a return unto its entire communion.

But to root the superstitions mentioned out of the minds of men, to communicate unto them the knowledge of the righteousness of God, which is revealed from faith to faith, and thereby to deliver them from their bondage, fears, and distress, directing convinced sinners unto the only way of solid peace with God, did the first reformers labour so diligently in the declaration and vindication of the evangelical doctrine of justification; and God was with them. And it is worth our consideration, whether we should, on every cavil and sophism of men not so taught, not so employed, not so tried, not so owned of God as they were, and in whose writings there are not appearing such characters of wisdom, sound judgment, and deep experience, as in theirs, easily part with that doctrine of truth wherein alone they found peace unto their own souls, and whereby they were instrumental to give liberty and peace with God unto the souls and consciences of others innumerable, accompanied with the visible effects of holiness of life, and fruitfulness in the works of righteousness, unto the praise of God by Jesus Christ.

In my judgment, Luther spake the truth when he said, “Amisso articulo justificationis, simul amissa est tota doctrina Christiana.” And I wish he had not been a true prophet, when he foretold that in the following ages the doctrine thereof would be again obscured; the causes whereof I have elsewhere inquired into.

Some late writers, indeed, among the Protestants have endeavoured to reduce the controversy about justification with the Papist unto an appearance of a far less real difference than is usually judged to be in it. And a good work it is, no doubt, to pare off all unnecessary occasions of debate and differences in religion, provided we go not so near the quick as to let out any of its vital spirits. The way taken herein is, to proceed upon some concessions of the most sober among the Papists, in their ascriptions unto grace and the merit of Christ, on the one side; and the express judgment of the Protestants, variously delivered, of the necessity of good works to them that are justified, on the other. Besides, it appears that in different expressions which either party adhere unto, as it were by tradition, the same things are indeed intended. Among them who have laboured in this kind, Ludovicus le Blanc, [15] for his perspicuity and plainness, his moderation and freedom from a contentious frame of spirit, is “pene solus legi dignus.” He is like the ghost of Tiresias [16] in this matter. But I must needs say, that I have not seen the effect that might be desired of any such undertaking. For, when each party comes unto the interpretation of their own concessions, which is, “ex communi jure,” to be allowed unto them, and which they will be sure to do in compliance with their judgment on the substance of the doctrine wherein the main stress of the difference lies, the distance and breach continue as wide as ever they were. Nor is there the least ground towards peace obtained by any of our condescensions or compliance herein. For unless we can come up entirely unto the decrees and canons of the Council of Trent, wherein the doctrine of the Old and New Testament is anathematized, they will make no other use of any man’s compliance, but only to increase the clamour of differences among ourselves. I mention nothing of this nature to hinder any man from granting whatever he can or please unto them, without the prejudice of the substance of truths professed in the protestant churches; but only to intimate the uselessness of such concessions, in order unto peace and agreement with them, whilst they have a Procrustes’ bed to lay us upon, and from whose size they will not recede.

Here and there one (not above three or four in all may be named, within this hundred and thirty years) in the Roman communion has owned our doctrine of justification, for the substance of it. So did Albertus Pighius, and the Antitagma Coloniense, as Bellarmine acknowledges. And what he says of Pighius is true, as we shall see afterwards; the other I have not seen. Cardinal Contarinus, in a treatise of justification, written before, and published about the beginning of the Trent Council, delivers himself in the favour of it. But upon the observation of what he had done, some say he was shortly after poisoned; though I must confess I know not where they had the report.

But do what we can for the sake of peace, as too much cannot be done for it, with the safety of truth, it cannot be denied but that the doctrine of justification, as it works effectually in the church of Rome, is the foundation of many enormities among them, both in judgment and practice. They do not continue, I acknowledge, in that visible predominancy and rage as formerly, nor are the generality of the people in so much slavish bondage unto them as they were; but the streams of them do still issue from this corrupt fountain, unto the dangerous infection of the souls of men. For missatical expiatory sacrifices for the living and the dead, the necessity of auricular confession, with authoritative absolution, penances, pilgrimages, sacramentals, indulgences, commutations, works satisfactory and supererogatory, the merit and intercession of saints departed, with especial devotions and applications to this or that particular saint or angel, purgatory, yea, on the matter, the whole of monastic devotion, do depend thereon. They are all nothing but ways invented to pacify the consciences of men, or divert them from attending to the charge which is given in against them by the law of God; sorry supplies they are of a righteousness of their own, for them who know not how to submit themselves to the righteousness of God. And if the doctrine of free justification by the blood of Christ were once again exploded, or corrupted and made unintelligible, unto these things, as absurd and foolish as now unto some they seem to be, or what is not one jot better, men must and will again betake themselves. For if once they are diverted from putting their trust in the righteousness of Christ, and grace of God alone, and do practically thereon follow after, take up with, or rest in, that which is their own, the first impressions of a sense of sin which shall befall their consciences will drive them from their present hold, to seek for shelter in any thing that tenders unto them the least appearance of relief. Men may talk and dispute what they please, whilst they are at peace in their own minds, without a real sense either of sin or righteousness, yea, and scoff at them who are not under the power of the same security; but when they shall be awakened with other apprehensions of things than yet they are aware of, they will be put on new resolutions. And it is in vain to dispute with any about justification, who have not duly been convinced of a state of sin, and of its guilt; for such men neither understand what they say, nor that whereof they dogmatize.

We have, therefore, the same reasons that the first reformers had, to be careful about the preservation of this doctrine of the gospel pure and entire; though we may not expect the like success with them in our endeavours unto that end. For the minds of the generality of men are in another posture than they were when they dealt with them. Under the power of ignorance and superstition they were; but yet multitudes of them were affected with a sense of the guilt of sin. With us, for the most part, things are quite otherwise. Notional light, accompanied with a senselessness of sin, leads men unto a contempt of this doctrine, indeed of the whole mystery of the gospel. We have had experience of the fruits of the faith which we now plead for in this nation, for many years, yea, now for some ages; and it cannot well be denied, but that those who have been most severely tenacious of the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, have been the most exemplary in a holy life: I speak of former days. And if this doctrine be yet farther corrupted, debased, or unlearned among us, we shall quickly fall into one of the extremes wherewith we are at present urged on either side. For although the reliefs provided in the church of Rome, for the satisfaction of the consciences of men, are at present by the most disliked, yea, despised, yet, if they are once brought to a loss how to place their whole trust and confidence in the righteousness of Christ, and grace of God in him, they will not always live at such an uncertainty of mind as the best of their own personal obedience will hang them on the briers of; but betake themselves unto somewhat that tenders them certain peace and security, though at present it may seem foolish unto them. And I doubt not but that some, out of a mere ignorance of the righteousness of God, which either they have not been taught, or have had no mind to learn, have, with some integrity in the exercise of their consciences, betaken themselves unto that pretended rest which the church of Rome offers unto them. For being troubled about their sins, they think it better to betake themselves unto that great variety of means for the ease and discharge of their consciences which the Roman church affords, than to abide where they are, without the least pretence of relief; as men will find in due time, there is no such thing to be found or obtained in themselves. They may go on for a time with good satisfaction unto their own minds; but if once they are brought unto a loss through the conviction of sin, they must look beyond themselves for peace and satisfaction, or sit down without them to eternity. Nor are the principles and ways which others take up withal in another extreme, upon the rejection of this doctrine, although more plausible, yet at all more really useful unto the souls of men than those of the Roman church which they reject as obsolete, and unsuited unto the genius of the present age. For they all of them arise from, or lead unto, the want of a due sense of the nature and guilt of sin, as also of the holiness and righteousness of God with respect thereunto. And when such principles as these do once grow prevalent in the minds of men, they quickly grow careless, negligent, secure in sinning, and end for the most part in atheism, or a great indifferency, as unto all religion, and all the duties thereof.


[15] A theologian who published, in 1663, a work entitled, “Disputationes quædam Historiæque Theologicæ;” and in 1683 his “Theses Theologicæ in Acad. Sedanensi,” were also published. — Ed.

[16] A blind seer, who lived at the time of the War of the Seven against Thebes, and a prominent character in the mythical literature of Greece. In the lower regions, his shade retained the faculty of perception, denied to the souls of other mortals. — Ed.



Chapter I. Justifying faith; the causes and object of it declared

Justification by faith generally acknowledged — The meaning of it perverted — The nature and use of faith in justification proposed to consideration — Distinctions about it waived — A twofold faith of the gospel expressed in the Scripture — Faith that is not justifying, Acts viii. 13; John ii. 23, 24; Luke viii. 13; Matt. vii. 22, 23 — Historical faith; whence it is so called, and the nature of it — Degrees of assent in it — Justification not ascribed unto any degree of it — A calumny obviated — The causes of true saving faith — Conviction of sin previous unto it — The nature of legal conviction, and its effects — Arguments to prove it antecedent unto faith — Without the consideration of it, the true nature of faith not to be understood — The order and relation of the law and gospel, Rom. i. 17 — Instance of Adam — Effects of conviction — Internal: Displicency and sorrow; fear of punishment; desire of deliverance — External: Abstinence from sin; performance of duties; reformation of life — Not conditions of justification; not formal disposition unto it; not moral preparations for it — The order of God in justification — The proper object of justifying faith — Not all divine verity equally; proved by sundry arguments — The pardon of our own sins, whether the first object of faith — The Lord Christ in the work of mediation, as the ordinance of God for the recovery of lost sinners, the proper object of justifying faith — The position explained and proved, Acts x. 43; xvi. 31; iv. 12; Luke xxiv. 25–27; John i. 12; iii. 16, 36; vi. 29, 47; vii. 38; Acts xxvi. 18; Col. ii. 6; Rom. iii. 24, 25; 1 Cor. i. 30; 2 Cor. v. 21; Eph. i. 7, 8; 2 Cor. v. 19

The means of justification on our part is faith. That we are justified by faith, is so frequently and so expressly affirmed in the Scripture, as that it cannot directly and in terms by any be denied. For whereas some begin, by an excess of partiality, which controversial engagements and provocations do incline them unto, to affirm that our justification is more frequently ascribed unto other things, graces or duties, than unto faith, it is to be passed by in silence, and not contended about. But yet, also, the explanation which some others make of this general concession, that “we are justified by faith,” does as fully overthrow what is affirmed therein as if it were in terms rejected; and it would more advantage the understandings of men if it were plainly refused upon its first proposal, than to be led about in a maze of words and distinctions unto its real exclusion, as is done both by the Romanists and Socinians. At present we may take the proposition as granted, and only inquire into the true, genuine sense and meaning of it: That which first occurs unto our consideration is faith; and that which does concern it may be reduced unto two heads:— 1. Its nature. 2. Its use in our justification.

Of the nature of faith in general, of the especial nature of justifying faith, of its characteristical distinctions from that which is called faith but is not justifying, so many discourses (divers of them the effects of sound judgment and good experience) are already extant, as it is altogether needless to engage at large into a farther discussion of them. However, something must be spoken to declare in what sense we understand these things; — what is that faith which we ascribe our justification unto, and what is its use therein.

The distinctions that are usually made concerning faith (as it is a word of various significations), I shall wholly pretermit; not only as obvious and known, but as not belonging unto our present argument. That which we are concerned in is, that in the Scripture there is mention made plainly of a twofold faith, whereby men believe the gospel. For there is a faith whereby we are justified, which he who has shall be assuredly saved; which purifies the heart and works by love. And there is a faith or believing, which does nothing of all this; which who has, and has no more, is not justified, nor can be saved. Wherefore, every faith, whereby men are said to believe, is not justifying. Thus it is said of Simon the magician, that he “believed,” Acts viii. 13, when he was in the “gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity;” and therefore did not believe with that faith which “purifieth the heart,” Acts xv. 9. And that many “believed on the name of Jesus, when they saw the miracles that he did; but Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew what was in man,” John ii. 23, 24. They did not believe on his name as those do, or with that kind of faith, who thereon “receive power to become the sons of God,” John i. 12. And some, when they “hear the word receive it with joy, believing for a while,” but “have no root,” Luke viii. 13. And faith, without a root in the heart, will not justify any; for “with the heart men believe unto righteousness,” Rom. x. 10. So is it with them who shall cry, “Lord, Lord” (at the last day), “we have prophesied in thy name,” whilst yet they were always “workers of iniquity,” Matt. vii. 22, 23.

This faith is usually called historical faith. But this denomination is not taken from the object of it, as though it were only the history of the Scripture, or the historical things contained in it. For it respects the whole truth of the word, yea, of the promises of the gospel as well as other things. But it is so called from the nature of the assent wherein it does consist; for it is such as we give unto historical things that are credibly testified unto us.

And this faith has divers differences or degrees, both in respect unto the grounds or reasons of it, and also its effects. For as unto the first, all faith is an assent upon testimony; and divine faith is an assent upon a divine testimony. According as this testimony is received, so are the differences or degrees of this faith. Some apprehend it on human motives only, and its credibility unto the judgment of reason; and their assent is a mere natural act of their understanding, which is the lowest degree of this historical faith. Some have their minds enabled unto it by spiritual illumination, making a discovery of the evidences of divine truth whereon it is to be believed; the assent they give hereon is more firm and operative than that of the former sort.

Again; it has its differences or degrees with respect unto its effects. With some it does no way, or very little, influence the will or the affections, or work any change in the lives of men. So is it with them that profess they believe the gospel, and yet live in all manner of sins. In this degree, it is called by the apostle James “a dead faith,” and compared unto a dead carcase, without life or motion; and is an assent of the very same nature and kind with that which devils are compelled to give; and this faith abounds in the world. With others it has an effectual work upon the affections, and that in many degrees, also, represented in the several sorts of ground whereinto the seed of the word is cast, and produces many effects in their lives. In the utmost improvement of it, both as to the evidence it proceeds from and the effects it produces, it is usually called temporary faith; — for it is neither permanent against all oppositions, nor will bring any unto eternal rest. The name is taken from that expression of our Saviour concerning him who believes with this faith, — Proskairos esti, Matt. xiii. 21.

This faith I grant to be true in its kind, and not merely to be equivocally so called: it is not pistis pseudōnumos. It is so as unto the general nature of faith; but of the same special nature with justifying faith it is not. Justifying faith is not a higher, or the highest degree of this faith, but is of another kind or nature. Wherefore, sundry things may be observed concerning this faith, in the utmost improvement of it unto our present purpose. As —

1. This faith, with all the effects of it, men may have and not be justified; and, if they have not a faith of another kind, they cannot be justified. For justification is nowhere ascribed unto it, yea, it is affirmed by the apostle James that none can be justified by it.

2. It may produce great effects in the minds, affections and lives of men, although not one of them that are peculiar unto justifying faith. Yet such they may be, as that those in whom they are wrought may be, and ought, in the judgment of charity, to be looked on as true believers.

3. This is that faith which may be alone. We are justified by faith alone; but we are not justified by that faith which can be alone. Alone, respects its influence into our justification, not its nature and existence. And we absolutely deny that we can be justified by that faith which can be alone; that is, without a principle of spiritual life and universal obedience, operative in of it, as duty does require.

These things I have observed, only to obviate that calumny and reproach which some endeavour to fix on the doctrine of justification by faith only, through the mediation of Christ. For those who assert it, must be Solifidians, Antinomians, and I know not what; — such as oppose or deny the necessity of universal obedience, or good works. Most of them who manage it, cannot but know in their own consciences that this charge is false. But this is the way of handling controversies with many. They can aver any thing that seems to advantage the cause they plead, to the great scandal of religion. If by Solifidians, they mean those who believe that faith alone is on our part the means, instrument, or condition (of which afterward) of our justification, all the prophets and apostles were so, and were so taught to be by Jesus Christ; as shall be proved. If they mean those who affirm that the faith whereby we are justified is alone, separate, or separable, from a principle and the fruit of holy obedience, they must find them out themselves, we know nothing of them. For we allow no faith to be of the same kind or nature with that whereby we are justified, but what virtually and radically contains in it universal obedience, as the effect is in the cause, the fruit in the root, and which acts itself in all particular duties, according as by rule and circumstances they are made so to be. Yea, we allow no faith to be justifying, or to be of the same kind with it, which is not itself, and in its own nature, a spiritually vital principle of obedience and good works. And if this be not sufficient to prevail with some not to seek for advantages by such shameful calumnies, yet is it so with others, to free their minds from any concernment in them.

[As] for the especial nature of justifying faith, which we inquire into, the things whereby it is evidenced may be reduced unto these four heads:— 1. The causes of it on the part of God. 2. What is in us previously required unto it. 3. The proper object of it. 4. Its proper peculiar acts and effects. Which shall be spoken unto so far as is necessary unto our present design:—

1. The doctrine of the causes of faith, as unto its first original in the divine will, and the way of its communication unto us, is so large, and so immixed with that of the way and manner of the operation of efficacious grace in conversion (which I have handled elsewhere), as that I shall not here insist upon it. For as it cannot in a few words be spoken unto, according unto its weight and worth, so to engage into a full handling of it would too much divert us from our present argument. This I shall only say, that from thence it may be uncontrollable evidenced, that the faith whereby we are justified is of an especial kind or nature, wherein no other faith, which justification is not inseparable from, does partake with it.

2. Wherefore, our first inquiry is concerning what was proposed in the second place, — namely, What is on our part, in a way of duty, previously required thereunto; or, what is necessary to be found in us antecedaneously unto our believing unto the justification of life? And I say there is supposed in them in whom this faith is wrought, on whom it is bestowed, and whose duty it is to believe therewith, the work of the law in the conviction of sin; or, conviction of sin is a necessary antecedent unto justifying faith. Many have disputed what belongs hereunto, and what effects it produces in the mind, that dispose the soul unto the receiving of the promise of the gospel. But whereas there are different apprehensions about these effects or concomitants of conviction (in compunction, humiliation, self-judging, with sorrow for sin committed, and the like), as also about the degrees of them, as ordinarily prerequired unto faith and conversion unto God, I shall speak very briefly unto them, so far as they are inseparable from the conviction asserted. And I shall first consider this conviction itself, with what is essential thereunto, and then the effects of it in conjunction with that temporary faith before spoken of. I shall do so, not as unto their nature, the knowledge whereof I take for granted, but only as they have respect unto our justification.

(1.) As to the first, I say, the work of conviction in general, whereby the soul of man has a practical understanding of the nature of sin, its guilt, and the punishment due unto it; and is made sensible of his own interest therein, both with respect unto sin original and actual, with his own utter disability to deliver himself out of the state and condition wherein on the account of these things he finds himself to be, — is that which we affirm to be antecedaneously necessary unto justifying faith; that is, in the adult, and of whose justification the word is the external means and instrument.

A convinced sinner is only “subjectum capax justificationis,” — not that every one that is convinced is or must necessarily be justified. There is not any such disposition or preparation of the subject by this conviction, its effects, and consequent, as that the form of justification, as the Papists speak, or justifying grace, must necessarily ensue or be introduced thereon. Nor is there any such preparation in it, as that, by virtue of any divine compact or promise, a person so convinced shall be pardoned and justified. But as a man may believe with any kind of faith that is not justifying, such as that before mentioned, without this conviction; so it is ordinarily previous and necessary so to be, unto that faith which is unto the justification of life. The motive unto it is not that thereon a man shall be assuredly justified; but that without it he cannot be so.

This, I say, is required in the person to be justified, in order of nature antecedaneously unto that faith whereby we are justified; which we shall prove with the ensuing arguments:— For, [1.] Without the due consideration and supposition of it, the true nature of faith can never be understood. For, as we have showed before, justification is God’s way of the deliverance of the convinced sinner, or one whose mouth is stopped, and who is guilty before God, — obnoxious to the law, and shut up under sin. A sense, therefore, of this estate, and all that belongs unto it, is required unto believing. Hence Le Blanc, who has searched with some diligence into these things, commends the definition of faith given by Mestrezat, — that it is “the flight of a penitent sinner unto the mercy of God in Christ.” And there is, indeed, more sense and truth in it than in twenty others that seem more accurate. But without a supposition of the conviction mentioned, there is no understanding of this definition of faith. For it is that alone which puts the soul upon a flight unto the mercy of God in Christ, to be saved from the wrath to come. Heb. vi. 18, “Fled for refuge.”

[2.] The order, relation, and use of the law and the gospel do uncontrollably evince the necessity of this conviction previous unto believing. For that which any man has first to deal withal, with respect unto his eternal condition, both naturally and by God’s institution, is the law. This is first presented unto the soul with its terms of righteousness and life, and with its curse in case of failure. Without this the gospel cannot be understood, nor the grace of it duly valued. For it is the revelation of God’s way for the relieving the souls of men from the sentence and curse of the law, Rom. i. 17. That was the nature, that was the use and end of the first promise, and of the whole work of God’s grace revealed in all the ensuing promises, or in the whole gospel. Wherefore, the faith which we treat of being evangelical, — that which, in its especial nature and use, not the law but the gospel requires, that which has the gospel for its principle, rule, and object, — it is not required of us, cannot be acted by us, but on a supposition of the work and effect of the law in the conviction of sin, by giving the knowledge of it, a sense of its guilt, and the state of the sinner on the account thereof. And that faith which has not respect hereunto, we absolutely deny to be that faith whereby we are justified, Gal. iii. 22–24; Rom. x. 4.

[3.] This our Saviour himself directly teaches in the gospel. For he calls unto him only those who are weary and heavily laden; affirms that the “whole have no need of the physician, but the sick;” and that he “came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” In all which he intends not those who were really sinners, as all men are, — for he makes a difference between them, offering the gospel unto some and not unto others, — but such as were convinced of sin, burdened with it, and sought after deliverance.

So those unto whom the apostle Peter proposed the promise of the gospel, with the pardon of sin thereby as the object of gospel faith, were “pricked to the heart” upon the conviction of their sin, and cried, “What shall we do?” Acts ii. 37–39. Such, also, was the state of the jailer unto whom the apostle Paul proposed salvation by Christ, as what he was to believe for his deliverance, Acts xvi. 30, 31.

[4.] The state of Adam, and God’s dealing with him therein, is the best representation of the order and method of these things. As he was after the fall, so are we by nature, in the very same state and condition. Really he was utterly lost by sin, and convinced he was both of the nature of his sin and of the effects of it, in that act of God by the law on his mind, which is called the “opening of his eyes.” For it was nothing but the communication unto his mind by his conscience of a sense of the nature, guilt, effects, and consequents of sin; which the law could then teach him, and could not do so before. This fills him with shame and fear; against the former whereof he provided by fig-leaves, and against the latter by hiding himself among the trees of the garden. Nor, however they may please themselves with them, are any of the contrivances of men, for freedom and safety from sin, either wiser or more likely to have success. In this condition God, by an immediate inquisition into the matter of fact, sharpens this conviction by the addition of his own testimony unto its truth, and casts him actually under the curse of the law, in a juridical denunciation of it. In this lost, forlorn, hopeless condition, God proposes the promise of redemption by Christ unto him. And this was the object of that faith whereby he was to be justified.

Although these things are not thus eminently and distinctly translated in the minds and consciences of all who are called unto believing by the gospel, yet for the substance of them, and as to the previousness of the conviction of sin unto faith, they are found in all that sincerely believe.

These things are known, and, for the substance of them, generally agreed unto. But yet are they such as, being duly considered, will discover the vanity and mistakes of many definitions of faith that are obtruded on us. For any definition or description of it which has not express, or at least virtual, respect hereunto, is but a deceit, and no way answers the experience of them that truly believe. And such are all those who place it merely in an assent unto divine revelation, of what nature soever that assent be, and whatever effects are ascribed unto it. For such an assent there may be, without any respect unto this work of the law. Neither do I, to speak plainly, at all value the most accurate disputations of any about the nature and act of justifying faith, who never had in themselves an experience of the work of the law in conviction and condemnation for sin, with the effects of it upon their consciences; or [who] do omit the due consideration of their own experience, wherein what they truly believe is better stated than in all their disputations. That faith whereby we are justified is, in general, the acting of the soul towards God, as revealing himself in the gospel, for deliverance out of this state and condition, or from under the curse of the law applied unto the conscience, according to his mind, and by the ways that he has appointed. I give not this as any definition of faith, but only express what has a necessary influence unto it, whence the nature of it may be discerned.

(2.) The effects of this conviction, with their respect unto our justification, real or pretended, may also be briefly considered. And whereas this conviction is a mere work of the law, it is not, with respect unto these effects, to be considered alone, but in conjunction with, and under the conduct of, that temporary faith of the gospel before described. And these two, temporary faith and legal conviction, are the principles of all works or duties in religion antecedent unto justification; and which, therefore, we must deny to have in them any causality thereof. But it is granted that many acts and duties, both internal and external, will ensue on real convictions. Those that are internal may be reduced unto three heads:— [1.] Displicency and sorrow that we have sinned. It is impossible that any one should be really convinced of sin in the way before declared, but that a dislike of sin, and of himself that he has sinned, shame of it, and sorrow for it, will ensue thereon. And it is a sufficient evidence that he is not really convinced of sin, whatever he profess, or whatever confession he make, whose mind is not so affected, Jer. xxxvi. 24. [2.] Fear of punishment due to sin. For conviction respects not only the instructive and preceptive part of the law, whereby the being and nature of sin are discovered, but the sentence and curse of it also, whereby it is judged and condemned, Gen. iv. 13, 14. Wherefore, where fear of the punishment threatened does not ensue, no person is really convinced of sin; nor has the law had its proper work towards him, as it is previous unto the administration of the gospel. And whereas by faith we “fly from the wrath to come,” where there is not a sense and apprehension of that wrath as due unto us, there is no ground or reason for our believing. [3.] A desire of deliverance from that state wherein a convinced sinner finds himself upon his conviction is unavoidable unto him. And it is naturally the first thing that conviction works in the minds of men, and that in various degrees of care, fear, solicitude, and restlessness; which, from experience and the conduct of Scripture light, have been explained by many, unto the great benefit of the church, and sufficiently derided by others. Secondly, These internal acts of the mind will also produce sundry external duties, which may be referred unto two heads:— [1.] Abstinence from known sin unto the utmost of men’s power. For they who begin to find that it is an evil thing and a bitter that they have sinned against God, cannot but endeavour a future abstinence from it. And as this has respect unto all the former internal acts, as causes of it, so it is a peculiar exurgency of the last of them, or a desire of deliverance from the state wherein such persons are. For this they suppose to be the best expedient for it, or at least that without which it will not be. And herein usually do their spirits act by promises and vows, with renewed sorrow on surprisals into sin, which will befall them in that condition. [2.] The duties of religious worship, in prayer and hearing of the word, with diligence in the use of the ordinances of the church, will ensue hereon. For without these they know that no deliverance is to be obtained. Reformation of life and conversation in various degrees does partly consist in these things, and partly follow upon them. And these things are always so, where the convictions of men are real and abiding.

But yet it must be said, that they are neither severally nor jointly, though in the highest degree, either necessary dispositions, preparations, previous congruities in a way of merit, nor conditions of our justification. For, —

[1.] They are not conditions of justification. For where one thing is the condition of another, that other thing must follow the fulfilling of that condition, otherwise the condition of it, it is not; but they may be all found where justification does not ensue: wherefore, there is no covenant, promise, or constitution of God, making them to be such conditions of justification, though, in their own nature, they may be subservient unto what is required of us with respect thereunto; but a certain infallible connection with it, by virtue of any promise or covenant of God (as it is with faith), they have not. And other condition, but what is constituted and made to be so by divine compact or promise, is not to be allowed; for otherwise, conditions might be endlessly multiplied, and all things, natural as well as moral, made to be so. So the meat we eat may be a condition of justification. Faith and justification are inseparable; but so are not justification and the things we now insist upon, as experience does evince.

[2.] Justification may be, where the outward acts and duties mentioned, proceeding from convictions under the conduct of temporary faith, are not. For Adam was justified without them; so also were the converts in the Acts, chap. ii., — for what is reported concerning them is all of it essentially included in conviction, verse 37; and so likewise was it with the jailer, Acts xvi. 30, 31; and as unto many of them, it is so with most that do believe. Therefore, they are not conditions; for a condition suspends the event of a condition.

[3.] They are not formal dispositions unto justification; because it consists not in the introduction of any new form or inherent quality in the soul, as has been in part already declared, and shall yet afterwards be more fully evinced. Nor, — [4.] Are they moral preparations for it; for being antecedent unto faith evangelical, no man can have any design in them, but only to “seek for righteousness by the works of the law,” which is no preparation unto justification. All discoveries of the righteousness of God, with the soul’s adherence unto it, belong to faith alone. There is, indeed, a repentance which accompanies faith, and is included in the nature of it, at least radically. This is required unto our justification. But that legal repentance which precedes gospel faith, and is without it, is neither a disposition, preparation, nor condition of our justification.

In brief, the order of these things may be observed in the dealing of God with Adam, as was before intimated. And there are three degrees in it:— [1.] The opening of the eyes of the sinner, to see the filth and guilt of sin in the sentence and curse of the law applied unto his conscience, Rom. vii. 9, 10. This effects in the mind of the sinner the things before mentioned, and puts him upon all the duties that spring from them. For persons on their first convictions, ordinarily judge no more but that their state being evil and dangerous, it is their duty to better it; and that they can or shall do so accordingly, if they apply themselves thereunto. But all these things, as to a protection or deliverance from the sentence of the law, are no better than fig-leaves and hiding. [2.] Ordinarily, God by his providence, or in the dispensation of the word, gives life and power unto this work of the law in a peculiar manner; in answer unto the charge which he gave unto Adam after his attempt to hide himself. Hereby the “mouth of the sinner is stopped,” and he becomes, as thoroughly sensible of his guilt before God, so satisfied that there is no relief or deliverance to be expected from any of those ways of sorrow or duty that he has put himself upon. [3.] In this condition it is a mere act of sovereign grace, without any respect unto these things foregoing, to call the sinner unto believing, or faith in the promise unto the justification of life. This is God’s order; yet so as that what precedes his call unto faith has no causality thereof.

3. The next thing to be inquired into is the proper object of justifying faith, or of true faith, in its office, work, and duty, with respect unto our justification. And herein we must first consider what we cannot so well close withal. For besides other differences that seem to be about it (which, indeed, are but different explanations of the same thing for the substance), there are two opinions which are looked on as extremes, the one in an excess, and the other in defect. The first is that of the Roman church, and those who comply with them therein. And this is, that the object of justifying faith, as such, is all divine verity, all divine revelation, whether written in the Scripture or delivered by tradition, represented unto us by the authority of the church. In the latter part of this description we are not at present concerned. That the whole Scripture, and all the parts of it, and all the truths, of what sort soever they be, that are contained in it, are equally the objects of faith in the discharge of its office in our justification, is that which they maintain. Hence, as to the nature of it, they cannot allow it to consist in any thing but an assent of the mind. For, supposing the whole Scripture, and all contained in it, — laws, precepts, promises, threatening, stories, prophecies, and the like, — to be the object of it, and these not as containing in them things good or evil unto us, but under this formal consideration as divinely revealed, they cannot assign or allow any other act of the mind to be required hereunto, but assent only. And so confident are they herein, — namely, that faith is no more than an assent unto divine revelation, — as that Bellarmine, in opposition unto Calvin, who placed knowledge in the description of justifying faith, affirms that it is better defined by ignorance than by knowledge.

This description of justifying faith and its object has been so discussed, and on such evident grounds of Scripture and reason rejected by Protestant writers of all sorts, as that it is needless to insist much upon it again. Some things I shall observe in relation unto it, whereby we may discover what is of truth in what they assert, and wherein it falls short thereof. Neither shall I respect only them of the Roman church who require no more to faith or believing, but only a bare assent of the mind unto divine revelations, but them also who place it wholly in such a firm assent as produces obedience unto all divine commands. For as it does both these, as both these are included in it, so unto the especial nature of it more is required. It is, as justifying, neither a mere assent, nor any such firm degree of it as should produce such effects.

(1.) All faith whatever is an act of that power of our souls, in general, whereby we are able firmly to assent unto the truth upon testimony, in things not evident unto us by sense or reason. It is “the evidence of things not seen.” And all divine faith is in general an assent unto the truth that is proposed unto us upon divine testimony. And hereby, as it is commonly agreed, it is distinguished from opinion and moral certainty on the one hand, and science or demonstration on the other.

(2.) Wherefore, in justifying faith there is an assent unto all divine revelation upon the testimony of God, the revealer. By no other act of our mind, wherein this is not included or supposed, can we be justified; not because it is not justifying, but because it is not faith. This assent, I say, is included in justifying faith. And therefore we find it often spoken of in the Scripture (the instances whereof are gathered up by Bellarmine and others) with respect unto other things, and not restrained unto the especial promise of grace in Christ; which is that which they oppose. But besides that in most places of that kind the proper object of faith as justifying is included and referred ultimately unto, though diversely expressed by some of its causes or concomitant adjuncts, it is granted that we believe all divine truth with that very faith whereby we are justified, so as that other things may well be ascribed unto it.

(3.) On these concessions we yet say two things:— [1.] That the whole nature of justifying faith does not consist merely in an assent of the mind, be it never so firm and steadfast, nor whatever effects of obedience it may produce. [2.] That in its duty and office in justification, whence it has that especial denomination which alone we are in the explanation of, it does not equally respect all divine revelation as such, but has a peculiar object proposed unto it in the Scripture. And whereas both these will be immediately evinced in our description of the proper object and nature of faith, I shall, at present, oppose some few things unto this description of them, sufficient to manifest how alien it is from the truth.

1st. This assent is an act of the understanding only, — an act of the mind with respect unto truth evidenced unto it, be it of what nature it will. So we believe the worst of things and the most grievous unto us, as well as the best and the most useful. But believing is an act of the heart; which, in the Scriptures comprises all the faculties of the soul as one entire principle of moral and spiritual duties: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” Rom. x. 10. And it is frequently described by an act of the will, though it be not so alone. But without an act of the will, no man can believe as he ought. See John v. 40; i. 12; vi. 35. We come to Christ in an act of the will; and “let whosoever will, come.” And to be willing is taken for to believe, Ps. cx. 3; and unbelief is disobedience, Heb. iii. 18, 19.

2dly. All divine truth is equally the object of this assent. It respects not the especial nature or use of any one truth, be it of what kind it will, more than another; nor can it do so, since it regards only divine revelation. Hence that Judas was the traitor, must have as great an influence into our justification as that Christ died for our sins. But how contrary this is unto the Scripture, the analogy of faith, and the experience of all that believe, needs neither declaration nor confirmation.

3dly. This assent unto all divine revelation may be true and sincere, where there has been no previous work of the law, nor any conviction of sin. No such thing is required thereunto, nor are they found in many who yet do so assent unto the truth. But, as we have showed, this is necessary unto evangelical, justifying faith; and to suppose the contrary, is to overthrow the order and use of the law and gospel, with their mutual relation unto one another, in subserviency unto the design of God in the salvation of sinners.

4thly. It is not a way of seeking relief unto a convinced sinner, whose mouth is stopped, in that he is become guilty before God. Such alone are capable subjects of justification, and do or can seek after it in a due manner. A mere assent unto divine revelation is not peculiarly suited to give such persons relief: for it is that which brings them into that condition from whence they are to be relieved; for the knowledge of sin is by the law. But faith is a peculiar acting of the soul for deliverance.

5thly. It is no more than what the devils themselves may have, and have, as the apostle James affirms. For that instance of their believing one God, proves that they believe also whatever this one God, who is the first essential truth, does reveal to be true. And it may consist with all manner of wickedness, and without any obedience; and so make God a liar, 1 John v. 10. And it is no wonder if men deny us to be justified by faith, who know no other faith but this.

6thly. It no way answers the descriptions that are given of justifying faith in the Scripture. Particularly, it is by faith as it is justifying that we are said to “receive” Christ, John i. 12; Col. ii. 6; — to “receive” the promise, the word, the grace of God, the atonement, James i. 21; John iii. 33; Acts ii. 41; xi. 1; Rom. v. 11; Heb. xi. 17; — to “cleave unto God,” Deut. iv. 4; Acts xi. 23. And so, in the Old Testament it is generally expressed by trust and hope. Now, none of these things are contained in a mere assent unto the truth; but they require other actings of the soul than what are peculiar unto the understanding only.

7thly. It answers not the experience of them that truly believe. This all our inquiries and arguments in this matter must have respect unto. For the sum of what we aim at is, only to discover what they do who really believe unto the justification of life. It is not what notions men may have hereof, nor how they express their conceptions, how defensible they are against objections by accuracy of expressions and subtle distinctions; but only what we ourselves do, if we truly believe, that we inquire after. And although our differences about it do argue the great imperfection of that state wherein we are, so as that those who truly believe cannot agree what they do in their so doing, — which should give us a mutual tenderness and forbearance towards each other; — yet if men would attend unto their own experience in the application of their souls unto God for the pardon of sin and righteousness to life, more than unto the notions which, on various occasions, their minds are influenced by, or prepossessed withal, many differences and unnecessary disputations about the nature of justifying faith would be prevented or prescinded. I deny, therefore, that this general assent unto the truth, how firm soever it be, or what effects in the way of duty or obedience soever it may produce, does answer the experience of any one true believer, as containing the entire acting of his soul towards God for pardon of sin and justification.

8thly. That faith alone is justifying which has justification actually accompanying of it. For thence alone it has that denomination. To suppose a man to have justifying faith, and not to be justified, is to suppose a contradiction. Nor do we inquire after the nature of any other faith but that whereby a believer is actually justified. But it is not so with all them in whom this assent is found; nor will those that plead for it allow that upon it alone any are immediately justified. Wherefore it is sufficiently evident that there is somewhat more required unto justifying faith than a real assent unto all divine revelations, although we do give that assent by the faith whereby we are justified.

But, on the other side, it is supposed that, by some, the object of justifying faith is so much restrained, and the nature of it thereby determined unto such a peculiar acting of the mind, as comprises not the whole of what is in the Scripture ascribed unto it. So some have said that it is the pardon of our sins, in particular, that is the object of justifying faith; — faith, therefore, they make to be a full persuasion of the forgiveness of our sins through the mediation of Christ; or, that what Christ did and suffered as our mediator, he did it for us in particular: and a particular application of especial mercy unto our own souls and consciences is hereby made the essence of faith; or, to believe that our own sins are forgiven seems hereby to be the first and most proper act of justifying faith. Hence it would follow, that whosoever does not believe, or has not a firm persuasion of the forgiveness of his own sins in particular, has no saving faith, — is no true believer; which is by no means to be admitted. And if any have been or are of this opinion, I fear that they were, in the asserting of it, neglective of their own experience; or, it may be, rather, that they knew not how, in their experience, all the other acting of faith, wherein its essence does consist, were included in this persuasion, which in an especial manner they aimed at: whereof we shall speak afterwards. And there is no doubt unto me, but that this which they propose, faith is suited unto, aims at, and does ordinarily effect in true believers, who improve it, and grow in its exercise in a due manner.

Many great divines, at the first Reformation, did (as the Lutherans generally yet do) thus make the mercy of God in Christ, and thereby the forgiveness of our own sins, to be the proper object of justifying faith, as such; — whose essence, therefore, they placed in a fiducial trust in the grace of God by Christ declared in the promises, with a certain unwavering application of them unto ourselves. And I say, with some confidence, that those who endeavour not to attain hereunto, either understand not the nature of believing, or are very neglective, both of the grace of God and of their own peace.

That which inclined those great and holy persons so to express themselves in this matter, and to place the essence of faith in the highest acting of it (wherein yet they always included and supposed its other acts), was the state of the consciences of men with whom they had to do. Their contest in this article with the Roman church, was about the way and means whereby the consciences of convinced, troubled sinners might come to rest and peace with God. For at that time they were no otherwise instructed, but that these things were to be obtained, not only by works of righteousness which men did themselves, in obedience unto the commands of God, but also by the strict observance of many inventions of what they called the Church; with an ascription of a strange efficacy to the same ends unto missatical sacrifices, sacramentals, absolutions, penances, pilgrimages, and other the like superstitions. Hereby they observed that the consciences of men were kept in perpetual disquietments, perplexities, fears and bondage, exclusive of that rest, assurance, and peace with God through the blood of Christ, which the gospel proclaims and tenders; and when the leaders of the people in that church had observed this, that indeed the ways and means which they proposed and presented would never bring the souls of men to rest, nor give them the least assurance of the pardon of sins, they made it a part of their doctrine, that the belief of the pardon of our own sins, and assurance of the love of God in Christ, were false and pernicious. For what should they else do, when they knew well enough that in their way, and by their propositions, they were not to be attained? Hence the principal controversy in this matter, which the reformed divines had with those of the church of Rome, was this, — Whether there be, according unto and by the gospel, a state of rest and assured peace with God to be attained in his life? And having all advantages imaginable for the proof hereof, from the very nature, use, and end of the gospel, — from the grace, love, and design of God in Christ, — from the efficacy of his mediation in his oblation and intercession, — they assigned these things to be the especial object of justifying faith, and that faith itself to be a fiduciary trust in the especial grace and mercy of God, through the blood of Christ, as proposed in the promises of the gospel; — that is, they directed the souls of men to seek for peace with God, the pardon of sin, and a right unto the heavenly inheritance, by placing their sole trust and confidence in the mercy of God by Christ alone. But yet, withal, I never read any of them (I know not what others have done) who affirmed that every true and sincere believer always had a full assurance of the especial love of God in Christ, or of the pardon of his own sins, — though they plead that this the Scripture requires of them in a way of duty, and that this they ought to aim at the attainment of.

And these things I shall leave as I find them, unto the use of the church. For I shall not contend with any about the way and manner of expressing the truth, where the substance of it is retained. That which in these things is aimed at, is the advancement and glory of the grace of God in Christ, with the conduct of the souls of men unto rest and peace with him. Where this is attained or aimed at, and that in the way of truth for the substance of it, variety of apprehensions and expressions concerning the same things may tend unto the useful exercise of faith and the edification of the church. Wherefore, neither opposing nor rejecting what has been delivered by others as their judgments herein, I shall propose my own thoughts concerning it; not without some hopes that they may tend to communicate light in the knowledge of the thing itself inquired into, and the reconciliation of some differences about it amongst learned and holy men. I say, therefore, that the Lord Jesus Christ himself, as the ordinance of God, in his work of mediation for the recovery and salvation of lost sinners, and as unto that end proposed in the promise of the gospel, is the adequate, proper object of justifying faith, or of saving faith in its work and duty with respect unto our justification.

The reason why I thus state the object of justifying faith is, because it completely answers all that is ascribed unto it in the Scripture, and all that the nature of it does require. What belongs unto it as faith in general, is here supposed; and what is peculiar unto it as justifying, is fully expressed. And a few things will serve for the explication of the thesis, which shall afterwards be confirmed.

(1.) The Lord Jesus Christ himself is asserted to be the proper object of justifying faith. For so it is required in all those testimonies of Scripture where that faith is declared to be our believing in him, on his name, our receiving of him, or looking unto him; whereunto the promise of justification and eternal life is annexed: whereof afterwards. See John i. 12; iii. 16, 36; vi. 29, 47; vii. 38; xiv. 12; Acts x. 43; xiii. 38, 39; xvi. 31; xxvi. 18, etc.

(2.) He is not proposed as the object of our faith unto the justification of life absolutely, but as the ordinance of God, even the Father, unto that end: who therefore also is the immediate object of faith as justifying; in what respects we shall declare immediately. So justification is frequently ascribed unto faith as peculiarly acted on him, John v. 24, “He that believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life.” And herein is comprised that grace, love, and favour of God, which is the principal moving cause of our justification, Rom. iii. 23, 24. Add hereunto John vi. 29, and the object of faith is complete: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” God the Father as sending, and the Son as sent, — that is, Jesus Christ in the work of his mediation, as the ordinance of God for the recovery and salvation of lost sinners, is the object of our faith. See 1 Pet. i. 21.

(3.) That he may be the object of our faith, whose general nature consists in assent, and which is the foundation of all its other acts, he is proposed in the promises of the gospel; which I therefore place as concurring unto its complete object. Yet do I not herein consider the promises merely as peculiar divine revelations, in which sense they belong unto the formal object of faith; but as they contain, propose, and exhibit Christ as the ordinance of God, and the benefits of his mediation, unto them that do believe. There is an especial assent unto the promises of the gospel, wherein some place the nature and essence of justifying faith, or of faith in its work and duty with respect unto our justification. And so they make the promises of the gospel to be the proper object of it. And it cannot be but that, in the actings of justifying faith, there is a peculiar assent unto them. Howbeit, this being only an act of the mind, neither the whole nature nor the whole work of faith can consist therein. Wherefore, so far as the promises concur to the complete object of faith, they are considered materially also, — namely, as they contain, propose, and exhibit Christ unto believers. And in that sense are they frequently affirmed in the Scripture to be the object of our faith unto the justification of life, Acts ii. 39; xxvi. 6; Rom. iv. 16, 20; xv. 8; Gal. iii. 16, 18; Heb. iv. 1; vi. 13; viii. 6; x. 36.

(4.) The end for which the Lord Christ, in the work of his mediation, is the ordinance of God, and as such proposed in the promises of the gospel, — namely, the recovery and salvation of lost sinners, — belongs unto the object of faith as justifying. Hence, the forgiveness of sin and eternal life are proposed in the Scripture as things that are to be believed unto justification, or as the object of our faith, Matt. ix. 2; Acts ii. 38, 39; v. 31; xxvi. 18; Rom. iii. 25; iv. 7, 8; Col. ii. 13; Tit. i. 2, etc. And whereas the just is to live by his faith, and every one is to believe for himself, or make an application of the things believed unto his own behoof, some from hence have affirmed the pardon of our own sins and our own salvation to be the proper object of faith; and indeed it does belong thereunto, when, in the way and order of God and the gospel, we can attain unto it, 1 Cor. xv. 3, 4; Gal. ii. 20; Eph. i. 6, 7.

Wherefore, asserting the Lord Jesus Christ, in the work of his mediation, to be the object of faith unto justification, I include therein the grace of God, which is the cause; the pardon of sin, which is the effect; and the promises of the gospel, which are the means, of communicating Christ and the benefits of his mediation unto us.

And all these things are so united, so intermixed in their mutual relations and respects, so concatenated in the purpose of God, and the declaration made of his will in the gospel, as that the believing of any one of them does virtually include the belief of the rest. And by whom any one of them is disbelieved, they frustrate and make void all the rest, and so faith itself.

The due consideration of these things solves all the difficulties that arise about the nature of faith, either from the Scripture or from the experience of them that believe, with respect unto its object. Many things in the Scripture are we said to believe with it and by it, and that unto justification; but two things are hence evident:— First, That no one of them can be asserted to be the complete, adequate object of our faith. Secondly, That none of them are so absolutely, but as they relate unto the Lord Christ, as the ordinance of God for our justification and salvation.

And this answers the experience of all that do truly believe. For these things being united and made inseparable in the constitution of God, all of them are virtually included in every one of them. (1.) Some fix their faith and trust principally on the grace, love, and mercy of God; especially they did so under the Old Testament, before the clear revelation of Christ and his mediation. So did the psalmist, Ps. cxxx. 3, 4; xxxiii. 18, 19; and the publican, Luke xviii. 13. And these are, in places of the Scripture innumerable, proposed as the causes of our justification. See Rom. iii. 24; Eph. ii. 4–8; Tit. iii. 5–7. But this they do not absolutely, but with respect unto the “redemption that is in the blood of Christ,” Dan. ix. 17. Nor does the Scripture anywhere propose them unto us but under that consideration. See Rom. iii. 24, 25; Eph. i. 6–8. For this is the cause, way, and means of the communication of that grace, love, and mercy unto us. (2.) Some place and fix them principally on the Lord Christ, his mediation, and the benefits thereof. This the apostle Paul proposes frequently unto us in his own example. See Gal. ii. 20; Phil. iii. 8–10. But this they do not absolutely, but with respect unto the grace and love of God, whence it is that they are given and communicated unto us, Rom. viii. 32; John iii. 16; Eph. i. 6–8. Nor are they otherwise anywhere proposed unto us in the Scripture as the object of our faith unto justification. (3.) Some in a peculiar manner fix their souls, in believing, on the promises. And this is exemplified in the instance of Abraham, Gen. xv. 6; Rom. iv. 20. And so are they proposed in the Scripture as the object of our faith, Acts ii. 39; Rom. iv. 16; Heb. iv. 1, 2; vi. 12, 13. But this they do not merely as they are divine revelations, but as they contain and propose unto us the Lord Christ and the benefits of his mediation, from the grace, love, and mercy of God. Hence the apostle disputes at large, in his Epistle unto the Galatians, that if justification be any way but by the promise, both the grace of God and the death of Christ are evacuated and made of none effect. And the reason is, because the promise is nothing but the way and means of the communication of them unto us. (4.) Some fix their faith on the things themselves which they aim at, — namely, the pardon of sin and eternal life. And these also in the Scripture are proposed unto us as the object of our faith, or that which we are to believe unto justification, Ps. cxxx. 4; Acts xxvi. 18; Tit. i. 2. But this is to be done in its proper order, especially as unto the application of them unto our own souls. For we are nowhere required to believe them, or our own interest in them, but as they are effects of the grace and love of God, through Christ and his mediation, proposed in the promises of the gospel. Wherefore the belief of them is included in the belief of these, and is in order of nature antecedent thereunto. And the belief of the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, without the due exercise of faith in those causes of them, is but presumption.

I have, therefore, given the entire object of faith as justifying, or in its work and duty with respect unto our justification, in compliance with the testimonies of the Scripture, and the experience of them that believe.

Allowing, therefore, their proper place unto the promises, and unto the effect of all in the pardon of sins and eternal life, that which I shall farther confirm is, that the Lord Christ, in the work of his mediation, as the ordinance of God for the recovery and salvation of lost sinners, is the proper adequate object of justifying faith. And the true nature of evangelical faith consists in the respect of the heart (which we shall immediately describe) unto the love, grace, and wisdom of God; with the mediation of Christ, in his obedience; with the sacrifice, satisfaction, and atonement for sin which he made by his blood. These things are impiously opposed by some as inconsistent; for the second head of the Socinian impiety is, that the grace of God and satisfaction of Christ are opposite and inconsistent, so as that if we allow of the one we must deny the other. But as these things are so proposed in the Scripture, as that without granting them both neither can be believed; so faith, which respects them as subordinate, — namely, the mediation of Christ unto the grace of God, that fixes itself on the Lord Christ and that redemption which is in his blood, — as the ordinance of God, the effect of his wisdom, grace, and love, finds rest in both, and in nothing else.

For the proof of the assertion, I need not labour in it, it being not only abundantly declared in the Scripture, but that which contains in it a principal part of the design and substance of the gospel. I shall, therefore, only refer unto some of the places wherein it is taught, or the testimonies that are given unto it.

The whole is expressed in that place of the apostle wherein the doctrine of justification is most eminently proposed unto us, Rom. iii. 24, 25, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood; to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” Whereunto we may add, Eph. i. 6, 7, “He has made us accepted in the Beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, according to the riches of his grace.” That whereby we are justified, is the especial object of our faith unto justification. But this is the Lord Christ in the work of his mediation: for we are justified by the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; for in him we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sin. Christ as a propitiation is the cause of our justification, and the object of our faith, or we attain it by faith in his blood. But this is so under this formal consideration, as he is the ordinance of God for that end, — appointed, given, proposed, set forth from and by the grace, wisdom, and love of God. God set him forth to be a propitiation. He makes us accepted in the Beloved. We have redemption in his blood, according to the riches of his grace, whereby he makes us accepted in the Beloved. And herein he “abounds towards us in all wisdom,” Eph. i. 8. This, therefore, is that which the gospel proposes unto us, as the especial object of our faith unto the justification of life.

But we may also in the same manner confirm the several parts of the assertion distinctly:—

(1.) The Lord Jesus Christ, as proposed in the promise of the gospel, is the peculiar object of faith unto justification. There are three sorts of testimonies whereby this is confirmed:—

[1.] Those wherein it is positively asserted, as Acts x. 43, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Christ believed in as the means and cause of the remission of sins, is that which all the prophets give witness unto. Acts xvi. 31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” It is the answer of the apostle unto the jailer’s inquiry, — “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” His duty in believing, and the object of it, the Lord Jesus Christ, is what they return thereunto. Acts iv. 12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” That which is proposed unto us, as the only way and means of our justification and salvation, and that in opposition unto all other ways, is the object of faith unto our justification; but this is Christ alone, exclusively unto all other things. This is testified unto by Moses and the prophets; the design of the whole Scripture being to direct the faith of the church unto the Lord Christ alone, for life and salvation, Luke xxiv. 25–27.

[2.] All those wherein justifying faith is affirmed to be our believing in him, or believing on his name; which are multiplied. John i. 12, “He gave power to them to become the sons of God, who believed on his name,” chap. iii. 16, “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life;” verse 36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life;” chap. vi. 29, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent;” verse 47, “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life;” chap. vii. 38, “He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” So chap. ix. 35–37; xi. 25; Acts xxvi. 18, “That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” 1 Pet. ii. 6, 7. In all which places, and many others, we are not only directed to place and affix our faith on him, but the effect of justification is ascribed thereunto. So expressly, Acts xiii. 38, 39; which is what we design to prove.

[3.] Those which give us such a description of the acts of faith as make him the direct and proper object of it. Such are they wherein it is called a “receiving” of him. John i. 12, “To as many as received him.” Col. ii. 6, “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord.” That which we receive by faith is the proper object of it; and it is represented by their looking unto the brazen serpent, when it was lifted up, who were stung by fiery serpents, John iii. 14, 15; xii. 32. Faith is that act of the soul whereby convinced sinners, ready otherwise to perish, do look unto Christ as he was made a propitiation for their sins; and who so do “shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” He is, therefore, the object of our faith.

(2.) He is so, as he is the ordinance of God unto this end; which consideration is not to be separated from our faith in him: and this also is confirmed by several sorts of testimonies:—

[1.] All those wherein the love and grace of God are proposed as the only cause of giving Jesus Christ to be the way and means of our recovery and salvation; whence they become, or God in them, the supreme efficient cause of our justification. John iii. 16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” So Rom. v. 8; 1 John iv. 9, 10. “Being justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” Rom. iii. 24; Eph. i. 6–8. This the Lord Christ directs our faith unto continually, referring all unto him that sent him, and whose will he came to do, Heb. x. 5.

[2.] All those wherein God is said to set forth and to make him be for us and unto us, what he is so, unto the justification of life. Rom. iii. 25, “Whom God has proposed to be a propitiation.” 1 Cor. i. 30, “Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 2 Cor. v. 21, “He has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Acts xiii. 38, 39, etc. Wherefore, in the acting of faith in Christ unto justification, we can no otherwise consider him but as the ordinance of God to that end; he brings nothing unto us, does nothing for us, but what God appointed, designed, and made him to do. And this must diligently be considered, that by our regard by faith unto the blood, the sacrifice, the satisfaction of Christ, we take off nothing from the free grace, favour, and love of God.

[3.] All those wherein the wisdom of God in the contrivance of this way of justification and salvation is proposed unto us. Eph. i. 7, 8, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and understanding.” See chap. iii. 10, 11; 1 Cor. i. 24.

The whole is comprised in that of the apostle: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them,” 2 Cor. v. 19. All that is done in our reconciliation unto God, as unto the pardon of our sins, and acceptance with him unto life, was by the presence of God, in his grace, wisdom, and power, in Christ designing and effecting of it.

Wherefore, the Lord Christ, proposed in the promise of the gospel as the object of our faith unto the justification of life, is considered as the ordinance of God unto that end. Hence the love, the grace, and the wisdom of God, in the sending and giving of him, are comprised in that object; and not only the actings of God in Christ towards us, but all his actings towards the person of Christ himself unto the same end, belong thereunto. So, as unto his death, “God set him forth to be a propitiation,” Rom. iii. 25. “He spared him not, but delivered him up for us all,” Rom. viii. 32; and therein “laid all our sins upon him,” Isa. liii. 6. So he was “raised for our justification,” Rom. iv. 25. And our faith is in God, who “raised him from the dead,” Rom. x. 9. And in his exaltation, Acts v. 31. Which things complete “the record that God hath given of his Son,” 1 John v. 10–12.

The whole is confirmed by the exercise of faith in prayer; which is the soul’s application of itself unto God for the participation of the benefits of the mediation of Christ. And it is called our “access through him unto the Father,” Eph. ii. 18; our coming through him “unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” Heb. iv. 15, 16; and through him as both “a high priest and sacrifice,” Heb. x. 19–22. So do we “bow our knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Eph. iii. 14. This answers the experience of all who know what it is to pray. We come therein in the name of Christ, by him, through his mediation, unto God, even the Father; to be, through his grace, love, and mercy, made partakers of what he has designed and promised to communicate unto poor sinners by him. And this represents the complete object of our faith.

The due consideration of these things will reconcile and reduce unto a perfect harmony whatever is spoken in the Scripture concerning the object of justifying faith, or what we are said to believe therewith. For whereas this is affirmed of sundry things distinctly, they can none of them be supposed to be the entire adequate object of faith. But consider them all in their relation unto Christ, and they have all of them their proper place therein, — namely, the grace of God, which is the cause; the pardon of sin, which is the effect; and the promises of the gospel, which are the means, of communicating the Lord Christ, and the benefits of his mediation unto us.

The reader may be pleased to take notice, that I do in this place not only neglect, but despise, the late attempt of some to wrest all things of this nature, spoken of the person and mediation of Christ, unto the doctrine of the gospel, exclusively unto them; and that not only as what is noisome and impious in itself, but as that also which has not yet been endeavoured to be proved, with any appearance of learning, argument, or sobriety.


Chapter II. The nature of justifying faith

The nature of justifying faith in particular, or of faith in the exercise of it, whereby we are justified — The heart’s approbation of the way of the justification and salvation of sinners by Christ, with its acquiescency therein — The description given, explained and confirmed:— 1. From the nature of the gospel — Exemplified in its contrary, or the nature of unbelief, Prov. i. 30; Heb. ii. 3; 1 Pet. ii. 7; 1 Cor. i. 23, 24; 2 Cor. iv. 3 — What it is, and wherein it does consist. 2. The design of God in and by the gospel — His own glory his utmost end in all things — The glory of his righteousness, grace, love, wisdom, etc. — The end of God in the way of the salvation of sinners by Christ, Rom. iii. 25; John iii. 16; 1 John iii. 16; Eph. i. 5, 6; 1 Cor. i. 24; Eph. iii. 10; Rom. i. 16; iv. 16; Eph. iii. 9; 2 Cor. iv. 6. 3. The nature of faith thence declared — Faith alone ascribes and gives this glory to God. 4. Order of the acts of faith, or the method in believing — Convictions previous thereunto — Sincere assent unto all divine revelations, Acts xxvi. 27 — The proposal of the gospel unto that end, Rom. x. 11–17; 2 Cor. iii. 18, etc. — State of persons called to believe — Justifying faith does not consist in any one single habit or act of the mind or will — The nature of that about which is the first act of faith — Approbation of the way of salvation by Christ, comprehensive of the special nature of justifying faith — What is included there in:— 1. A renunciation of all other ways, Hos. xiv. 2, 3; Jer. iii. 23; Ps. lxxi. 16; Rom. x. 3. 2. Consent of the will unto this way, John xiv. 6. 3. Acquiescency of the heart in God, 1 Pet. i. 21. 4. Trust in God. 5. Faith described by trust — The reason of it — Nature and object of this trust inquired into — A double consideration of special mercy — Whether obedience be included in the nature of faith, or be of the essence of it — A sincere purpose of universal obedience inseparable from faith — How faith alone justifies — Repentance, how required in and unto justification — How a condition of the new covenant — Perseverance in obedience is so also — Definitions of faith

That which we shall now inquire into, is the nature [17] of justifying faith; or of faith in that act and exercise of it whereby we are justified, or whereon justification, according unto God’s ordination and promise, does ensue. And the reader is desired to take along with him a supposition of those things which we have already ascribed unto it, as it is sincere faith in general; as also, of what is required previously thereunto, as unto its especial nature, work, and duty in our justification. For we do deny that ordinarily, and according unto the method of God’s proceeding with us declared in the Scripture, wherein the rule of our duty is prescribed, any one does, or can, truly believe with faith unto justification, in whom the work of conviction, before described, has not been wrought. All descriptions or definitions of faith that have not a respect thereunto are but vain speculations. And hence some do give us such definitions of faith as it is hard to conceive that they ever asked of themselves what they do in their believing on Jesus Christ for life and salvation.

The nature of justifying faith, with respect unto that exercise of whereby we are justified, consists in the heart’s approbation of the way of justification and salvation of sinners by Jesus Christ proposed in the gospel, as proceeding from the grace, wisdom, and love of God, with its acquiescency therein as unto its own concernment and condition.

There needs no more for the explanation of this declaration of the nature of faith than what we have before proved concerning its object; and what may seem wanting thereunto will be fully supplied in the ensuing confirmation of it. The Lord Christ, and his mediation, as the ordinance of God for the recovery, life, and salvation of sinners, is supposed as the object of this faith. And they are all considered as an effect of the wisdom, grace, authority, and love of God, with all their actings in and towards the Lord Christ himself, in his susception and discharge of his office. Hereunto he constantly refers all that he did and suffered, with all the benefits redounding unto the church thereby. Hence, as we observed before, sometimes the grace, or love, or especial mercy of God, sometimes his actings in or towards the Lord Christ himself, in sending him, giving him up unto death, and raising him from the dead, are proposed as the object of our faith unto justification. But they are so, always with respect unto his obedience and the atonement that he made for sin. Neither are they so altogether absolutely considered, but as proposed in the promises of the gospel. Hence, a sincere assent unto the divine veracity in those promises is included in this approbation.

What belongs unto the confirmation of this description of faith shall be reduced unto these four heads:— 1. The declaration of its contrary, or the nature of privative unbelief upon the proposal of the gospel. For these things do mutually illustrate one another. 2. The declaration of the design and end of God in and by the gospel. 3. The nature of faith’s compliance with that design, or its actings with respect thereunto. 4. The order, method, and way of believing, as declared in the Scripture:—

1. The gospel is the revelation or declaration of that way of justification and salvation for sinners by Jesus Christ, which God, in infinite wisdom, love, and grace, has prepared. And upon a supposition of the reception thereof, it is accompanied with precepts of obedience and promises of rewards. “Therein is the righteousness of God,” — that which he requires, accepts, and approves unto salvation, — “revealed from faith unto faith,” Rom. i. 17. This is the record of God therein, “That he has given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son,” 1 John v. 11. So John iii. 14–17. “The words of this life,” Acts v. 20; “All the counsel of God,” Acts xx. 27. Wherefore, in the dispensation or preaching of the gospel, this way of salvation is proposed unto sinners, as the great effect of divine wisdom and grace. Unbelief is the rejection, neglect, non-admission, or disapprobation of it, on the terms whereon, and for the ends for which, it is so proposed. The unbelief of the Pharisees, upon the preparatory preaching of John the Baptist, is called the “rejecting of the counsel of God against themselves;” that is, unto their own ruin, Luke vii. 30. “They would none of my counsel,” is an expression to the same purpose, Prov. i. 30; so is the “neglecting this great salvation,” Heb. ii. 3, — not giving it that admission which the excellency of it does require. A disallowing of Christ, the stone hon apedokimasan hoi oikodomountes, 1 Pet. ii. 7, — the “builders disapproved of,” as not meet for that place and work whereunto it was designed, Acts iv. 11, — this is unbelief; to disapprove of Christ, and the way of salvation by him, as not answering divine wisdom, nor suited unto the end designed. So is it described by the refusing or not receiving of him; all to the same purpose.

What is intended will be more evident if we consider the proposal of the gospel where it issued in unbelief, in the first preaching of it, and where it continues still so to do.

Most of those who rejected the gospel by their unbelief, did it under this notion, that the way of salvation and blessedness proposed therein was not a way answering divine goodness and power, such as they might safely confide in and trust unto. This the apostle declares at large, 1 Cor. i.; so he expresses it, verses 23, 24, “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” That which they declared unto them in the preaching of the gospel was, that “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures,” chap. xv. 3. Herein they proposed him as the ordinance of God, as the great effect of his wisdom and power for the salvation of sinners. But as unto those who continued in their unbelief, they rejected it as any such way, esteeming it both weakness and folly. And therefore, he describes the faith of them that are called, by their approbation of the wisdom and power of God herein. The want of a comprehension of the glory of God in this way of salvation, rejecting it thereon, is that unbelief which ruins the souls of men, 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.

So is it with all that continue unbelievers under the proposal of the object of faith in the preaching of the gospel. They may give an assent unto the truth of it, so far as it is a mere act of the mind, — at least they find not themselves concerned to reject it; yea, they may assent unto it with that temporary faith which we described before, and perform many duties of religion thereon: yet do they manifest that they are not sincere believers, that they do not believe with the heart unto righteousness, by many things that are irreconcilable unto and inconsistent with justifying faith. The inquiry, therefore, is, Wherein the unbelief of such persons, on the account whereof they perish, does consist, and what is the formal nature of it? It is not, as was said, in the want of an assent unto the truths of the doctrine of the gospel: for from such an assent are they said, in many places of the Scripture, to believe, as has been proved; and this assent may be so firm, and by various means so radicated in their minds, as that, in testimony unto it, they may give their bodies to be burned; as men also may do in the confirmation of a false persuasion. Nor is it the want of an especial fiduciary application, of the promises of the gospel unto themselves, and the belief of the pardon of their own sins in particular: for this is not proposed unto them in the first preaching of the gospel, as that which they are first to believe, and there may be a believing unto righteousness where this is not attained, Isa. l. 10. This will evidence faith not to be true; but it is not formal unbelief. Nor is it the want of obedience unto the precepts of the gospel in duties of holiness and righteousness; for these commands, as formally given in and by the gospel, belong only unto them that truly believe, and are justified thereon. That, therefore, which is required unto evangelical faith, wherein the nature of it does consist, as it is the foundation of all future obedience, is the heart’s approbation of the way of life and salvation by Jesus Christ, proposed unto it as the effect of the infinite wisdom, love, grace, and goodness of God; and as that which is suited unto all the wants and whole design of guilty convinced sinners. This such persons have not; and in the want thereof consists the formal nature of unbelief. For without this no man is, or can be, influenced by the gospel unto a relinquishment of sin, or encouraged unto obedience, whatever they may do on other grounds and motives that are foreign unto the grace of it. And wherever this cordial, sincere approbation of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, proposed in the gospel, does prevail, it will infallibly produce both repentance and obedience.

If the mind and heart of a convinced sinner (for of such alone we treat) be able spiritually to discern the wisdom, love, and grace of God, in this way of salvation, and be under the power of that persuasion, he has the ground of repentance and obedience which is given by the gospel. The receiving of Christ mentioned in the Scripture, and whereby the nature of faith in its exercise is expressed, I refer unto the latter part of the description given concerning the soul’s acquiescence in God, by the way proposed.

Again: some there were at first, and such still continue to be, who rejected not this way absolutely, and in the notion of it, but comparatively, as reduced to practice; and so perished in their unbelief. They judged the way of their own righteousness to be better, as that which might be more safely trusted unto, — as more according unto the mind of God and unto his glory. So did the Jews generally, the frame of whose minds the apostle represents, Rom. x. 3, 4. And many of them assented unto the doctrine of the gospel in general as true, howbeit they liked it not in their hearts as the best way of justification and salvation, but sought for them by the works of the law.

Wherefore, unbelief, in its formal nature, consists in the want of a spiritual discerning and approbation of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, as an effect of the infinite wisdom, goodness, and love of God; for where these are, the soul of a convinced sinner cannot but embrace it, and adhere unto it. Hence, also, all acquiescency in this way, and trust and confidence in committing the soul unto it, or unto God in it, and by it (without which whatever is pretended of believing is but a shadow of faith), is impossible unto such persons; for they want the foundation whereon alone they can be built. And the consideration hereof does sufficiently manifest wherein the nature of true evangelical faith does consist.

2. The design of God in and by the gospel, with the work and office of faith with respect thereunto, farther confirms the description given of it. That which God designs herein, in the first place, is not the justification and salvation of sinners. His utmost complete end, in all his counsels, is his own glory. He does all things for himself; nor can he who is infinite do otherwise. But in an especial manner he expresses this concerning this way of salvation by Jesus Christ.

Particularly, he designed herein the glory of his righteousness; “To declare his righteousness,” Rom. iii. 25; — of his love; “God so loved the world,” John iii. 16; “Herein we perceive the love of God, that he laid down his life for us,” 1 John iii. 16; — of his grace; “Accepted, to the praise of the glory of his grace,” Eph. i. 5, 6; — of his wisdom; “Christ crucified, the wisdom of God,” 1 Cor. i. 24; “Might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,” Eph. iii. 10; — of his power; “it is the power of God unto salvation,” Rom. i. 16; — of his faithfulness, Rom. iv. 16. For God designed herein, not only the reparation of all that glory whose declaration was impeached and obscured by the entrance of sin, but also a farther exaltation and more eminent manifestation of it, unto the degrees of its exaltation, and some especial instances before concealed, Eph. iii. 9. And all this is called “The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;” whereof faith is the beholding, 2 Cor. iv. 6.

3. This being the principal design of God in the way of justification and salvation by Christ proposed in the gospel, that which on our part is required unto a participation of the benefits of it, is the ascription of that glory unto God which he designs so to exalt. The acknowledgment of all these glorious properties of the divine nature, as manifested in the provision and proposition of this way of life, righteousness, and salvation, with an approbation of the way itself as an effect of them, and that which is safely to be trusted unto, is that which is required of us; and this is faith or believing: “Being strong in faith, he gave glory to God,” Rom. iv. 20. And this is in the nature of the weakest degree of sincere faith. And no other grace, work, or duty, is suited hereunto, or firstly and directly of that tendency, but only consequentially and in the way of gratitude. And although I cannot wholly assent unto him who affirms that faith in the epistles of Paul is nothing but “existimatio magnificè sentiens de Dei potentia, justitia, bonitate, et si quid promiserit in eo præstando constantia,” because it is too general, and not limited unto the way of salvation by Christ, his “elect in whom he will be glorified;” yet has it much of the nature of faith in it. Wherefore I say, that hence we may both learn the nature of faith, and whence it is that faith alone is required unto our justification. The reason of it is, because this is that grace or duty alone whereby we do or can give unto God that glory which he designs to manifest and exalt in and by Jesus Christ. This only faith is suited unto, and this it is to believe. Faith, in the sense we inquire after, is the heart’s approbation of, and consent unto, the way of life and salvation of sinners by Jesus Christ, as that wherein the glory of the righteousness, wisdom, grace, love, and mercy of God is exalted; the praise whereof it ascribes unto him, and rests in it as unto the ends of it, — namely, justification, life, and salvation. It is to give “glory to God,” Rom. iv. 20; to “behold his glory as in a glass,” or the gospel wherein it is represented unto us, 2 Cor. iii. 18; to have in our hearts “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” 2 Cor. iv. 6. The contrary whereunto makes God a liar, and thereby despoils him of the glory of all those holy properties which he this way designed to manifest, 1 John v. 10.

And, if I mistake not, this is that which the experience of them that truly believe, when they are out of the heats of disputation, will give testimony unto.

4. To understand the nature of justifying faith aright, or the act and exercise of saving faith in order unto our justification, which are properly inquired after, we must consider the order of it; first the things which are necessarily previous thereunto, and then what it is to believe with respect unto them. As, —

(1.) The state of a convinced sinner, who is the only “subjectum capax justificationis.” This has been spoken unto already, and the necessity of its precedency unto the orderly proposal and receiving of evangelical righteousness unto justification demonstrated. If we lose a respect hereunto, we lose our best guide towards the discovery of the nature of faith. Let no man think to understand the gospel, who knows nothing of the law. God’s constitution, and the nature of the things themselves, have given the law the precedency with respect unto sinners; “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” And gospel faith is the soul’s acting according to the mind of God, for deliverance from that state and condition which it is cast under by the law. And all those descriptions of faith which abound in the writings of learned men, which do not at least include in them a virtual respect unto this state and condition, or the work of the law on the consciences of sinners, are all of them vain speculations. There is nothing in this whole doctrine that I will more firmly adhere unto than the necessity of the convictions mentioned previous unto true believing; without which not one line of it can be understood aright, and men do but beat the air in their contentions about it. See Rom. iii. 21–24.

(2.) We suppose herein a sincere assent unto all divine revelations, whereof the promises of grace and mercy by Christ are an especial part. This Paul supposed in Agrippa when he would have won him over unto faith in Christ Jesus: “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest,” Acts xxvi. 27. And this assent which respects the promises of the gospel, not as they contain, propose, and exhibit the Lord Christ and the benefits of his mediation unto us, but as divine revelations of infallible truth, is true and sincere in its kind, as we described it before under the notion of temporary faith; but as it proceeds no farther, as it includes no act of the will or heart, it is not that faith whereby we are justified. However, it is required thereunto, and is included therein.

(3.) The proposal of the gospel, according unto the mind of God, is hereunto supposed; that is, that it be preached according unto God’s appointment: for not only the gospel itself, but the dispensation or preaching of it in the ministry of the church, is ordinarily required unto believing. This the apostle asserts, and proves the necessity of it at large, Rom. x. 11–17. Herein the Lord Christ and his mediation with God, the only way and means for the justification and salvation of lost convinced sinners, as the product and effect of divine wisdom, love, grace, and righteousness, is revealed, declared, proposed, and offered unto such sinners: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith,” Rom. i. 17. The glory of God is represented “as in a glass,” 2 Cor. iii. 18; and “life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel,” 2 Tim. i. 10; Heb. ii. 3. Wherefore, —

(4.) The persons who are required to believe, and whose immediate duty it is so to do, are such who really in their own consciences are brought unto, and do make the inquiries mentioned in the Scripture, — “What shall we do? What shall we do to be saved? How shall we fly from the wrath to come? Wherewithal shall we appear before God? How shall we answer what is laid unto our charge?” — or such as, being sensible of the guilt of sin, do seek for a righteousness in the sight of God, Acts ii. 37, 38; xvi. 30, 31; Micah vi. 6, 7; Isa. xxxv. 4; Heb. vi. 18.

On these suppositions, the command and direction given unto men being, “Believe, and thou shalt be saved;” the inquiry is, What is that act or work of faith whereby we may obtain a real interest or propriety in the promises of the gospel, and the things declared in them, unto their justification before God?

And, — 1. It is evident, from what has been discoursed, that it does not consist in, that it is not to be fully expressed by, any one single habit or act of the mind or will distinctly whatever; for there are such descriptions given of it in the Scripture, such things are proposed as the object of it, and such is the experience of all that sincerely believe, as no one single act, either of the mind or will, can answer unto. Nor can an exact method of those acts of the soul which are concurrent therein be prescribed; only what is essential unto it is manifest.

2. That which, in order of nature, seems to have the precedency, is the assent of the mind unto that which the psalmist betakes himself unto in the first place for relief, under a sense of sin and trouble, Ps. cxxx. 3, 4, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” The sentence of the law and judgment of conscience lie against him as unto any acceptation with God. Therefore, he despairs in himself of standing in judgment, or being acquitted before him. In this state, that which the soul first fixes on, as unto its relief, is, that “there is forgiveness with God.” This, as declared in the gospel, is, that God in his love and grace will pardon and justify guilty sinners through the blood and mediation of Christ. So it is proposed, Rom. iii. 23, 24. The assent of the mind hereunto, as proposed in the promise of the gospel, is the root of faith, the foundation of all that the soul does in believing; nor is there any evangelical faith without it. But yet, consider it abstractedly, as a mere act of the mind, the essence and nature of justifying faith does not consist solely therein, though it cannot be without it. But, —

3. This is accompanied, in sincere believing, with an approbation of the way of deliverance and salvation proposed, as an effect of divine grace, wisdom, and love; whereon the heart does rest in it, and apply itself unto it, according to the mind of God. This is that faith whereby we are justified; which I shall farther evince, by showing what is included in it, and inseparable from it:—

(1.) It includes in it a sincere renunciation of all other ways and means for the attaining of righteousness, life, and salvation. This is essential unto faith, Acts iv. 12; Hos. xiv. 2, 3; Jer. iii. 23; Ps. lxxi. 16, “I will make mention of thy righteousness, of thine only.” When a person is in the condition before described (and such alone are called immediately to believe, Matt. ix. 13; xi. 28; 1 Tim. i. 15), many things will present themselves unto him for his relief, particularly his own righteousness, Rom. x. 3. A renunciation of them all, as unto any hope or expectation of relief from them, belongs unto sincere believing, Isa. l. 10, 11.

(2.) There is in it the will’s consent, whereby the soul betakes itself cordially and sincerely, as unto all its expectation of pardon of sin and righteousness before God, unto the way of salvation proposed in the gospel. This is that which is called “coming unto Christ,” and “receiving of him,” whereby true justifying faith is so often expressed in the Scripture; or, as it is peculiarly called, “believing in him,” or “believing on his name.” The whole is expressed, John xiv. 6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

(3.) An acquiescency of the heart in God, as the author and principal cause of the way of salvation prepared, as acting in a way of sovereign grace and mercy towards sinners: “Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God,” 1 Pet. i. 21. The heart of a sinner does herein give unto God the glory of all those holy properties of his nature which he designed to manifest in and by Jesus Christ. See Isa. xlii. 1; xlix. 3. And this acquiescency in God is that which is the immediate root of that waiting, patience, long-suffering, and hope, which are the proper acts and effects of justifying faith, Heb. vi. 12, 15, 18, 19.

(4.) Trust in God, or the grace and mercy of God in and through the Lord Christ, as set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, does belong hereunto, or necessarily ensue hereon; for the person called unto believing is, — first, Convinced of sin, and exposed unto wrath; secondly, Has nothing else to trust unto for help and relief; thirdly, Does actually renounce all other things that tender themselves unto that end: and therefore, without some act of trust, the soul must lie under actual despair; which is utterly inconsistent with faith, or the choice and approbation of the way of salvation before described.

(5.) The most frequent declaration of the nature of faith in the Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, is by this trust; and that because it is that act of it which composes the soul, and brings it unto all the rest it can attain. For all our rest in this world is from trust in God; and the especial object of this trust, so far as it belongs unto the nature of that faith whereby we are justified, is “God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” For this is respected where his goodness, his mercy, his grace, his name, his faithfulness, his power, are expressed, or any of them, as that which it does immediately rely upon; for they are no way the object of our trust, nor can be, but on the account of the covenant which is confirmed and ratified in and by the blood of Christ alone.

Whether this trust or confidence shall be esteemed of the essence of faith, or as that which, on the first fruit and working of it, we are found in the exercise of, we need not positively determine. I place it, therefore, as that which belongs unto justifying faith, and is inseparable from it. For if all we have spoken before concerning faith may be comprised under the notion of a firm assent and persuasion, yet it cannot be so if any such assent be conceivable exclusive of this trust.

This trust is that whereof many divines do make special mercy to be the peculiar object; and that especial mercy to be such as to include in it the pardon of our own sins. This by their adversaries is fiercely opposed, and that on such grounds as manifest that they do not believe that there is any such state attainable in this life; and that if there were, it would not be of any use unto us, but rather be a means of security and negligence in our duty: wherein they betray how great is the ignorance of these things in their own minds. But mercy may be said to be especial two ways:— First, In itself, and in opposition unto common mercy. Secondly, With respect unto him that believes. In the first sense, especial mercy is the object of faith as justifying; for no more is intended by it but the grace of God setting forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, Rom. iii. 23, 24. And faith in this especial mercy is that which the apostle calls our “receiving of the atonement,” Rom. v. 11; — that is, our approbation of it, and adherence unto it, as the great effect of divine wisdom, goodness, faithfulness, love, and grace; which will, therefore, never fail to them who put their trust in it. In the latter sense, it is looked on as the pardon of our own sins in particular, the especial mercy of God unto our souls. That this is the object of justifying faith, that a man is bound to believe this in order of nature antecedent unto his justification, I do deny; neither yet do I know of any testimony or safe experience whereby it may be confirmed. But yet, for any to deny that an undeceiving belief hereof is to be attained in this life, or that it is our duty to believe the pardon of our own sins and the especial love of God in Christ, in the order and method of our duty and privileges, limited and determined in the gospel, so as to come to the full assurance of them (though I will not deny but that peace with God, which is inseparable from justification, may be without them); [is to] seem not to be much acquainted with the design of God in the gospel, the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, the nature and work of faith, or their own duty, nor the professed experience of believers recorded in the Scripture. See Rom. v. 1–5; Heb. x. 2, 10, 19–22; Ps. xlvi. 1, 2; cxxxviii. 7, 8, etc. Yet it is granted that all these things are rather fruits or effects of faith, as under exercise and improvement, than of the essence of it, as it is the instrument in our justification.

And the trust before mentioned, which is either essential to justifying faith, or inseparable from its is excellently expressed by Bernard, Dom. vi. post Pentec., Ser. 3, “Tria considero in quibus tota spes mea consistit, charitatem adoptionis, veritatem promissionis, potestatem redditionis. Murmuret jam quantum voluerit insipiens cogitatio mea, dicens: Quis enim es tu, et quanta est illa gloria, quibusve meritis hanc obtinere speras? Et ego fiducialiter respondebo: Scio cui credidi, et certus sum, quia in charitate nimia adoptavit me, quia verax in promissione, quia potens in exhibitione: licet enim ei facere quod voluerit. Hic est funiculus triplex qui difficilè rumpitur, quem nobis a patria nostra in hunc carcerem usque dimissum firmiter, obsecro, teneamus: ut ipse nos sublevet, ipse nos trahat et pertrahat usque ad conspectum gloriæ magni Dei: qui est benedictus in sæcula. Amen.

Concerning this faith and trust, it is earnestly pleaded by many that obedience is included in it; but as to the way and manner thereof, they variously express themselves. Socinus, and those who follow him absolutely, do make obedience to be the essential form of faith; which is denied by Episcopius. The Papists distinguish between faith in-formed and faith formed by charity: which comes to the same purpose, for both are built on this supposition, — that there may be true evangelical faith (that which is required as our duty, and consequently is accepted of God, that may contain all in it which is comprised in the name and duty of faith) that may be without charity or obedience, and so be useless; for the Socinians do not make obedience to be the essence of faith absolutely, but as it justifies. And so they plead unto this purpose, that “faith without works is dead.” But to suppose that a dead faith, or that faith which is dead, it that faith which is required of us in the gospel in the way of duty, is a monstrous imagination. Others plead for obedience, charity, the love of God, to be included in the nature of faith; but plead not directly that this obedience is the form of faith, but that which belongs unto the perfection of it, as it is justifying. Neither yet do they say that by this obedience, a continued course of works and obedience, as though that were necessary unto our first justification, is required; but only a sincere active purpose of obedience: and thereon, as the manner of our days is, load them with reproaches who are otherwise minded, if they knew who they were. For how impossible it is, according unto their principles who believe justification by faith alone, that justifying faith should be without a sincere purpose of heart to obey God in all things, I shall briefly declare. For, First, They believe that faith is “not of ourselves, it is the gift of God;” yea, that it is a grace wrought in the hearts of men by the exceeding greatness of his power. And to suppose such a grace dead, inactive, unfruitful, not operative unto the great end of the glory of God, and the transforming of the souls of them that receive it into his image, is a reflection on the wisdom, goodness, and love of God himself. Secondly, That this grace is in them a principle of spiritual life, which in the habit of it, as resident in the heart, is not really distinguished from that of all other grace whereby we live to God. So, that there should be faith habitually in the heart, — I mean that evangelical faith we inquire after, — or actually exercised, where there is not a habit of all other graces, is utterly impossible. Neither is it possible that there should be any exercise of this faith unto justification, but where the mind is prepared, disposed, and determined unto universal obedience. And therefore, Thirdly, It is denied that any faith, trust, or confidence, which may be imagined, so as to be absolutely separable from, and have its whole nature consistent with, the absence of all other graces, is that faith which is the especial gift of God, and which in the gospel is required of us in a way of duty. And whereas some have said, that “men may believe, and place their firm trust in Christ for life and salvation, and yet not be justified;” — it is a position so destructive unto the gospel, and so full of scandal unto all pious souls, and contains such an express denial of the record that God has given concerning his Son Jesus Christ, as I wonder that any person of sobriety and learning should be surprised into it. And whereas they plead the experience of multitudes who profess this firm faith and confidence in Christ, and yet are not justified, — it is true, indeed, but nothing unto their purpose; for whatever they profess, not only not one of them does so in the sight and judgment of God, where this matter is to be tried, but it is no difficult matter to evict them of the folly and falseness of this profession, by the light and rule of the gospel, even in their own consciences, if they would attend unto instruction.

Wherefore we say, the faith whereby we are justified, is such as is not found in any but those who are made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and by him united unto Christ, whose nature is renewed, and in whom there is a principle of all grace, and purpose of obedience. Only we say, it is not any other grace, as charity and the like, nor any obedience, that gives life and form unto this faith; but it is this faith that gives life and efficacy unto all other graces, and form unto all evangelical obedience. Neither does any thing hence accrue unto our adversaries, who would have all those graces which are, in their root and principle, at least, present in all that are to be justified, to have the same influence unto our justification as faith has: or that we are said to be justified by faith alone; and in explication of it, in answer unto the reproaches of the Romanists, do say we are justified by faith alone, but not by that faith which is alone; that we intend by faith all other graces and obedience also. For besides that, the nature of no other grace is capable of that office which is assigned unto faith in our justification, nor can be assumed into a society in operation with it, — namely, to receive Christ, and the promises of life by him, and to give glory unto God on their account; so when they can give us any testimony of Scripture assigning our justification unto any other grace, or all graces together, or all the fruits of them, so as it is assigned unto faith, they shall be attended unto.

And this, in particular, is to be affirmed of repentance; concerning which it is most vehemently urged, that it is of the same necessity unto our justification as faith is. For this they say is easily proved, from testimonies of Scripture innumerable, which call all men to repentance that will be saved; especially those two eminent places are insisted on, Acts ii. 38, 39; iii. 19. But that which they have to prove, is not that it is of the same necessity with faith unto them that are to be justified, but that it is of the same use with faith in their justification. Baptism in that place of the apostle, Acts ii. 38, 39, is joined with faith no less than repentance; and in other places it is expressly put into the same condition. Hence, most of the ancients concluded that it was no less necessary unto salvation than faith or repentance itself. Yet never did any of them assign it the same use in justification with faith. But it is pleaded, whatever is a necessary condition of the new covenant, is also a necessary condition of justification; for otherwise a man might be justified, and continuing in his justified estate, not be saved, for want of that necessary condition: for by a necessary condition of the new covenant, they understand that without which a man cannot be saved. But of this nature is repentance as well as faith, and so is equally a condition of our justification. The ambiguity of the signification of the word condition does cast much disorder on the present inquiry, in the discourses of some men. But to pass it by at present, I say, final perseverance is a necessary condition of the new covenant; wherefore, by this rule, it is also of justification. They say, some things are conditions absolutely; such as are faith and repentance, and a purpose of obedience: some are so on some supposition only, — namely, that a man’s life be continued in this world; such is a course in obedience and good works, and perseverance unto the end. Wherefore I say then, that on supposition that a man lives in this world, perseverance unto the end is a necessary condition of his justification. And if so, no man can be justified whilst he is in this world; for a condition does suspend that whereof it is a condition from existence until it be accomplished. It is, then, to no purpose to dispute any longer about justification, if indeed no man is, nor can be, justified in this life. But how contrary this is to Scripture and experience is known.

If it be said, that final perseverance, which is so express a condition of salvation in the new covenant, is not indeed the condition of our first justification, but it is the condition of the continuation of our justification; then they yield up their grand position, that whatever is a necessary condition of the new covenant is a necessary condition of justification: for it is that which they call the first justification alone which we treat about. And that the continuation of our justification depends solely on the same causes with our justification itself, shall be afterwards declared. But it is not yet proved, nor ever will be, that whatever is required in them that are to be justified, is a condition whereon their justification is immediately suspended. We allow that alone to be a condition of justification which has an influence of causality thereunto, though it be but the causality of an instrument. This we ascribe unto faith alone. And because we do so, it is pleaded that we ascribe more in our justification unto ourselves than they do by whom we are opposed. For we ascribe the efficiency of an instrument herein unto our own faith, when they say one that it is a condition, or “causa sine qua non,” of our justification. But I judge that grave and wise men ought not to give so much to the defence of the cause they have undertaken, seeing they cannot but know indeed the contrary. For after they have given the specious name of a condition, and a “causa sine qua non,” unto faith, they immediately take all other graces and works of obedience into the same state with it, and the same use in justification; and after this seeming gold has been cast for a while into the fire of disputation, there comes out the calf of a personal, inherent righteousness, whereby men are justified before God, “virtute fœderis evangelici;” for as for the righteousness of Christ to be imputed unto us, it is gone into heaven, and they know not what is become of it.

Having given this brief declaration of the nature of justifying faith, and the acts of it (as I suppose, sufficient unto my present design), I shall not trouble myself to give an accurate definition of it. What are my thoughts concerning it, will be better understood by what has been spoken, than by any precise definition I can give. And the truth is, definitions of justifying faith have been so multiplied by learned men, and in so great variety, and [there is] such a manifest inconsistency among some of them, that they have been of no advantage unto the truth, but occasions of new controversies and divisions, whilst every one has laboured to defend the accuracy of his own definition, when yet it may be difficult for a true believer to find any thing compliant with his own experience in them; which kind of definitions in these things I have no esteem for. I know no man that has laboured in this argument about the nature of faith more than Dr Jackson; yet, when he has done all, he gives us a definition of justifying faith which I know few that will subscribe unto: yet is it, in the main scope of it, both pious and sound. For he tells us, “Here at length, we may define the faith by which the just live, to be a firm and constant adherence unto the mercies and the loving-kindness of Lord; or, generally, unto the spiritual food exhibited in his sacred word, as much better than this life itself, and all the contentments it is capable of; grounded on a taste or relish of their sweetness, wrought in the soul or heart of a man by the Spirit of Christ.” Whereunto he adds, “The terms for the most part are the prophet David’s; not metaphorical, as some may fancy, much less equivocal, but proper and homogeneal to the subject defined,” tom. i. book iv. chap. 9. For the lively scriptural expressions of faith, by receiving on Christ, leaning on him, rolling ourselves or our burden on him, tasting how gracious the Lord is, and the like, which of late have been reproached, yea, blasphemed, by many, I may have occasion to speak of them afterwards; as also to manifest that they convey a better understanding of the nature, work, and object of justifying faith, unto the minds of men spiritually enlightened, than the most accurate definitions that many pretend unto; some whereof are destructive and exclusive of them all.


[17] This chapter is obviously the fourth division on the subject of faith, as the author proposes to discuss it on page 74. It is not so marked, however, in the original edition; and perhaps the omission was designed to leave the chapter less complicated with divisions. We content ourselves with simply calling attention to the circumstance, and do not venture to make any change. — Ed.


Chapter III. The use of faith in justification; its especial object farther cleared

Use of faith in justification; various conceptions about it — By whom asserted as the instrument of it; by whom denied — In what sense it is affirmed so to be — The expressions of the Scripture concerning the use of faith in justification; what they are, and how they are best explained by an instrumental cause — Faith, how the instrument of God in justification — How the instrument of them that do believe — The use of faith expressed in the Scripture by apprehending, receiving; declared by an instrument — Faith, in what sense the condition of our justification — Signification of that term, whence to be learned

The description before given of justifying faith does sufficiently manifest of what use it is in justification; nor shall I in general add much unto what may be thence observed unto that purpose. But whereas this use of it has been expressed with some variety, and several ways of it asserted inconsistent with one another, they must be considered in our passage. And I shall do it with all brevity possible; for these things lead not in any part of the controversy about the nature of justification, but are merely subservient unto other conceptions concerning it. When men have fixed their apprehensions about the principal matters in controversy, they express what concerns the use of faith in an accommodation thereunto. Supposing such to be the nature of justification as they assert, it must be granted that the use of faith therein must be what they plead for. And if what is peculiar unto any in the substance of the doctrine be disproved, they cannot deny but that their notions about the use of faith do fall unto the ground. Thus is it with all who affirm faith to be either the instrument, or the condition, or the “causa sine qua non,” or the preparation and disposition of the subject, or a meritorious cause, by way of condecency or congruity, in and of our justification. For all these notions of the use of faith are suited and accommodated unto the opinions of men concerning the nature and principal causes of justification. Neither can any trial or determination be made as unto their truth and propriety, but upon a previous judgment concerning those causes, and the whole nature of justification itself. Whereas, therefore, it were vain and endless to plead the principal matter in controversy upon every thing that occasionally belongs unto it, — and so by the title unto the whole inheritance of every cottage that is built on the premises, — I shall briefly speak unto these various conceptions about the use of faith in our justification, rather to find out and give an understanding of what is intended by them, than to argue about their truth and propriety, which depend on that wherein the substance of the controversy does consist.

Protestant divines, until of late, have unanimously affirmed faith to be the instrumental cause of our justification. So it is expressed to be in many of the public confessions of their churches. This notion of theirs concerning the nature and use of faith was from the first opposed by those of the Roman church. Afterward it was denied also by the Socinians, as either false or improper. Socin. Miscellan. Smalcius adv. Frantz. disput. 4; Schlichting. adver. Meisner. de Justificat. And of late this expression is disliked by some among ourselves; wherein they follow Episcopius, Curcellæus, and others of that way. Those who are sober and moderate do rather decline this notion and expression as improper, than reject them as untrue. And our safest course, in these cases, is to consider what is the thing or matter intended. If that be agreed upon, he deserves best of truth who parts with strife about propriety of expressions, before it be meddled with. Tenacious pleading about them will surely render our contentions endless; and none will ever want an appearance of probability to give them countenance in what they pretend. If our design in teaching be the same with that of the Scripture, — namely, to inform the minds of believers, and convey the light of the knowledge of God in Christ unto them, we must be contented sometimes to make use of such expressions as will scarce pass the ordeal of arbitrary rules and distinctions, through the whole compass of notional and artificial sciences. And those who, without more ado, reject the instrumentality of faith in our justification, as an unscriptural notion, as though it were easy for them with one breath to blow away the reasons and arguments of so many learned men as have pleaded for it, may not, I think, do amiss to review the grounds of their confidence. For the question being only concerning what is intended by it, it is not enough that the term or word itself, of an instrument, is not found unto this purpose in the Scripture; for on the same ground we may reject a trinity of persons in the divine essence, without an acknowledgment whereof, not one line of the Scripture can be rightly understood.

Those who assert faith to be as the instrumental cause in our justification, do it with respect unto two ends. For, first, they design thereby to declare the meaning of those expressions in the Scripture wherein we are said to be justified pistei, absolutely; which must denote, either “instrumentum, aut formam, aut modum actionis.” Logizometha oun tistei dikaiousthei anthrōpon, Rom. iii. 28; — “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith.” So, Dia pisteōs, verse 22; Ek pisteōs, Rom. i. 17; Gal. iii. 8; Dia tēs pisteōs, Eph. ii. 8; Ek pisteōs, kai dia tēs pisteōs, Rom. iii. 30; — that is “Fide, ex fide, per fidem;” which we can express only, by faith, or through faith. “Propter fidem,” or dia pistin, for our faith, we are nowhere said to be justified. The inquiry is, What is the most proper, lightsome, and convenient way of declaring the meaning of these expressions? This the generality of Protestants do judge to be by an instrumental cause: for some kind of causality they do plainly intimate, whereof the lowest and meanest is that which is instrumental; for they are used of faith in our justification before God, and of no other grace of duty whatever. Wherefore, the proper work or office of faith in our justification is intended by them. And dia is nowhere used in the whole New Testament with a genitive case (nor in any other good author), but it denotes an instrumental efficiency at least. In the divine works of the holy Trinity, the operation of the second person, who is in them a principal efficient, yet is sometimes expressed thereby; it may be to denote the order of operation in the holy Trinity answering the order of subsistence, though it be applied unto God absolutely or the Father: Rom. xi. 36, Diautou; — “By him are all things.” Again, ex ergōn nomou and ex akoēs pisteōs are directly opposed, Gal. iii. 2. But when it is said that a man is not justified ex ergōn nomou, — “by the works of the law,” — it is acknowledged by all that the meaning of the expression is to exclude all efficiency, in every kind of such works, from our justification. Is follows, therefore, that where, in opposition hereunto, we are said to be justified ek pisteōs, — “by faith,” — an instrumental efficiency is intended. Yet will I not, therefore, make it my controversy with any, that faith is properly an instrument, or the instrumental cause in or of our justification; and so divert into an impertinent contest about the nature and kinds of instruments and instrumental causes, as they are metaphysically hunted with a confused cry of futilous terms and distinctions. But this I judge, that among all those notions of things which may be taken from common use and understanding, to represent unto our minds the meaning and intention of the scriptural expressions so often used, pistei, ek pisteōs, dia pisteōs, there is none so proper as this of an instrument or instrumental cause, seeing a causality is included in them, and that of any other kind certainly excluded; nor has it any of its own.

But it may be said, that if faith be the instrumental cause of justification, it is either the instrument of God, or the instrument of believers themselves. That it is not the instrument of God is plain, in that it is a duty which he prescribes unto us: it is an act of our own; and it is we that believe, not God; nor can any act of ours be the instrument of his work. And if it be our instrument, seeing an efficiency is ascribed unto it, then are we the efficient causes of our own justification in some sense, and may be said to justify ourselves; which is derogatory to the grace of God and the blood of Christ.

I confess that I lay not much weight on exceptions of this nature. For, First, Notwithstanding what is said herein, the Scripture is express, that “God justifieth us by faith.” “It is one God which shall justify the circumcision ek pisteōs, (by faith,) “and the uncircumcision dia tēs pisteōs, (through or by faith), Rom. iii. 30. “The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith,” Gal. iii. 8. As he “purifieth the hearts of men by faith,” Acts xv. 9, wherefore faith, in some sense, may be said to be the instrument of God in our justification, both as it is the means and way ordained and appointed by him on our part whereby we shall be justified; as also, because he bestows it on us, and works it in us unto this end, that we may be justified: for “by grace we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God,” Eph. ii. 8. If any one shall now say, that on these accounts, or with respect unto divine ordination and operation concurring unto our justification, faith is the instrument of God, in its place and way, (as the gospel also is, Rom. i. 16; and the ministers of it, 2 Cor. v. 18; 1 Tim. iv. 6; and the sacraments also, Rom. iv. 11; Tit. iii. 5, in their several places and kinds), unto our justification, it may be he will contribute unto a right conception of the work of God herein, as much as those shall by whom it is denied.

But that which is principally intended is, that it is the instrument of them that do believe. Neither yet are they said hereon to justify themselves. For whereas it does neither really produce the effect of justification by a physical operation, nor can do so, it being a pure sovereign act of God; nor is morally any way meritorious thereof; nor does dispose the subject wherein it is unto the introduction of an inherent formal cause of justification, there being no such thing in “rerum natura;” nor has any other physical or moral respect unto the effect of justification, but what arises merely from the constitution and appointment of God; there is no colour of reason, from the instrumentality of faith asserted, to ascribe the effect of justification unto any but unto the principal efficient cause, which is God alone, and from whom it proceeds in a way of free and sovereign grace, disposing the order of things and the relation of them one unto another as seems good unto him. Dikaioumenoi dōrean tē autou chariti, Rom. iii. 24; Dia tēs pisteōs en tō autou haimati, verse 25. It is, therefore, the ordinance of God prescribing our duty, that we may be justified freely by his grace, having its use and operation towards that end, after the manner of an instrument; as we shall see farther immediately. Wherefore, so far as I can discern, they contribute nothing unto the real understanding of this truth, who deny faith to be the instrumental cause of our justification; and, on other grounds, assert it to be the condition thereof, unless they can prove this is a more natural exposition of these expressions, pistei, ek pisteōs, dia tēs pisteōs, which is the first thing to be inquired after. For all that we do in this matter is but to endeavour a right understanding of Scripture propositions and expressions, unless we intend to wander “extra oleas,” and lose ourselves in a maze of uncertain conjectures.

Secondly. They designed to declare the use of faith in justification, expressed in the Scripture by apprehending and receiving of Christ or his righteousness, and remission of sins thereby. The words whereby this use of faith in our justification is expressed, are, lambanō, paralambanō, and katalambanō. And the constant use of them in the Scripture is, to take or receive what is offered, tendered, given or granted unto us; or to apprehend and lay hold of any thing thereby to make it our own: as epilambanomai is also used in the same sense, Heb. ii. 16. So we are said by faith to “receive Christ,” John i. 12; Col. ii. 6; — the “abundance of grace, and the gift of righteousness,” Rom. v. 17; — the “word of promise,” Acts ii. 41; — the “word of God,” Acts viii. 14; 1 Thess i. 6; ii. 13; — the “atonement made by the blood of Christ,” Rom. v. 11; — the “forgiveness of sins,” Acts x. 43; xxvi. 18; — the “promise of the Spirit,” Gal. iii. 14; — the “promises,” Heb. ix. 15. There is, therefore, nothing that concurs unto our justification, but we receive it by faith. And unbelief is expressed by “not receiving,” John i. 11; iii. 11; xii. 48; xiv. 17. Wherefore, the object of faith in our justification, that whereby we are justified, is tendered, granted, and given unto us of God; the use of faith being to lay hold upon it, to receive it, so as that it may be our own. What we receive of outward things that are so given unto us, we do it by our hand; which, therefore, is the instrument of that reception, that whereby we apprehend or lay hold of any thing to appropriate it unto ourselves, and that, because this is the peculiar office which, by nature, it is assigned unto among all the members of the body. Other uses it has, and other members, on other accounts, may be as useful unto the body as it; but it alone is the instrument of receiving and apprehending that which, being given, is to be made our own, and to abide with us. Whereas, therefore, the righteousness wherewith we are justified is the gift of God, which is tendered unto us in the promise of the gospel; the use and office of faith being to receive, apprehend, or lay hold of and appropriate, this righteousness, I know not how it can be better expressed than by an instrument, nor by what notion of it more light of understanding may be conveyed unto our minds. Some may suppose other notions are meet to express it by on other accounts; and it may be so with respect unto other uses of it: but the sole present inquiry is, how it shall be declared, as that which receives Christ, the atonement, the gift of righteousness; which shall prove its only use in our justification. He that can better express this than by an instrument ordained of God unto this end, all whose use depends on that ordination of God, will deserve well of the truth. It is true, that all those who place the formal cause or reason of our justification in ourselves, or our inherent righteousness, and so, either directly or by just consequence, deny all imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto our justification, are not capable of admitting faith to be an instrument in this work, nor are pressed with this consideration; for they acknowledge not that we receive a righteousness which is not our own, by way of gift, whereby we are justified, and so cannot allow of any instrument whereby it should be received. The righteousness itself being, as they phrase it, putative, imaginary, a chimera, a fiction, it can have no real accidents, — nothing that can be really predicated concerning it. Wherefore, as was said at the entrance of this discourse, the truth and propriety of this declaration of the use of faith in our justification by an instrumental cause, depends on the substance of the doctrine itself concerning the nature and principal causes of it, with which they must stand or fall. If we are justified through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, which faith alone apprehends and receives, it will not be denied but that it is rightly enough placed as the instrumental cause of our justification. And if we are justified by an inherent, evangelical righteousness of our own, faith may be the condition of its imputation, or a disposition for its introduction, or a congruous merit of it, but an instrument it cannot be. But yet, for the present, it has this double advantage:— First, That it best and most appositely answers what is affirmed of the use of faith in our justification in the Scripture, as the instances given do manifest. Secondly, That no other notion of it can be so stated, but that it must be apprehended in order of time to be previous unto justification; which justifying faith cannot be, unless a man may be a true believer with justifying faith, and yet not be justified.

Some do plead that faith is the condition of our justification, and that otherwise it is not to be conceived of. As I said before, so I say again, I shall not contend with any man about words, terms, or expressions, so long as what is intended by them is agreed upon. And there is an obvious sense wherein faith may he called the condition of our justification; for no more may be intended thereby, but that it is the duty on our part which God requires, that we may be justified. And this the whole Scripture bears witness unto. Yet this hinders not but that, as unto its use, it may be the instrument whereby we apprehend or receive Christ and his righteousness. But to assert it the condition of our justification, or that we are justified by it as the condition of the new covenant, so as, from a preconceived signification of that word, to give it another use in justification, exclusive of that pleaded for, as the instrumental cause thereof, is not easily to be admitted; because it supposes an alteration in the substance of the doctrine itself.

The word is nowhere used in the Scripture in this matter; which I argue no farther, but that we have no certain rule or standard to try and measure its signification by. Wherefore, it cannot first be introduced in what sense men please, and then that sense turned into argument for other ends. For thus, on a supposed concession that it is the condition of our justification, some heighten it into a subordinate righteousness, imputed unto us antecedently, as I suppose, unto the imputation of the righteousness of Christ in any sense, whereof it is the condition. And some, who pretend to lessen its efficiency or dignity in the use of it in our justification, say it is only “causa sine qua non;” which leaves us at as great an uncertainty as to the nature and efficacy of this condition as we were before. Nor is the true sense of things at all illustrated, but rather darkened, by such notions.

If we may introduce words into religion nowhere used in the Scripture (as we may and must, if we design to bring light, and communicate proper apprehensions of the things contained [in it] unto the minds of men), yet are we not to take along with them arbitrary, preconceived senses, forged either among lawyers or in the peripatetical school. The use of them in the most approved authors of the language whereunto they do belong, and their common vulgar acceptation among ourselves, must determine their sense and meaning. It is known what confusion in the minds of men, the introduction of words into ecclesiastical doctrines, of whose signification there has not been a certain determinate rule agreed on, has produced. So the word “merit” was introduced by some of the ancients (as is plain from the design of their discourses where they use it) for impetration or acquisition “quovis modo;” — by any means whatever. But there being no cogent reason to confine the word unto that precise signification, it has given occasion to as great a corruption as has befallen Christian religion. We must, therefore, make use of the best means we have to understand the meaning of this word, and what is intended by it, before we admit of its use in this case.

Conditio,” in the best Latin writers, is variously used, answering katastasis, tuchē, axia, aitia, sunthēkē, in the Greek; that is, “status, fortuna, dignitas, causa, pactum initum.” In which of these significations it is here to be understood is not easy to be determined. In common use among us, it sometimes denotes the state and quality of men, — that is, katastasis and axia; and sometimes a valuable consideration for what is to be done, — that is, aitia or sunthēkē. But herein it is applied unto things in great variety; sometimes the principal procuring, purchasing cause is so expressed. As the condition whereon a man lends another a hundred pounds is, that he be paid it again with interest; — the condition whereon a man conveys his land unto another is, that he receive so much money for it: so a condition is a valuable consideration. And sometimes it signifies such things as are added to the principal cause, whereon its operation is suspended; — as a man bequeaths a hundred pounds unto another, on condition that he come or go to such a place to demand it. This is no valuable consideration, yet is the effect of the principal cause, or the will of the testator, suspended thereon. And as unto degrees of respect unto that whereof any thing is a condition, as to purchase, procurement, valuable consideration, necessary presence, the variety is endless. We therefore cannot obtain a determinate sense of this word condition, but from a particular declaration of what is intended by it, wherever it is used. And although this be not sufficient to exclude the use of it from the declaration of the way and manner how we are justified by faith, yet is it so to exclude the imposition of any precise signification of it, any other than is given it by the matter treated of. Without this, every thing is left ambiguous and uncertain whereunto it is applied.

For instance, it is commonly said that faith and new obedience are the condition of the new covenant; but yet, because of the ambiguous signification and various use of that term (condition) we cannot certainly understand what is intended in the assertion. If no more be intended but that God, in and by the new covenant, does indispensably require these things of us, — that is, the restipulation of a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, in order unto his own glory, and our full enjoyment of all the benefits of it, it is unquestionably true; but if it be intended that they are such a condition of the covenant as to be by us performed antecedently unto the participation of any grace, mercy, or privilege of it, so as that they should be the consideration and procuring causes of them, — that they should be all of them, as some speak, the reward of our faith and obedience, — it is most false, and not only contrary to express testimonies of Scripture, but destructive of the nature of the covenant itself. If it be intended that these things, though promised in the covenant, and wrought in us by the grace of God, are yet duties required of us, in order unto the participation and enjoyment of the full end of the covenant in glory, it is the truth which is asserted; but if it be said that faith and new obedience — that is, the works of righteousness which we do — are so the condition of the covenant, as that whatever the one is ordained of God as a means of, and in order to such or such an end, as justification, that the other is likewise ordained unto the same end, with the same kind of efficacy, or with the same respect unto the effect, it is expressly contrary to the whole scope and express design of the apostle on that subject. But it will be said that a condition in the sense intended, when faith is said to be a condition of our justification, is no more but that it is “causa sine qua non;” which is easy enough to be apprehended. But yet neither are we so delivered out of uncertainties into a plain understanding of what is intended; for these “causæ sine quibus non” may be taken largely or more strictly and precisely. So are they commonly distinguished by the masters in these arts. Those so called, in a larger sense, are all such causes, in any kind of efficiency or merit, as are inferior unto principal causes, and would operate nothing without them; but in conjunction with them, have a real effective influence, physical or moral, into the production of the effect. And if we take a condition to be a “causa sine qua non” in this sense, we are still at a loss what may be its use, efficiency, or merit, with respect unto our justification. If it be taken more strictly for that which is necessarily present, but has no causality in any kind, not that of a receptive instrument, I cannot understand how it should be an ordinance of God. For every thing that he has appointed unto any end, moral or spiritual, has, by virtue of that appointment, either a symbolical instructive efficacy, or an active efficiency, or a rewardable condecency, with respect unto that end. Other things may be generally and remotely necessary unto such an end, so far as it partakes of the order of natural beings, which are not ordinances of God with respect thereunto, and so have no kind of causality with respect unto it, as it is moral or spiritual. So the air we breathe is needful unto the preaching of the word, and consequently a “causa sine qua non” thereof; but an ordinance of God with especial respect thereunto it is not. But every thing that he appoints unto an especial spiritual end, has an efficacy or operation in one or other of the ways mentioned; for they either concur with the principal cause in its internal efficiency, or they operate externally in the removal of obstacles and hindrances that oppose the principal cause in its efficiency. And this excludes all causes “sine quibus non,” strictly so taken, from any place among divine ordinances. God appoints nothing for an end that shall do nothing. His sacraments are not arga sēmeia; but, by virtue of his institution, do exhibit that grace which they do not in themselves contain. The preaching of the word has a real efficiency unto all the ends of it. So have all the graces and duties that he works in us, and requires of us: by them all are “we made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light;” and our whole obedience, through his gracious appointment, has a rewardable condecency with respect unto eternal life. Wherefore, as faith may be allowed to be the condition of our justification, if no more be intended thereby but that it is what God requires of us that we may be justified; so, to confine the declaration of its use in our justification unto its being the condition of it, when so much as a determinate signification of it cannot be agreed upon, is subservient only unto the interest of unprofitable strife and contention.

To close these discourses concerning faith and its use in our justification, some things must yet be added concerning its especial object. For although what has been spoken already thereon, in the description of its nature and object in general, be sufficient, in general, to state its especial object also; yet there having been an inquiry concerning it, and debate about it, in a peculiar notion, and under some especial terms, that also must be considered. And this is, Whether justifying faith, in our justification, or its use therein, do respect Christ as a king and prophet, as well as a priest, with the satisfaction that as such he made for us, and that in the same manner, and unto the same ends and purposes? And I shall be brief in this inquiry, because it is but a late controversy, and, it may be, has more of curiosity in its disquisition than of edification in its determination. However, being not, that I know of, under these terms stated in any public confessions of the reformed churches, it is free for any to express their apprehensions concerning it. And to this purpose I say, —

1. Faith, whereby we are justified, in the receiving of Christ, principally respects his person, for all those ends for which he is the ordinance of God. It does not, in the first place, as it is faith in general, respect his person absolutely, seeing its formal object, as such, is the truth of God in the proposition, and not the thing itself proposed. Wherefore, it so respects and receives Christ as proposed in the promise, — the promise itself being the formal object of its assent.

2. We cannot so receive Christ in the promise, as in that act of receiving him to exclude the consideration of any of his offices; for as he is not at any time to be considered by us but as vested with all his offices, so a distinct conception of the mind to receive Christ as a priest, but not as a king or prophet, is not faith, but unbelief, — not the receiving, but the rejecting of him.

3. In the receiving of Christ for justification formally, our distinct express design is to be justified thereby, and no more. Now, to be justified is to be freed from the guilt of sin, or to have all our sins pardoned, and to have a righteousness wherewith to appear before God, so as to be accepted with him, and a right to the heavenly inheritance. Every believer has other designs also, wherein he is equally concerned with this, — as, namely, the renovation of his nature, the sanctification of his person, and ability to live unto God in all holy obedience; but the things before mentioned are all that he aims at or designs in his applications unto Christ, or his receiving of him unto justification. Wherefore, —

4. Justifying faith, in that act or work of it whereby we are justified, respects Christ in his priestly office alone, as he was the surety of the covenant, with what he did in the discharge thereof. The consideration of his other office is not excluded, but it is not formally comprised in the object of faith as justifying.

5. When we say that the sacerdotal office of Christ, or the blood of Christ, or the satisfaction of Christ, is that alone which faith respects in justification, we do not exclude, yea, we do really include and comprise, in that assertion, all that depends thereon, or concurs to make them effectual unto our justification. As, — First, The “free grace” and favour of God in giving of Christ for us and unto us, whereby we are frequently said to be justified, Rom. iii. 24; Eph. ii. 8; Tit. iii. 7. His wisdom, love, righteousness, and power, are of the same consideration, as has been declared. Secondly. Whatever in Christ himself was necessary antecedently unto his discharge of that office, or was consequential thereof, or did necessarily accompany it. Such was his incarnation, the whole course of his obedience, his resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and intercession; for the consideration of all these things is inseparable from the discharge of his priestly office. And therefore is justification either expressly or virtually assigned unto them also, Gen. iii. 15; 1 John iii. 8; Heb. ii. 14–16; Rom. iv. 25; Acts v. 31; Heb. vii. 27; Rom. viii. 34. But yet, wherever our justification is so assigned unto them, they are not absolutely considered, but with respect unto their relation to his sacrifice and satisfaction. Thirdly. All the means of the application of the sacrifice and righteousness of the Lord Christ unto us are also included therein. Such is the principal efficient cause thereof, which is the Holy Ghost; whence we are said to be “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God,” 1 Cor. vi. 11; and the instrumental cause thereof on the part of God, which is the “promise of the gospel,” Rom. i. 17; Gal. iii. 22, 23. It would, therefore, be unduly pretended, that by this assertion we do narrow or straiten the object of justifying faith as it justifies; for, indeed, we assign a respect unto the whole mediatory office of Christ, not excluding the kingly and prophetical parts thereof, but only such a notion of them as would not bring in more of Christ, but much of ourselves, into our justification. And the assertion, as laid down, may be proved, —

(1.) From the experience of all that are justified, or do seek for justification according unto the gospel: for under this notion of seeking for justification, or a righteousness unto justification, they were all of them to be considered, and do consider themselves as hupodikoi tō Theō, — “guilty before God,” — subject, obnoxious, liable unto his wrath in the curse of the law; as we declared in the entrance of this discourse, Rom. iii. 19. They were all in the same state that Adam was in after the fall, unto whom God proposed the relief of the incarnation and suffering of Christ, Gen. iii. 15. And to seek after justification, is to seek after a discharge from this woeful state and condition. Such persons have, and ought to have, other designs and desires also. For whereas the state wherein they are antecedent unto their justification is not only a state of guilt and wrath, but such also as wherein, through the depravation of their nature, the power of sin is prevalent in them, and their whole souls are defiled, they design and desire not only to be justified, but to be sanctified also; but as unto the guilt of sin, and the want of a righteousness before God, from which justification is their relief, herein, I say, they have respect unto Christ as “set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” In their design for sanctification they have respect unto the kingly and prophetical offices of Christ, in their especial exercise; but as to their freedom from the guilt of sin, and their acceptance with God, or their justification in his sight, — that they may be freed from condemnation, that they may not come into judgment, — it is Christ crucified, it is Christ lifted up as the “brazen serpent” in the wilderness, it is the blood of Christ, it is the propitiation that he was and the atonement that he made, it is his bearing their sins, his being made sin and the curse for them, it is his obedience, the end which he put unto sin, and the everlasting righteousness which he brought in, that alone their faith does fix upon and acquiesce in. If it be otherwise in the experience of any, I acknowledge I am not acquainted with it. I do not say that conviction of sin is the only antecedent condition of actual justification; but this it is that makes a sinner “subjectum capax justificationis.” No man, therefore, is to be considered as a person to be justified, but he who is actually under the power of the conviction of sin, with all the necessary consequent thereof. Suppose, therefore, any sinner in this condition, as it is described by the apostle, Rom. iii., “guilty before God,” with his “mouth stopped” as unto any pleas, defences, or excuses; suppose him to seek after a relief and deliverance out of this estate, — that is, to be justified according to the gospel, — he neither does nor can wisely take any other course than what he is there directed unto by the same apostle, verses 20–25, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now 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; for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Whence I argue, —

That which a guilty, condemned sinner, finding no hope nor relief from the law of God, the sole rule of all his obedience, does betake himself unto by faith, that he may be delivered or justified, — that is the especial object of faith as justifying. But this is the grace of God alone, through the redemption that is in Christ; or Christ proposed as a propitiation through faith in his blood. Either this is so, or the apostle does not aright guide the souls and consciences of men in that condition wherein he himself does place them. It is the blood of Christ alone that he directs the faith unto of all them that would be justified before God. Grace, redemption, propitiation, all through the blood of Christ, faith does peculiarly respect and fix upon. This is that, if I mistake not, which they will confirm by their experience who have made any distinct observation of the acting of their faith in their justification before God.

(2.) The Scripture plainly declares that faith as justifying respects the sacerdotal office and acting of Christ alone. In the great representation of the justification of the church of old, in the expiatory sacrifice, when all their sins and iniquities were pardoned, and their persons accepted with God, the acting of their faith was limited unto the imposition of all their sins on the head of the sacrifice by the high priest, Lev. xvi. “By his knowledge” (that is, by faith in him) “shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities,” Isa. liii. 11. That alone which faith respects in Christ, as unto the justification of sinners, is his “bearing their iniquities.” Guilty, convinced sinners look unto him by faith, as those who were stung with “fiery serpents” did to the “brazen serpent,” — that is, as he was lifted up on the cross, John iii. 14, 15. So did he himself express the nature and acting of faith in our justification. Rom. iii. 24, 25, “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” As he is a propitiation, as he shed his blood for us, as we have redemption thereby, he is the peculiar object of our faith, with respect unto our justification. See to the same purpose, Rom. v. 9, 10; Eph. i. 7; Col. i. 14; Eph. ii. 13–16; Rom. viii. 3, 4. “He we made sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Cor. v. 21. That which we seek after in justification, is a participation of the righteousness of God; — to be made the righteousness of God, and that not in ourselves, but in another; that is, in Christ Jesus. And that alone which is proposed unto our faith as the means and cause of it, is his being made sin for us, or a sacrifice for sin; wherein all the guilt of our sins was laid on him, and he bare all our iniquities. This therefore, is its peculiar object herein. And wherever, in the Scripture, we are directed to seek for the forgiveness of sins by the blood of Christ, to receive the atonement, to be justified through the faith of him as crucified, the object of faith in justification is limited and determined.

But it may be pleaded, in exception unto the testimonies, that no one of them does affirm that we are justified by faith in the blood of Christ alone, so as to exclude the consideration of the other offices of Christ and their acting from being the object of faith in the same manner and unto the same ends with his sacerdotal office, and what belongs thereunto, or is derived from it.

Ans. This exception derives from that common objection against the doctrine of justification by faith alone, — namely, that that exclusive term alone is not found in the Scripture, or in any of the testimonies that are produced for justification by faith. But it is replied, with sufficient evidence of truth, that although the word be not found syllabically used unto this purpose, yet there are exceptive expressions equivalent unto it; as we shall see afterwards. It is so in this particular instance also; for, — First, Where our justification is expressly ascribed unto our faith in the blood of Christ as the propitiation for our sins, unto our believing in him as crucified for us, and it is nowhere ascribed unto our receiving of him as King, Lord, or Prophet, it is plain that the former expressions are virtually exclusive of the latter consideration. Secondly, I do not say that the consideration of the kingly and prophetical offices of Christ is excluded from our justification, as works are excluded in opposition unto faith and grace: for they are so excluded, as there we are to exercise an act of our minds in their positive rejection, as saying, “Get you hence, you have no lot nor portion in this matter;” but as to these offices of Christ, as to the object of faith as justifying, we say only that they are not included therein. For, so to believe to be justified by his blood, as to exercise a positive act of the mind, excluding a compliance with his other offices, is an impious imagination.

(3.) Neither the consideration of these offices themselves, nor any of the peculiar acts of them, is suited to give the souls and consciences of convinced sinners that relief which they seek after in justification. We are not, in this whole cause, to lose out of our eye the state of the person who is to be justified, and what it is he does seek after, and ought to seek after, therein. Now, this is pardon of sin, and righteousness before God alone. That, therefore, which is no way suited to give or tender this relief unto him, is not, nor can be, the object of his faith whereby he is justified, in that exercise of it whereon his justification does depend. This relief, it will be said, is to be had in Christ alone. It is true; but under what consideration? For the whole design of the sinner is, how he may be accepted with God, be at peace with him, have all his wrath turned away, by a propitiation or atonement. Now, this can no otherwise be done but by the acting of some one towards God and with God on his behalf; for it is about the turning away of God’s anger, and acceptance with him, that the inquiry is made. It is by the blood of Christ that we are “made nigh,” who were “far off,” Eph. ii. 13. By the blood of Christ are we reconciled, who were enemies, verse 16. By the blood of Christ we have redemption, Rom. iii. 24, 25; Eph. i. 7, etc. This, therefore, is the object of faith.

All the actings of the kingly and prophetical offices of Christ are all of them from God; that is, in the name and authority of God towards us. Not any one of them is towards God on our behalf, so as that by virtue of them we should expect acceptance with God. They are all good, blessed, holy in themselves, and of an eminent tendency unto the glory of God in our salvation: yea, they are no less necessary unto our salvation, to the praise of God’s grace, than are the atonement for sin and satisfaction which he made; for from them is the way of life revealed unto us, grace communicated, our persons sanctified, and the reward bestowed. Yea, in the exercise of his kingly power does the Lord Christ both pardon and justify sinners. Not that he did as a king constitute the law of justification; for it was given and established in the first promise, and he came to put it in execution, John iii. 16; but in the virtue of his atonement and righteousness, imputed unto them, he does both pardon and justify sinners. But they are the acts of his sacerdotal office alone, that respect God on our behalf. Whatever he did on earth with God for the church, in obedience, suffering, and offering up of himself; whatever he does in heaven, in intercession and appearance in the presence of God, for us; it all entirely belongs unto his priestly office. And in these things alone does the soul of a convinced sinner find relief when he seeks after deliverance from the state of sin, and acceptance with God. In these, therefore, alone the peculiar object of his faith, that which will give him rest and peace, must be comprised. And this last consideration is, of itself, sufficient to determine this difference.

Sundry things are objected against this assertion, which I shall not here at large discuss, because what is material in any of them will occur on other occasions, where its consideration will be more proper. In general it may be pleaded, that justifying faith is the same with saving faith: nor is it said that we are justified by this or that part of faith, but by faith in general; that is, as taken essentially, for the entire grace of faith. And as unto faith in this sense, not only a respect unto Christ in all his offices, but obedience itself also is included in it; as is evident in many places of the Scripture. Wherefore, there is no reason why we should limit the object of it unto the person of Christ as acting in the discharge of his sacerdotal office, with the effects and fruits thereof.

Ans. 1. Saving faith and justifying faith, in any believer, are one and the same; and the adjuncts of saving and justifying are but external denominations, from its distinct operations and effects. But yet saving faith does act in a peculiar manner, and is of peculiar use in justification, such as it is not of under any other consideration whatever. Wherefore, — 2. Although saving faith, as it is described in general, do ever include obedience, not as its form or essence, but as the necessary effect is included in the cause, and the fruit in the fruit-bearing juice; and is often mentioned as to its being and exercise where there is no express mention of Christ, his blood, and his righteousness, but is applied unto all the acts, duties, and ends of the gospel; yet this proves not at all but that, as unto its duty, place, and acting in our justification, it has a peculiar object. If it could be proved, that where justification is ascribed unto faith, that there it has any other object assigned unto it, as that which it rested in for the pardon of sin and acceptance with God, this objection were of some force; but this cannot be done. 3. This is not to say that we are justified by a part of faith, and not by it as considered essentially; for we are justified by the entire grace of faith, acting in such a peculiar way and manner, as others have observed. But the truth is, we need not insist on the discussion of this inquiry; for the true meaning of it is, not whether any thing of Christ is to be excluded from being the object of justifying faith, or of faith in our justification; but, what in and of ourselves, under the name of receiving Christ as our Lord and King, is to be admitted unto an efficiency or conditionality in that work. As it is granted that justifying faith is the receiving of Christ, so whatever belongs unto the person of Christ, or any office of his, or any acts in the discharge of any office, that may be reduced unto any cause of our justification, the meritorious, procuring, material, formal, or manifesting cause of it, is, so far as it does so, freely admitted to belong unto the object of justifying faith. Neither will I contend with any upon this disadvantageous stating of the question, — What of Christ is to be esteemed the object of justifying faith, and what is not so? for the thing intended is only this, — Whether our own obedience, distinct from faith, or included in it, and in like manner as faith, be the condition of our justification before God? This being that which is intended, which the other question is but invented to lead unto a compliance with, by a more specious pretence than in itself it is capable of, under those terms it shall be examined, and no otherwise.


Chapter IV. Of justification; the notion and signification of the word in Scripture

The proper sense of these words, justification, and to justify, considered — Necessity thereof — Latin derivation of justification — Some of the ancients deceived by it — From “jus,” and “justum;” “justus filius,” who — The Hebrew הִצְדִּיק — Use and signification of it — Places where it is used examined, 2 Sam. xv. 4; Deut. xxv. 1; Prov. xvii. 15; Isa. v. 23; l. 8, 9; 1 Kings viii. 31, 32; 2 Chron. vi. 22, 23; Ps. lxxxii. 3; Exod. xxiii. 7; Job xxvii. 5; Isa. liii. 11; Gen. xliv. 16; Dan. xii. 3 — The constant sense of the word evinced — Dikaioō, use of it in other authors, to punish — What it is in the New Testament, Matt. xi. 19; xii. 37; Luke vii. 29; x. 29; xvi. 15; xviii. 14; Acts xiii. 38, 39; Rom. ii. 13; iii. 4 — Constantly used in a forensic sense — Places seeming dubious, vindicated, Rom. viii. 30; 1 Cor. vi. 11; Tit. iii. 5–7; Rev. xxii. 11 — How often these words, dikaioō and dikaioumai, are used in the New Testament — Constant sense of this — The same evinced from what is opposed unto it, Isa. l. 8, 9; Prov. xvii. 15; Rom. v. 16, 18; viii. 33, 34 — And the declaration of it in terms equivalent, Rom. iv. 6, 11; v. 9, 10; 2 Cor. v. 20, 21; Matt. i. 21; Acts xiii. 39; Gal. ii. 16, etc. — Justification in the Scripture, proposed under a juridical scheme, and of a forensic title — The parts and progress of it — Inferences from the whole

Unto the right understanding of the nature of justification, the proper sense and signification of these words themselves, justification and to justify, is to be inquired into; for until that is agreed upon, it is impossible that our discourses concerning the thing itself should be freed from equivocation. Take words in various senses, and all may be true that is contradictorily affirmed or denied concerning what they are supposed to signify; and so it has actually fallen out in this case, as we shall see more fully afterwards. Some taking these words in one sense, some in another, have appeared to deliver contrary doctrines concerning the thing itself, or our justification before God, who yet have fully agreed in what the proper determinate sense or signification of the words does import; and therefore the true meaning of them has been declared and vindicated already by many. But whereas the right stating hereof is of more moment unto the determination of what is principally controverted about the doctrine itself, or the thing signified, than most do apprehend, and something at least remains to be added for the declaration and vindication of the import and only signification of these words in the Scripture, I shall give an account of my observations concerning it with what diligence I can.

The Latin derivation and composition of the word “justificatio,” would seem to denote an internal change from inherent unrighteousness unto righteousness likewise inherent, by a physical motion and transmutation, as the schoolmen speak; for such is the signification of words of the same composition. So sanctification, mortification, vivification, and the like, do all denote a real internal work on the subject spoken of. Hereon, in the whole Roman school, justification is taken for justifaction, or the making of a man to be inherently righteous, by the infusion of a principle or habit of grace, who was before inherently and habitually unjust and unrighteous. Whilst this is taken to be the proper signification of the word, we neither do nor can speak, ad idem, in our disputations with them about the cause and nature of that justification which the Scripture teaches.

And this appearing sense of the word possibly deceived some of the ancients, as Austin in particular, to declare the doctrine of free, gratuitous sanctification, without respect unto any works of our own, under the name of justification; for neither he nor any of them ever thought of a justification before God, consisting in the pardon of our sins and the acceptation of our persons as righteous, by virtue of any inherent habit of grace infused into us, or acted by us. Wherefore the subject-matter must be determined by the scriptural use and signification of these words, before we can speak properly or intelligibly concerning it: for if to justify men in the Scripture, signify to make them subjectively and inherently righteous, we must acknowledge a mistake in what we teach concerning the nature and causes of justification; and if it signify no such thing, all their disputations about justification by the infusion of grace, and inherent righteousness thereon, fall to the ground. Wherefore, all Protestants (and the Socinians all of them comply therein) do affirm, that the use and signification of these words is forensic, denoting an act of jurisdiction. Only the Socinians, and some others, would have it to consist in the pardon of sin only; which, indeed, the word does not at all signify. But the sense of the word is, to assoil, to acquit, to declare and pronounce righteous upon a trial; which, in this case, the pardon of sin does necessarily accompany.

Justificatio” and “justifico” belong not, indeed, unto the Latin tongue, nor can any good author be produced who ever used them, for the making of him inherently righteous, by any means, who was not so before. But whereas these words were coined and framed to signify such things as are intended, we have no way to determine the signification of them, but by the consideration of the nature of the things which they were invented to declare and signify. And whereas, in this language, these words are derived from “jus” and “justum,” they must respect an act of jurisdiction rather than a physical operation or infusion. “Justificari” is “justus censeri, pro justo haberi;” — to be esteemed, accounted, or adjudged righteous. So a man was made “justus filius,” in adoption, unto him by whom he was adopted, which, what it is, is well declared by Budæus, Cajus lib. ii., F. de Adopt. De Arrogatione loquens —: “Is qui adoptat rogatur, id est, interrogatur, an velit eum quem adopturus sit, justum sibi filium esse. Justum,” says he, “intelligo, non verum, ut aliqui censent, sed omnibus partibus, ut ita dicam, filiationis, veri filii vicem obtinentem, naturalis et legitimi filii loco sedentem.” Wherefore, as by adoption there is no internal inherent change made in the person adopted, but by virtue thereof he is esteemed and adjudged as a true son, and has all the rights of a legitimate son; so by justification, as to the importance of the word, a man is only esteemed, declared, and pronounced righteous, as if he were completely so. And in the present case justification and gratuitous adoption are the same grace, for the substance of them, John i. 12; only, respect is had, in their different denomination of the same grace, unto different effects or privileges that ensue thereon.

But the true and genuine signification of these words is to be determined from those in the original languages of the Scripture which are expounded by them. In the Hebrew it is צָדַק. This the LXX. render by Dikaion apophainō, Job xxvii. 5; Dikaios anaphainomai, chap. xiii. 18; Dikaion krinō, Prov. xvii. 15; — to show or declare one righteous; to appear righteous; to judge any one righteous. And the sense may be taken from any one of them, as Job xiii. 18, הִנֵּה־נָא עָרַכְּתִּי מִשְׁפָּט יָדַעְתִּי כִּי־אֲנִי אֶצְדָּק, — “Behold, now I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.” The ordering of his cause (his judgment), his cause to be judged on, is his preparation for a sentence, either of absolution or condemnation: and hereon his confidence was, that he should be justified; that is, absolved, acquitted, pronounced righteous. And the sense is no less pregnant in the other places. Commonly, they render it by dikaioō;, whereof I shall speak afterwards.

Properly, it denotes an action towards another (as justification and to justify do) in Hiphil only; and a reciprocal action of a man on himself in Hithpael, חִצְטַדָּק. Hereby alone is the true sense of these words determined. And I say, that in no place, or on any occasion, is it used in that conjugation wherein it denotes an action towards another, in any other sense but to absolve, acquit, esteem, declare, pronounce righteous, or to impute righteousness; which is the forensic sense of the word we plead for, — that is its constant use and signification, nor does it ever once signify to make inherently righteous, much less to pardon or forgive: so vain is the pretence of some, that justification consist only in the pardon of sin, which is not signified by the word in any one place of Scripture. Almost in all places this sense is absolutely unquestionable; nor is there any more than one which will admit of any debate, and that on so faint a pretence as cannot prejudice its constant use and signification in all other places. Whatever, therefore, an infusion of inherent grace may be, or however it may be called, justification it is not, it cannot be; the word nowhere signifying any such thing. Wherefore those of the church of Rome do not so much oppose justification by faith through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, as, indeed, deny that there is any such thing as justification: for that which they call the first justification, consisting in the infusion of a principle of inherent grace, is no such thing as justification: and their second justification, which they place in the merit of works, wherein absolution or pardon of sin has neither place nor consideration, is inconsistent with evangelical justification; as we shall show afterwards.

This word, therefore, whether the act of God towards men, or of men towards God, or of men among themselves, or of one towards another, be expressed thereby, is always used in a forensic sense, and does not denote a physical operation, transfusion, or transmutation. 2 Sam. xv. 4, “If any man has a suit or cause, let him come to me,” וְהִצְדַּקְתִּיו, “and I will do him justice;” — “I will justify him, judge in his cause, and pronounce for him.” Deut. xxv. 1, “If there be a controversy among men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them,” וְהִצְדִּיקוּ אֶת־הַצַּדִּיק, “they shall justify the righteous;” pronounce sentence on his side: whereunto is opposed, וְהִרְשִׁיעוּ אֶת־הָרָשָׁע, — “and they shall condemn the wicked;” make him wicked, as the word signifies; — that is, judge, declare, and pronounce him wicked; whereby he becomes so judicially, and in the eye of the law, as the other is made righteous by declaration and acquitment. He does not say, “This shall pardon the righteous;” which to suppose would overthrow both the antithesis and design of the place. And הִרְשִׁעַ is as much to infuse wickedness into a man, as הִצְדִּיק is to infuse a principle of grace or righteousness into him. The same antithesis occurs, Prov. xvii. 15, מַצְדִּיק רָשָׁע וּמַרְשִׁעַ צַדִּיק, — “He that justifieth the wicked, and condemneth the righteous.” Not he that makes the wicked inherently righteous, not he that changes him inherently from unrighteous unto righteousness; but he that, without any ground, reason, or foundation, acquits him in judgment, or declares him to be righteous, “is an abomination unto the Lord.” And although this be spoken of the judgment of men, yet the judgment of God also is according unto this truth: for although he justifies the ungodly, — those who are so in themselves, — yet he does it on the ground and consideration of a perfect righteousness made theirs by imputation; and by another act of his grace, that they may be meet subjects of this righteous favour, really and inherently changes them from unrighteousness unto holiness, by the renovation of their natures. And these things are singular in the actings of God, which nothing amongst men has any resemblance unto or can represent; for the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto a person in himself ungodly, unto his justification, or that he may be acquitted, absolved, and declared righteous, is built on such foundations, and proceeds on such principles of righteousness, wisdom, and sovereignty, as have no place among the actions of men, nor can have so; as shall afterwards be declared. And, moreover, when God does justify the ungodly, on the account of the righteousness imputed unto him, he does at the same instant, by the power of his grace, make him inherently and subjectively righteous or holy; which men cannot do one towards another. And therefore, whereas man’s justifying of the wicked is to justify them in their wicked ways, whereby they are constantly made worse, and more obdurate in evil; when God justifies the ungodly, their change from personal unrighteousness and unholiness unto righteousness and holiness does necessarily and infallibly accompany it.

To the same purpose is the word used, Isa. v. 23, “Which justify the wicked for reward;” and chap. l. 8, 9, קָרוֹב מַצְדִּקִי — “He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who shall condemn me?” where we have a full declaration of the proper sense of the word; which is, to acquit and pronounce righteous on a trial. And the same sense is fully expressed in the former antithesis. 1 Kings viii. 31, 32, “If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house; then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants,” לְהַרְשׁיעַ רָשָׁע, “to condemn the wicked,” to charge his wickedness on him, to bring his way on his head, וּלְהַצְדִּיק צַדִּיק, “and to justify the righteous.” The same words are repeated, 2 Chron. vi. 22, 23. Ps. lxxxii. 3, עַנִי וָרָשׁ הַצְדִּיקוּ — “Do justice to the afflicted and poor;” that is, justify them in their cause against wrong and oppression. Exod. xxiii. 7, לֹא־אַצְדִּיק רָשָׁע — “I will not justify the wicked;” absolve, acquit, or pronounce him righteous. Job xxvii. 5, חָלִילָה לִּי אִם־אַצְדִּיק אֶתְבֶם — “Be it far from me that I should justify you,” or pronounce sentence on your side as if you were righteous. Isa. liii. 11, “By his knowledge my righteous servant,” יַצְדִּיק, “shall justify many:” the reason whereof is added, “For he shall bear their iniquities;” whereon they are absolved and justified.

Once it is used in Hithpael, wherein a reciprocal action is denoted, that whereby a man justifies himself. Gen. xliv. 16, “And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak?” וּמַה־נִּצְטַדָּק, “and how shall we justify ourselves? God hath found out our iniquity.” They could plead nothing why they should be absolved from guilt.

Once the participle is used to denote the outward instrumental cause of the justification of others; in which place alone there is any doubt of its sense. Dan. xii. 3, וּמַצְדִּיקֵי הָרַבִּים, — “And they that justify many,” namely, in the same sense that the preachers of the gospel are said “to save themselves and others,” 1 Tim. iv. 16; for men may be no less the instrumental causes of the justification of others than of their sanctification.

Wherefore, although צָדַק in Kal signifies “justum esse,” and sometimes “juste agere,” which may relate unto inherent righteousness, yet where any action towards another is denoted, this word signifies nothing but to esteem, declare, pronounce, and adjudge any one absolved, acquitted, cleared, justified: there is, therefore, no other kind of justification once mentioned in the Old Testament.

Dikaioō is the word used to the same purpose in the New Testament, and that alone. Neither is this word used in any good author whatever to signify the making of a man righteous by any applications to produce internal righteousness in him; but either to absolve and acquit, to judge, esteem, and pronounce righteous; or, on the contrary, to condemn. So Suidas, Dikaioun duo dēloi, to te kolazein, kai to dikaion nomizein; — “It has two significations; to punish, and to account righteous.” And he confirms this sense of the word by instances out of Herodotus, Appianus, and Josephus. And again, Dikaiōsai aitiatikē, katadikasai, kolasai, dikaion nomisai with an accusative case; that is, when it respects and affects a subject, a person, it is either to condemn and punish, or to esteem and declare righteous: and of this latter sense he gives pregnant instances in the next words. Hesychius mentions only the first signification. Dikaioumenon, kolazomenon, dikaiōsai, kolasai. They never thought of any sense of this word but what is forensic. And, in our language, to be justified was commonly used formerly for to be judged and sentenced; as it is still among the Scots. One of the articles of peace between the two nations at the surrender of Leith, in the days of Edward VI., was, “That if any one committed a crime, he should be justified by the law, upon his trial.” And, in general, dikaousthai is “jus in judicio auferre;” and dikaiōsai is “justum censere, declarare pronuntiare;” and how in the Scripture it is constantly opposed unto “condemnare,” we shall see immediately.

But we may more distinctly consider the use of this word in the New Testament, as we have done that of הִצְדִּיק in the Old. And that which we inquire concerning is, — whether this word be used in the New Testament in a forensic sense, to denote an act of jurisdiction; or in a physical sense, to express an internal change or mutation, — the infusion of a habit of righteousness, and the denomination of the person to be justified thereon; or whether it signifies not pardon of sin. But this we may lay aside: for surely no man was ever yet so fond as to pretend that dikaioō did signify to pardon sin, yet is it the only word applied to express our justification in the New Testament; for if it be taken only in the former sense, then that which is pleaded for by those of the Roman church under the name of justification, whatever it be, however good, useful, and necessary, yet justification it is not, nor can be so called, seeing it is a thing quite of another nature than what alone is signified by that word. Matt. xi. 19, Edikaiōthē hē Sophia, — “Wisdom is justified of her children;” not made just, but approved and declared. Chap. xii. 37, Ek tōn logōn sou dikaiōthēsē; — “By thy words thou shalt be justified;” not made just by them, but judged according to them, as is manifested in the antithesis, kai ek tōn logōn sou katadikasthēsē — “and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Luke vii. 29, Edikaiōsan ton Theon; — “They justified God;” not, surely, by making him righteous in himself, but by owning, avowing, and declaring his righteousness. Chap. x. 29, Ho de thelōn dikaioun heauton; — “He, willing to justify himself;” to declare and maintain his own righteousness. To the same purpose, chap. xvi. 15, Humeis este hoi dikaiountes heautous enōpion tōn anthrōpōn — “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men;” they did not make themselves internally righteous, but approved of their own condition, as our Saviour declares in the place, chap. xviii. 14, the publican went down dedikaiōmenos (justified) unto his house; that is, acquitted, absolved, pardoned, upon the confession of his sin, and supplication for remission. Acts xiii. 38, 39, with Rom. ii. 13, Hoi poiētai tou numou dikaiōthēsontai; — “The doers of the law shall be justified.” The place declares directly the nature of our justification before God, and puts the signification of the word out of question; for justification ensues as the whole effect of inherent righteousness according unto the law: and, therefore, it is not the making of us righteous, which is irrefragable. It is spoken of God, Rom. iii. 4, Hopōs an dikaiōthēs en tois logois sou; — “That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings;” where to ascribe any other sense to the word is blasphemy. In like manner the same word is used, and in the same signification, 1 Cor. iv. 4; 1 Tim. iii. 16; Rom. iii. 20, 26, 28, 30; iv. 2, 5; v. 1, 9; vi. 7; viii. 30; Gal. ii. 16, 17; iii. 11, 24; v. 4; Tit. iii. 7; James ii. 21, 24, 25; and in no one of these instances can it admit of any other signification, or denote the making of any man righteous by the infusion of a habit or principle of righteousness, or any internal mutation whatever.

It is not, therefore, in many places of Scripture, as Bellarmine grants, that the words we have insisted on do signify the declaration or juridical pronunciation of any one to be righteous; but, in all places where they are used, they are capable of no other but a forensic sense; especially is this evident where mention is made of justification before God. And because, in my judgment, this one consideration does sufficiently defeat all the pretences of those of the Roman church about the nature of justification, I shall consider what is excepted against the observation insisted on, and remove it out of our way.

Lud. de Blanc, in his reconciliatory endeavours on this article of justification, (“Thes. de Usu et Acceptatione Vocis, Justificandi,”) grants unto the Papists that the word dikaioō does, in sundry places of the New Testament, signify to renew, to sanctify, to infuse a habit of holiness or righteousness, according as they plead. And there is no reason to think but he has grounded that concession on those instances which are most pertinent unto that purpose; neither is it to be expected that a better countenance will be given by any unto this concession than is given it by him. I shall therefore examine all the instances which he insists upon unto this purpose, and leave the determination of the difference unto the judgment of the reader. Only, I shall premise that which I judge not an unreasonable demand, — namely, that if the signification of the word, in any or all the places which he mentions, should seem doubtful unto any (as it does not unto me), that the uncertainty of a very few places should not make us question the proper signification of a word whose sense is determined in so many wherein it is clear and unquestionable. The first place he mentions is that of the apostle Paul himself, Rom. viii. 30, “moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” The reason whereby he pleads that by justified in this place, an internal work of inherent holiness in them that are predestinated is designed, is this, and no other: “It is not,” says he, “likely that the holy apostle, in this enumeration of gracious privileges, would omit the mention of our sanctification, by which we are freed from the service of sin, and adorned with true internal holiness and righteousness. But this is utterly omitted, if it be not comprised under the name and title of being justified; for it is absurd with some to refer it unto the head of glorification.”

Ans. 1. The grace of sanctification, whereby our natures are spiritually washed, purified, and endowed with a principle of life, holiness, and obedience unto God, is a privilege unquestionably great and excellent, and without which none can be saved; of the same nature, also, is our redemption by the blood of Christ; and both these does this apostle, in other places without number, declare, commend, and insist upon: but that he ought to have introduced the mention of them or either of them in this place, seeing he has not done so, I dare not judge.

2. If our sanctification be included or intended in any of the privileges here expressed, there is none of them, predestination only excepted, but it is more probably to be reduced unto, than unto that of being justified. Indeed, in vocation it seems to be included expressly. For whereas it is effectual vocation that is intended, wherein a holy principle of spiritual life, or faith itself, is communicated unto us, our sanctification radically, and as the effect in it adequate immediate cause, is contained in it. Hence, we are said to “be called to be saints,” Rom. i. 7; which is the same with being “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” 1 Cor. i. 2. And in many other places is sanctification included in vocation.

3. Whereas our sanctification, in the infusion of a principle of spiritual life, and the acting of it unto an increase in duties of holiness, righteousness, and obedience, is that whereby we are made meet for glory, and is of the same nature essentially with glory itself, whence its advances in us are said to be from “glory to glory,” 2 Cor. iii. 18; and glory itself is called the “grace of life,” 1 Pet. iii. 7: it is much more properly expressed by our being glorified than by being justified, which is a privilege quite of another nature. However, it is evident that there is no reason why we should depart from the general use and signification of the word, no circumstance in the text compelling us so to do.

The next place that he gives up unto this signification is 1 Cor. vi. 11, “Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” That by justification here, the infusion of an inherent principle of grace, making us inherently righteous, is intended, he endeavours to prove by three reasons:— 1. “Because justification is here ascribed unto the Holy Ghost: ‘Ye are justified by the Spirit of our God.’ But to renew us is the proper work of the Holy Spirit.” 2. “It is manifest,” he says, “that by justification the apostle does signify some change in the Corinthians, whereby they ceased to be what they were before. For they were fornicators and drunkards, such at could not inherit the kingdom of God; but now were changed: which proves a real inherent work of grace to be intended.” 3. “If justification here signify nothing but to be absolved from the punishment of sin, then the reasoning of the apostle will be infirm and frigid: for after he has said that which is greater, as heightening of it, he adds the less; for it is more to be washed than merely to be freed from the punishment of sin.”

Ans. 1. All these reasons prove not that it is the same to be sanctified and to be justified; which must be, if that be the sense of the latter which is here pleaded for. But the apostle makes an express distinction between them, and, as this author observes, proceeds from one to another, by an ascent from the lesser to the greater. And the infusion of a habit or principle of grace, or righteousness evangelical, whereby we are inherently righteous, by which he explains our being justified in this place, is our sanctification, and nothing else. Yea, and sanctification is here distinguished from washing, — “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified;” so as that it peculiarly in this place denotes positive habits of grace and holiness: neither can he declare the nature of it any way different from what he would have expressed by being justified.

2. Justification is ascribed unto the Spirit of God, as the principal efficient cause of the application of the grace of God and blood of Christ, whereby we are justified, unto our souls and consciences; and he is so also of the operation of that faith whereby we are justified: whence, although we are said to be justified by him, yet it does not follow that our justification consists in the renovation of our natures.

3. The change and mutation that was made in these Corinthians, so far as it was physical, in effects inherent (as such there was), the apostle expressly ascribes unto their washing and sanctification; so that there is no need to suppose this change to be expressed by their being justified. And in the real change asserted — that is, in the renovation of our natures — consists the true entire work and nature of our sanctification. But whereas, by reason of the vicious habits and practices mentioned, they were in a state of condemnation, and such as had no right unto the kingdom of heaven, they were by their justification changed and transferred out of that state into another, wherein they had peace with God, and right unto life eternal.

4. The third reason proceeds upon a mistake, — namely, that to be justified is only to be “freed from the punishment due unto sin;” for it comprises both the non-imputation of sin and the imputation of righteousness, with the privilege of adoption, and right unto the heavenly inheritance, which are inseparable from it. And although it does not appear that the apostle, in the enumeration of these privileges, did intend a process from the lesser unto the greater; nor is it safe for us to compare the unutterable effects of the grace of God by Christ Jesus, such as sanctification and justification are, and to determine which is greatest and which is least; yet, following the conduct of the Scripture, and the due consideration of the things themselves, we may say that in this life we can be made partakers of no greater mercy or privilege than what consists in our justification. And the reader may see from hence how impossible it is to produce any one place wherein the words “justification,” and “to justify,” do signify a real internal work and physical operation, in that this learned man, a person of more than ordinary perspicacity, candour, and judgment, designing to prove it, insisted on such instances as give so little countenance unto what he pretended. He adds, Tit. iii. 5–7, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” The argument which he alone insists upon to prove that by justification here, an infusion of internal grace is intended, is this:— that the apostle affirming first, that “God saved us, according unto his mercy, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” and afterwards affirming that we are “justified by his grace,” he supposes it necessary that we should be regenerate and renewed, that we may be justified; and if so, then our justification contains and comprises our sanctification also.

Ans. The plain truth is, the apostle speaks not one word of the necessity of our sanctification, or regeneration, or renovation by the Holy Ghost, antecedently unto our justification; a supposition whereof contains the whole force of this argument. Indeed he assigns our regeneration, renovation, and justification, all the means of our salvation, all equally unto grace and mercy, in opposition unto any works of our own; which we shall afterwards make use of. Nor is there intimated by him any order of precedency or connection between the things that he mentions, but only between justification and adoption, justification having the priority in order of nature: “That, being justified by his grace, we should be heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” All the things he mentions are inseparable. No man is regenerate or renewed by the Holy Ghost, but withal he is justified; — no man is justified, but withal he is renewed by the Holy Ghost. And they are all of them equally of sovereign grace in God, in opposition unto any works of righteousness that we have wrought. And we plead for the freedom of God’s grace in sanctification no less than in justification. But that it is necessary that we should be sanctified, that we may be justified before God, who justifies the ungodly, the apostle says not in this place, nor any thing to that purpose; neither yet, if he did so, would it at all prove that the signification of that expression “to be justified,” is “to be sanctified,” or to have inherent holiness and righteousness wrought in us: and these testimonies would not have been produced to prove it, wherein these things are so expressly distinguished, but that there are none to be found of more force or evidence.

The last place wherein he grants this signification of the word dikaioō, is Rev. xxii. 11, Ho dikaios dikaaiōthētō eti; — “Qui justus est, justificetur adhuc;” which place is pleaded by all the Romanists. And our author says they are but few among the Protestants who do not acknowledge that the word cannot be here used in a forensic sense, but that to be justified, is to go on and increase in piety and righteousness.

Ans. But, — (1.) There is a great objection lies in the way of any argument from these words, — namely, from the various reading of the place; for many ancient copies read, not Ho dikaios dikaaiōthētō eti, which the Vulgar renders “Justificetur adhuc;” but, Dikaiosunēn poiēsatō eti; — “Let him that is righteous work righteousness still,” as does the printed copy which now lies before me. So it was in the copy of the Complutensian edition, which Stephens commends above all others, and in one more ancient copy that he used. So it is in the Syrian and Arabic published by Hutterus, and in our own Polyglot. So Cyprian reads the words, “De bono patientiæ; justus autem adhuc justiora faciat, similiter et qui sanctus sanctiora.” And I doubt not but that it is the true reading of the place, dikaaiōthētō being supplied by some to comply with hagiasthētō that ensues. And this phrase of dikaiosunēn poiein is peculiar unto this apostle, being nowhere used in the New Testament (nor, it may be, in any other author) but by him. And he uses it expressly, 1 Epist. ii. 29, and chap. iii. 7, where these words, Ho poiōn dikaiosunēn, dikaios esti, do plainly contain what is here expressed. (2.) To be justified, as the word is rendered by the Vulgar, “Let him be justified more” (as it must be rendered, if the word dikaiōthētō be retained), respects an act of God, which neither in its beginning nor continuation is prescribed unto us as a duty, nor is capable of increase in degrees; as we shall show afterwards. (3.) Men are said to be dikaioi generally from inherent righteousness; and if the apostle had intended justification in this place, he would not have said ho dikaios, but ho dikaiōtheis. All which things prefer the Complutensian, Syrian, and Arabic, before the Vulgar reading of this place. If the Vulgar reading be retained, no more can be intended but that he who is righteous should so proceed in working righteousness as to secure his justified estate unto himself, and to manifest it before God and the world.

Now, whereas the words dikaioō and dikaioumai are used thirty-six times in the New Testament, these are all the places whereunto any exception is put in against their forensic signification; and how ineffectual these exceptions are, is evident unto any impartial judge.

Some other considerations may yet be made use of, and pleaded to the same purpose. Such is the opposition that is made between justification and condemnation. So is it, Isa. l. 8, 9; Prov. xvii. 15; Rom. v. 16, 18; viii. 33, 34; and in sundry other places, as may be observed in the preceding enumeration of them. Wherefore, as condemnation is not the infusing of a habit of wickedness into him that is condemned, nor the making of him to be inherently wicked who was before righteous, but the passing a sentence upon a man with respect unto his wickedness; no more is justification the change of a person from inherent unrighteousness unto righteousness, by the infusion of a principle of grace, but a sentential declarations of him to be righteous.

Moreover, the thing intended is frequently declared in the Scripture by other equivalent terms, which are absolutely exclusive of any such sense as the infusion of a habit of righteousness; so the apostle expresses it by the “imputation of righteousness without works,” Rom. iv. 6, 11; and calls it the “blessedness” which we have by the “pardon of sin” and the “covering of iniquity,” in the same place. So it is called “reconciliation with God,” Rom. v. 9, 10. To be “justified by the blood of Christ” is the same with being “reconciled by his death.” “Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath by him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” See 2 Cor. v. 20, 21. Reconciliation is not the infusion of a habit of grace, but the effecting of peace and love, by the removal of all enmity and causes of offence. To “save,” and “salvation,” are used to the same purpose. “He shall save his people from their sins,” Matt. i. 21, is the same with “By him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses,” Acts xiii. 39. That of Gal. ii. 16, “We have believed, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law,” is the same with Acts xv. 11, “But we believe that, through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” Eph. ii. 8, 9, “By grace are ye saved through faith; … and not of works,” is so to be justified. So it is expressed by pardon, or the “remission of sins,” which is the effect of it, Rom. iv. 5, 6; by “receiving the atonement,” chap. v. 11; not “coming into judgment” or “condemnation,” John v. 24; “blotting out sins and iniquities,” Isa. xliii. 25; Ps. li. 9; Isa. xliv. 22; Jer. xviii. 23; Acts iii. 19; “casting them into the bottom of the sea,” Micah vii. 19; and sundry other expressions of an alike importance. The apostle declaring it by its effects, says, Dikaioi katastathēsontai hoi polloi; — “Many shall be made righteous,” Rom. v. 19. Dikaios kathistatai, [he is made righteous] who on a juridical trial in open court, is absolved and declared righteous.

And so it may be observed that all things concerning justification are proposed in the Scripture under a juridical scheme, or forensic trial and sentence. As, — (1.) A judgment is supposed in it, concerning which the psalmist prays that it may not proceed on the terms of the law, Ps. cxliii. 2. (2.) The judge is God himself, Isa. l. 7, 8; Rom. viii. 33. (3.) The tribunal whereon God sits in judgment, is the “throne of grace,” Heb. iv. 16. “Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of judgment,” Isa. xxx. 18. (4.) A guilty person. This is the sinner, who is upodikos tō Theō, — so guilty of sin as to be obnoxious to the judgment of God; tō dikaiōmati tou Theou, Rom. iii. 19; i. 32, — whose mouth is stopped by conviction. (5.) Accusers are ready to propose and promote the charge against the guilty person; — these are the law, John v. 45; and conscience, Rom. ii. 15; and Satan also, Zech. iii. 1; Rev. xii. 10. (6.) The charge is admitted and drawn up in a hand-writing in form of Law, and is laid before the tribunal of the Judge, in bar, to the deliverance of the offender, Col. ii. 14. (7.) A plea is prepared in the gospel for the guilty person; and this is grace, through the blood of Christ, the ransom paid, the atonement made the eternal righteousness brought in by the surety of the covenant, Rom. iii. 23–25; Dan. ix. 24; Eph. i. 7. (8.) Hereunto alone the sinner betakes himself, renouncing all other apologies or defensatives whatever, Ps. cxxx. 2, 3; cxliii. 2; Job ix. 2, 3; xlii. 5–7; Luke xviii. 13; Rom. iii. 24, 25; v. 11, 16–19; viii. 1–3, 32, 33; Isa. liii. 5, 6; Heb. ix. 13–15; x. 1–13; 1 Pet. ii. 24; 1 John i. 7. Other plea for a sinner before God there is none. He who knows God and himself will not provide or betake himself unto any other. Nor will he, as I suppose, trust unto any other defence, were he sure of all the angels in heaven to plead for him. (9.) To make this plea effectual, we have an Advocate with the Father, and he pleads his own propitiation for us, 1 John ii. 1, 2. (10.) The sentence hereon is absolution, on the account of the ransom, blood, or sacrifice and righteousness of Christ; with acceptation into favour, as persons approved of God, Job xxxiii. 24; Ps. xxxii. 1, 2; Rom. iii. 23–25; viii. 1, 33, 34; 2 Cor. v. 21; Gal. iii. 13, 14.

Of what use the declaration of this process in the justification of a sinner may be, has been in some measure before declared. And if many did seriously consider that all these things do concur, and are required, unto the justification of every one that shall be saved, it may be they would not have such slight thoughts of sin, and the way of deliverance from the guilt of it, as they seem to have. From this consideration did the apostle learn that “terror of the Lord,” which made him so earnest with men to seek after reconciliation, 2 Cor. v. 10, 11.

I had not so long insisted on the signification of the words in the Scripture, but that a right understanding of it does not only exclude the pretences of the Romanists about the infusion of a habit of charity from being the formal cause of our justification before God, but may also give occasion unto some to take advice, into what place or consideration they can dispose their own personal, inherent righteousness in their justification before him.


Chapter V. The distinction of a first and second justification examined — The continuation of justification: whereon it does depend

Distinction of a first and second justification — The whole doctrine of the Roman church concerning justification grounded on this distinction — The first justification, the nature and causes of it, according unto the Romanists — The second justification, what it is in their sense — Solution of the seeming difference between Paul and James, falsely pretended by this distinction — The same distinction received by the Socinians and others — The latter termed by some the continuation of our justification — The distinction disproved — Justification considered, either as unto its essence or its manifestation — The manifestation of it twofold, initial and final — Initial is either unto ourselves or others — No second justification hence ensues — Justification before God, legal and evangelical — Their distinct natures — The distinction mentioned derogatory to the merit of Christ — More in it ascribed unto ourselves than unto the blood of Christ, in our justification — The vanity of disputations to this purpose — All true justification overthrown by this distinction — No countenance given unto this justification in the Scripture — The second justification not intended by the apostle James — Evil of arbitrary distinctions — Our first justification so described in the Scripture as to leave no room for a second — Of the continuation of our justification; whether it depend on faith alone, or our personal righteousness, inquired — Justification at once completed, in all the causes and effects of it, proved at large — Believers, upon their justification, obliged unto perfect obedience — The commanding power of the law constitutes the nature of sin in them who are not obnoxious unto its curse — Future sins, in what sense remitted at our first justification — The continuation of actual pardon, and thereby of a justified estate; on what it does depend — Continuation of justification, the act of God; whereon it depends in that sense — On our part, it depends on faith alone — Nothing required hereunto but the application of righteousness imputed — The continuation of our justification is before God — That whereon the continuation of our justification depends, pleadable before God — This not our personal obedience, proved:— 1. By the experience of all believers. 2. Testimonies of Scripture. 3. Examples — The distinction mentioned rejected

Before we inquire immediately into the nature and causes of justification, there are some things yet previously to be considered, that we may prevent all ambiguity and misunderstanding about the subject to be treated of. I say, therefore, that the evangelical justification, which alone we plead about, is but one, and is at once completed. About any other justification before God but one, we will not contend with any. Those who can find out another may, as they please, ascribe what they will unto it, or ascribe it unto what they will. Let us, therefore, consider what is offered of this nature.

Those of the Roman church do ground their whole doctrine of justification upon a distinction of a double justification; which they call the first and the second. The first justification, they say, is the infusion or the communication unto us of an inherent principle or habit of grace or charity. Hereby, they say, original sin is extinguished, and all habits of sin are expelled. This justification they say is by faith; the obedience and satisfaction of Christ being the only meritorious cause thereof. Only, they dispute many things about preparations for it, and dispositions unto it. Under those terms the Council of Trent included the doctrine of the schoolmen about “meritum de congruo,” as both Hosius and Andradius confess, in the defence of that council. And as they are explained, they come much to one; however, the council warily avoided the name of merit with respect unto this their first justification. And the use of faith herein (which with them is no more but a general assent unto divine revelation) is to bear the principal part in these preparations. So that to be “justified by faith,” according unto them, is to have the mind prepared by this kind of believing to receive “gratiam gratum facientem,” — a habit of grace, expelling sin and making us acceptable unto God. For upon this believing, with those other duties of contrition and repentance which must accompany it, it is meet and congruous unto divine wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness, to give us that grace whereby we are justified. And this, according unto them, is that justification whereof the apostle Paul treats in his epistles, from the procurement whereof he excludes all the works of the law. The second justification is an effect or consequent hereof, and the proper formal cause thereof is good works, proceeding from this principle of grace and love. Hence are they the righteousness wherewith believers are righteous before God, whereby they merit eternal life. The righteousness of works they call it; and suppose it taught by the apostle James. This they constantly affirm to make us “justos ex injustis;” wherein they are followed by others. For this is the way that most of them take to salve the seeming repugnancy between the apostles Paul and James. Paul, they say, treats of the first justification only, whence he excludes all works; for it is by faith, in the manner before described: but James treats of the second justification; which is by good works. So Bellar., lib. ii. cap. 16, and lib iv. cap. 18. And it is the express determination of those at Trent, sess. vi. cap. 10. This distinction was coined unto no other end but to bring in confusion into the whole doctrine of the gospel. Justification through the free grace of God, by faith in the blood of Christ, is evacuated by it. Sanctification is turned into a justification, and corrupted by making the fruits of it meritorious. The whole nature of evangelical justification, consisting in the gratuitous pardon of sin and the imputation of righteousness, as the apostle expressly affirms, and the declaration of a believing sinner to be righteous thereon, as the word alone signifies, is utterly defeated by it.

Howbeit others have embraced this distinction also, though not absolutely in their sense. So do the Socinians. Yea, it must be allowed, in some sense, by all that hold our inherent righteousness to be the cause of, or to have any influence into, our justification before God. For they do allow of a justification which in order of nature is antecedent unto works truly gracious and evangelical: but consequential unto such works there is a justification differing at least in degree, if not in nature and kind, upon the difference of its formal cause; which is our new obedience from the former. But they mostly say it is only the continuation of our justification, and the increase of it as to degrees, that they intend by it. And if they may be allowed to turn sanctification into justification, and to make a progress therein, or an increase thereof, either in the root or fruit, to be a new justification, they may make twenty justifications as well as two, for aught I know: for therein the “ inward man is renewed day by day,” 2 Cor. iv. 16; and believers go “from strength to strength,” are “changed from glory to glory,” 2 Cor. iii. 18, by the addition of one grace unto another in their exercise, 2 Pet. i. 5–8, and “increasing with the increase of God,” Col. ii. 19, do in all things “grow up into him who is the head,” Eph. iv. 15. And if their justification consist herein, they are justified anew every day. I shall therefore do these two things:— 1. Show that this distinction is both unscriptural and irrational. 2. Declare what is the continuation of our justification, and whereon it does depend.

1. Justification by faith in the blood of Christ may be considered either as to the nature and essence of it, or as unto its manifestation and declaration. The manifestation of it is twofold:— First, Initial, in this life. Second, Solemn and complete, at the day of judgment; whereof we shall treat afterwards. The manifestation of it in this life respects either the souls and consciences of them that are justified, or others; that is, the church or the world. And each of these have the name of justification assigned unto them, though our real justification before God be always one and the same. But a man may be really justified before God, and yet not have the evidence or assurance of it in his own mind; wherefore that evidence or assurance is not of the nature or essence of that faith whereby we are justified, nor does necessarily accompany our justification. But this manifestation of a man’s own justification unto himself, although it depend on many especial causes, which are not necessary unto his justification absolutely before God, is not a second justification when it is attained; but only the application of the former unto his conscience by the Holy Ghost. There is also a manifestation of it with respect unto others, which in like manner depends on other causes then does our justification before God absolutely; yet is it not a second justification: for it depends wholly on the visible effects of that faith whereby we are justified, as the apostle James instructs us; yet is it only one single justification before God, evidenced and declared, unto his glory, the benefit of others, and increase of our own reward.

There is also a twofold justification before God mentioned in the Scripture. First, “By the works of the law,” Rom. ii. 13; x. 5; Matt. xix. 16–19. Hereunto is required an absolute conformity unto the whole law of God, in our natures, all the faculties of our souls, all the principles of our moral operations, with perfect actual obedience unto all its commands, in all instances of duty, both for matter and manner: for he is cursed who continues not in all things that are written in the law, to do them; and he that breaks any one commandment is guilty of the breach of the whole law. Hence the apostle concludes that none can be justified by the law, because all have sinned. Second, There is a justification by grace, through faith in the blood of Christ; whereof we treat. And these ways of justification are contrary, proceeding on terms directly contradictory, and cannot be made consistent with or subservient one to the other. But, as we shall manifest afterwards, the confounding of them both, by mixing them together, is that which is aimed at in this distinction of a first and second justification. But whatever respects it may have, that justification which we have before God, in his sight through Jesus Christ, is but one, and at once full and complete; and this distinction is a vain and fond invention. For, —

(1.) As it is explained by the Papists, it is exceedingly derogatory to the merit of Christ; for it leaves it no effect towards us, but only the infusion of a habit of charity. When that is done, all that remains, with respect unto our salvation, is to be wrought by ourselves. Christ has only merited the first grace for us, that we therewith and thereby may merit life eternal. The merit of Christ being confined in its effect unto the first justification, it has no immediate influence into any grace, privilege, mercy, or glory that follows thereon; but they are all effects of that second justification which is purely by works. But this is openly contrary unto the whole tenor of the Scripture: for although there be an order of God’s appointment, wherein we are to be made partakers of evangelical privileges in grace and glory, one before another, yet are they all of them the immediate effects of the death and obedience of Christ; who has “obtained for us eternal redemption,” Heb. ix. 12; and is “the author of eternal salvation unto all that do obey him,” chap. v. 9; “having by one offering forever perfected them that are sanctified.” And those who allow of a secondary, if not of a second, justification, by our own inherent, personal righteousnesses, are also guilty hereof, though not in the same degree with them; for whereas they ascribe unto it our acquitment from all charge of sin after the first justification, and a righteousness accepted in judgment, in the judgment of God, as if it were complete and perfect, whereon depends our final absolution and reward, it is evident that the immediate efficacy of the satisfaction and merit of Christ has its bounds assigned unto it in the first justification; which, whether it be taught in the Scripture or no, we shall afterward inquire.

(2.) More, by this distinction, is ascribed unto ourselves, working by virtue of inherent grace, as unto the merit and procurement of spiritual and eternal good, than unto the blood of Christ; for that only procures the first grace and justification for us. Thereof alone it is the meritorious cause; or, as others express it, we are made partakers of the effects of it in the pardon of sins past: but, by virtue of this grace, we do ourselves obtain, procure, or merit, another, a second, a complete justification, the continuance of the favour of God, and all the fruits of it, with life eternal and glory. So do our works, at least, perfect and complete the merit of Christ, without which it is imperfect. And those who assign the continuation of our justification, wherein all the effects of divine favour and grace are contained, unto our own personal righteousness, as also final justification before God as the pleadable cause of it, do follow their steps, unto the best of my understanding. But such things as these may be disputed; in debates of which kind it is incredible almost what influence on the minds of men, traditions, prejudices, subtlety of invention and arguing, do obtain, to divert them from real thoughts of the things about which they contend, with respect unto themselves and their own condition. If by any means such persons can be called home unto themselves, and find leisure to think how and by what means they shall come to appear before the high God, to be freed from the sentence of the law, and the curse due to sin, — to have a pleadable righteousness at the judgment-seat of God before which they stand, — especially if a real sense of these things be implanted on their minds by the convincing power of the Holy Ghost, — all their subtle arguments and pleas for the mighty efficacy of their own personal righteousness will sink in their minds like water at the return of the tide, and leave nothing but mud and defilement behind them.

(3.) This distinction of two justifications, as used and improved by those of the Roman church, leaves us, indeed, no justification at all. Something there is, in the branches of it, of sanctification; but of justification nothing at all. Their first justification, in the infusion of a habit or principle of grace, unto the expulsion of all habits of sin, is sanctification, and nothing else. And we never did contend that our justification in such a sense, if any will take it in such a sense, does consist in the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. And this justification, if any will needs call it so, is capable of degrees, both of increase in itself and of exercise in its fruits; as was newly declared. But, not only to call this our justification, with a general respect unto the notion of the word, as a making of us personally and inherently righteous, but to plead that this is the justification through faith in the blood of Christ declared in the Scripture, is to exclude the only true, evangelical justification from any place in religion. The second branch of the distinction has much in it like unto justification by the law, but nothing of that which is declared in the gospel. So that this distinction, instead of coining us two justifications, according to the gospel, has left us none at all. For, —

(4.) There is no countenance given unto this distinction in the Scripture. There is, indeed, mention therein, as we observed before, of a double justification, — the one by the law, the other according unto the gospel; but that either of these should, on any account, be sub-distinguished into a first and second of the same kind, — that is, either according unto the law or the gospel, — there is nothing in the Scripture to intimate. For this second justification is no way applicable unto what the apostle James discourses on that subject. He treats of justification; but speaks not one word of an increase of it, or addition unto it, of a first or second. Besides, he speaks expressly of him that boasts of faith; which being without works, is a dead faith. But he who has the first justification, by the confession of our adversaries, has a true, living faith, formed and enlivened by charity. And he uses the same testimony concerning the justification of Abraham that Paul does; and therefore does not intend another, but the same, though in a diverse respect. Nor does any believer learn the least of it in his own experience; nor, without a design to serve a farther turn, would it ever have entered the minds of sober men on the reading of the Scripture. And it is the bane of spiritual truth, for men, in the pretended declaration of it, to coin arbitrary distinctions, without Scripture ground for them, and obtrude them as belonging unto the doctrine they treat of. They serve unto no other end or purpose but only to lead the minds of men from the substance of what they ought to attend unto, and to engage all sorts of persons in endless strifes and contentions. If the authors of this distinction would but go over the places in the Scripture where mention is made of our justification before God, and make a distribution of them into the respective parts of their distinction, they would quickly find themselves at an unbelievable loss.

(5.) There is that in the Scripture ascribed unto our first justification, if they will needs call it so, as leaves no room for their second feigned justification; for the sole foundation and pretence of this distinction is a denial of those things to belong unto our justification by the blood of Christ which the Scripture expressly assigns unto it. Let us take out some instances of what belongs unto the first, and we shall quickly see how little it is, yea, that there is nothing left for the pretended second justification. For, — [1.] Therein do we receive the complete “pardon and forgiveness of our sins,” Rom. iv. 6, 7; Eph. i. 7; iv. 32; Acts xxvi. 18. [2.] Thereby are we “made righteous,” Rom. v. 19; x. 4; and, [3.] Are freed from condemnation, judgment, and death, John iii. 16, 19; v. 25; Rom. viii. 1; [4.] Are reconciled unto God, Rom. v. 9, 10; 2 Cor. v. 21; and, [5.] Have peace unto him, and access into the favour wherein we stand by grace, with the advantages and consolations that depend thereon in a sense of his love, Rom. v. 1–5. And, [6.] We have adoption therewithal, and all its privileges, John i. 12; and, in particular, [7.] A right and title unto the whole inheritance of glory, Acts xxvi. 18; Rom. viii. 17. And, [8.] Hereon eternal life does follow, Rom. viii. 30; vi. 23. Which things will be again immediately spoken unto upon another occasion. And if there be anything now left for their second justification to do, as such, let them take it as their own; these things are all of them ours, or do belong unto that one justification which we do assert. Wherefore it is evident, that either the first justification overthrows the second, rendering it needless; or the second destroys the first, by taking away what essentially belongs unto it: we must therefore part with the one or the other, for consistent they are not. But that which gives countenance unto the fiction and artifice of this distinction, and a great many more, is a dislike of the doctrine of the grace of God, and justification from thence, by faith in the blood of Christ; which some endeavour hereby to send out of the way upon a pretended sleeveless errand, whilst they dress up their own righteousness in its robes, and exalt it into the room and dignity thereof.

2. But there seems to be more of reality and difficulty in what is pleaded concerning the continuation of our justification; for those that are freely justified are continued in that state until they are glorified. By justification they are really changed into a new spiritual state and condition, and have a new relation given them unto God and Christ, unto the law and the gospel. And it is inquired what it is whereon their continuation in this state does on their part depend; or what is required of them that they may be justified unto the end. And this, as some say, is not faith alone, but also the works of sincere obedience. And none can deny but that they are required of all them that are justified, whilst they continue in a state of justification on this side glory, which next and immediately ensues thereunto; but whether, upon our justification at first before God, faith be immediately dismissed from its place and office, and its work be given over unto works, so as that the continuation of our justification should depend on our own personal obedience, and not on the renewed application of faith unto Christ and his righteousness, is worth our inquiry. Only, I desire the reader to observe, that whereas the necessity of owning a personal obedience in justified persons is on all hands absolutely agreed, the seeming difference that is herein concerns not the substance of the doctrine of justification, but the manner of expressing our conceptions concerning the order of the disposition of God’s grace, and our own duty unto edification; wherein I shall use my own liberty, as it is meet others should do theirs. And I shall offer my thoughts hereunto in the ensuing observations:—

(1.) Justification is such a work as is at once completed in all the causes and the whole effect of it, though not as unto the full possession of all that it gives right and title unto. For, — [1.] All our sins, past, present, and to come, were at once imputed unto and laid upon Jesus Christ; in what sense we shall afterwards inquire. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes are we healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way: and the Lord has made to meet on him the iniquities of us all,” Isa. liii. 5, 6. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. ii. 24. The assertions being indefinite, without exception or limitation, are equivalent unto universals. All our sins were on him, he bare them all at once; and therefore, once died for all. [2.] He did, therefore, at once “finish transgression, make an end of sin, make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness,” Dan. ix. 24. At once he expiated all our sins; for “by himself he purged our sins,” and then “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Heb. i. 3. And “we are sanctified,” or dedicated unto God, “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all; for by one offering he hath perfected” (consummated, completed, as unto their spiritual state) “them that are sanctified,” Heb. x. 10, 14. He never will do more than he has actually done already, for the expiation of all our sins from first to last; “for there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.” I do not say that hereupon our justification is complete, but only, that the meritorious procuring cause of it was at once completed, and is never to be renewed or repeated any more; all the inquiry is concerning the renewed application of it unto our souls and consciences, whether that be by faith alone, or by the works of righteousness which we do. [3.] By our actual believing with justifying faith, believing on Christ, or his name, we do receive him; and thereby, on our first justification, become the “sons of God,” John i. 12; that is, “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ,” Rom. viii. 17. Hereby we have a right unto, and an interest in, all the benefits of his mediation; which is to be at once completely justified. For “in him we are complete,” Col. ii. 10; for by the faith that is in him we do “receive the forgiveness of sins,” and a lot or “inheritance among all them that are sanctified,” Acts xxvi. 18; being immediately “justified from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law,” Acts xiii. 39; yea, God thereon “blesseth us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ,” Eph. i. 3. All these things are absolutely inseparable from our first believing in him; and therefore our justification is at once complete. In particular, — [4.] On our believing, all our sins are forgiven. “He hath quickened you together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses,” Col. ii. 13–15. For “in him we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according unto the riches of his grace,” Eph. i. 7; which one place obviates all the petulant exceptions of some against the consistency of the free grace of God in the pardon of sins, and the satisfaction of Christ in the procurement thereof. [5.] There is hereon nothing to be laid unto the charge of them that are so justified; for “he that believeth has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life,” John v. 24. And “who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; it is Christ that died,” Rom. viii. 33, 34. And “there is no condemnation unto them that are in Christ Jesus,” verse 1; for, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God,” chap. v. 1. And, [6.] We have that blessedness hereon whereof in this life we are capable, chap. iv. 5, 6. From all which it appears that our justification is at once complete. And, [7.] It must be so, or no man can be justified in this world. For no time can be assigned, nor measure of obedience be limited, whereon it may be supposed that any one comes to be justified before God, who is not so on his first believing; for the Scripture does nowhere assign any such time or measure. And to say that no man is completely justified in the sight of God in this life, is at once to overthrow all that is taught in the Scriptures concerning justification, and wherewithal all peace with God and comfort of believers. But a man acquitted upon his legal trial is at once discharged of all that the law has against him.

(2.) Upon this complete justifications, believers are obliged unto universal obedience unto God. The law is not abolished, but established, by faith. It is neither abrogated nor dispensed withal by such an interpretation as should take off its obligation in any thing that it requires, nor as to the degree and manner wherein it requires it. Nor is it possible it should be so; for it is nothing but the rule of that obedience which the nature of God and man makes necessary from the one to the other. And that is an Antinomianism of the worst sort, and most derogatory unto the law of God, which affirms it to be divested of its power to oblige unto perfect obedience, so as that what is not so shall (as it were in despite of the law) be accepted as if it were so, unto the end for which the law requires it. There is no medium, but that either the law is utterly abolished, and so there is no sin, for where there is no law there is no transgression, or it must be allowed to require the same obedience that it did at its first institution, and unto the same degree. Neither is it in the power of any man living to keep his conscience from judging and condemning that, whatever it be, wherein he is convinced that he comes short of the perfection of the law. Wherefore, —

(3.) The commanding power of the law in positive precepts and prohibitions, which justified persons are subject unto, does make and constitute all their unconformities unto it to be no less truly and properly sins in their own nature, than they would be if their persons were obnoxious unto the curse of it. This they are not, nor can be; for to be obnoxious unto the curse of the law, and to be justified, are contradictory; but to be subject to the commands of the law, and to be justified, are not so. But it is a subjection to the commanding power of the law, and not an obnoxiousness unto the curse of the law, that constitutes the nature of sin in its transgression. Wherefore, that complete justification which is at once, though it dissolve the obligation on the sinner unto punishment by the curse of the law, yet does it not annihilate the commanding authority of the law unto them that are justified, that, what is sin in others should not be so in them. See Rom. viii. 1, 33, 34.

Hence, in the first justification of believing sinners, all future sins are remitted as unto any actual obligation unto the curse of the law, unless they should fall into such sins as should, ipso facto, forfeit their justified estate, and transfer them from the covenant of grace into the covenant of works; which we believe that God, in his faithfulness, will preserve them from. And although sin cannot be actually pardoned before it be actually committed, yet may the obligation unto the curse of the law be virtually taken away from such sins in justified persons as are consistent with a justified estate, or the terms of the covenant of grace, antecedently unto their actual commission. God at once in this sense “forgiveth all their iniquities, and healeth all their diseases, redeemeth their life from destruction, and crowneth them with loving-kindness and tender mercies,” Ps. ciii. 3, 4. Future sins are not so pardoned as that, when they are committed, they should be no sins; which cannot be, unless the commanding power of the law be abrogated: but their respect unto the curse of the law, or their power to oblige the justified person thereunto, is taken away.

Still there abides the true nature of sin in every unconformity unto or transgression of the law in justified persons, which stands in need of daily actual pardon. For there is “no man that liveth and sinneth not;” and “if we say that we have no sin, we do but deceive ourselves.” None are more sensible of the guilt of sin, none are more troubled for it, none are more earnest in supplications for the pardon of it, than justified persons. For this is the effect of the sacrifice of Christ applied unto the souls of believers, as the apostle declares Heb. x. 1–4, 10, 14, that it does take away conscience condemning the sinner for sin, with respect unto the curse of the law; but it does not take away conscience condemning sin in the sinner, which, on all considerations of God and themselves, of the law and the gospel, requires repentance on the part of the sinner, and actual pardon on the part of God.

Whereas, therefore, one essential part of justification consists in the pardon of our sins, and sins cannot be actually pardoned before they are actually committed, our present inquiry is, whereon the continuation of our justification does depend, notwithstanding the interveniency of sin after we are justified, whereby such sins are actually pardoned, and our persons are continued in a state of acceptation with God, and have their right unto life and glory uninterrupted? Justification is at once complete in the imputation of a perfect righteousness, the grant of a right and title unto the heavenly inheritance, the actual pardon of all past sins, and the virtual pardon of future sin; but how or by what means, on what terms and conditions, this state is continued unto those who are once justified, whereby their righteousness is everlasting, their title to life and glory indefeasible, and all their sins are actually pardoned, is to be inquired.

For answer unto this inquiry I say, — (1.) “It is God that justifieth;” and, therefore, the continuation of our justification is his act also. And this, on his part, depends on the immutability of his counsel; the unchangeableness of the everlasting covenant, which is “ordered in all things, and sure;” the faithfulness of his promises; the efficacy of his grace; his complacency in the propitiation of Christ; with the power of his intercession, and the irrevocable grant of the Holy Ghost unto them that do believe: which things are not of our present inquiry.

(2.) Some say that, on our part, the continuation of this state of our justification depends on the condition of good works; that is, that they are of the same consideration and use with faith itself herein. In our justification itself there is, they will grant, somewhat peculiar unto faith; but as unto the continuation of our justification, faith and works have the same influence into it; yea, some seem to ascribe it distinctly unto works in an especial manner, with this only proviso, that they be done in faith. For my part I cannot understand that the continuation of our justification has any other dependencies than has our justification itself. As faith alone is required unto the one, so faith alone is required unto the other, although its operations and effects in the discharge of its duty and office in justification, and the continuation of it, are diverse; nor can it otherwise be. To clear this assertion two things are to be observed:—

[1.] That the continuation of our justification is the continuation of the imputation of righteousness and the pardon of sins. I do still suppose the imputation of righteousness to concur unto our justification, although we have not yet examined what righteousness it is that is imputed. But that God in our justification imputes righteousness unto us, is so expressly affirmed by the apostle as that it must not be called in question. Now the first act of God in the imputation of righteousness cannot be repeated; and the actual pardon of sin after justification is an effect and consequent of that imputation of righteousness. If any man sin, there is a propitiation: “Deliver him, I have found a ransom.” Wherefore, unto this actual pardon there is nothing required but the application of that righteousness which is the cause of it; and this is done by faith only.

[2.] The continuation of our justification is before God, or in the sight of God, no less than our absolute justification is. We speak not of the sense and evidence of it unto our own souls unto peace with God, nor of the evidencing and manifestation of it unto others by its effects, but of the continuance of it in the sight of God. Whatever, therefore, is the means, condition, or cause hereof, is pleadable before God, and ought to be pleaded unto that purpose. So, then, the inquiry is, —

What it is that, when a justified person is guilty of sin (as guilty he is more or less every day), and his conscience is pressed with a sense thereof, as that only thing which can endanger or intercept his justified estate, his favour with God, and title unto glory, he betakes himself unto, or ought so to do, for the continuance of his state and pardon of his sins, what he pleads unto that purpose, and what is available thereunto? That this is not his own obedience, his personal righteousness, or fulfilling the condition of the new covenant, is evident, from, — 1st. The experience of believers themselves; 2dly. The testimony of Scripture; and, 3dly. The example of them whose cases are recorded therein:—

1st. Let the experience of them that do believe be inquired into; for their consciences are continually exercised herein. What is it that they betake themselves unto, what is it that they plead with God for the continuance of the pardon of their sins, and the acceptance of their persons before him? Is it any thing but sovereign grace and mercy, through the blood of Christ? Are not all the arguments which they plead unto this end taken from the topics of the name of God, his mercy, grace, faithfulness, tender compassion, covenant, and promises, — all manifested and exercised in and through the Lord Christ and his mediation alone? Do they not herein place their only trust and confidence, for this end, that their sins may be pardoned, and their persons, though every way unworthy in themselves, be accepted with God? Does any other thought enter into their hearts? Do they plead their own righteousness, obedience, and duties to this purpose? Do they leave the prayer of the publican, and betake themselves unto that of the Pharisee? And is it not of faith alone? which is that grace whereby they apply themselves unto the mercy or grace of God through the mediation of Christ. It is true that faith herein works and acts itself in and by godly sorrow, repentance, humiliation, self-judging and abhorrence, fervency in prayer and supplications, with a humble waiting for an answer of peace from God, with engagements unto renewed obedience: but it is faith alone that makes applications unto grace in the blood of Christ for the continuation of our justified estate, expressing itself in those other ways and effects mentioned; from none of which a believing soul does expect the mercy aimed at.

2dly. The Scripture expressly does declare this to be the only way of the continuation of our justification, 1 John iii. 1, 2, “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: and he is the propitiation for our sins.” It is required of those that are justified that they sin not, — it is their duty not to sin; but yet it is not so required of them, as that if in any thing they fail of their duty, they should immediately lose the privilege of their justification. Wherefore, on a supposition of sin, if any man sin (as there is no man that lives and sins not), what way is prescribed for such persons to take, what are they to apply themselves unto that their sin may be pardoned, and their acceptance with God continued; that is, for the continuation of their justification? The course in this case directed unto by the apostle is none other but the application of our souls by faith unto the Lord Christ, as our advocate with the Father, on the account of the propitiation that he has made for our sins. Under the consideration of this double act of his sacerdotal office, his oblation and intercession, he is the object of our faith in our absolute justification; and so he is as unto the continuation of it. So our whole progress in our justified estate, in all the degrees of it, is ascribed unto faith alone.

It is no part of our inquiry, what God requires of them that are justified. There is no grace, no duty, for the substance of them, nor for the manner of their performance, that are required, either by the law or the gospel, but they are obliged unto them. Where they are omitted, we acknowledge that the guilt of sin is contracted, and that attended with such aggravations as some will not own or allow to be confessed unto God himself. Hence, in particular, the faith and grace of believers, [who] do constantly and deeply exercise themselves in godly sorrow, repentance, humiliation for sin, and confession of it before God, upon their apprehensions of its guilt. And these duties are so far necessary unto the continuation at our justification, as that a justified estate cannot consist with the sins and vices that are opposite unto them; so the apostle affirms that “if we live after the flesh, we shall die,” Rom. viii. 13. He that does not carefully avoid falling into the fire or water, or other things immediately destructive of life natural, cannot live. But these are not the things whereon life does depend. Nor have the best of our duties any other respect unto the continuation of our justification, but only as in them we are preserved from those things which are contrary unto it, and destructive of it. But the sole question is, upon what the continuation of our justification does depend, not concerning what duties are required of us in the way of our obedience. If this be that which is intended in this position, that the continuation of our justification depends on our own obedience and good works, or that our own obedience and good works are the condition of the continuation of our justification, — namely, that God does indispensably require good works and obedience in all that are justified, so that a justified estate is inconsistent with the neglect of them, — it is readily granted, and I shall never contend with any about the way whereby they choose to express the conceptions of their minds. But if it be inquired what it is whereby we immediately concur in a way of duty unto the continuation of our justified estate, — that is, the pardon of our sins and acceptance with God, — we say it is faith alone; for “The just shall live by faith,” Rom. i. 17. And as the apostle applies this divine testimony to prove our first or absolute justification to be by faith alone; so does he also apply it unto the continuation of our justification, as that which is by the same means only, Heb. x. 38, 39, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them that draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” The drawing back to perdition includes the loss of a justified estate, really so or in profession. In opposition whereunto the apostle places “believing unto the saving of the soul;” that is, unto the continuation of justification unto the end. And herein it is that the “just live by faith;” and the loss of this life can only be by unbelief: so the “life which we now live in the flesh we live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for us,” Gal. ii. 20. The life which we now lead in the flesh is the continuation of our justification, a life of righteousness and acceptation with God; in opposition unto a life by the works of the law, as the next words declare, verse 21, “I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then is Christ dead in vain.” And this life is by faith in Christ, as “he loved us, and gave himself for us;” that is, as he was a propitiation for our sins. This, then, is the only way, means, and cause, on our part, of the preservation of this life, of the continuance of our justification; and herein are we “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” Again; if the continuation of our justification depends on our own works of obedience, then is the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us only with respect unto our justification at first, or our first justification, as some speak. And this, indeed, is the doctrine of the Roman school. They teach that the righteousness of Christ is so far imputed unto us, that on the account thereof God gives unto us justifying grace, and thereby the remission of sin, in their sense; whence they allow it [to be] the meritorious cause of our justification. But on a supposition thereof, or the reception of that grace, we are continued to be justified before God by the works we perform by virtue of that grace received. And though some of them rise so high as to affirm that this grace and the works of it need no farther respect unto the righteousness of Christ, to deserve our second justification and life eternal, as does Vasquez expressly, in 1, 2, q. 114, disp. 222, cap. 3; yet many of them affirm that it is still from the consideration of the merit of Christ that they are so meritorious. And the same, for the substance of it, is the judgment of some of them who affirm the continuation of our justification to depend on our own works, setting aside that ambiguous term of merit; for it is on the account of the righteousness of Christ, they say, that our own works, or imperfect obedience, is so accepted with God, that the continuation of our justification depends thereon. But the apostle gives us another account hereof, Rom. v. 1–3; for he distinguishes three things:— 1. Our access into the grace of God. 2. Our standing in that grace. 3. Our glorying in that station against all opposition. By the first he expresses our absolute justification; by the second, our continuation in the state whereinto we are admitted thereby; and by the third, the assurance of that continuation, notwithstanding all the oppositions we meet withal. And all these he ascribes equally unto faith, without the intermixture of any other cause or condition; and other places express to the same purpose might be pleaded.

3dly. The examples of them that did believe, and were justified, which are recorded in the Scripture, do all bear witness unto the same truth. The continuation of the justification of Abraham before God is declared to have been by faith only, Rom. iv. 3; for the instance of his justification, given by the apostle from Gen. xv. 6, was long after he was justified absolutely. And if our first justification, and the continuation of it, did not depend absolutely on the same cause, the instance of the one could not be produced for a proof of the way and means of the other, as here they are. And David, when a justified believer, not only places the blessedness of man in the free remission of sins, in opposition unto his own works in general, Rom. iv. 6, 7, but, in his own particular case, ascribes the continuation of his justification and acceptation before God unto grace, mercy, and forgiveness alone; which are no otherwise received but by faith, Ps. cxxx. 3–5; cxliii. 2. All other works and duties of obedience do accompany faith in the continuation of our justified estate, as necessary effects and fruits of it, but not as causes, means, or conditions, whereon that effect is suspended. It is patient waiting by faith that brings in the full accomplishment of the promises, Heb. vi. 12, 15. Wherefore, there is but one justification, and that of one kind only, wherein we are concerned in this disputation, — the Scripture makes mention of no more; and that is the justification of an ungodly person by faith. Nor shall we admit of the consideration of any other. For if there be a second justification, it must be of the same kind with the first, or of another; — if it be of the same kind, then the same person is often justified with the same kind of justification, or at least more than once; and so on just reason ought to be often baptized; — if it be not of the same kind, then the same person is justified before God with two sorts of justification; of both which the Scripture is utterly silent. And [so] the continuation of our justification depends solely on the same causes with our justification itself.


Chapter VI. Evangelical personal righteousness, the nature and use of it — Final judgment, and its respect unto justification

Evangelical personal righteousness; the nature and use of it — Whether there be an evangelical justification on our evangelical righteousness, inquired into — How this is by some affirmed and applauded — Evangelical personal righteousness asserted as the condition of our righteousness, or the pardon of sin — Opinion of the Socinians — Personal righteousness required in the gospel — Believers hence denominated righteous — Not with respect unto righteousness habitual, but actual only — Inherent righteousness the same with sanctification, or holiness — In what sense we may be said to be justified by inherent righteousness — No evangelical justification on our personal righteousness — The imputation of the righteousness of Christ does not depend thereon — None have this righteousness, but they are antecedently justified — A charge before God, in all justification before God — The instrument of this charge, the law or the gospel — From neither of them can we be justified by this personal righteousness — The justification pretended needless and useless — It has not the nature of any justification mentioned in the Scripture, but is contrary to all that is so called — Other arguments to the same purpose — Sentential justification at the last day — Nature of the last judgement — Who shall be then justified — A declaration of righteousness, and an actual admission into glory, the whole of justification at the last day — The argument that we are justified in this life in the same manner, and on the same grounds, as we shall be judged at the last day, that judgement being according unto works, answered; and the impertinency of it declared

The things which we have discoursed concerning the first and second justification, and concerning the continuation of justification, have no other design but only to clear the principal subject whereof we treat from what does not necessarily belong unto it. For until all things that are either really heterogeneous or otherwise superfluous are separated from it, we cannot understand aright the true state of the question about the nature and causes of our justification before God. For we intend one justification only, — namely, that whereby God at once freely by his grace justifies a convinced sinner through faith in the blood of Christ. Whatever else any will be pleased to call justification, we are not concerned in it, nor are the consciences of them that believe. To the same purpose we must, therefore, briefly also consider what is usually disputed about our own personal righteousness, with a justification thereon; as also what is called sentential justification at the day of judgment. And I shall treat no farther of them in this place, but only as it is necessary to free the principal subject under consideration from being intermixed with them, as really it is not concerned in them. For what influence our own personal righteousness has into our justification before God will be afterwards particularly examined. Here we shall only consider such a notion of it as seems to interfere with it, and disturb the right understanding of it. But yet I say concerning this also, that it rather belongs unto the difference that will be among us in the expression of our conceptions about spiritual things whilst we know but in part, than unto the substance of the doctrine itself. And on such differences no breach of charity can ensue, whilst there is a mutual grant of that liberty of mind without which it will not be preserved one moment.

It is, therefore, by some apprehended that there is an evangelical justification upon our evangelical personal righteousness. This they distinguish from that justification which is by faith through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, in the sense wherein they do allow it; for the righteousness of Christ is our legal righteousness, whereby we have pardon of sin, and acquitment from the sentence of the law, on the account of his satisfaction and merit. But, moreover, they say that as there is a personal, inherent righteousness required of us, so there is a justification by the gospel thereon. For by our faith, and the plea of it, we are justified from the charge of unbelief; by our sincerity, and the plea of it, we are justified from the charge of hypocrisy; and so by all other graces and duties from the charge of the contrary sins in commission or omission, so far as such sins are inconsistent with the terms of the covenant of grace. How this differs from the second justification before God, which some say we have by works, on the supposition of the pardon of sin for the satisfaction of Christ, and the infusion of a habit of grace enabling us to perform those works, is declared by those who so express themselves.

Some add, that this inherent, personal, evangelical righteousness, is the condition on our part of our legal righteousness, or of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto our justification, or the pardon of sin. And those by whom the satisfaction and merit of Christ are denied, make it the only and whole condition of our absolute justification before God. So speak all the Socinians constantly; for they deny our obedience unto Christ to be either the meritorious or efficient cause of our justification; only they say it is the condition of it, without which God has decreed that we shall not be made partakers of the benefit thereof. So does Socinus himself, De Justificat. p. 17, “Sunt opera nostra, id est, ut dictum fuit, obedientia quam Christo præstamus, licet nec efficiens nec meritoria, tamen causa est (ut vocant) sine quâ non, justificationis coram Deo, atque æternæ nostræ.” Again, p. 14, inter Opuscul, “Ut cavendum est ne vitæ sanctitatem atque innocentiam effectum justificationis nostræ coram Deo esse credamus, neque illam nostræ coram Deo justificationis causam efficientem aut impulsivam esse affirmemus; set tantummodo causam sine quâ eam justificationem nobis non contingere decrevit Deus.” And in all their discourses to this purpose they assert our personal righteousness and holiness, or our obedience unto the commands of Christ, which they make to be the form and essence of faith, to be the condition whereon we obtain justification, or the remission of sins. And indeed, considering what their opinion is concerning the person of Christ, with their denial of his satisfaction and merit, it is impossible they should frame any other idea of justification in their minds. But what some among ourselves intend by a compliance with them herein, who are not necessitated thereunto by a prepossession with their opinions about the person and mediation of Christ, I know not. For as for them, all their notions about grace, conversion to God, justification, and the like articles of our religion, they are nothing but what they are necessarily cast upon by their hypothesis about the person of Christ.

At present I shall only inquire into that peculiar evangelical justification which is asserted to be the effect of our own personal righteousness, or to be granted us thereon. And hereunto we may observe, —

1. That God does require in and by the gospel a sincere obedience of all that do believe, to be performed in and by their own persons, though through the aids of grace supplied unto them by Jesus Christ. He requires, indeed, obedience, duties, and works of righteousness, in and of all persons whatever; but the consideration of them which are performed before believing is excluded by all from any causality or interest in our justification before God: at least, whatever any may discourse of the necessity of such works in a way of preparation unto believing (whereunto we have spoken before), none bring them into the verge of works evangelical, or obedience of faith; which would imply a contradiction. But that the works inquired after are necessary unto all believers, is granted by all; on what grounds, and unto what ends, we shall inquire afterwards. They are declared, Eph. ii. 10.

2. It is likewise granted that believers, from the performance of this obedience, or these works of righteousness, are denominated righteous in the Scripture, and are personally and internally righteous, Luke i. 6; John iii. 7. But yet this denomination is nowhere given unto them with respect unto grace habitually inherent, but unto the effect of it in duties of obedience; as in the places mentioned: “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless;” — the latter words give the reason of the former, or their being esteemed righteous before God. And, “He that does righteousness is righteous;” — the denomination is from doing. And Bellarmine, endeavouring to prove that it is habitual, not actual righteousness, which is, as he speaks, the formal cause of our justification before God, could not produce one testimony of Scripture wherein any one is denominated righteous from habitual righteousness, (De Justificat., lib. ii. cap. 15); but is forced to attempt the proof of it with this absurd argument, — namely, that “we are justified by the sacraments, which do not work in us actual, but habitual righteousness.” And this is sufficient to discover the insufficiency of all pretence for any interest of our own righteousness from this denomination of being righteous thereby, seeing it has not respect unto that which is the principal part thereof.

3. This inherent righteousness, taking it for that which is habitual and actual, is the same with our sanctification; neither is there any difference between them, only they are diverse names of the same thing. For our sanctification is the inherent renovation of our natures exerting and acting itself in newness of life, or obedience unto God in Christ and works of righteousness. But sanctification and justification are in the Scripture perpetually distinguished, whatever respect of causality the one of them may have unto the other. And those who do confound them, as the Papists do, do not so much dispute about the nature of justification, as endeavour to prove that indeed there is no such thing as justification at all; for that which would serve most to enforce it, — namely, the pardon of sin, — they place in the exclusion and extinction of it, by the infusions of inherent grace, which does not belong unto justification.

4. By this inherent, personal righteousness we may be said several ways to be justified. As, — (1.) In our own consciences, inasmuch at it is an evidence in us and unto us of our participation of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, and of our acceptance with him; which has no small influence into our peace. So speaks the apostle, “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world,” 2 Cor. i. 12: who yet disclaims any confidence therein as unto his justification before God; for says he, “Although I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified,” 1 Cor. iv. 4. (2.) Hereby may we be said to be justified before men; that is, acquitted of evils laid unto our charge, and approved as righteous and unblamable; for the state of things is so in the world, as that the professors of the gospel ever were, and ever will be, evil spoken of, as evil doers. The rule given them to acquit themselves, so as that at length they may be acquitted and justified by all that are not absolutely blinded and hardened in wickedness, is that of a holy and fruitful walking, in abounding in good works, 1 Pet. ii. 12; iii. 16. And so is it with respect unto the church, that we be not judged dead, barren professors, but such as have been made partakers of the like precious faith with others: “Show me thy faith by thy works,” James ii. Wherefore, (3.) This righteousness is pleadable unto our justification against all the charges of Satan, who is the great accuser of the brethren, — of all that believe. Whether he manage his charge privately in our consciences (which is as it were before God), as he charged Job; or by his instruments, in all manner of reproaches and calumnies (whereof some in this age have had experience in an eminent manner), this righteousness is pleadable unto our justification.

On a supposition of these things, wherein our personal righteousness is allowed its proper place and use (as shall afterward be more fully declared), I do not understand that there is an evangelical justification whereby believers are, by and on the account of this personal, inherent righteousness, justified in the sight of God; nor does the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto our absolute justification before him depend thereon. For, —

1. None have this personal righteousness but they are antecedently justified in the sight of God. It is wholly the obedience of faith, proceeding from true and saving faith in God by Jesus Christ: for, as it was said before, works before faith, are, as by general consent, excluded from any interest in our justification, and we have proved that they are neither conditions of it, dispositions unto it, nor preparations for it, properly so called; but every true believer is immediately justified on his believing. Nor is there any moment of time wherein a man is a true believer, according as faith is required in the gospel, and yet not justified; for as he is thereby united unto Christ, which is the foundation of our justification by him, so the whole Scripture testifies that he that believes is justified, or that there is an infallible connection in the ordination of God between true faith and justification. Wherefore this personal righteousness cannot be the condition of our justification before God, seeing it is consequential thereunto. What may be pleaded in exception hereunto from the supposition of a second justification, or differing causes of the beginning and continuation of justification, has been already disproved.

2. Justification before God is a freedom and absolution from a charge before God, at least it is contained therein; and the instrument of this charge must either be the law or the gospel. But neither the law nor the gospel do before God, or in the sight of God, charge true believers with unbelief, hypocrisy, or the like; for “who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect,” who are once justified before him? Such a charge may be laid against them by Satan, by the church sometimes on mistake, by the world, as it was in the case of Job; against which this righteousness is pleadable. But what is charged immediately before God is charged by God himself either by the law or the gospel; and the judgement of God is according unto truth. If this charge be by the law, by the law we must be justified. But the plea of sincere obedience will not justify us by the law. That admits of none in satisfaction unto its demands but that which is complete and perfect. And where the gospel lays any thing unto the charge of any persons before God, there can be no justification before God, unless we shall allow the gospel to be the instrument of a false charge; for what should justify him whom the gospel condemns? And if it be a justification by the gospel from the charge of the law, it renders the death of Christ of no effect; and a justification without a charge is not to be supposed.

3. Such a justification as that pretended is altogether needless and useless. This may easily be evinced from what the Scripture asserts unto our justification in the sight of God by faith in the blood of Christ; but this has been spoken to before on another occasion. Let that be considered, and it will quickly appear that there is no place nor use for this new justification upon our personal righteousness, whether it be supposed antecedent and subordinate thereunto, or consequential and perfective thereof.

4. This pretended evangelical justification has not the nature of any justification that is mentioned in the Scripture, — that is, neither that by the law, nor that provided in the gospel. Justification by the law is this, — The man that does the works of it shall live in them. This it does not pretend unto. And as unto evangelical justification, it is every way contrary unto it. For therein the charge against the person to be justified is true, — namely, that he has sinned, and is come short of the glory of God; [but] in this it is false, — namely, that a believer is an unbeliever; a sincere person, a hypocrite; one fruitful in good works, altogether barren: and this false charge is supposed to be exhibited in the name of God, and before him. Our acquitment, in true, evangelical justification, is by absolution or pardon of sin; here, by a vindication of our own righteousness. There, the plea of the person to be justified is, Guilty; all the world is become guilty before God: but here, the plea of the person on his trial is, Not guilty, whereon the proofs and evidences of innocence and righteousness do ensue; but this is a plea which the law will not admit, and which the gospel disclaims.

5. If we are justified before God on our own personal righteousness, and pronounced righteous by him on the account thereof, then God enters into judgement with us on something in ourselves, and acquits us thereon; for justification is a juridical act, in and of that judgment of God which is according unto truth. But that God should enter into judgment with us, and justify us with respect unto what he judges on, or our personal righteousness, the psalmist does not believe, Ps. cxxx. 2, 3; cxliii. 2; nor did the publican, Luke xviii.

6. This personal righteousness of ours cannot be said to be a subordinate righteousness, and subservient unto our justification by faith in the blood of Christ: for therein God justifies the ungodly, and imputes righteousness unto him that works not; and, besides, it is expressly excluded from any consideration in our justification, Eph. ii. 7, 8.

7. This personal, inherent righteousness, wherewith we are said to be justified with this evangelical justification, is our own righteousness. Personal righteousness, and our own righteousness, are expressions equivalent; but our own righteousness is not the material cause of any justification before God. For, — (1.) It is unmeet so to be, Isa. lxiv. 6. (2.) It is directly opposed unto that righteousness whereby we are justified, as inconsistent with it unto that end, Phil. iii. 9; Rom. x. 3, 4.

It will be said that our own righteousness is the righteousness of the law, but this personal righteousness is evangelical. But, — (1.) It will be hard to prove that our personal righteousness is any other but our own righteousness; and our own righteousness is expressly rejected from any interest in our justification in the places quoted. (2.) That righteousness which is evangelical in respect of its efficient cause, its motives and some especial ends, is legal in respect of the formal reason of it and our obligation unto it; for there is no instance of duty belonging unto it, but, in general, we are obliged unto its performance by virtue of the first commandment, to “take the Lord for our God.” Acknowledging therein his essential verity and sovereign authority, we are obliged to believe all that he shall reveal, and to obey in all that he shall command. (3.) The good works rejected from any interest in our justification, are those whereunto we are “created in Christ Jesus,” Eph. ii. 8–10; the “works of righteousness which we have done,” Tit. iii. 5, wherein the Gentiles are concerned, who never sought for righteousness by the works of the law, Rom. ix. 30. But it will yet be said, that these things are evident in themselves. God does require an evangelical righteousness in all that do believe; this Christ is not, nor is it the righteousness of Christ. He may be said to be our legal righteousness, but our evangelical righteousness he is not; and, so far as we are righteous with any righteousness, so far we are justified by it. For according unto this evangelical righteousness we must be tried; if we have it we shall be acquitted, and if we have it not we shall be condemned. There is, therefore, a justification according unto it.

I answer, — 1. According to some authors or maintainers of this opinion, I see not but that the Lord Christ is as much our evangelical righteousness as he is our legal. For our legal righteousness he is not, in their judgement, by a proper imputation of his righteousness unto us, but by the communication of the fruits of what he did and suffered for us. And so he is our evangelical righteousness also; for our sanctification is an effect or fruit of what he did and suffered for us, Eph. v. 26, 27; Tit. ii. 14.

2. None have this evangelical righteousness but those who are, in order of nature at least, justified before they actually have it; for it is that which is required of all that do believe, and are justified thereon. And we need not much inquire how a man is justified after he is justified.

3. God has not appointed this personal righteousness in order unto our justification before him in this life, though he have appointed it to evidence our justification before others, and even in his sight; as shall be declared. He accepts of it, approves of it, upon the account of the free justification of the person in and by whom it is wrought: so he had “respect unto Abel and his offering.” But we are not acquitted by it from any real charge in the sight of God, nor do receive remission of sins on the account of it. And those who place the whole of justification in the remission of sins, making this personal righteousness the condition of it, as the Socinians do, leave not any place for the righteousness of Christ in our justification.

4. If we are in any sense justified hereby in the sight of God, we have whereof to boast before him. We may not have so absolutely, and with respect unto merit; yet we have so comparatively, and in respect of others who cannot make the same plea for their justification. But all boasting is excluded; and it will not relieve, to say that this personal righteousness is of the free grace and gift of God unto some, and not unto others; for we must plead it as our duty, and not as God’s grace.

5. Suppose a person freely justified by the grace of God, through faith in the blood of Christ, without respect unto any works, obedience, or righteousness of his own, we do freely grant, — (1.) That God does indispensably require personal obedience of him; which may be called his evangelical righteousness. (2.) That God does approve of and accept, in Christ, this righteousness so performed. (3.) That hereby that faith whereby we are justified is evidenced, proved, manifested, in the sight of God and men. (4.) That this righteousness is pleadable unto an acquitment against any charge from Satan, the world, or our own consciences. (5.) That upon it we shall be declared righteous at the last day, and without it none shall so be. And if any shall think meet from hence to conclude unto an evangelical justification, or call God’s acceptance of our righteousness by that name, I shall by no means contend with them. And wherever this inquiry is made, — not how a sinner, guilty of death, and obnoxious unto the curse, shall be pardoned, acquitted, and justified, which is by the righteousness of Christ alone imputed unto him — but how a man that professes evangelical faith, or faith in Christ, shall be tried, judged, and whereon, as such, he shall be justified, we grant that it is and must be, by his own personal, sincere obedience.

And these things are spoken, not with a design to contend with any, or to oppose the opinions of any; but only to remove from the principal question in hand those things which do not belong unto it.

A very few words will also free our inquiry from any concernment in that which is called sentential justification, at the day of judgement; for of what nature soever it be, the person concerning whom that sentence is pronounced was, — (1.) Actually and completely justified before God in this world; (2.) Made partaker of all the benefits of that justification, even unto a blessed resurrection in glory: “It is raised in glory,” 1 Cor. xv. 43. (3.) The souls of the most will long before have enjoyed a blessed rest with God, absolutely discharged and acquitted from all their labours and all their sins; there remains nothing but an actual admission of the whole person into eternal glory. Wherefore this judgement can be no more but declaratory, unto the glory of God, and the everlasting refreshment of them that have believed. And without reducing of it unto a new justification, as it is nowhere called in the Scripture, the ends of that solemn judgement, — in the manifestation of the wisdom and righteousness of God, in appointing the way of salvation by Christ, as well as in giving of the law; the public conviction of them by whom the law has been transgressed and the gospel despised; the vindication of the righteousness, power, and wisdom of God in the rule of the world by his providence, wherein, for the most part, his paths unto all in this life are in the deep, and his footsteps are not known; the glory and honour of Jesus Christ, triumphing over all his enemies, then fully made his footstool; and the glorious exaltation of grace in all that do believe, with sundry other things of an alike tendency unto the ultimate manifestation of divine glory in the creation and guidance of all things, — are sufficiently manifest.

And hence it appears how little force there is in that argument which some pretend to be of so great weight in this cause. “As every one,” they say, “shall be judged of God at the last day, in the same way and manner or on the same grounds, is he justified of God in this life; but by works, and not by faith alone, every one shall be judged at the last day: wherefore by works, and not by faith alone, every one is justified before God in this life.” For, —

1. It is nowhere said that we shall be judged at the last day “ex operibus;” but only that God will render unto men “secundum opera.” But God does not justify any in this life “secundum opera;” being justified freely by his grace, and not according to the works of righteousness which we have done. And we are everywhere said to be justified in this life “ex fide,” “per fidem,” but nowhere “propter fidem;” or, that God justifies us “secundum fidem,” by faith, but not for our faith, nor according unto our faith. And we are not to depart from the expressions of the Scripture, where such a difference is constantly observed.

2. It is somewhat strange that a man should be judged at the last day, and justified in this life, just in the same way and manner, — that is, with respect unto faith and works, — when the Scripture does constantly ascribe our justification before God unto faith without works; and the judgment at the last day is said to be according unto works, without any mention of faith.

3. If justification and eternal judgment proceed absolutely on the same grounds, reasons, and causes, then if men had not done what they shall be condemned for doing at the last day, they should have been justified in this life; but many shall be condemned only for sins against the light of nature, Rom. ii. 12, as never having the written law or gospel made known unto them: wherefore unto such persons, to abstain from sins against the light of nature would be sufficient unto their justification, without any knowledge of Christ or the gospel.

4. This proposition, — that God pardons men their sins, gives them the adoption of children, with a right unto the heavenly inheritance, according to their works, — is not only foreign to the gospel, but contradictory unto it, and destructive of it, as contrary unto all express testimonies of the Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New, where these things are spoken of; but that God judges all men, and renders unto all men, at the last judgment, according unto their works, is true, and affirmed in the Scripture.

5. In our justification in this life by faith, Christ is considered as our propitiation and advocate, as he who has made atonement for sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness; but at the last day, and in the last judgment, he is considered only as the judge.

6. The end of God in our justification is the glory of his grace, Eph. i. 6; but the end of God in the last judgment is the glory of his remunerative righteousness, 2 Tim. iv. 8.

7. The representation that is made of the final judgment, Matt. vii. and xxv., is only of the visible church. And therein the plea of faith, as to the profession of it, is common unto all, and is equally made by all. Upon that plea of faith, it is put unto the trial whether it were sincere, true faith or no, or only that which was dead and barren. And this trial is made solely by the fruits and effects of it; and otherwise, in the public declaration of things unto all, it cannot be made. Otherwise, the faith whereby we are justified comes not into judgment at the last day. See John v. 24, with Mark xvi. 16.


Chapter VII. Imputation, and the nature of it; with the imputation of the righteousness of Christ in particular

Imputation, and the nature of it — The first express record of justification determines it to be by imputation, Gen. xv. 6 — Reasons of it — The doctrine of imputation cleared by Paul; the occasion of it — Maligned and opposed by many — Weight of the doctrine concerning imputation of righteousness, on all hands acknowledged — Judgment of the Reformed churches herein, particularly of the church of England — By whom opposed, and on what grounds — Signification of the word — Difference between “reputare” and “imputare” — Imputation of two kinds:— 1. Of what was ours antecedently unto that imputation, whether good or evil — Instances in both kinds — Nature of this imputation — The thing imputed by it, imputed for what it is, and nothing else. 2. Of what is not ours antecedently unto that imputation, but is made so by it — General nature of this imputation — Not judging of others to have done what they have not done — Several distinct grounds and reasons of this imputation:— 1. “Ex justitia;” (1.) “Propter relationem fœderalem;” (2.) “Propter relationem naturalem;” 2. “Ex voluntaria sponsione” — Instances, Philem. 18; Gen. xliii. 9 — Voluntary sponsion, the ground of the imputation of sin to Christ. 3. “Ex injuria,” 1 Kings i. 21. 4. “Ex mera gratia,” Rom. iv. — Difference between the imputation of any works of ours, and of the righteousness of God — Imputation of inherent righteousness is “ex justitia” — Inconsistency of it with that which is “ex mera gratia,” Rom. xi. 6 — Agreement of both kinds of imputation — The true nature of the imputation of righteousness unto justification explained — Imputation of the righteousness of Christ — The thing itself imputed, not the effect of it; proved against the Socinians

The first express record of the justification of any sinner is of Abraham. Others were justified before him from the beginning, and there is that affirmed of them which sufficiently evidences them so to have been; but this prerogative was reserved for the father of the faithful, that his justification, and the express way and manner of it, should be first entered on the sacred record. So it is, Gen. xv. 6, “He believed in the Lord, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ, — it was “accounted” unto him, or “imputed” unto him, for righteousness. Elogisthē, — it was “counted, reckoned, imputed.” And “it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed unto him, but for us also, unto whom it shall be imputed if we believe,” Rom. iv. 23, 24. Wherefore, the first express declaration of the nature of justification in the Scripture affirms it to be by imputation, — the imputation of somewhat unto righteousness; and this [is] done in that place and instance which is recorded on purpose, as the precedent and example of all those that shall be justified. As he was justified so are we, and no otherwise.

Under the New Testament there was a necessity of a more full and clear declaration of the doctrine of it; for it is among the first and most principal parts of that heavenly mystery of truth which was to be brought to light by the gospel. And, besides, there was from the first a strong and dangerous opposition made unto it; for this matter of justification, the doctrine of it, and what necessarily belongs thereunto, was that whereon the Jewish church broke off from God, refused Christ and the gospel, perishing in their sins; as is expressly declared, Rom. ix. 31; x. 3, 4. And, in like manner, a dislike of it, an opposition unto it, ever was, and ever will be, a principle and cause of the apostasy of any professing church from Christ and the gospel that falls under the power and deceit of them; as it fell out afterwards in the churches of the Galatians. But in this state the doctrine of justification was fully declared, stated, and vindicated, by the apostle Paul, in a peculiar manner. And he does it especially by affirming and proving that we have the righteousness whereby and wherewith we are justified by imputation; or, that our justification consists in the non-imputation of sin, and the imputation of righteousness.

But yet, although the first-recorded instance of justification, — and which was so recorded that it might be an example, and represent the justification of all that should be justified unto the end of the world, — is expressed by imputation and righteousness imputed, and the doctrine of it, in that great case wherein the eternal welfare of the church of the Jews, or their ruin, was concerned, is so expressed by the apostle; yet is it so fallen out in our days, that nothing in religion is more maligned, more reproached, more despised, than the imputation of righteousness unto us, or an imputed righteousness. “A putative righteousness, the shadow of a dream, a fancy, a mummery, an imagination,” say some among us. An opinion, “fœda, execranda, pernitiosa, detestanda,” says Socinus. And opposition arises unto it every day from great variety of principles; for those by whom it is opposed and rejected can by no means agree what to set up in the place of it.

However, the weight and importance of this doctrine is on all hands acknowledged, whether it be true or false. It is not a dispute about notions, terms, and speculations, wherein Christian practice is little or not at all concerned (of which nature many are needlessly contended about); but such as has an immediate influence into our whole present duty, with our eternal welfare or ruin. Those by whom this imputation of righteousness is rejected, do affirm that the faith and doctrine of it do overthrow the necessity of gospel obedience, of personal righteousness and good works, bringing in antinomianism and libertinism in life. Hereon it must, of necessity, be destructive of salvation in those who believe it, and conform their practice thereunto. And those, on the other hand, by whom it is believed, seeing they judge it impossible that any man should be justified before God any other way but by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, do, accordingly, judge that without it none can be saved. Hence a learned man of late concludes his discourse concerning it, “Hactenus de imputatione justitiæ Christi; sine qua nemo unquam aut salvatus est, aut salvari queat,” Justificat. Paulin. cap. viii.; — “Thus far of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; without which no man was ever saved, nor can any so be.” They do not think nor judge that all those are excluded from salvation who cannot apprehend, or do deny, the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, as by them declared; but they judge that they are so unto whom that righteousness is not really imputed: nor can they do otherwise, whilst they make it the foundation of all their own acceptation with God and eternal salvation. These things greatly differ. To believe the doctrine of it, or not to believe it, as thus or thus explained, is one thing; and to enjoy the thing, or not enjoy it, is another. I no way doubt but that many men do receive more grace from God than they understand or will own, and have a greater efficacy of it in them than they will believe. Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which, in opinion, they deny to be imputed: for the faith of it is included in that general assent which they give unto the truth of the gospel, and such an adherence unto Christ may ensue thereon, as that their mistake of the way whereby they are saved by him shall not defraud them of a real interest therein. And for my part, I must say that notwithstanding all the disputes that I see and read about justification (some whereof are full of offence and scandal), I do not believe but that the authors of them (if they be not Socinians throughout, denying the whole merit and satisfaction of Christ) do really trust unto the mediation of Christ for the pardon of their sins and acceptance with God, and not unto their own works or obedience; nor will I believe the contrary, until they expressly declare it. Of the objection, on the other hand, concerning the danger of the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, in reference unto the necessity of holiness and works of righteousness, we must treat afterwards.

The judgment of the Reformed churches herein is known unto all, and must be confessed, unless we intend by vain cavils to increase and perpetuate contentions. Especially the church of England is in her doctrine express as unto the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, both active and passive, as it is usually distinguished. This has been of late so fully manifested out of her authentic writings, — that is, the articles of religion, and books of homilies, and other writings publicly authorized, — that it is altogether needless to give any farther demonstration of it. Those who pretend themselves to be otherwise minded are such as I will not contend withal; for to what purpose is it to dispute with men who will deny the sun to shine, when they cannot bear the heat of its beams? Wherefore, in what I have to offer on this subject, I shall not in the least depart from the ancient doctrine of the church of England; yea, I have no design but to declare and vindicate it, as God shall enable.

There are, indeed, sundry differences among persons learned, sober, and orthodox (if that term displease not), in the way and manner of the explication of the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, who yet all of them agree in the substance of it, — in all those things wherein the grace of God, the honour of Christ, and the peace of the souls of men, are principally concerned. As far as it is possible for me, I shall avoid the concerning of myself at present in these differences; for unto what purpose is it to contend about them, whilst the substance of the doctrine itself is openly opposed and rejected? Why should we debate about the order and beautifying of the rooms in a house, whilst fire is set unto the whole? When that is well quenched, we may return to the consideration of the best means for the disposal and use of the several parts of it.

There are two grand parties by whom the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is opposed, — namely, the Papists and the Socinians; but they proceed on different principles, and unto different ends. The design of the one is to exalt their own merits; of the other, to destroy the merit of Christ. But besides these, who trade in company, we have many interlopers, who, coming in on their hand, do make bold to borrow from both as they see occasion. We shall have to do with them all in our progress; not with the persons of any, nor the way and manner of their expressing themselves, but the opinions of all of them, so far as they are opposite unto the truth: for it is that which wise men despise, and good men bewail, — to see persons pretending unto religion and piety, to cavil at expressions, to contend about words, to endeavour the fastening of opinions on men which they own not, and thereon mutually to revile one another, publishing all to the world as some great achievement or victory. This is not the way to teach the truths of the gospel, nor to promote the edification of the church. But, in general, the importance of the cause to be pleaded, the greatness of the opposition that is made unto the truth, and the high concernment of the souls of believers to be rightly instructed in it, do call for a renewed declaration and vindication of it. And what I shall attempt unto this purpose I do it under this persuasion, — that the life and continuance of any church on the one hand, and its apostasy or ruin on the other, do depend in an eminent manner on the preservation or rejection of the truth in this article of religion; and, I shall add, as it has been professed, received, and believed in the church of England in former days.

The first thing we are to consider is the meaning of these words, to impute, and imputation; for, from a mere plain declaration hereof, it will appear that sundry things charged on a supposition of the imputation we plead for are vain and groundless, or the charge itself is so.

חָשַב, the word first used to this purpose, signifies to think, to esteem, to judge, or to refer a thing or matter unto any; to impute, or to be imputed, for good or evil. See Lev. vii. 18; xvii. 4, and Ps. cvi. 31. וַתֵּחָשֶב לוֹ לִצְדָקָה, — “And it was counted, reckoned, imputed unto him for righteousness;” to judge or esteem this or that good or evil to belong unto him, to be his. The LXX. express it by logizō [18] and logizomai, as do the writers of the New Testament also; and these are rendered by “reputare, imputare, acceptum ferre, tribuere, assignare, ascribere.” But there is a different signification among these words: in particular, to be reputed righteous, and to have righteousness imputed, differ, as cause and effect; for that any may be reputed righteous, — that is, be judged or esteemed so to be, — there must be a real foundation of that reputation, or it is a mistake, and not a right judgment; as a man may be reputed to be wise who is a fool, or reputed to be rich who is a beggar. Wherefore, he that is reputed righteous must either have a righteousness of his own, or another antecedently imputed unto him, as the foundation of that reputation. Wherefore, to impute righteousness unto one that has none of his own, is not to repute him to be righteous who is indeed unrighteous; but it is to communicate a righteousness unto him, that he may rightly and justly be esteemed, judged, or reputed righteous.

Imputare” is a word that the Latin tongue owns in the sense wherein it is used by divines. “Optime de pessimis meruisti, ad quos pervenerit incorrupta rerum fides, magno authori suo imputata,” Senec. ad Mart. And Plin., lib. xviii. cap. 1, in his apology for the earth, our common parent, “Nostris eam criminibus urgemus, culpamque nostram illi imputamus.”

In their sense, to impute any thing unto another is, if it be evil, to charge it on him, to burden him with it: so says Pliny, “We impute our own faults to the earth, or charge them upon it.” If it be good, it is to ascribe it unto him as his own, whether originally it were so or no: “Magno authori imputata.” Vasquez, in Thom. 22, tom. ii. disp. 132, attempts the sense of the word, but confounds it with “reputare:” “Imputare aut reputare quidquam alicui, est idem atque inter ea quæ sunt ipsius, et ad eum pertinent, connumerare et recensere.” This is “reputare” properly; “imputare” includes an act antecedent unto this accounting or esteeming a thing to belong unto any person.

But whereas that may be imputed unto us which is really our own antecedently unto that imputation, the word must needs have a double sense, as it has in the instances given out of Latin authors now mentioned. And, —

1. To impute unto us that which was really ours antecedently unto that imputation, includes two things in it:— (1.) An acknowledgment or judgment that the thing so imputed is really and truly ours, or in us. He that imputes wisdom or learning unto any man does, in the first place, acknowledge him to be wise or learned. (2.) A dealing with them according unto it, whether it be good or evil. So when, upon a trial, a man is acquitted because he is found righteous; first, he is judged and esteemed righteous, and then dealt with as a righteous person, — his righteousness is imputed unto him. See this exemplified, Gen. xxx. 33.

2. To impute unto us that which is not our own antecedently unto that imputation, includes also in it two things:— (1.) A grant or donation of the thing itself unto us, to be ours, on some just ground and foundation; for a thing must be made ours before we can justly be dealt withal according unto what is required on the account of it. (2.) A will of dealing with us, or an actual dealing with us, according unto that which is so made ours; for in this matter whereof we treat, the most holy and righteous God does not justify any, — that is, absolve them from sin, pronounce them righteous, and thereon grant unto them right and title unto eternal life, — but upon the interveniency of a true and complete righteousness, truly and completely made the righteousness of them that are to be justified in order of nature antecedently unto their justification. But these things will be yet made more clear by instances; and it is necessary they should be so.

(1.) There is an imputation unto us of that which is really our own, inherent in us, performed by us, antecedently unto that imputation, and this whether it be evil or good. The rule and nature hereof is given and expressed, Ezek. xviii. 20, “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Instances we have of both sorts. First, in the imputation of sin when the person guilty of it is so judged and reckoned a sinner as to be dealt withal accordingly. This imputation Shimei deprecated, 2 Sam. xix. 19. He said unto the king, “Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me,” — אַל־יַחֲשָׁב־לִי אַדֹנִי עָוֹן, the word used in the expression of the imputation of righteousness, Gen. xv. 6, — “neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely: for thy servant doth know that I have sinned.” He was guilty, and acknowledged his guilt; but deprecates the imputation of it in such a sentence concerning him as his sin deserved. So Stephen deprecated the imputation of sin unto them that stoned him, whereof they were really guilty, Acts vii. 60, “Lay not this sin to their charge;” — impute it not unto them: as, on the other side, Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, who died in the same cause and the same kind of death with Stephen, prayed that the sin of those which slew him might be charged on them, 2 Chron. xxiv. 22. Wherefore to impute sin is to lay it unto the charge of any, and to deal with them according unto its desert.

To impute that which is good unto any, is to judge and acknowledge it so to be theirs, and thereon to deal with them in whom it is according unto its respect unto the law of God. The “righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him.” So Jacob provided that his “righteousness should answer for him,” Gen. xxx. 33. And we have an instance of it in God’s dealing with men, Ps. cvi. 30, 31, “Then stood up Phinehas and executed judgment; and that was counted unto him for righteousness.” Notwithstanding it seemed that he had not sufficient warrant for what he did, yet God, that knew his heart, and what guidance of his own Spirit he was under, approved his act as righteous, and gave him a reward testifying that approbation.

Concerning this imputation it must be observed, that whatever is our own antecedently thereunto, which is an act of God thereon, can never be imputed unto us for any thing more or less than what it is really in itself. For this imputation consists of two parts, or two things concur thereunto:— First, A judgment of the thing to be ours, to be in us, or to belong unto us. Secondly, A will of dealing with us, or an actual dealing with us, according unto it. Wherefore, in the imputation of any thing unto us which is ours, God esteems it not to be other than it is. He does not esteem that to be a perfect righteousness which is imperfect; so to do, might argue either a mistake of the thing judged on, or perverseness in the judgment itself upon it. Wherefore, if, as some say, our own faith and obedience are imputed unto us for righteousness, seeing they are imperfect, they must be imputed unto us for an imperfect righteousness, and not for that which is perfect; for that judgment of God which is according unto truth is in this imputation. And the imputation of an imperfect righteousness unto us, esteeming it only as such, will stand us in little stead in this matter. And the acceptilation which some plead (traducing a fiction in human laws to interpret the mystery of the gospel) does not only overthrow all imputation, but the satisfaction and merit of Christ also. And it must be observed, that this imputation is a mere act of justice, without any mixture of grace; as the apostle declares, Rom. xi. 6. For it consists of these two parts:— First, An acknowledging and judging that to be in us which is truly so; Secondly, A will of dealing with us according unto it: both which are acts of justice.

(2.) The imputation unto us of that which is not our own antecedently unto that imputation, at least not in the same manner as it is afterwards, is various also, as unto the grounds and causes that it proceeds upon. Only it must be observed, that no imputation of this kind is to account them unto whom anything is imputed to have done the things themselves which are imputed unto them. That were not to impute, but to err in judgment, and, indeed, utterly to overthrow the whole nature of gracious imputation. But it is to make that to be ours by imputation which was not ours before, unto all ends and purposes whereunto it would have served if it had been our own without any such imputation.

It is therefore a manifest mistake of their own which some make the ground of a charge on the doctrine of imputation. For they say, “If our sins were imputed unto Christ, then must he be esteemed to have done what we have done amiss, and so be the greatest sinner that ever was;” and on the other side, “If his righteousness be imputed unto us, then are we esteemed to have done what he did, and so to stand in no need of the pardon of sin.” But this is contrary unto the nature of imputation, which proceeds on no such judgment; but, on the contrary, that we ourselves have done nothing of what is imputed unto us, nor Christ any thing of what was imputed unto him.

To declare more distinctly the nature of this imputation, I shall consider the several kinds of it, or rather the several grounds whence it proceeds. For this imputation unto us of what is not our own antecedent unto that imputation, may be either, — 1. “Ex justitia;” or, 2. “Ex voluntaria sponsione;” or, 3. “Ex injuria; or, 4. “Ex gratia;” — all which shall be exemplified. I do not place them thus distinctly, as if they might not some of them concur in the same imputation, which I shall manifest that they do; but I shall refer the several kinds of imputation unto that which is the next cause of every one.

1. Things that are not our own originally, personally, inherently, may yet be imputed unto usex justitia,” by the rule of righteousness. And this may be done upon a double relation unto those whose they are:— (1.) Federal. (2.) Natural.

(1.) Things done by one may he imputed unto others, “propter relationem fœderalem,” — because of a covenant relation between them. So the sin of Adam was and is imputed unto all his posterity; as we shall afterward more fully declare. And the ground hereof is that we stood all in the same covenant with him, who was our head and representative therein. The corruption and depravation of nature which we derive from Adam is imputed unto us with the first kind of imputation, — namely, of that which is ours antecedently unto that imputation: but his actual sin is imputed unto us as that which becomes ours by that imputation; which before it was not. Hence, says Bellarmine himself, “Peccatum Adami ita posteris omnibus imputatur, ac si omnes idem peccatum patravissent,” De Amiss. Grat., lib. iv. cap. 10; — “The sin of Adam is so imputed unto all his posterity, as if they had all committed the same sin.” And he gives us herein the true nature of imputation, which he fiercely disputes against in his books on justification. For the imputation of that sin unto us, as if we had committed it, which he acknowledges, includes both a transcription of that sin unto us, and a dealing with us as if we had committed it; which is the doctrine of the apostle, Rom. v.

(2) There is an imputation of sin unto others, “ex justitia propter relationem naturalem,” — on the account of a natural relation between them and those who had actually contracted the guilt of it. But this is so only with respect unto some outward, temporary effects of it. So God speaks concerning the children of the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness, “Your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms,” Numb. xiv. 33; — “Your sin shall be so far imputed unto your children, because of their relation unto you, and your interest in them, as that they shall suffer for them in an afflictive condition in the wilderness.” And this was just because of the relation between them; as the same procedure of divine justice is frequently declared in other places of the Scripture. So, where there is a due foundation of it, imputation is an act of justice.

2. Imputation may justly ensue “ex voluntaria sponsione,” — when one freely and willingly undertakes to answer for another. An illustrious instance hereof we have in that passage of the apostle unto Philemon in the behalf of Onesimus, verse 18, “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought” (touto emoi ellogei), “impute it unto me, — put it on my account.” He supposes that Philemon might have a double action against Onesimus. (1.) “Injuriarum,” of wrongs: Ei de ti ēdikēse se; — “If he hath dealt unjustly with thee, or by thee, if he hath so wronged thee as to render himself obnoxious unto punishment.” (2.) “Damni,” or of loss: Ē opheilei; — “If he oweth thee ought, be a debtor unto thee;” which made him liable to payment or restitution. In this state the apostle interposes himself by a voluntary sponsion, to undertake for Onesimus: “I Paul have written it with my own hand,” Egō apotisō; — “I Paul will answer for the whole.” And this he did by the transcription of both the debts of Onesimus unto himself; for the crime was of that nature as might be taken away by compurgation, being not capital. And the imputation of them unto him was made just by his voluntary undertaking of them. “Account me,” says he, “the person that has done these things; and I will make satisfaction, so that nothing be charged on Onesimus.” So Judah voluntarily undertook unto Jacob for the safety of Benjamin, and obliged himself unto perpetual guilt in case of failure, Gen. xliii. 9, “I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee,” וְחָטָאתִי לְךָ כָּל־הַיָּמִים, — “I will sin,” or “be a sinner before thee always,” — be guilty, and, as we say, bear the blame. So he expresses himself again unto Joseph, chap. xliv. 32. It seems this is the nature and office of a surety; what he undertakes for is justly to be required at his hand, as if he had been originally and personally concerned in it. And this voluntary sponsion was one ground of the imputation of our sin unto Christ. He took on him the person of the whole church that had sinned, to answer for what they had done against God and the law. Hence that imputation was “fundamentaliter ex compacto, ex voluntaria sponsione;” — it had its foundation in his voluntary undertaking. But, on supposition hereof, it was actually “ex justitia;” it being righteous that he should answer for it, and make good what he had so undertaken, the glory of God’s righteousness and holiness being greatly concerned herein.

3. There is an imputationex injuria,” when that is laid unto the charge of any whereof he is not guilty: so Bathsheba says unto David, “It shall come to pass that when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon shall be חַטָּאִים,” (sinners), 1 Kings i. 21; — “shall be dealt with as offenders, as guilty persons; have sin imputed unto us, on one pretence or other, unto our destruction. We shall be sinners, — be esteemed so, and be dealt withal accordingly.” And we may see that, in the phrase of the Scripture, the denomination of sinners follows the imputation as well as the inhesion of sin; which will give light unto that place of the apostle, “He was made sin for us,” 2 Cor. v. 21. This kind of imputation has no place in the judgment of God. It is far from him that the righteous should be as the wicked.

4. There is an imputation “ex mera gratia,” — of mere grace and favour. And this is, when that which antecedently unto this imputation was no way ours, not inherent in us, not performed by us, which we had no right nor title unto, is granted unto us, made ours, so as that we are judged of and dealt with according unto it. This is that imputation, in both branches of it, — negative in the non-imputation of sin, and positive in the imputation of righteousness, — which the apostle so vehemently pleads for, and so frequently asserts, Rom. iv.; for he both affirms the thing itself, and declares that it is of mere grace, without respect unto any thing within ourselves. And if this kind of imputation cannot be fully exemplified in any other instance but this alone whereof we treat, it is because the foundation of it, in the mediation of Christ, is singular, and that which there is nothing to parallel in any other case among men.

From what has been discoursed concerning the nature and grounds of imputation, sundry things are made evident, which contribute much light unto the truth which we plead for, at least unto the right understanding and stating of the matter under debate. As, —

1. The difference is plain between the imputation of any works of our own unto us, and the imputation of the righteousness of faith without works. For the imputation of works unto us, be they what they will, be it faith itself as a work of obedience in us, is the imputation of that which was ours before such imputation; but the imputation of the righteousness of faith, or the righteousness of God which is by faith, is the imputation of that which is made ours by virtue of that imputation. And these two imputations differ in their whole kind. The one is a judging of that to be in us which indeed is so, and is ours before that judgment be passed concerning it; the other is a communication of that unto us which before was not ours. And no man can make sense of the apostle’s discourse, — that is, he cannot understand any thing of it, — if he acknowledge not that the righteousness he treats of is made ours by imputation, and was not ours antecedently thereunto.

2. The imputation of works, of what sort soever they be, of faith itself as a work, and all the obedience of faith, is “ex justitia,” and not “ex gratia,” — of right, and not of grace. However the bestowing of faith on us, and the working of obedience in us, may be of grace, yet the imputation of them unto us, as in us, and as ours, is an act of justice; for this imputation, as was showed, is nothing but a judgment that such and such things are in us, or are ours, which truly and really are so, with a treating of us according unto them. This is an act of justice, as it appears in the description given of that imputation; but the imputation of righteousness, mentioned by the apostle, is as unto us “ex mera gratia,” of mere grace, as he fully declares, — dōrean tē chariti autou. And, moreover, he declares that these two sorts of imputation are inconsistent and not capable of any composition, so that any thing should be partly of the one, and partly of the other, Rom. xi. 6, “If by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace: but if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” For instance, if faith itself as a work of ours be imputed unto us, it being ours antecedently unto that imputation, it is but an acknowledgment of it to be in us and ours, with an ascription of it unto us for what it is; for the ascription of any thing unto us for what it is not, is not imputation, but mistake. But this is an imputation “ex justitia,” of works; and so that which is of mere grace can have no place, by the apostle’s rule. So the imputation unto us of what is in us is exclusive of grace, in the apostle’s sense. And on the other hand, if the righteousness of Christ be imputed unto us, it must be “ex mera gratia,” of mere grace; for that is imputed unto us which was not ours antecedently unto that imputation, and so is communicated unto us thereby. And here is no place for works, nor for any pretence of them. In the one way, the foundation of imputation is in ourselves; in the other, it is in another; which are irreconcilable.

3. Herein both these kinds of imputation do agree, — namely, in that whatever is imputed unto us, it is imputed for what it is, and not for what it is not. If it be a perfect righteousness that is imputed unto us, so it is esteemed and judged to be; and accordingly are we to be dealt withal, even as those who have a perfect righteousness; and if that which is imputed as righteousness unto us be imperfect, or imperfectly so, then as such must it be judged when it is imputed; and we must be dealt withal as those which have such an imperfect righteousness, and no otherwise. And therefore, whereas our inherent righteousness is imperfect (they are to be pitied or despised, not to be contended withal, that are otherwise minded), if that be imputed unto us, we cannot be accepted on the account thereof as perfectly righteous, without an error in judgment.

4. Hence the true nature of that imputation which we plead for (which so many cannot or will not understand) is manifest, and that both negatively and positively; for, — (1.) Negatively. First, It is not a judging or esteeming of them to be righteous who truly and really are not so. Such a judgment is not reducible unto any of the grounds of imputation before mentioned. It has the nature of that which is “ex injuria,” or a false charge, only it differs materially from it; for that respects evil, this that which is good. And therefore the clamours of the Papists and others are mere effects of ignorance or malice, wherein they cry out “ad ravim,” [till they are hoarse,] that we affirm God to esteem them to be righteous who are wicked, sinful, and polluted. But this falls heavily on them who maintain that we are justified before God by our own inherent righteousness: for then a man is judged righteous who indeed is not so; for he who is not perfectly righteous cannot be righteous in the sight of God unto justification. Secondly, It is not a naked pronunciation or declaration of any one to be righteous, without a just and sufficient foundation for the judgement of God declared therein. God declares no man to be righteous but him who is so; the whole question being how he comes so to be. Thirdly, It is not the transmission or transfusion of the righteousness of another into them that are to be justified, that they should become perfectly and inherently righteous thereby; for it is impossible that the righteousness of one should be transfused into another, to become his subjectively and inherently: but it is a great mistake, on the other hand, to say that therefore the righteousness of one can no way be made the righteousness of another; which is to deny all imputation.

Wherefore, — (2.) Positively. This imputation is an act of Godex mera gratia,” — of his mere love and grace; whereby, on the consideration of the mediation of Christ, he makes an effectual grant and donation of a true, real, perfect righteousness, even that of Christ himself unto all that do believe; and accounting it as theirs, on his own gracious act, both absolves them from sin and grants them right and title unto eternal life. Hence, —

5. In this imputation, the thing itself is first imputed unto us, and not any of the effects of it, but they are made ours by virtue of that imputation. To say that the righteousness of Christ, — that is, his obedience and sufferings, — are imputed unto us only as unto their effects, is to say that we have the benefit of them, and no more; but imputation itself is denied. So say the Socinians; but they know well enough, and ingenuously grant, that they overthrow all true, real imputation thereby. “Nec enim ut per Christi justitiam justificemur, opus est ut illius justitia, nostra fiat justitia; sed sufficit ut Christi justitia sit causa nostræ justificationis; et hactenus possumus tibi concedere, Christi justitiam esse nostram justitiam, quatenus nostrum in bonum justitiamque redundat; verum tu proprie nostram, id est, nobis attributam ascriptamque intelligis,” says Schlichtingius, Disp. pro Socin. ad Meisner. p. 250. And it is not pleasing to see some among ourselves with so great confidence take up the sense and words of these men in their disputations against the Protestant doctrine in this cause; that is, the doctrine of the church of England.

That the righteousness of Christ is imputed unto us as unto its effects, has this sound sense in it, — namely, that the effects of it are made ours by reason of that imputation. It is so imputed, so reckoned unto us of God, as that he really communicates all the effects of it unto us. But to say the righteousness of Christ is not imputed unto us, only its effects are so, is really to overthrow all imputation; for (as we shall see) the effects of the righteousness of Christ cannot be said properly to be imputed unto us; and if his righteousness itself be not so, imputation has no place herein, nor can it be understood why the apostle should so frequently assert it as he does, Rom. iv. And therefore the Socinians, who expressly oppose the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and plead for a participation of its effects or benefits only, do wisely deny any such kind of righteousness of Christ, — namely, of satisfaction and merit (or that the righteousness of Christ, as wrought by him, was either satisfactory or meritorious), — as alone may be imputed unto us. For it will readily be granted, that what alone they allow the righteousness of Christ to consist in cannot be imputed unto us, whatever benefit we may have by it. But I do not understand how those who grant the righteousness of Christ to consist principally in his satisfaction for us, or in our stead, can conceive of an imputation of the effects thereof unto us, without an imputation of the thing itself; seeing it is for that, as made ours, that we partake of the benefits of it. But, from the description of imputation and the instances of it, it appears that there can be no imputation of any thing unless the thing itself be imputed; nor any participation of the effects of any thing but what is grounded on the imputation of the thing itself. Wherefore, in our particular case, no imputation of the righteousness of Christ is allowed, unless we grant itself to be imputed; nor can we have any participation of the effects of it but on the supposition and foundation of that imputation. The impertinent cavils that some of late have collected from the Papists and Socinians, — that if it be so, then are we as righteous as Christ himself, that we have redeemed the world and satisfied for the sins of others, that the pardon of sin is impossible and personal righteousness needless, — shall afterward be spoken unto, so far as they deserve.

All that we aim to demonstrate is, only, that either the righteousness of Christ itself is imputed unto us, or there is no imputation in the matter of our justification; which, whether there be or no, is another question, afterward to be spoken unto. For, as was said, the effects of the righteousness of Christ cannot be said properly to be imputed unto us. For instance, pardon of sin is a great effect of the righteousness of Christ. Our sins are pardoned on the account thereof. God for Christ’s sake, forgives us all our sins. But the pardon of sin cannot be said to be imputed unto us, nor is so. Adoption, justification, peace with God, all grace and glory, are effects of the righteousness of Christ; but that these things are not imputed unto us, nor can be so, is evident from their nature. But we are made partakers of them all upon the account of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, and no otherwise.

Thus much may suffice to be spoken of the nature of imputation of the righteousness of Christ; the grounds, reasons, and causes whereof, we shall in the next place inquire into. And I doubt not but we shall find, in our inquiry, that it is no such figment as some, ignorant of these things, do imagine; but, on the contrary, an important truth immixed with the most fundamental principles of the mystery of the gospel, and inseparable from the grace of God in Christ Jesus.


[18] Logizō is never used either in the LXX. or in purer Greek. We have allowed the passage to stand as written by Owen. — Ed.


Chapter VIII. Imputation of the sins of the church unto Christ — Grounds of it — The nature of his suretiship — Causes of the new covenant — Christ and the church one mystical person — Consequents thereof

Imputation of sin unto Christ — Testimonies of the ancients unto that purpose — Christ and the church one mystical person — Mistakes about that state and relation — Grounds and reasons of the union that is the foundation of this imputation — Christ the surety of the new covenant; in what sense, unto what ends — Heb. vii. 22, opened — Mistakes about the causes and ends of the death of Christ — The new covenant, in what sense alone procured and purchased thereby — Inquiry whether the guilt of our sins was imputed unto Christ — The meaning of the words, “guilt,” and “guilty” — The distinction of “reatus culpæ,” and “reatus pœnæ,” examined — Act of God in the imputation of the guilt of our sins unto Christ — Objections against it answered — The truth confirmed

Those who believe the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto believers, for the justification of life, do also unanimously profess that the sins of all believers were imputed unto Christ. And this they do on many testimonies of the Scripture directly witnessing thereunto; some whereof shall be pleaded and vindicated afterwards. At present we are only on the consideration of the general notion of these things, and the declaration of the nature of what shall be proved afterwards. And, in the first place, we shall inquire into the foundation of this dispensation of God, and the equity of it, or the grounds whereinto it is resolved; without an understanding whereof the thing itself cannot be well apprehended.

The principal foundation hereof is, — that Christ and the church, in this design, were one mystical person; which state they do actually coalesce into, through the uniting efficacy of the Holy Spirit. He is the head, and believers are the members of that one person, as the apostle declares, 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13. Hence, as what he did is imputed unto them, as if done by them; so what they deserved on the account of sin was charged upon him. So is it expressed by a learned prelate, “Nostram causam sustinebat, qui nostram sibi carnem aduniverat, et ita nobis arctissimo vinculo conjunctus, et henōtheis, quæ erant nostra fecit sua.” And again, “Quit mirum si in nostra persona constitutus, nostram carnem indutus,” etc., Montacut. Origin. Ecclesiast. The ancients speak to the same purpose. Leo. Serm. xvii.Ideo se humanæ imfirmitati virtus divina conseruit, ut dum Deus sua facit esse quæ nostra sunt, nostra faceret esse quæ sua sunt;” and also Serm. xvi.Caput nostrum Dominus Jesus Christus omnia in se corporis sui membra transformans, quod olim in psalmo eructaverit, id in supplicio crucis sub redemptorum suorum voce clamavit.” And so speaks Augustine to the same purpose, Epist. cxx., ad Honoratum, “Audimus vocem corporis ex ore capitis. Ecclesia in illo patiebatur, quando pro ecclesia patiebatur,” etc.; — “We hear the voice of the body from the mouth of the head. The church suffered in him when he suffered for the church; as he suffers in the church when the church suffers for him. For as we have heard the voice of the church in Christ suffering, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? look upon me;’ so we have heard the voice of Christ in the church suffering, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecuteth thou me?’ ” But we may yet look a little backwards and farther into the sense of the ancient church herein. “Christus,” says Irenæus, “omnes gentes exinde ab Adam dispersas, et generationem hominum in semet ipso recapitulatus est; unde a Paulo typus futuri dictus est ipse Adam,” lib. iii. cap. 33. And again, “Recapitulans universum hominum genus in se ab initio usque ad finem, recapitulatus est et mortem ejus.” In this of recapitulation, there is no doubt but he had respect unto the anakephalaiōsis, mentioned Eph. i. 10; and it may be this was that which Origen intended enigmatically, by saying, “The soul of the first Adam was the soul of Christ, as it is charged on him.” And Cyprian, Epist. lxii., on bearing about the administration of the sacrament of the eucharist, “Nos omnes portabat Christus; qui et peccata nostra portabet;” — “He bare us,” or suffered in our person, “when he bare our sins.” Whence Athanasius affirms of the voice he used on the cross, Ouk autos ho Kurios; alla hēmeis en ekeinō paschontes ēmen; — “We suffered in him.” Eusebius speaks many things to this purpose, Demonstrat. Evangel. lib. x. cap. 1. Expounding those words of the psalmist, “Heal my soul, for” (or, as he would read them, if) “I have sinned against thee,” and applying them unto our Saviour in his sufferings, he says thus, Epeidan tas hēmeteras koinopoiei eis heauton hamartias; — “Because he took of our sins to himself;” communicated our sins to himself, making them his own: for so he adds, Hoti tas hēmeteras hamartias exoikeioumenos; — “Making our sins his own.” And because in his following words he fully expresses what I design to prove, I shall transcribe them at large: Pōs de tas hēmeteras hamartias exoikeioutai? kai pōs pherein legetai tas anomias hēmōn, ē kathho sōma autou einai legometha? kata ton apostolon phēsanta, humeis este sōma Christou, kai melē ek merous; kai kathho paschontos henos melous, sumpaschei panta ta melē, houtō tōn pollōn melōn paschontōn kai hamartanontōn, kai autos kata tous tēs sumpatheias logous, epeidēper eudokēse Theou Logos ōn, morphēn doulou labein, kai tō koinō pantōn hēmōn skēnōmati sunaphthēnai; tous tōn paschontōn melōn ponous eis heauton analambanei, kai tas hēmeteras nosous idiopoieitai, kai pantōn hēmōn huperalgei kai huperponei kata tous tēs philanthrōpias nomous; ou monon de tauta praxas ho Amnos tou Theou, alla kai huper hēmōn kolastheis kai timōrian huposchōn, hēn autos men ouk ōpheilen, allhēmeis tou plēthous heneken peplēmmelēmenōn, hēmin aitios tēs tōn hamartēmatōn apheseōs katestē, hate ton huper hēmōn anadexamenos thanaton, mastigas te kai hubreis kai atimias hēmin epopheilomenas eis auton metatheis, kai tēn hēmin prostetimēmenēn kataran ephheauton helkusas, genomenos huper hēmōn katara; kai ti gar allo hē antipsuchos? dio phēsin ex hēmeterou prosōpou to logionhōste eikotōs henōn heauton hēmin, hēmas te hautō kai ta hēmetera pathē idiopoioumenos phēsin, egō eipa, Kurie eleēson me, iasai tēn psuchēn mou, hoti hēmarton soi.

I have transcribed this passage at large because, as I said, what I intend to prove in the present discourse is declared fully therein. Thus, therefore, he speaks: “How, then, did he make our sins to be his own, and how did he bear our iniquities? Is it not from thence, that we are said to be his body? as the apostle speaks, ‘You are the body of Christ, and members, for your part, or of one another.’ And as when one member suffers, all the members do suffer; so the many members sinning and suffering, he, according unto the laws of sympathy in the same body (seeing that, being the Word of God, he would take the form of a servant, and be joined unto the common habitation of us all in the same nature), took the sorrows or labours of the suffering members on him, and made all their infirmities his own; and, according to the laws of humanity (in the same body), bare our sorrow and labour for us. And the Lamb of God did not only these things for us but he underwent torments and was punished for us; that which he was no ways exposed unto for himself, but we were so by the multitude of our sins: and thereby he became the cause of the pardon of our sins, — namely, because he underwent death, stripes, reproaches, translating the thing which we had deserved unto himself, — and was made a curse for us, taking unto himself the curse that was due to us; for what was he but (a substitute for us) a price of redemption for our souls? In our person, therefore, the oracle speaks, — whilst freely uniting himself unto us, and us unto himself, and making our (sins or passions his own), ‘I have said, Lord, be merciful unto me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.’ ”

That our sins were transferred unto Christ and made his, that thereon he underwent the punishment that was due unto us for them, and that the ground hereof, whereinto its equity is resolved, is the union between him and us, is fully declared in this discourse. So says the learned and pathetical author of the Homilies on Matt. v., in the works of Chrysostom, Hom. liv., which is the last of them, “In carne sua omnem carnem suscepit, crucifixus, omnem carnem crucifixit in se.” He speaks of the church. So they speak often, others of them, that “he bare us,” that “he took us with him on the cross,” that “we were all crucified in him;” as Prosper, “He is not saved by the cross of Christ who is not crucified in Christ,” Resp. ad cap., Gal. cap. ix.

This, then, I say, is the foundation of the imputation of the sins of the church unto Christ, — namely, that he and it are one person; the grounds whereof we must inquire into.

But hereon sundry discourses do ensue, and various inquiries are made, — What a person is? in what sense, and in how many senses, that word may be used? what is the true notion of it? what is a natural person? what a legal, civil, or political person? in the explication whereof some have fallen into mistakes. And if we should enter into this field, we need not fear matter enough of debate and altercation. But I must needs say, that these things belong not unto our present occasion; nor is the union of Christ and the church illustrated, but obscured by them. For Christ and believers are neither one natural person, nor a legal or political person, nor any such person as the laws, customs, or usages of men do know or allow of. They are one mystical person; whereof although there may be some imperfect resemblances found in natural or political unions, yet the union from whence that denomination is taken between him and us is of that nature, and arises from such reasons and causes, as no personal union among men (or the union of many persons) has any concernment in. And therefore, as to the representation of it unto our weak understandings, unable to comprehend the depth of heavenly mysteries, it is compared unto unions of divers kinds and natures. So is it represented by that of man and wife; not as unto those mutual affections which give them only a moral union, but from the extraction of the first woman from the flesh and bone of the first man, and the institution of God for the individual society of life thereon. This the apostle at large declares, Eph. v. 25–32: whence he concludes, that from the union thus represented, “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” verse 30; or have such a relation unto him as Eve had to Adam, when she was made of his flesh and bone, and so was one flesh with him. So, also, it is compared unto the union of the head and members of the same natural body, 1 Cor. xii. 12; and unto a political union also, between a ruling or political head and its political members; but never exclusively unto the union of a natural head and its members comprised in the same expression, Eph. iv. 15; Col. ii. 19. And so also unto sundry things in nature, as a vine and its branches, John xv. 1, 2. And it is declared by the relation that was between Adam and his posterity, by God’s institution and the law of creation, Rom. v. 12, etc. And the Holy Ghost, by representing the union that is between Christ and believers by such a variety of resemblances, in things agreeing only in the common or general notion of union, on various grounds, does sufficiently manifest that it is not of, nor can be reduced unto, any one kind of them. And this will yet be made more evident by the consideration of the causes of it, and the grounds whereinto it is resolved. But whereas it would require much time and diligence to handle them at large, which the mention of them here, being occasional, will not admit, I shall only briefly refer unto the heads of them:—

1. The first spring or cause of this union, and of all the other causes of it, lies in that eternal compact that was between the Father and the Son concerning the recovery and salvation of fallen mankind. Herein, among other things, as the effects thereof, the assumption of our nature (the foundation of this union) was designed. The nature and terms of this compact, counsel, and agreement, I have declared elsewhere; and therefore must not here again insist upon it. But the relation between Christ and the church, proceeding from hence, and so being an effect of infinite wisdom, in the counsel of the Father and Son, to be made effectual by the Holy Spirit, must be distinguished from all other unions or relations whatever.

2. The Lord Christ, as unto the nature which he was to assume, was hereon predestinated unto grace and glory. He was proegnōsmenos, — “fore-ordained,” predestinated, “before the foundation of the world,” 1 Pet. i. 20; that is, he was so, as unto his office, so unto all the grace and glory required thereunto, and consequent thereon. All the grace and glory of the human nature of Christ was an effect of free divine pre-ordination. God chose it from all eternity unto a participation of all which it received in time. Neither can any other cause of the glorious exaltation of that portion of our nature be assigned.

3. This grace and glory whereunto he was preordained was twofold:— (1.) That which was peculiar unto himself; (2.) That which was to be communicated, by and through him, unto the church. (1.) Of the first sort was the charis henōseōs, — the grace of personal union; that single effect of divine wisdom (whereof there is no shadow nor resemblance in any other works of God, either of creation, providence, or grace), which his nature was filled withal: “Full of grace and truth.” And all his personal glory, power, authority, and majesty as mediator, in his exaltation at the right hand of God, which is expressive of them all, do belong hereunto. These things were peculiar unto him, and all of them effects of his eternal predestination. But, — (2.) He was not thus predestinated absolutely, but also with respect unto that grace and glory which in him and by him was to be communicated unto the church And he was so, —

[1.] As the pattern and exemplary cause of our predestination; for we are “predestinated to be conformed unto the image of the Son of God, that he might be the first born among many brethren,” Rom. viii. 29. Hence he shall even “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,” Phil. iii. 21; that when he appears we may be every way like him, 1 John iii. 2.

[2.] As the means and cause of communicating all grace and glory unto us; for we are “chosen in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and predestinated unto the adoption of children by him,” Eph. i. 3–5. He was designed as the only procuring cause of all spiritual blessings in heavenly things unto those who are chosen in him. Wherefore, —

[3.] He was thus fore-ordained as the head of the church; it being the design of God to gather all things into a head in him, Eph. i. 10.

[4.] All the elect of God were, in his eternal purpose and design, and in the everlasting covenant between the Father and the Son, committed unto him, to be delivered from sin, the law, and death, and to be brought into the enjoyment of God: “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me,” John xvii. 6. Hence was that love of his unto them wherewith he loved them, and gave himself for them, antecedently unto any good or love in them, Eph. v. 25, 26; Gal. ii. 20; Rev. i. 5, 6.

[5.] In the prosecution of this design of God, and in the accomplishment of the everlasting covenant, in the fulness of time he took upon him our nature, or took it into personal subsistence with himself. The especial relation that ensued hereon between him and the elect children the apostle declares at large, Heb. ii. 10–17; and I refer the reader unto our exposition of that place.

[6.] On these foundations he undertook to be the surety of the new covenant, Heb. vii. 22, “Jesus was made a surety of a better testament.” This alone, of all the fundamental considerations of the imputation of our sins unto Christ, I shall insist upon, on purpose to obviate or remove some mistakes about the nature of his suretiship, and the respect of it unto the covenant whereof he was the surety. And I shall borrow what I shall offer hereon from our exposition of this passage of the apostle in the seventh chapter of this epistle, not yet published, with very little variation from what I have discoursed on that occasion, without the least respect unto, or prospect of, any treating on our present subject.

The word enguos is nowhere found in the Scripture but in this place only; but the advantage which some would make from thence, — namely, that it being but one place wherein the Lord, Christ is called a surety, it is not of much force, or much to be insisted on, — is both unreasonable and absurd; for, — 1st. This one place is of divine revelation; and therefore is of the same authority with twenty testimonies unto the same purpose. One divine testimony makes our faith no less necessary, nor does one less secure it from being deceived than a hundred.

2dly. The signification of the word is known from the use of it, and what it signifies among men; so that no question can be made of its sense and importance, though it be but once used: and this on any occasion removes the difficulty and danger, tōn hapax legomenōn. 3dly. The thing itself intended is so fully declared by the apostle in this place, and so plentifully taught in other places of the Scripture, as that the single use of this word may add light, but can be no prejudice unto it.

Something may be spoken unto the signification of the word enguos, which will give light into the thing intended by it. Gualon is “vola manûs,” — the “palm of the hand;” thence is enguos, or eis to gualon, — to “deliver into the hand.” Enguētēs is of the same signification. Hence being a surety is interpreted by striking the hand, Prov. vi. 1, “My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger.” So it answers the Hebrew עָרַב, which the LXX. render enguaō, Prov. vi. 1; xvii. 18; xx. 16; and by dienguaō, Neh. v. 3. עָרַב originally signifies to mingle, or a mixture of any things or persons; and thence, from the conjunction and mixture is between a surety and him for whom he is a surety, whereby they coalesce into one person, as unto the ends of that suretiship, it is used for a surety, or to give surety. And he that was or did עָרַב, a surety, or become a surety, was to answer for him for whom he was so, whatsoever befell him. So is it described, Gen. xliii. 9, in the words of Judah unto his father Jacob, concerning Benjamin, אָנֹכִי אֶעֶרְבֶנּוּ, — “I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him.” In undertaking to be surety for him, as unto his safety and preservation, he engages himself to answer for all that should befall him; for so he adds, “If I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, let me be guilty forever.” And on this ground he entreats Joseph that he might be a servant and a bondman in his stead, that he might go free and return unto his father, Gen. xliv. 32, 33. This is required unto such a surety, that he undergo and answer all that he for whom he is a surety is liable unto, whether in things criminal or civil, so far as the suretiship does extend. A surety is an undertaker for another, or others, who thereon is justly and legally to answer what is due to them, or from them; nor is the word otherwise used. See Job xvii. 3; Prov. vi. 1; xi. 15; xvii. 18; xx. 16; xxvii. 13. So Paul became a surety unto Philemon for Onesimus, verse 18. Enguē is “sponsio, expromissio, fidejussio,” — an undertaking or giving security for any thing or person unto another, whereon an agreement did ensue. This, in some cases, was by pledges, or an earnest, Isa. xxxvi. 8, הִתְעָרֶב נָא, — “Give surety, pledges, hostages,” for the true performance of conditions. Hence is עֵרָבוֹן, arrhabōn, “a pledge,” or “earnest,” Eph. i. 14. Wherefore enguos is “sponsor, fidejussor, præs,” — one that voluntarily takes on himself the cause or condition of another, to answer, or undergo, or pay what he is liable unto, or to see it done; whereon he becomes justly and legally obnoxious unto performance. In this sense is the word here used by the apostle; for it has no other.

In our present inquiry into the nature of this suretiship of Christ, the whole will be resolved into this one question, — namely, whether the Lord Christ was made a surety only on the part of God unto us, to assure us that the promise of the covenant on his part should be accomplished; or also and principally an undertaker on our part, for the performance of what is required; if not of us, yet with respect unto us, that the promise may be accomplished? The first of these is vehemently asserted by the Socinians, who are followed by Grotius and Hammond in their annotations on this place.

The words of Schlichtingius are: “Sponsor fœderis appellatur Jesus, quod nomine Dei nobis, spoponderit, id est fidem fecerit, Deum fœderis promissiones servaturum. Non vero quasi pro nobis spoponderit Deo, nostrorumve debitorum solutionem in se receperit. Nec enim nos misimus Christum sed Deus, cujus nomine Christus ad nos venit, fœdus nobiscum panxit, ejusque promissiones ratas fore spopondit et in se recepti; ideoque nec sponsor simpliciter, sed fœderis sponsor nominatur; spopondit autem Christus pro fœderis divini veritate, non tantum quatenus id firmum ratumque fore verbis perpetuo testatus est; sed etiam quatenus muneris sui fidem, maximis rerum ipsarum comprobavit documentis, cum perfecta vitæ innocentia et sanctitate, cum divinis plane quæ patravit, operibus; cum mortis adeo truculentæ, quam pro doctrinæ suæ veritate subiit, perpessione.” After which he subjoins a long discourse about the evidences which we have of the veracity of Christ. And herein we have a brief account of their whole opinion concerning the mediation of Christ. The words of Grotius are, “Spopondit Christus; id est, nos certos promissi fecit, non solis verbis, sed perpetua vitæ sanctitate, morte ob id tolerata et miraculis plurimis;” — which are an abridgment of the discourse of Schlichtingius. To the same purpose Dr Hammond expounds it, that he was a sponsor or surety for God unto the confirmation of the promises of the covenant.

On the other hand, the generality of expositors, ancient and modern, of the Roman and Protestant churches, on the place, affirm that the Lord Christ, as the surety of the covenant, was properly a surety or undertaker unto God for us, and not a surety and undertaker unto us for God. And because this is a matter of great importance, wherein the faith and consolation of the church is highly concerned, I shall insist a little upon it.

And, first, We may consider the argument that is produced to prove that Christ was only a surety for God unto us. Now, this is taken neither from the name nor nature of the office or work of surety, nor from the nature of the covenant whereof he was a surety, nor of the office wherein he was so. But the sole argument insisted on is, that we do not give Christ as a surety of the covenant unto God, but he gives him unto us; and therefore he is a surety for God and the accomplishment of his promises, and not for us, to pay our debts, or to answer what is required of us.

But there is no force in this argument; for it belongs not unto the nature of a surety by whom he is or may be designed unto his office and work therein. His own voluntary susception of the office and work is all that is required, however he may be designed or induced to undertake it. He who, of his own accord, does voluntarily undertake for another, on what grounds, reasons, or considerations soever he does so, is his surety. And this the Lord Christ did in the behalf of the church: for when it was said, “Sacrifice, and burnt-offering, and whole burnt-offerings for sin, God would not have,” or accept as sufficient to make the atonement that he required, so as that the covenant might be established and made effectual unto us; then said he, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” Heb. x. 5, 7. He willingly and voluntarily, out of his own abundant goodness and love, took upon him to make atonement for us; wherein he was our surety. And accordingly, this undertaking is ascribed unto that love which he exercised herein, Gal. ii. 20; 1 John iii. 16; Rev. i. 5. And there was this in it, moreover, that he took upon him our nature or the seed of Abraham; wherein he was our surety. So that although we neither did nor could appoint him so to be, yet he took from us that wherein and whereby he was so; which is as much as if we had designed him unto his work, as to the true reason of his being our surety. Wherefore, notwithstanding those antecedent transactions that were between the Father and him in this matter, it was the voluntary engagement of himself to be our surety, and his taking our nature upon him for that end, which was the formal reason of his being instated in that office.

It is indeed weak, and contrary unto all common experience, that none can be a surety for others unless those others design him and appoint him so to be. The principal instances of suretiship in the world have been by the voluntary undertaking of such as were no way procured so to do by them for whom they undertook. And in such undertakings, he unto whom it is made is no less considered than they for whom it is made: as when Judah, on his own account, became a surety for Benjamin, he had as much respect unto the satisfaction of his father as the safety of his brother. And so the Lord Christ, in his undertaking to be a surety for us, had respect unto the glory of God before our safety.

Secondly, We may consider the arguments whence it is evident that he neither was nor could be a surety unto us for God, but was so for us unto God. For, —

1. Enguos or enguētēs, “a surety,” is one that undertakes for another wherein he is defective, really or in reputation. Whatever that undertaking be, whether in words of promise or in depositing of real security in the hands of an arbitrator, or by any other personal engagement of life and body, it respects the defect of the person for whom any one becomes a surety. Such a one is “sponsor,” or “fidejussor,” in all good authors and common use of speech. And if any one be of absolute credit himself, and of a reputation every way unquestionable, there is no need of a surety, unless in case of mortality. The words of a surety in the behalf of another whose ability or reputation is dubious, are, “Ad me recipio, faciet, aut faciam.” And when engous is taken adjectively, as sometimes, it signifies “satisdationibus obnoxius,” — liable to payments for others that are non-solvent.

2. God can, therefore, have no surety properly, because there can be no imagination of any defect on his part. There may be, indeed a question whether any word or promise be a word or promise of God. To assure us hereof, it is not the work of a surety, but only any one or any means that may give evidence that so it is, — that is, of a witness. But upon a supposition that what is proposed is his word or promise, there can be no imagination or fear of any defect on his part, so as that there should be any need of a surety for the performance of it. He does therefore make use of witnesses to confirm his word, — that is, to testify that such promises he has made, and so he will do: so the Lord Christ was his witness. Isa. xliii. 10, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen;” but they were not all his sureties. So he affirms that “he came into the world to bear witness unto the truth,” John xviii. 37, — that is, the truth of the promises of God; for he was the minister of the circumcision for the truth of the promises of God unto the fathers, Rom. xv. 8: but a surety for God, properly so called, he was not, nor could be. The distance and difference is wide enough between a witness and a surety; for a surety must be of more ability, or more credit and reputation, than he or those for whom he is a surety, or there is no need of his suretiship; or, at least, he must add unto their credit, and make it better than without him. This none can be for God, no, not the Lord Christ himself, who, in his whole work, was the servant of the Father. And the apostle does not use this word in a general, improper sense, for any one that by any means gives assurance of any other thing, for so he had ascribed nothing peculiar unto Christ; for in such a sense all the prophets and apostles were sureties for God, and many of them confirmed the truth of his word and promises with the laying down of their lives; but such a surety he intends as undertakes to do that for others which they cannot do for themselves, or at least are not reputed to be able to do what is required of them.

3. The apostle had before at large declared who and what was God’s surety in this matter of the covenant, and how impossible it was that he should have any other. And this was himself alone, interposing himself by his oath; for in this cause, “because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,” Heb. vi. 13, 14. Wherefore, if God would give any other surety besides himself, it must be one greater than he. This being every way impossible, he swears by himself only. Many ways he may and does use for the declaring and testifying of his truth unto us, that we may know and believe it to be his word; and so the Lord Christ in his ministry was the principal witness of the truth of God. But other surety than himself he can have none. And therefore, —

4. When he would have us in this matter not only come unto the full assurance of faith concerning his promises, but also to have strong consolation therein, he resolves it wholly into the immutability of his counsel, as declared by his promise and oath, chap. vi. 18, 19: so that neither is God capable of having any surety, properly so called; neither do we stand in need of any on his part for the confirmation of our faith in the highest degree.

5. We, on all accounts, stand in need of a surety for us, or on our behalf. Neither, without the interposition of such a surety, could any covenant between God and us be firm and stable, or an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure. In the first covenant made with Adam there was no surety, but God and men were the immediate covenanters; and although we were then in a state and condition able to perform and answer all the terms of the covenant, yet was it broken and disannulled. If this came to pass by the failure of the promise of God, it was necessary that on the making of a new covenant he should have a surety to undertake for him, that the covenant might be stable and everlasting; but this is false and blasphemous to imagine. It was man alone who failed and broke that covenant: wherefore it was necessary, that upon the making of the new covenant, and that with a design and purpose that it should never be disannulled, as the former was, we should have a surety and undertaker for us; for if that first covenant was not firm and stable, because there was no surety to undertake for us, notwithstanding all that ability which we had to answer the terms of it, how much less can any other be so, now [that] our natures are become depraved and sinful! Wherefore we alone were capable of a surety, properly so called, for us; we alone stood in need of him; and without him the covenant could not be firm and inviolate on our part. The surety, therefore of this covenant, is so with God for us.

6. It is the priesthood of Christ that the apostle treats of in this place, and that alone: wherefore he is a surety as he is a priest, and in the discharge of that office; and therefore is so with God on our behalf. This Schlichtingius observes, and is aware what will ensue against his pretensions; which he endeavours to obviate. “Mirum,” says he, “porro alicui videri posset, cur divinus author de Christi sacerdotio, in superioribus et in sequentibus agens, derepente eum sponsorem fœderis non vero sacerdotem vocet? Cur non dixerit ‘tanto præstantioris fœderis factus est sacerdos Jesus?’ Hoc enim plane requirere videtur totus orationis contextus. Credibile est in voce sponsionis sacerdotium quoque Christi intelligi. Sponsoris enim non est alieno nomine quippiam promittere, et fidem suam pro alio interponere; sed etiam, si ita res ferat, alterius nomine id quod spopondit præstare. In rebus quidem humanis, si id non præstet is pro quo sponsor fidejussit; hic vero propter contrariam causam (nam prior hic locum habere non potest), nempe quatenus ille pro quo spopondit Christus per ipsum Christum promissa sua nobis exhibet; qua in re præcipue Christi sacerdotium continetur.”

Ans. 1. It may indeed, seem strange, unto any one who imagines Christ to be such a surety as he does, why the apostle should so call him, and so introduce him in the description of his priestly office, as that which belongs thereunto; but grant what is the proper work and duty of a surety, and who the Lord Jesus was a surety for, and it is evident that nothing more proper or pertinent could be mentioned by him, when he was in the declaration of that office.

Ans. 2. He confesses that by his exposition of this suretiship of Christ, as making him a surety for God, he contradicts the nature and only notion of a surety among men. For such a one, he acknowledges, does nothing but in the defect and inability of them for whom he is engaged and does undertake; he is to pay that which they owe, and to do what is to be done by them, which they cannot perform. And if this be not the notion of a surety in this place, the apostle makes use of a word nowhere else used in the whole Scripture, to teach us that which it does never signify among men: which is improbable and absurd; for the sole reason why he did make use of it was, that from the nature and notion of it amongst men in other cases, we may understand the signification of it, what he intends by it, and what under that name he ascribes unto the Lord Jesus.

Ans. 3. He has no way to solve the apostle’s mention of Christ being a surety, in the description of his priestly office, but by overthrowing the nature of that office also; for to confirm this absurd notion, that Christ as a priest was a surety for God, he would have us believe that the priesthood of Christ consists in his making effectual unto us the promises of God, or his effectual communicating of the good things promised unto us; the falsehood of which notion, really destructive of the priesthood of Christ, I have elsewhere at large detected and confuted. Wherefore, seeing the Lord Christ is a surety of the covenant as a priest, and all the sacerdotal actings of Christ have God for their immediate object, and are performed with him on our behalf, he was a surety for us also.

A surety, “sponsor, vas, præs, fidejussor,” for us, the Lord Christ was, by his voluntary undertaking, out of his rich grace and love, to do, answer, and perform all that is required on our part, that we may enjoy the benefits of the covenant, the grace and glory prepared, proposed, and promised in it, in the way and manner determined on by divine wisdom. And this may be reduced unto two heads:— First, His answering for our transgressions against the first covenant; Secondly, His purchase and procurement of the grace of the new: “he was made a curse for us, … that the blessing of Abraham might come on us,” Gal. iii. 13–15.

(1.) He undertook, as the surety of the covenant, to answer for all the sins of those who are to be, and are, made partakers of the benefits of it; — that is, to undergo the punishment due unto their sins; to make atonement for them by offering himself a propitiatory sacrifice for the expiation of their sins, redeeming them, by the price of his blood, from their state of misery and bondage under the law, and the curse of it, Isa. liii. 4–6, 10; Matt. xx. 28; 1 Tim. ii. 6; 1 Cor. vi. 20; Rom. iii. 25, 26; Heb. x. 5–8; Rom. viii. 2, 3; 2 Cor. v. 19–21; Gal. iii. 13: and this was absolutely necessary, that the grace and glory prepared in the covenant might be communicated unto us. Without this undertaking of his, and performance of it, the righteousness and faithfulness of God would not permit that sinners, — such as had apostatized from him, despised his authority and rebelled against him, falling thereby under the sentence and curse of the law, — should again be received into his favour, and made partakers of grace and glory; this, therefore, the Lord Christ took upon himself, as the surety of the covenant.

(2.) That those who were to be taken into this covenant should receive grace enabling them to comply with the terms of it, fulfil its conditions, and yield the obedience which God required therein; for, by the ordination of God, he was to procure, and did merit and procure for them, the Holy Spirit, and all needful supplies of grace, to make them new creatures, and enable them to yield obedience unto God from a new principle of spiritual life, and that faithfully unto the end: so was he the surety of this better testament. But all things belonging hereunto will be handled at large in the place from whence, as I said, these are taken, as suitable unto our present occasion.

But some have other notions of these things; for they say that “Christ, by his death, and his obedience therein, whereby he offered himself a sacrifice of sweet smelling savour unto God, procured for us the new covenant:” or, as one speaks, “All that we have by the death of Christ is, that whereunto we owe the covenant of grace; for herein he did and suffered what God required and freely appointed him to do and suffer. Not that the justice of God required any such thing, with respect unto their sins for whom he died, and in whose stead, or to bestead whom, he suffered, but what, by a free constitution of divine wisdom and sovereignty, was appointed unto him. Hereon God was pleased to remit the terms of the old covenant, and to enter into a new covenant with mankind, upon terms suited unto our reason, possible unto our abilities, and every way advantageous unto us; for these terms are, faith and sincere obedience, or such an assent unto the truth of divine revelation effectual in obedience unto the will of God contained in them, upon the encouragement given whereunto in the promises of eternal life, or a future reward, made therein. On the performance of these conditions our justification, adoption, and future glory, do depend; for they are that righteousness before God whereon he pardons our sins, and accepts our persons as if we were perfectly righteous.” Wherefore, by this procuring the new covenant for us, which they ascribe unto the death of Christ, they intend the abrogation of the old covenant, or of the law, — or at least such a derogation from it, that it shall no more oblige us either unto sinless obedience or punishment, nor require a perfect righteousness unto our justification before God, — and the constitution of a new law of obedience, accommodated unto our present state and condition; on whose observance all the promises of the gospel do depend.

Others say, that in the death of Christ there was real satisfaction made unto God; not to the law, or unto God according to what the law required, but unto God absolutely; that is, he did what God was well pleased and satisfied withal, without any respect unto his justice or the curse of the law. And they add, that hereon the whole righteousness of Christ is imputed unto us, so far as that we are made partakers of the benefits thereof; and, moreover, that the way of the communication of them unto us is by the new covenant, which by his death the Lord Christ procured: for the conditions of this covenant are established in the covenant itself, whereon God will bestow all the benefits and effects of it upon us; which are faith and obedience. Wherefore, what the Lord Christ has done for us is thus far accepted as our legal righteousness, as that God, upon our faith and obedience with respect thereunto, does release and pardon all our sins of omission and commission. Upon this pardon there is no need of any positive perfect righteousness unto our justification or salvation; but our own personal righteousness is accepted with God in the room of it, by virtue of the new covenant which Christ has procured. So is the doctrine hereof stated by Curcellæus, and those that join with him or follow him.

Sundry things there are in these opinions that deserve an examination; and they will most, if not all of them, occur unto us in our progress. That which alone we have occasion to inquire into, with respect unto what we have discoursed concerning the Lord Christ as surety of the covenant, and which is the foundation of all that is asserted in them, is, that Christ by his death procured the new covenant for us; which, as one says, is all that we have thereby: which, if it should prove otherwise, we are not beholding unto it for any thing at all. But these things must be examined. And, —

(1.) The terms of procuring the new covenant are ambiguous. It is not as yet, that I know of, by any declared how the Lord Christ did procure it, — whether he did so by his satisfaction and obedience, as the meritorious cause of it, or by what other kind of causality. Unless this be stated, we are altogether uncertain what relation of the new covenant unto the death of Christ is intended; and to say that thereunto we owe the new covenant does not mend the matter, but rather render the terms more ambiguous. Neither is it declared whether the constitution of the covenant, or the communication of the benefits of it, is intended. It is yet no less general, that God was so well pleased with what Christ did, as that hereon he made and entered into a new covenant with mankind. This they may grant who yet deny the whole satisfaction and merit of Christ. If they mean that the Lord Christ, by his obedience and suffering, did meritoriously procure the making and establishing of the new covenant, which was all that he so procured, and the entire effect of his death, what they say may be understood; but the whole nature of the mediation of Christ is overthrown thereby.

(2.) This opinion is liable unto a great prejudice, in that, whereas it is in such a fundamental article of our religion, and about that wherein the eternal welfare of the church is so nearly concerned, there is no mention made of it in the Scripture; for is it not strange, if this be, as some speak, the sole effect of the death of Christ, whereas sundry other things are frequently in the Scripture ascribed unto it as the effects and fruits thereof, that this which is only so should be nowhere mentioned, — neither in express words, nor such as will allow of this sense by any just or lawful consequence? Our redemption, pardon of sins, the renovation of our natures, our sanctification, justification, peace with God, eternal life, are all jointly and severally assigned thereunto, in places almost without number; but it is nowhere said in the Scripture that Christ by his death merited, procured, obtained, the new covenant, or that God should enter into a new covenant with mankind; yea, as we shall see, that which is contrary unto it, and inconsistent with it, is frequently asserted.

(3.) To clear the truth herein, we must consider the several notions and causes of the new covenant, with the true and real respect of the death of Christ thereunto. And it is variously represented unto us:—

[1.] In the designation and preparation of its terms and benefits in the counsel of God. And this, although it have the nature of an eternal decree, yet is it not the same with the decree of election, as some suppose: for that properly respects the subjects or persons for whom grace and glory are prepared; this, the preparation of that grace and glory as to the way and manner of their communication. Some learned men do judge that this counsel and purpose of the will of God to give grace and glory in and by Jesus Christ unto the elect, in the way and by the means by him prepared, is formally the covenant of grace, or at least that the substance of the covenant is comprised therein; but it is certain that more is required to complete the whole nature of a covenant. Nor is this purpose or counsel of God called the covenant in the Scripture, but is only proposed as the spring and fountain of it, Eph. i. 3–12. Unto the full exemplification of the covenant of grace there is required the declaration of this counsel of God’s will, accompanied with the means and powers of its accomplishment, and the prescription of the way whereby we are so to be interested in it, and made partakers of the benefits of it: but in the inquiry after the procuring cause of the new covenant, it is the first thing that ought to come under consideration; for nothing can be the procuring cause of the covenant which is not so of this spring and fountain of it, of this idea of it in the mind of God, of the preparation of its terms and benefits. But this is nowhere in the Scripture affirmed to be the effect of the death or mediation of Christ; and to ascribe it thereunto is to overthrow the whole freedom of eternal grace and love. Neither can any thing that is absolutely eternal, as is this decree and counsel of God, be the effect of, or procured by, any thing that is external and temporal.

[2.] It may be considered with respect unto the federal transactions between the Father and the Son, concerning the accomplishment of this counsel of his will. What these were, wherein they did consist, I have declared at large, Exercitat., vol. ii. [19] Neither do I call this the covenant of grace absolutely; nor is it so called in the Scripture. But yet some will not distinguish between the covenant of the mediator and the covenant of grace, because the promises of the covenant absolutely are said to be made to Christ, Gal. iii. 16; and he is the prōton dektikon, or first subject of all the grace of it. But in the covenant of the mediator, Christ stands alone for himself, and undertakes for himself alone, and not as the representative of the church; but this he is in the covenant of grace. But this is that wherein it had its designed establishment, as unto all the ways, means, and ends of its accomplishment; and all things are so disposed as that it might be effectual, unto the eternal glory of the wisdom, grace, righteousness, and power of God. Wherefore the covenant of grace could not be procured by any means or cause but that which was the cause of this covenant of the mediator, or of God the Father with the Son, as undertaking the work of mediation. And as this is nowhere ascribed unto the death of Christ in the Scripture, so to assert it is contrary unto all spiritual reason and understanding. Who can conceive that Christ by his death should procure the agreement between God and him that he should die?

[3.] With respect unto the declaration of it by especial revelation. This we may call God’s making or establishing of it, if we please; though making of the covenant in Scripture is applied principally, if not only, unto its execution or actual application unto persons, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5; Jer. xxxii. 40. This declaration of the grace of God, and the provision in the covenant of the mediator for the making of it effectual unto his glory, is most usually called the covenant of grace. And this is twofold:—

1st. In the way of a singular and absolute promise: so was it first declared unto and established with Adam, and afterwards with Abraham. The promise is the declaration of the purpose of God before declared, or the free determination and counsel of his will, as to his dealing with sinners on the supposition of the fall, and their forfeiture of their first covenant state. Hereof the grace and will of God were the only cause, Heb. viii. 8. And the death of Christ could not be the means of its procurement; for he himself, and all that he was to do for us, was the substance of that promise. And this promise, — as it is declarative of the purpose or counsel of the will of God for the communication of grace and glory unto sinners, in and by the mediation of Christ, according to the ways and on the terms prepared and disposed in his sovereign wisdom and pleasure, — is formally the new covenant; though something yet is to be added to complete its application unto us. Now, the substance of the first promise, wherein the whole covenant of grace was virtually comprised, directly respected and expressed the giving of him for the recovery of mankind from sin and misery by his death, Gen. iii. 15. Wherefore, if he and all the benefits of his mediation, his death, and all the effects of it, be contained in the promise of the covenant, — that is, in the covenant itself, — then was not his death the procuring cause of that covenant, nor do we owe it thereunto.

2dly. In the additional prescription of the way and means whereby it is the will of God that we shall enter into a covenant state with him, or be interested in the benefits of it. This being virtually comprised in the absolute promise (for every promise of God does tacitly require faith and obedience in us), is expressed in other places by way of the condition required on our part. This is not the covenant, but the constitution of the terms on our part, whereon we are made partakers of it. Nor is the constitution of these terms an effect of the death of Christ, or procured thereby; it is a mere effect of the sovereign grace and wisdom of God. The things themselves, as bestowed on us, communicated unto us, wrought in us by grace, are all of them effects of the death of Christ; but the constitution of them to be the terms and conditions of the covenant, is an act of mere sovereign wisdom and grace. “God so loved the world, as to send his only begotten Son to die,” not that faith and repentance might be the means of salvation, but that all his elect might believe, and that all that believe “might not perish, but have everlasting life.” But yet it is granted that the constitution of these terms of the covenant does respect the federal transaction between the Father and the Son, wherein they were ordered to the praise of the glory of God’s grace; and so, although their constitution was not the procurement of his death, yet without respect unto it, it had not been. Wherefore, the sole cause of God’s making the new covenant was the same with that of giving Christ himself to be our mediator, — namely, the purpose, counsel, goodness, grace, and love of God, as it is everywhere expressed in the Scripture.

[4.] The covenant may be considered as unto the actual application of the grace, benefits, and privileges of it unto any persons, whereby they are made real partakers of them, or are taken into covenant with God; and this alone, in the Scripture, is intended by God’s making a covenant with any. It is not a general revelation, or declaration of the terms and nature of the covenant (which some call a universal conditional covenant, on what grounds they know best, seeing the very formal nature of making a covenant with any includes the actual acceptation of it, and participation of the benefits of it by them), but a communication of the grace of it, accompanied with a prescription of obedience, that is God’s making his covenant with any; as all instances of it in the Scripture do declare.

It may be, therefore, inquired, What respect the covenant of grace has unto the death of Christ, or what influence it has thereunto?

I answer, Supposing what is spoken of his being a surety thereof, it has a threefold respect thereunto:—

1st. In that the covenant, as the grace and glory of it were prepared in the counsel of God, as the terms of it were fixed in the covenant of the mediator, and as it was declared in the promise, was confirmed, ratified, and made irrevocable thereby. This our apostle insists upon at large, Heb. ix. 15–20; and he compares his blood, in his death and sacrifice of himself, unto the sacrifices and their blood whereby the old covenant was confirmed, purified, dedicated, or established, verses 18, 19. Now, these sacrifices did not procure that covenant, or prevail with God to enter into it, but only ratified and confirmed it; and this was done in the new covenant by the blood of Christ.

2dly. He thereby underwent and performed all that which, in the righteousness and wisdom of God, was required; that the effects, fruits, benefits, and grace, intended, designed, and prepared in the new covenant, might be effectually accomplished and communicated unto sinners. Hence, although he procured not the covenant for us by his death, yet he was, in his person, mediation, life, and death, the only cause and means whereby the whole grace of the covenant is made effectual unto us. For, —

3dly. All the benefits of it were procured by him; — that is, all the grace, mercy, privileges, and glory, that God has prepared in the counsel of his will, that were fixed as unto the way of this communication in the covenant of the mediator, and proposed in the promises of it, are purchased, merited, and procured by his death; and effectually communicated or applied unto all the covenanters by virtue thereof, with others of his mediatory acts. And this is much more an eminent procuring of the new covenant than what is pretended about the procurement of its terms and conditions; for if he should have procured no more but this, — if we owe this only unto his mediation, that God would thereon, or did, grant and establish this rule, law, and promise, that whoever believed should be saved, — it were possible that no one should be saved thereby; yea, if he did no more, considering our state and condition, it was impossible that any one should so be.

To give the sum of these things, it is inquired with respect unto which of these considerations of the new covenant it is affirmed that it was procured by the death of Christ. If it be said that it is with respect unto the actual communication of all the grace and glory prepared in the covenant, and proposed unto us in the promises of it, it is most true. All the grace and glory promised in the covenant were purchased for the church by Jesus Christ. In this sense, by his death he procured the new covenant. This the whole Scripture, from the beginning of it in the first promise unto the end of it, does bear witness unto; for it is in him alone that “God blesseth us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things.” Let all the good things that are mentioned or promised in the covenant, expressly or by just consequence, be summed up, and it will be no hard matter to demonstrate concerning them all, and that both jointly and severally, that they were all procured for us by the obedience and death of Christ.

But this is not that which is intended; for most of this opinion do deny that the grace of the covenant, in conversion unto God, the remission of sins, sanctification, justification, adoption, and the like, are the effects or procurements of the death of Christ. And they do, on the other hand, declare that it is God’s making of the covenant which they do intend, that is, the contrivance of the terms and conditions of it, with their proposal unto mankind for their recovery. But herein there is ouden hugies. For —

(1.) The Lord Christ himself, and the whole work of his mediation, as the ordinance of God for the recovery and salvation of lost sinners, is the first and principal promise of the covenant; so his exhibition in the flesh, his work of mediation therein, with our deliverance thereby, was the subject of that first promise, which virtually contained this whole covenant: so he was of the renovation of it unto Abraham, when it was solemnly confirmed by the oath of God, Gal. iii. 16, 17. And Christ did not by his death procure the promise of his death, nor of his exhibition in the flesh, or his coming into the world that he might die.

(2.) The making of this covenant is everywhere in the Scripture ascribed (as is also the sending of Christ himself to die) unto the love, grace, and wisdom of God alone; nowhere unto the death of Christ, as the actual communication of all grace and glory are. Let all the places be considered, where either the giving of the promise, the sending of Christ, or the making of the covenant, are mentioned, either expressly or virtually, and in none of them are they assigned unto any other cause but the grace, love, and wisdom of God alone; all to be made effectual unto us by the mediation of Christ.

(3.) The assignation of the sole end, of the death of Christ to be the procurement of the new covenant, in the sense contended for, does indeed evacuate all the virtue of the death of Christ and of the covenant itself; for, — First, The covenant which they intend is nothing but the constitution and proposal of new terms and conditions for life and salvation unto all men. Now, whereas the acceptance and accomplishment of these conditions depend upon the wills of men no way determined by effectual grace, it was possible that, notwithstanding all Christ did by his death, yet no one sinner might be saved thereby, but that the whole end and design of God therein might be frustrated. Secondly, Whereas the substantial advantage of these conditions lies herein, that God will now, for the sake of Christ, accept of an obedience inferior unto that required in the law, and so as that the grace of Christ does not raise up all things unto a conformity and compliance with the holiness and will of God declared therein, but accommodate all things unto our present condition, nothing can be invented more dishonourable to Christ and the gospel; for what does it else but make Christ the minister of sin, in disannulling the holiness that the law requires, or the obligation of the law unto it, without any provision of what might answer or come into the room of it, but that which is incomparably less worthy? Nor is it consistent with divine wisdom, goodness, and immutability, to appoint unto mankind a law of obedience, and cast them all under the severest penalty upon the transgression of it, when he could in justice and honour have given them such a law of obedience, whose observance might consist with many failings and sins; for if he have done that now, he could have done so before: which how far it reflects on the glory of the divine properties might be easily manifested. Neither does this fond imagination comply with those testimonies of Scripture, that the Lord Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it, that he is the end of the law; and that by faith the law is not disannulled, but established. Lastly, The Lord Christ was the mediator and surety of the new covenant, in and by whom it was ratified, confirmed, and established: and therefore by him the constitution of it was not procured; for all the acts of his office belong unto that mediation, and it cannot be well apprehended how any act of mediation for the establishment of the covenant, and rendering it effectual, should procure it.

7. But to return from this digression. That wherein all the precedent causes of the union between Christ and believers, whence they become one mystical person, do centre, and whereby they are rendered a complete foundation of the imputation of their sins unto him, and of his righteousness unto them, is the communication of his Spirit, the same Spirit that dwells in him, unto them, to abide in, to animate and guide, the whole mystical body and all its members. But this has of late been so much spoken unto, as that I shall do no more but mention it.

On the considerations insisted on, — whereby the Lord Christ became one mystical person with the church, or bare the person of the church in what he did as mediator, in the holy, wise disposal of God as the author of the law, the supreme rector or governor of all mankind, as unto their temporal and eternal concernments, and by his own consent, — the sins of all the elect were imputed unto him. Thus having been the faith and language of the church in all ages, and that derived from and founded on express testimonies of Scripture, with all the promises and resignations of his exhibition in the flesh from the beginning, cannot now, with any modesty, be expressly denied. Wherefore the Socinians themselves grant that our sins may be said to be imputed unto Christ, and he to undergo the punishment of them, so far as that all things which befell him evil and afflictive in this life, with the death which he underwent, were occasioned by our sins; for had not we sinned, there had been no need of nor occasion for his suffering. But notwithstanding this concession, they expressly deny his satisfaction, or that properly he underwent the punishment due unto our sins; wherein they deny also all imputation of them unto him. Others say that our sins were imputed unto himquoad reatum pœnæ,” but not “quoad reatum culpæ.” But I must acknowledge that unto me this distinction gives “inanem sine mente sonum.” The substance of it is much insisted on by Feuardentius, Dialog v. p. 467; and he is followed by others. That which he would prove by it is, that the Lord Christ did not present himself before the throne of God with the burden of our sins upon him, so as to answer unto the justice of God for them. Whereas, therefore, “reatus,” or “guilt,” may signify either “dignitatem pœnæ,” or “obligationem ad pœnam,” as Bellarmine distinguishes. De Amiss. Grat., lib. vii. cap. 7, with respect unto Christ the latter only is to be admitted. And the main argument he and others insist upon is this, — that if our sins be imputed unto Christ, as unto the guilt of the fault, as they speak, then he must be polluted with them, and thence be denominated a sinner in every kind. And this would be true, if our sins could be communicated unto Christ by transfusion, so as to be his inherently and subjectively; but their being so only by imputation gives no countenance unto any such pretence. However, there is a notion of legal uncleanness, where there is no inherent defilement; so the priest who offered the red heifer to make atonement, and he that burned her, were said to be unclean, Numb. xix. 7, 8. But hereon they say, that Christ died and suffered upon the special command of God, not that his death and suffering were any way due upon the account of our sins, or required in justice; which is utterly to overthrow the satisfaction of Christ.

Wherefore, the design of this distinction is, to deny the imputation of the guilt of our sins unto Christ; and then in what tolerable sense can they be said to be imputed unto him, I cannot understand. But we are not tied up unto arbitrary distinctions, and the sense that any are pleased to impose on the terms of them. I shall, therefore, first inquire into the meaning of these words, guilt and guilty, whereby we may be able to judge what it is which in this distinction is intended.

The Hebrews have no other word to signify guilt or guilty but אָשָׁם; and this they use both for sin, the guilt of it, the punishment due unto it, and a sacrifice for it. Speaking of the guilt of blood, they use not any word to signify guilt, but only say, דָּם לוֹ — “It is blood to him.” So David prays, “Deliver me” מִדָּמִים, “from blood;” which we render “blood-guiltiness,” Ps. li. 14. And this was because, by the constitution of God, he that was guilty of blood was to die by the hand of the magistrate, or of God himself. But אָשָׁם (ascham) is nowhere used for guilt, but it signifies the relation of the sin intended unto punishment. And other significations of it will be in vain sought for in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament he that is guilty is said to be hupodikos, Rom. iii. 19; that is, obnoxious to judgment or vengeance for sin, one that hē dikē zēn ouk eiasen, as they speak, Acts xxviii. 4, “whom vengeance will not suffer to go unpunished;” — and enochos, 1 Cor. xi. 27, a word of the same signification; — once by opheilō, Matt. xxiii. 18, to owe, to be indebted to justice. To be obnoxious, liable unto justice, vengeance, punishment for sin, is to be guilty.

Reus,” “guilty,” in the Latin is of a large signification. He who is “crimini obnoxious,” or “pœnæ propter crimen,” or “voti debitor,” or “promissi,” or “officii ex sponsione,” is called “reus.” Especially every sponsor or surety is “reus” in the law. “Cum servus pecuniam pro libertate pactus est, et ob eam rem, reum dederit,” (that is, “sponsorem, expromissorem,”) “quamvis servus ab alio manusmissus est, reus tamen obligabitur.” He is “reus,” who engages himself for any other, as to the matter of his engagement; and the same is the use of the word in the best Latin authors. “Opportuna loca dividenda præfectis esse ac suæ quique partis tutandæ reus sit,” Liv. De Bello Punic. lib. v. 30; — that every captain should so take care of the station committed to him, as that if any thing happened amiss it should be imputed unto him. And the same author again, “An, quicunque aut propinquitate, aut affinitate, regiam aut aliquibus ministeriis contigissent, alienæ culpæ rei trucidarentur,” B. P., lib. iv. 22; — should be guilty of the fault of another (by imputation), and suffer for it. So that in the Latin tongue he is “reus,” who, for himself or any other, is obnoxious unto punishment or payment.

Reatus” is a word of late admission into the Latin tongue, and was formed of “reus.” So Quintilian informs us, in his discourse of the use of obsolete and new words, lib. viii., cap. 3, “Quæ vetera nunc sunt, fuerunt olim nova, et quædam in usu perquam recentia; ut, Messala primus reatum, munerarium Augustus primus, dixerat;” — to which he adds “piratica, musica,” and some others, then newly come into use: but “reatus” at its first invention was of no such signification as it is now applied unto. I mention it only to show that we have no reason to be obliged unto men’s arbitrary use of words. Some lawyers first used it “pro crimine,” — a fault exposing unto punishment; but the original invention of it, confirmed by long use, was to express the outward state and condition of him who was “reus,” after he was first charged in a cause criminal, before he was acquitted or condemned. Those among the Romans who were made “rei” by any public accusation did betake themselves unto a poor squalid habit, a sorrowful countenance, suffering their hair and beards to go undressed. Hereby, on custom and usage, the people who were to judge on their cause were inclined to compassion: and Milo furthered his sentence of banishment because he would not submit to this custom, which had such an appearance of pusillanimity and baseness of spirit. This state of sorrow and trouble, so expressed, they called “reatus,” and nothing else. It came afterwards to denote their state who were committed unto custody in order unto their trial, when the government ceased to be popular; wherein alone the other artifice was of use: and if this word be of any use in our present argument, it is to express the state of men after conviction of sin, before their justification. That is their “reatus,” the condition wherein the proudest of them cannot avoid to express their inward sorrow and anxiety of mind by some outward evidences of them. Beyond this we are not obliged by the use of this word, but must consider the thing itself which now we intend to express thereby.

Guilt, in the Scripture, is the respect of sin unto the sanction of the law, whereby the sinner becomes obnoxious unto punishment; and to be guilty is to be hupodikos tō Theō; — liable unto punishment for sin from God, as the supreme lawgiver and judge of all. And so guilt, or “reatus,” is well defined to be “obligatio ad pœnam, propter culpam, aut admissam in se, aut imputatum, justè aut injustè;” for so Bathsheba says unto David, that she and her son Solomon should be חַטָּאִים, — sinners; that is, be esteemed guilty, or liable unto punishment for some evil laid unto their charge, 1 Kings i. 21. And the distinction of “dignitas pœnæ,” and “obligatio ad pœnam” is but the same thing in diverse words; for both do but express the relation of sin unto the sanction of the law: or if they may be conceived to differ, yet are they inseparable; for there can be no “obligatio ad pœnam” where there is not “dignitas pœnæ.”

Much less is there any thing of weight in the distinction of “reatus culpæ” and “reatus pœnæ;” for this “reatus culpæ” is nothing but “dignitas pœnæ propter culpam.” Sin has other considerations, — namely, its formal nature, as it is a transgression of the law, and the stain of filth that it brings upon the soul; but the guilt of it is nothing but its respect unto punishment from the sanction of the law. And so, indeed, “reatus culpæ” is “reatus pœnæ,” — the guilt of sin is its desert of punishment. And where there is not this “reatus culpæ” there can be no “pœnæ,” no punishment properly so called; for “pœnæ” is “vindicta noxæ,” — the revenge due to sin. So, therefore, there can be no punishment, nor “reatus pœnæ,” the guilt of it, but where there is “reatus culpæ,” or sin considered with its guilt; and the “reatus pœnæ” that may be supposed without the guilt of sin, is nothing but that obnoxiousness unto afflictive evil on the occasion of sin which the Socinians admit with respect unto the suffering of Christ, and yet execrate his satisfaction.

And if this distinction should be apprehended to be of “reatus,” from its formal respect unto sin and punishment, it must, in both parts of the distinction, be of the same signification, otherwise there is an equivocation in the subject of it. But “reatus pœnæ,” is a liableness, an obnoxiousness unto punishment according to the sentence of the law, that whereby a sinner becomes hupodikos tō Theō; and then “reatus culpæ” must be an obnoxiousness unto sin; which is uncouth. There is, therefore, no imputation of sin where there is no imputation of its guilt; for the guilt of punishment, which is not its respect unto the desert of sin, is a plain fiction, — there is no such thing “in rerum nature.” There is no guilt of sin, but in its relation unto punishment.

That, therefore, which we affirm herein is, that our sins were so transferred on Christ, as that thereby he became אָשֵׁם, hupodikos tō Theō, “reus,” — responsible unto God, and obnoxious unto punishment in the justice of God for them. He was “alienæ culpæ reus,” — perfectly innocent in himself; but took our guilt on him, or our obnoxiousness unto punishment for sin. And so he may be, and may be said to be, the greatest debtor in the world, who never borrowed nor owed one farthing on his own account, if he become surety for the greatest debt of others: so Paul became a debtor unto Philemon, upon his undertaking for Onesimus, who before owed him nothing.

And two things concurred unto this imputation of sin unto Christ, — First, The act of God imputing it. Second, The voluntary act of Christ himself in the undertaking of it, or admitting of the charge.

(1.) The act of God, in this imputation of the guilt of our sins unto Christ, is expressed by his “laying all our iniquities upon him,” “making him to be sin for us, who knew no sin,” and the like. For, — [1.] As the supreme governor, lawgiver, and judge of all, unto whom it belonged to take care that his holy law was observed, or the offenders punished, he admitted, upon the transgression of it, the sponsion and suretiship of Christ to answer for the sins of men, Heb. x. 5–7. [2.] In order unto this end, he made him under the law, or gave the law power over him, to demand of him and inflict on him the penalty which was due unto the sins of them for whom he undertook, Gal. iii. 13; iv. 4, 5. [3.] For the declaration of the righteousness of God in this setting forth of Christ to be a propitiation, and to bear our iniquities, the guilt of our sins was transferred unto him in an act of the righteous judgment of God accepting and esteeming of him as the guilty person; as it is with public sureties in every case.

(2.) The Lord Christ’s voluntary susception of the state and condition of a surety, or undertaker for the church, to appear before the throne of God’s justice for them, to answer whatever was laid unto their charge, was required hereunto; and this he did absolutely. There was a concurrence of his own will in and unto all those divine acts whereby he and the church were constituted one mystical person; and of his own love and grace did he as our surety stand in our stead before God, when he made inquisition for sin; — he took it on himself, as unto the punishment which it deserved. Hence it became just and righteous that he should suffer, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God.”

For if this be not so, I desire to know what is become of the guilt of the sins of believers; if it were not transferred on Christ, it remains still upon themselves, or it is nothing. It will be said that guilt is taken away by the free pardon of sin. But if so, there was no need of punishment for it at all, — which is, indeed, what the Socinians plead, but by others is not admitted, — for if punishment be not for guilt, it is not punishment.

But it is fiercely objected against what we have asserted, that if the guilt of our sins was imputed unto Christ, then was he constituted a sinner thereby; for it is the guilt of sin that makes any one to be truly a sinner. This is urged by Bellarmine, lib. ii., De Justificat., not for its own sake, but to disprove the imputation of his righteousness unto us; as it is continued by others with the same design. For says he, “If we be made righteous, and the children of God, through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, then was he made a sinner, ‘et quod horret animus cogitare, filius diaboli;’ by the imputation of the guilt of our sins or our unrighteousness unto him.” And the same objection is pressed by others, with instances of consequences which, for many reasons, I heartily wish had been forborne. But I answer, —

[1.] Nothing is more absolutely true, nothing is more sacredly or assuredly believed by us, than that nothing which Christ did or suffered, nothing that he undertook or underwent, did or could constitute him subjectively, inherently, and thereon personally, a sinner, or guilty of any sin of his own. To bear the guilt or blame of other men’s faults, — to be “alienæ culpæ reus,” — makes no man a sinner, unless he did unwisely or irregularly undertake it. But that Christ should admit of any thing of sin in himself, as it is absolutely inconsistent with the hypostatical union, so it would render him unmet for all other duties of his office, Heb. vii. 25, 26. And I confess it has always seemed scandalous unto me, that Socinus, Crellius, and Grotius, do grant that, in some sense, Christ suffered for his own sins, and would prove it from that very place wherein it is positively denied, chap. vii. 27. This ought to be sacredly fixed and not a word used, nor thought entertained, of any possibility of the contrary, upon any supposition whatever.

[2.] None ever dreamed of a transfusion or propagation of sin from us unto Christ, such as there was from Adam unto us. For Adam was a common person unto us, — we are not so to Christ: yea, he is so to us; and the imputation of our sins unto him is a singular act of divine dispensation, which no evil consequence can ensue upon.

[3.] To imagine such an imputation of our sins unto Christ as that thereon they should cease to be our sins, and become his absolutely, is to overthrow that which is affirmed; for, on that supposition, Christ could not suffer for our sins, for they ceased to be ours antecedently unto his suffering. But the guilt of them was so transferred unto him, that through his suffering for it, it might be pardoned unto us.

These things being premised, I say, —

First, There is in sin a transgression of the preceptive part of the law; and there is an obnoxiousness unto the punishment from the sanction of it. It is the first that gives sin its formal nature; and where that is not subjectively, no person can be constituted formally a sinner. However any one may be so denominated, as unto some certain end or purpose, yet, without this, formally a sinner none can be, whatever be imputed unto them. And where that is, no non-imputation of sin, as unto punishment, can free the person in whom it is from being formally a sinner. When Bathsheba told David that she and her son Solomon should be חַטָּאִים (sinners), by having crimes laid unto their charge; and when Judah told Jacob that he would be a sinner before him always on the account of any evil that befell Benjamin (it should be imputed unto him); yet neither of them could thereby be constituted a sinner formally. And, on the other hand, when Shimei desired David not to impute sin unto him, whereby he escaped present punishment, yet did not that non-imputation free him formally from being a sinner. Wherefore sin, under this consideration, as a transgression of the preceptive part of the law, cannot be communicated from one unto another, unless it be by the propagation of a vitiated principle or habit. But yet neither so will the personal sin of one, as inherent in him, ever come to be the personal sin of another. Adam has upon his personal sin communicated a vicious, depraved, and corrupted nature unto all his posterity; and, besides, the guilt of his actual sin is imputed unto them, as if it had been committed by every one of them: but yet his particular personal sin neither ever did, nor ever could, become the personal sin of any one of them any otherwise than by the imputation of its guilt unto them. Wherefore our sins neither are, nor can be, so imputed unto Christ, as that they should become subjectively his, as they are a transgression of the preceptive part of the law. A physical translation or transfusion of sin is, in this case, naturally and spiritually impossible; and yet, on a supposition thereof alone do the horrid consequences mentioned depend. But the guilt of sin is an external respect of it, with regard unto the sanction of the law only. This is separable from sin; and if it were not so, no one sinner could either be pardoned or saved. It may, therefore, be made another’s by imputation, and yet that other not rendered formally a sinner thereby. This was that which was imputed unto Christ, whereby he was rendered obnoxious unto the curse of the law; for it was impossible that the law should pronounce any accursed but the guilty, nor would do so, Deut. xxvii. 26.

Secondly, There is a great difference between the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us and the imputation of our sins unto Christ; so as that he cannot in the same manner be said to be made a sinner by the one as we are made righteous by the other. For our sin was imputed unto Christ only as he was our surety for a time, — to this end, that he might take it away, destroy it, and abolish it. It was never imputed unto him, so as to make any alteration absolutely in his personal state and condition. But his righteousness is imputed unto us to abide with us, to be ours always, and to make a total change in our state and condition, as unto our relation unto God. Our sin was imputed unto him only for a season, not absolutely, but as he was a surety, and unto the special end of destroying it; and taken on him on this condition, that his righteousness should be made ours for ever. All things are otherwise in the imputation of his righteousness unto us, which respects us absolutely, and not under a temporary capacity, abides with us for ever, changes our state and relation unto God, and is an effect of superabounding grace.

But it will be said that if our sins, as to the guilt of them, were imputed unto Christ, then God must hate Christ; for he hates the guilty. I know not well how I come to mention these things, which indeed I look upon as cavils, such as men may multiply if they please against any part of the mysteries of the gospel. But seeing it is mentioned, it may be spoken unto; and, —

First, It is certain that the Lord Christ’s taking on him the guilt of our sins was a high act of obedience unto God, Heb. x. 5, 6; and for which the “Father loved him,” John x. 17, 18. There was, therefore, no reason why God should hate Christ for his taking on him our debt, and the payment of it, in an act of the highest obedience unto his will. Secondly, God in this matter is considered as a rector, ruler, and judge. Now, it is not required of the severest judge, that, as a judge, he should hate the guilty person, no, although he be guilty originally by inhesion, and not by imputation. As such, he has no more to do but consider the guilt, and pronounce the sentence of punishment. But, Thirdly, Suppose a person, out of an heroic generosity of mind, should become an Antipsuchos for another, for his friend, for a good man, so as to answer for him with his life, as Judah undertook to be for Benjamin as to his liberty, — which, when a man has lost, he is civilly dead, and “capite diminutus,” — would the most cruel tyrant under heaven, that should take away his life, in that case hate him? would he not rather admire his worth and virtue? As such a one it was that Christ suffered, and no otherwise. Fourthly, All the force of this exception depends on the ambiguity of the word hate; for it may signify either an aversation or detestation of mind, or only a will of punishing, as in God mostly it does. In the first sense, there was no ground why God should hate Christ on this imputation of guilt unto him, whereby he became “non propriæ sed alienæ culpæ reus.” Sin inherent renders the soul polluted, abominable, and the only object of divine aversation; but for him who was perfectly innocent, holy, harmless, undefiled in himself, who did no sin, neither was there guile found in his mouth, to take upon him the guilt of other sins, thereby to comply with and accomplish the design of God for the manifestation of his glory and infinite wisdom, grace, goodness, mercy, and righteousness, unto the certain expiation and destruction of sin, — nothing could render him more glorious and lovely in the sight of God or man. But for a will of punishing in God, where sin is imputed, none can deny it, but they must therewithal openly disavow the satisfaction of Christ.

The heads of some few of those arguments wherewith the truth we have asserted is confirmed shall close this discourse:—

1. Unless the guilt of sin was imputed unto Christ, sin was not imputed unto him in any sense, for the punishment of sin is not sin; nor can those who are otherwise minded declare what it is of sin that is imputed. But the Scripture is plain, that “God laid on him the iniquity of us all,” and “made him to be sin for us;” which could not otherwise be but by imputation.

2. There can be no punishment but with respect unto the guilt of sin personally contracted or imputed. It is guilt alone that gives what is materially evil and afflictive the formal nature of punishment, and nothing else. And therefore those who understand full well the harmony of things and opinions, and are free to express their minds, do constantly declare that if one of these be denied, the other must be so also; and if one be admitted, they must both be so. If guilt was not imputed unto Christ, he could not, as they plead well enough, undergo the punishment of sin; much he might do and suffer on the occasion of sin, but undergo the punishment due unto sin he could not. And if it should be granted that the guilt of sin was imputed unto him, they will not deny but that he underwent the punishment of it; and if he underwent the punishment of it, they will not deny but that the guilt of it was imputed unto him; for these things are inseparably related.

3. Christ was made a curse for us, the curse of the law, as is expressly declared, Gal. iii. 13, 14. But the curse of the law respects the guilt of sin only; so as that where that is not, it cannot take place in any sense, and where that is, it does inseparably attend it, Deut. xxvii. 26.

4. The express testimonies of the Scripture unto this purpose cannot be evaded, without an open wresting of their words and sense. So God is said to “make all our iniquities to meet upon him,” and he bare them on him as his burden; for so the word signifies, Isa. liii. 6, “God has laid on him” אֵת עֲוֹן כֻּלָּנוּ, “the iniquity,” (that is, the guilt) “of us all;” verse 11, וַעֲוֹנֹתָם הוּא יִסְבֹּל, “and their sin or guilt shall he bear.” For that is the intendment of עָוֹן, where joined with any other word that denotes sin: as it is in those places, Ps. xxxii. 5, “Thou forgavest” עֲוֹן חַטָּאתִי, “the iniquity of my sin,” — that is, the guilt of it, which is that alone that is taken away by pardon; that “his soul was made an offering for the guilt of sin;” that “he was made sin,” that “sin was condemned in his flesh,” etc.

5. This was represented in all the sacrifices of old, especially the great anniversary [one], on the day of expiation, with the ordinance of the scape-goat; as has been before declared.

6. Without a supposition hereof it cannot be understood how the Lord Christ should be our Antipsuchos, or suffer anti hēmōn, in our stead, unless we will admit the exposition of Mr Ho, a late writer, who, reckoning up how many things the Lord Christ did in our stead, adds, as the sense thereof, that it is to bestead us; than which, if he can invent any thing more fond and senseless, he has a singular faculty in such an employment.


[19] See Exercit. xxviii. in the preliminary dissertations to the “Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.”Ed.


Chapter IX. The formal cause of justification, or the righteousness on the account whereof believers are justified before God — Objections answered

Principal controversies about justification:— 1. Concerning the nature of justification, stated; 2. Of the formal cause of it; 3. Of the way whereby we are made partakers of the benefits of the mediation of Christ — What intended by the formal cause of justification, declared — The righteousness on the account whereof believers are justified before God alone, inquired after under these terms — This the righteousness of Christ, imputed unto them — Occasions of exceptions and objections against this doctrine — General objections examined — Imputation of the righteousness of Christ consistent with the free pardon of sin, and with the necessity of evangelical repentance — Method of God’s grace in our justification — Necessity of faith unto justification, on supposition of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ — Grounds of that necessity — Other objections, arising mostly from mistakes of the truth, asserted, discussed, and answered

The principal differences about the doctrine of justification are reducible unto three heads:— 1. The nature of it, — namely, whether it consist in an internal change of the person justified, by the imputation of a habit of inherent grace or righteousness; or whether it be a forensic act, in the judging, esteeming, declaring, and pronouncing such a person to be righteous, thereon absolving him from all his sins, giving unto him right and title unto life. Herein we have to do only with those of the church of Rome, all others, both Protestants and Socinians, being agreed on the forensic sense of the word, and the nature of the thing signified thereby. And this I have already spoken unto, so far as our present design does require; and that, I hope, with such evidence of truth as cannot well be gainsaid. Nor may it be supposed that we have too long insisted thereon, as an opinion which is obsolete, and long since sufficiently confuted. I think much otherwise, and that those who avoid the Romanists in these controversies, will give a greater appearance of fear than of contempt; for when all is done, if free justification through the blood of Christ, and the imputation of his righteousness, be not able to preserve its station in the minds of men, the Popish doctrine of justification must and will return upon the world, with all the concomitants and consequences of it. Whilst any knowledge of the law or gospel is continued amongst us, the consciences of men will at one time or other, living or dying, be really affected with a sense of sin, as unto its guilt and danger. Hence that trouble and those disquietments of mind will ensue, as will force men, be they never so unwilling, to seek after some relief and satisfaction. And what will not men attempt who are reduced to the condition expressed, Mic. vi. 6, 7? Wherefore, in this case, if the true and only relief of distressed consciences of sinners who are weary and heavy-laden be hid from their eyes, — if they have no apprehension of, nor trust in, that which alone they may oppose unto the sentence of the law, and interpose between God’s justice and their souls, wherein they may take shelter from the storms of that wrath which abides on them that believe not, — they will betake themselves unto any thing which confidently tenders them present ease and relief. Hence many persons, living all their days in an ignorance of the righteousness of God, are oftentimes on their sick-beds, and in their dying hours, proselyted unto a confidence in the ways of rest and peace which the Romanists impose upon them; for such seasons of advantage do they wait for, unto the reputation, as they suppose, of their own zeal, — in truth unto the scandal of Christian religion. But finding at any time the consciences of men under disquietments, and ignorant of or disbelieving that heavenly relief which is provided in the gospel, they are ready with their applications and medicines, having on them pretended approbations of the experience of many ages, and an innumerable company of devout souls in them. Such is their doctrine of justification, with the addition of those other ingredients of confession, absolution, penances, or commutations, aids from saints and angels, especially the blessed Virgin; all warmed by the fire of purgatory, and confidently administered unto persons sick of ignorance, darkness, and sin. And let none please themselves in the contempt of these things. If the truth concerning evangelical justification be once disbelieved among us, or obliterated by any artifices out of the minds of men, unto these things, at one time or other, they must and will betake themselves. As for the new schemes and projections of justification, which some at present would supply us withal, they are no way suited nor able to give relief or satisfaction unto a conscience really troubled for sin, and seriously inquiring how it may have rest and peace with God. I shall take the boldness, therefore, to say, whoever be offended at it, that if we lose the ancient doctrine of justification through faith in the blood of Christ, and the imputation of his righteousness unto us, public confession of religion will quickly issue in Popery or Atheism, or at least in what is the next door unto it, — kai tauta men dē tauta.

2. The second principal controversy is about the formal cause of justification, as it is expressed and stated by those of the Roman church; and under these terms some Protestant divines have consented to debate the matter in difference. I shall not interpose into a strife of words; — so the Romanists will call that which we inquire after. Some of ours say the righteousness of Christ imputed, some, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, is the formal cause of our justification; some, that there is no formal cause of justification, but this is that which supplies the place and use of a formal cause, which is the righteousness of Christ. In none of these things will I concern myself, though I judge what was mentioned in the last place to be most proper and significant.

The substance of the inquiry wherein alone we are concerned, is, What is that righteousness whereby and wherewith a believing sinner is justified before God; or whereon he is accepted with God, has his sins pardoned, is received into grace and favour, and has a title given him unto the heavenly inheritance? I shall no otherwise propose this inquiry, as knowing that it contains the substance of what convinced sinners do look after in and by the gospel.

And herein it is agreed by all, the Socinians only excepted, that the procatarctical [20] or procuring cause of the pardon of our sins and acceptance with God, is the satisfaction and merit of Christ. Howbeit, it cannot be denied but that some, retaining the names of them, do seem to renounce or disbelieve the things themselves; but we need not to take any notice thereof, until they are free more plainly to express their minds. But as concerning the righteousness itself inquired after, there seems to be a difference among them who yet all deny it to be the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us. For those of the Roman church plainly say, that upon the infusion of a habit of grace, with the expulsion of sin, and the renovation of our natures thereby, which they call the first justification, we are actually justified before God by our own works of righteousness. Hereon they dispute about the merit and satisfactoriness of those works, with their condignity of the reward of eternal life. Others, as the Socinians, openly disclaim all merit in our works; only some, out of reverence, as I suppose, unto the antiquity of the word, and under the shelter of the ambiguity of its signification, have faintly attempted an accommodation with it. But in the substance of what they assert unto this purpose, to the best of my understanding, they are all agreed: for what the Papists call “justitia operum,” — the righteousness of works, — they call a personal, inherent, evangelical righteousness; whereof we have spoken before. And whereas the Papists say that this righteousness of works is not absolutely perfect, nor in itself able to justify us in the sight of God, but owes all its worth and dignity unto this purpose unto the merit of Christ, they affirm that this evangelical righteousness is the condition whereon we enjoy the benefits of the righteousness of Christ, in the pardon of our sins, and the acceptance of our persons before God. But as unto those who will acknowledge no other righteousness wherewith we are justified before God, the meaning is the same, whether we say that on the condition of this righteousness we are made partakers of the benefits of the righteousness of Christ, or that it is the righteousness of Christ which makes this righteousness of ours accepted with God. But these things must afterwards more particularly be inquired into.

3. The third inquiry wherein there is not an agreement in this matter is, — upon a supposition of a necessity that he who is to be justified should, one way or other, be interested in the righteousness of Christ, what it is that on our part is required thereunto. This some say to be faith alone; others, faith and works also, and that in the same kind of necessity and use. That whose consideration we at present undertake is the second thing proposed; and, indeed, herein lies the substance of the whole controversy about our justification before God, upon the determination and stating whereof the determination of all other incident questions does depend.

This, therefore, is that which herein I affirm:— The righteousness of Christ (in his obedience and suffering for us) imputed unto believers, as they are united unto him by his Spirit, is that righteousness whereon they are justified before God, on the account whereof their sins are pardoned, and a right is granted them unto the heavenly inheritance.

This position is such as wherein the substance of that doctrine, in this important article of evangelical truth which we plead for, is plainly and fully expressed. And I have chosen the rather thus to express it, because it is that thesis wherein the learned Davenant laid down that common doctrine of the Reformed churches whose defence he undertook. This is the shield of truth in the whole cause of justification; which, whilst it is preserved safe, we need not trouble ourselves about the differences that are among learned men about the most proper stating and declaration of some lesser concernments of it. This is the refuge, the only refuge, of distressed consciences, wherein they may find rest and peace.

For the confirmation of this assertion, I shall do these three things:— I. Reflect on what is needful unto the explanation of it. II. Answer the most important general objections against it. III. Prove the truth of it by arguments and testimonies of the holy Scripture.

I. As to the first of these, or what is necessary unto the explanation of this assertion, it has been sufficiently spoken unto in our foregoing discourses. The heads of some things only shall at present be called over.

1. The foundation of the imputation asserted is union. Hereof there are many grounds and causes, as has been declared; but that which we have immediate respect unto, as the foundation of this imputation, is that whereby the Lord Christ and believers do actually coalesce into one mystical person. This is by the Holy Spirit inhabiting in him as the head of the church in all fulness, and in all believers according to their measure, whereby they become members of his mystical body. That there is such a union between Christ and believers is the faith of the catholic church, and has been so in all ages. Those who seem in our days to deny it, or question it, either know not what they say, or their minds are influenced by their doctrine who deny the divine persons of the Son and of the Spirit. Upon supposition of this union, reason will grant the imputation pleaded for to be reasonable; at least, that there is such a peculiar ground for it as is not to be exemplified in any things natural or political among men.

2. The nature of imputation has been fully spoken unto before, and whereunto I refer the reader for the understanding of what is intended thereby.

3. That which is imputed is the righteousness of Christ; and, briefly, I understand hereby his whole obedience unto God, in all that he did and suffered for the church. This, I say, is imputed unto believers, so as to become their only righteousness before God unto the justification of life.

If beyond these things any expressions have been made use of, in the explanation of this truth, which have given occasion unto any differences or contests, although they may be true and defensible against objections, yet shall not I concern myself in them. The substance of the truth as laid down, is that whose defence I have undertaken; and where that is granted or consented unto, I will not contend with any about their way and methods of its declaration, nor defend the terms and expressions that have by any been made use of therein. For instance, some have said that “what Christ did and suffered is so imputed unto us, as that we are judged and esteemed in the sight of God to have done or suffered ourselves in him.” This I shall not concern myself in; for although it may have a sound sense given unto it, and is used by some of the ancients, yet because offence is taken at it, and the substance of the truth we plead for is better otherwise expressed, it ought not to be contended about. For we do not say that God judges or esteems that we did and suffered in our own persons what Christ did and suffered; but only that he did it and suffered it in our stead. Hereon God makes a grant and donation of it unto believers upon their believing, unto their justification before him. And the like may be said of many other expressions of the like nature.

II. These things being premised, I proceed unto the consideration of the general objections that are urged against the imputation we plead for: and I shall insist only on some of the principal of them, and whereinto all others may be resolved; for it were endless to go over all that any man’s invention can suggest unto him of this kind. And some general considerations we must take along with us herein; as, —

1. The doctrine of justification is a part, yea, an eminent part, of the mystery of the gospel. It is no marvel, therefore, if it be not so exposed unto the common notions of reason as some would have it to be. There is more required unto the true spiritual understanding of such mysteries; yea, unless we intend to renounce the gospel, it must be asserted that reason as it is corrupted, and the mind of man as destitute of divine, supernatural revelation, do dislike every such truth, and rise up in enmity against it. So the Scripture directly affirms, Rom. viii. 7; 1 Cor. ii. 14.

2. Hence are the minds and inventions of men wonderfully fertile in coining objections against evangelical truths and raising cavils against them. Seldom to this purpose do they want an endless number of sophistical objections, which, because they know no better, they themselves judge insoluble; for carnal reason being once set at liberty, under the false notion of truth, to act itself freely and boldly against spiritual mysteries, is subtile in its arguing, and pregnant in its invention of them. How endless, for instance, are the sophisms of the Socinians against the doctrine of the Trinity! and how do they triumph in them as unanswerable! Under the shelter of them they despise the force of the most evident testimonies of the Scripture and those multiplied on all occasions. In like manner they deal with the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, as the Pelagians of old did with that of his grace. Wherefore, he that will be startled at the appearance of subtile or plausible objections against any gospel mysteries that are plainly revealed, and sufficiently attested in the Scripture, is not likely to come unto much stability in his profession of them.

3. The most of the objections which are levied against the truth in this cause do arise from the want of a due comprehension of the order of the work of God’s grace, and of our compliance wherewithal in a way of duty, as was before observed; for they consist in opposing those things one to another as inconsistent, which, in their proper place and order, are not only consistent, but mutually subservient unto one another, and are found so in the experience of them that truly believe. Instances hereof have been given before, and others will immediately occur. Taking the consideration of these things with us, we may see as the rise, so of what force the objections are.

4. Let it be considered that the objections which are made use of against the truth we assert, are all of them taken from certain consequences which, as it is supposed, will ensue on the admission of it. And as this is the only expedient to perpetuate controversies and make them endless, so, to my best observation, I never yet met with any one but that, to give an appearance of force unto the absurdity of the consequences from whence he argues, he framed his suppositions, or the state of the question, unto the disadvantage of them whom he opposed; a course of proceeding which I wonder good men are not either weary or ashamed of.

1. It is objected, “That the imputation of the righteousness of Christ does overthrow all remission of sins on the part of God.” This is pleaded for by Socinus, De Servatore, lib. iv. cap. 2–4; and by others it is also made use of. A confident charge this seems to them who steadfastly believe that without this imputation there could be no remission of sin. But they say, “That he who has a righteousness imputed unto him that is absolutely perfect, so as to be made his own, needs no pardon, has no sin that should be forgiven, nor can he ever need forgiveness.” But because this objection will occur unto us again in the vindication of one of our ensuing arguments, I shall here speak briefly unto it:—

(1.) Grotius shall answer this objection. Says he, “Cum duo nobis peperisse Christum dixerimus, impunitatem et præmium, illud satisfactioni, hoc merito Christi distinctè tribuit vetus ecclesia. Satisfactio consistit in peccatorum translatione, meritum in perfectissimæ obedientiæ pro nobis præstitæ imputatione,” Præfat. ad lib. de Satisfact.; — “Whereas we have said that Christ has procured or brought forth two things for us, — freedom from punishment, and a reward, — the ancient church attributes the one of them distinctly unto his satisfaction, the other unto his merit. Satisfaction consists in the translation of sins (from us unto him); merit, in the imputation of his most perfect obedience, performed for us, unto us.” In his judgment, the remission of sins and the imputation of righteousness were as consistent as the satisfaction and merit of Christ; as indeed they are.

(2.) Had we not been sinners, we should have had no need of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to render us righteous before God. Being so, the first end for which it is imputed is the pardon of sin; without which we could not be righteous by the imputation of the most perfect righteousness. These things, therefore, are consistent, — namely, that the satisfaction of Christ should be imputed unto us for the pardon of sin, and the obedience of Christ be imputed unto us to render us righteous before God; and they are not only consistent, but neither of them singly were sufficient unto our justification.

2. It is pleaded by the same author, and others, “That the imputation of the righteousness of Christ overthrows all necessity of repentance for sin, in order unto the remission or pardon thereof, yea, renders it altogether needless; for what need has he of repentance for sin, who, by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, is esteemed completely just and righteous in the sight of God? If Christ satisfied for all sins in the person of the elect, if as our surety he paid all our debts, and if his righteousness be made ours before we repent, then is all repentance needless.” And these things are much enlarged on by the same author in the place before mentioned.

Ans. (1.) It must be remembered that we require evangelical faith, in order of nature, antecedently unto our justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us; which also is the condition of its continuation. Wherefore, whatever is necessary thereunto is in like manner required of us in order unto believing. Amongst these, there is a sorrow for sin, and a repentance of it; for whosoever is convinced of sin in a due manner, so as in be sensible of its evil and guilt, — both as in its own nature it is contrary unto the preceptive part of the holy law, and in the necessary consequences of it, in the wrath and curse of God, — cannot but be perplexed in his mind that he has involved himself therein; and that posture of mind will be accompanied with shame, fear, sorrow, and other afflictive passions. Hereon a resolution does ensue utterly to abstain from it for the future, with sincere endeavours unto that purpose; issuing, if there be time and space for it, in reformation of life. And in a sense of sin, sorrow for it, fear concerning it, abstinence from it, and reformation of life, a repentance true in its kind does consist. This repentance is usually called legal, because its motives are principally taken from the law; but yet there is, moreover, required unto it that temporary faith of the gospel which we have before described; and as it does usually produce great effects, in the confession of sin, humiliation for it, and change of life (as in Ahab and the Ninevites), so ordinarily it precedes true saving faith, and justification thereby. Wherefore, the necessity hereof is no way weakened by the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, yea, it is strengthened and made effectual thereby; for without it, in the order of the gospel, an interest therein is not to be attained. And this is that which, in the Old Testament, is so often proposed as the means and condition of turning away the judgments and punishments threatened unto sin; for it is true and sincere in its kind. Neither do the Socinians require any other repentance unto justification; for as they deny true evangelical repentance in all the especial causes of it, so that which may and does precede faith in order of nature is all that they require. This objection, therefore, as managed by them, is a causeless, vain pretence.

(2.) Justifying faith includes in its nature the entire principle of evangelical repentance, so as that it is utterly impossible that a man should be a true believer, and not, at the same instant of time, be truly penitent; and therefore are they so frequently conjoined in the Scripture as one simultaneous duty. Yea, the call of the gospel unto repentance is a call to faith acting itself by repentance: So the sole reason of that call unto repentance which the forgiveness of sins is annexed unto, Acts ii. 38, is the proposal of the promise which is the object of faith, verse 39. And those conceptions and affections which a man has about sin, with a sorrow for it and repentance of it, upon a legal conviction, being enlivened and made evangelical by the introduction of faith as a new principle of them, and giving new motives unto them, do become evangelical; so impossible is it that faith should be without repentance. Wherefore, although the first act of faith, and its only proper exercise unto justification, does respect the grace of God in Christ, and the way of salvation by him, as proposed in the promise of the gospel, yet is not this conceived in order of time to precede its acting in self-displicency, godly sorrow, and universal conversion from sin unto God; nor can it be so, seeing it virtually and radically contains all of them in itself. However, therefore, evangelical repentance is not the condition of our justification, so as to have any direct influence thereinto; nor are we said anywhere to be justified by repentance; nor is conversant about the proper object which alone the soul respects therein; nor is a direct and immediate giving glory unto God on the account of the way and work of his wisdom and grace in Christ Jesus, but a consequent thereof; nor is that reception of Christ which is expressly required unto our justification, and which alone is required thereunto; — yet is it, in the root, principle, and promptitude of mind for its exercise, in every one that is justified, then when he is justified. And it is peculiarly proposed with respect unto the forgiveness of sins, as that without which it is impossible we should have any true sense or comfort of it in our souls; but it is not so as any part of that righteousness on the consideration whereof our sins are pardoned, nor as that whereby we have an interest therein. These things are plain in the divine method of our justification, and the order of our duty prescribed in the gospel; as also in the experience of them that do believe. Wherefore, considering the necessity of legal repentance unto believing; with the sanctification of the affections exercised therein by faith, whereby they are made evangelical; and the nature of faith, as including in it a principle of universal conversion unto God; and in especial, of that repentance which has for its principal motive the love of God and of Jesus Christ, with the grace from thence communicated, — all which are supposed in the doctrine pleaded for; the necessity of true repentance is immovably fixed on its proper foundation.

(3.) As unto what was said in the objection concerning Christ’s suffering in the person of the elect, I know not whether any have used it or no, nor will I contend about it. He suffered in their stead; which all sorts of writers, ancient and modern, so express, — in his suffering he bare the person of the church. The meaning is what was before declared. Christ and believers are one mystical person, one spiritually-animated body, head and members. This, I suppose, will not be denied; to do so, is to overthrow the church and the faith of it. Hence, what he did and suffered is imputed unto them. And it is granted that, as the surety of the covenant, he paid all our debts, or answered for all our faults; and that his righteousness is really communicated unto us. “Why, then,” say some, “there is no need of repentance; all is done for us already.” But why so? Why must we assent to one part of the gospel unto the exclusion of another? Was it not free unto God to appoint what way, method, and order he would, whereby these things should be communicated unto us? Nay, upon the supposition of the design of his wisdom and grace, these two things were necessary:—

[1.] That this righteousness of Christ should be communicated unto us, and be made ours, in such a way and manner as that he himself might be glorified therein, seeing he has disposed all things, in this whole economy, unto “the praise of the glory of his grace,” Eph. i. 6. This was to be done by faith, on our part. It is so; it could be no otherwise: for that faith whereby we are justified is our giving unto God the glory of his wisdom, grace, and love; and whatever does so is faith, and nothing else is so.

[2.] That whereas our nature was so corrupted and depraved as that, continuing in that state, it was not capable of a participation of the righteousness of Christ, or any benefit of it, unto the glory of God and our own good, it was in like manner necessary that it should be renewed and changed. And unless it were so, the design of God in the mediation of Christ, — which was the entire recovery of us unto himself, — could not be attained. And therefore, as faith, under the formal consideration of it, was necessary unto the first end, — namely, that of giving glory unto God, — so unto this latter end it was necessary that this faith should be accompanied with, yea, and contain in itself, the seeds of all those other graces wherein the divine nature does consist, whereof we are to be made partners. Not only, therefore, the thing itself, or the communication of the righteousness of Christ unto us, but the way, and manner, and means of it, do depend on God’s sovereign order and disposal. Wherefore, although Christ did make satisfaction to the justice of God for all the sins of the church, and that as a common person (for no man in his wits can deny but that he who is a mediator and a surety is, in some sense, a common person); and although he did pay all our debts; yet does the particular interest of this or that man in what he did and suffered depend on the way, means, and order designed of God unto that end. This, and this alone, gives the true necessity of all the duties which are required of us, with their order and their ends.

3. It is objected, “That the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, which we defend, overthrows the necessity of faith itself.” This is home indeed. “Aliquid adhærebit” is the design of all these objections; but they have reason to plead for themselves who make it. “For on this supposition,” they say, “the righteousness of Christ is ours before we do believe; for Christ satisfied for all our sins, as if we had satisfied in our own persons. And he who is esteemed to have satisfied for all his sins in his own person is acquitted from them all and accounted just, whether he believe or no; nor is there any ground or reason why he should be required to believe. If, therefore, the righteousness of Christ be really ours, because, in the judgment of God, we are esteemed to have wrought it in him, then it is ours before we do believe. If it be otherwise, then it is plain that that righteousness itself can never be made ours by believing; only the fruits and effects of it may be suspended on our believing, whereby we may be made partakers of them. Yea, if Christ made any such satisfaction for us as is pretended, it is really ours, without any farther imputation; for, being performed for us and in our stead, it is the highest injustice not to have us accounted pardoned and acquitted, without any farther, either imputation on the part of God or faith on ours.” These things I have transcribed out of Socinus, De Servatore, lib. iv. cap. 2–5; which I would not have done but that I find others to have gone before me herein, though to another purpose. And he concludes with a confidence which others also seem, in some measure, to have learned of him; for he says unto his adversary, “Hæc tua, tuorumque sententia, adeo fœda et execrabilis est, ut pestilentiorem errorem post homines natos in populo. Dei extitisse non credam,” — speaking of the satisfaction of Christ, and the imputation of it unto believers. And, indeed, his serpentine wit was fertile in the invention of cavils against all the mysteries of the gospel. Nor was he obliged by any one of them, so as to contradict himself in what he opposed concerning any other of them; for, denying the deity of Christ, his satisfaction, sacrifice, merit, righteousness, and overthrowing the whole nature of his mediation, nothing stood in his way which he had a mind to oppose. But I somewhat wonder how others can make use of his inventions in this kind; who, if they considered aright their proper tendency, they will find them to be absolutely destructive of what they seem to own. So it is in this present objection against the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If it has any force in it, as indeed it has not, it is to prove that the satisfaction of Christ was impossible; and so he intended it. But it will be easily removed.

I answer, first, in general, that the whole fallacy of this objection lies in the opposing one part of the design and method of God’s grace in this mystery of our justification unto another; or the taking of one part of it to be the whole, which, as to its efficacy and perfection, depends on somewhat else. Hereof we warned the reader in our previous discourses. For the whole of it is a supposition that the satisfaction of Christ, if there be any such thing, must have its whole effect without believing on our part; which is contrary unto the whole declaration of the will of God in the gospel. But I shall principally respect them who are pleased to make use of this objection, and yet do not deny the satisfaction of Christ. And I say, —

(1.) When the Lord Christ died for us, and offered himself as a propitiatory sacrifice, “God laid all our sins on him,” Isa. liii. 6; and he then “bare them all in his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. ii. 24. Then he suffered in our stead, and made full satisfaction for all our sins; for he “appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” Heb. ix. 26; and “by one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified,” chap. x. 14. He whose sins were not actually and absolutely satisfied for in that one offering of Christ, shall never have them expiated unto eternity; for “henceforth he dies no more,” there is “no more sacrifice for sin.” The repetition of a sacrifice for sin, which must be the crucifying of Christ afresh, overthrows the foundation of Christian religion.

(2.) Notwithstanding this full, plenary satisfaction once made for the sins of the world that shall be saved, yet all men continue equal to be born by nature “children of wrath;” and whilst they believe not, “the wrath of God abides on them,” John iii. 36; — that is, they are obnoxious unto and under the curse of the law. Wherefore, on the only making of that satisfaction, no one for whom it was made in the design of God can be said to have suffered in Christ, nor to have an interest in his satisfaction, nor by any way or means be made partaker of it antecedently unto another act of God in its imputation unto him. For this is but one part of the purpose of God’s grace as unto our justification by the blood of Christ, — namely, that he by his death should make satisfaction for our sins; nor is it to be separated from what also belongs unto it in the same purpose of God. Wherefore, from the position or grant of the satisfaction of Christ, no argument can be taken unto the negation of a consequential act of its imputation unto us; nor, therefore, of the necessity of our faith in the believing and receiving of it, which is no less the appointment of God than it was that Christ should make that satisfaction. Wherefore, —

(3.) That which the Lord Christ paid for us is as truly paid as if we had paid it ourselves. So he speaks, Ps. lxix. 5, אֲשֶׁר לאֹ־גָזֹלֲתִּי אָז אָשִׁיב. He made no spoil of the glory of God; what was done of that nature by us, he returned it unto him. And what he underwent and suffered, he underwent and suffered in our stead. But yet the act of God in laying our sins on Christ conveyed no actual right and title to us unto what he did and suffered. They are not immediately thereon, nor by virtue thereof, ours, or esteemed ours; because God has appointed somewhat else, not only antecedent thereunto, but as the means of it, unto his own glory. These things, both as unto their being and order, depend on the free ordination of God. But yet, —

(4.) It cannot be said that this satisfaction was made for us on such a condition as should absolutely suspend the event, and render it uncertain whether it should ever be for us or no. Such a constitution may be righteous in pecuniary solutions. A man may lay down a great sum of money for the discharge of another, on such a condition as may never be fulfilled; for, on the absolute failure of the condition, his money may and ought to be restored unto him, whereon he has received no injury or damage. But in penal suffering for crimes and sins, there can be no righteous constitution that shall make the event and efficacy of it to depend on a condition absolutely uncertain, and which may not come to pass or be fulfilled; for if the condition fail, no recompense can be made unto him that has suffered. Wherefore, the way of the application of the satisfaction of Christ unto them for whom it was made, is sure and steadfast in the purpose of God.

(5.) God has appointed that there shall be an immediate foundation of the imputation of the satisfaction and righteousness of Christ unto us; whereon we may be said to have done and suffered in him what he did and suffered in our stead, by that grant, donation, and imputation of it unto us; or that we may be interested in it, that it may be made ours: which is all we contend for. And this is our actual coalescency into one mystical person with him by faith. Hereon does the necessity of faith originally depend. And if we shall add hereunto the necessity of it likewise unto that especial glory of God which he designs to exalt in our justification by Christ, as also unto all the ends of our obedience unto God, and the renovation of our natures into his image, its station is sufficiently secured against all objections. Our actual interest in the satisfaction of Christ depends on our actual insertion into his mystical body by faith, according to the appointment of God.

4. It is yet objected, “That if the righteousness of Christ be made ours, we may be said to be saviours of the world, as he was, or to save others, as he did; for he was so and did so by his righteousness, and no otherwise.” This objection also is of the same nature with those foregoing, — a mere sophistical cavil. For, —

(1.) The righteousness of Christ is not transfused into us, so as to be made inherently and subjectively ours, as it was in him, and which is necessarily required unto that effect of saving others thereby. Whatever we may do, or be said to do, with respect unto others, by virtue of any power or quality inherent in ourselves, we can be said to do nothing unto others, or for them, by virtue of that which is imputed unto us only for our own benefit. That any righteousness of ours should benefit another, it is absolutely necessary that it should be wrought by ourselves.

(2.) If the righteousness of Christ could be transfused into us, and be made inherently ours, yet could we not be, nor be said to be, the saviours of others thereby; for our nature in our individual persons is not “subjectum capax,” or capable to receive and retain a righteousness useful and effectual unto that end. This capacity was given unto it in Christ by virtue of the hypostatical union, and no otherwise. The righteousness of Christ himself, as performed in the human nature, would not have been sufficient for the justification and salvation of the church, had it not been the righteousness of his person who is, both God and man; for “God redeemed his church with his own blood.”

(3.) This imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, as unto its ends and use, has its measure from the will of God, and his purpose in that imputation; and this is, that it should be the righteousness of them unto whom it is imputed, and nothing else.

(4.) We do not say that the righteousness of Christ, as made absolutely for the whole church, is imputed unto every believer; but his satisfaction for every one of them in particular, according unto the will of God, is imputed unto them, — not with respect unto its general ends, but according unto every one’s particular interest. Every believer has his own homer of this bread of life; and all are justified by the same righteousness.

(5.) The apostle declares, as we shall prove afterwards, that as Adam’s actual sin is imputed unto us unto condemnation, so is the obedience of Christ imputed unto us to the justification of life. But Adam’s sin is not so imputed unto any person as that he should then and thereby be the cause of sin and condemnation unto all other persons in the world, but only that he himself should become guilty before God thereon. And so is it on the other side. And as we are made guilty by Adam’s actual sin, which is not inherent in us but only imputed unto us; so are we made righteous by the righteousness of Christ, which is not inherent in us, but only imputed unto us. And imputed unto us it is, because himself was righteous with it, not for himself, but for us.

5. It is yet said, “That if we insist on personal imputation unto every believer of what Christ did, or if any believer be personal1y righteous in the very individual acts of Christ’s righteousness, many absurdities will follow.” But it was observed before, that when any design to oppose an opinion from the absurdities which they suppose would follow upon it, they are much inclined so to state it as, that at least they may seem so to do. And this oft times the most worthy and candid persons are not free from, in the heat of disputation. So I fear it is here fallen out; for as unto personal imputation, I do not well understand it. All imputation is unto a person, and is the act of a person, be it of what, and what sort it will; but from neither of them can be denominated a personal imputation. And if an imputation be allowed that is not unto the persons of men, — namely, in this case unto all believers, — the nature of it has not yet been declared, as I know of.

That any have so expressed the imputation pleaded for, “that every believer should be personally righteous in the very individual acts of Christ’s righteousness,” I know not; I have neither read nor heard any of them who have so expressed their mind. It may be some have done so: but I shall not undertake the defence of what they have done; for it seems not only to suppose that Christ did every individual act which in any instance is required of us, but also that those acts are made our own inherently, — both which are false and impossible. That which indeed is pleaded for in this imputation is only this, that what the Lord Christ did and suffered as the mediator and surety of the covenant, in answer unto the law, for them, and in their stead, is imputed unto every one of them unto the justification of life. And sufficient this is unto that end, without any such supposals. (1.) From the dignity of the person who yielded this obedience, which rendered it both satisfactory and meritorious, and imputable unto many. (2.) From the nature of the obedience itself, which was a perfect compliance with, a fulfilling of, and satisfaction unto the whole law in all its demands. This, on the supposition of that act of God’s sovereign authority, whereby a representative of the whole church was introduced to answer the law, is the ground of his righteousness being made theirs, and being every way sufficient unto their justification. (3.) From the constitution of God, that what was done and suffered by Christ as a public person, and our surety, should be reckoned unto us, as if done by ourselves. So the sin of Adam, whilst he was a public person, and represented his whole posterity, is imputed unto us all, as if we had committed that actual sin. This Bellarmine himself frequently acknowledges: “Peccavimus in primo homine quando ille peccavit, et illa ejus prævaricatio nostra etiam prævaricatio fuit. Non enim vere per Adami inobedientiam constitueremur peccatores, nisi inobedientia illius nostra etiam inobedientia esset,” De Amiss. Grat. et Stat. Peccat., lib. v. cap. 18. And elsewhere, that the actual sin of Adam is imputed unto us, as if we all had committed that actual sin; that is, broken the whole law of God. And this is that whereby the apostle illustrates the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto believers; and it may on as good grounds be charged with absurdities as the other. It is not, therefore, said that God judges that we have in our own persons done those very acts, and endured that penalty of the law, which the Lord Christ did and endured; for this would overthrow all imputation; — but what Christ did and suffered, that God imputes unto believers unto the justification of life, as if it had been done by themselves; and his righteousness as a public person is made theirs by imputation, even as the sin of Adam, whilst a public person, is made the sin of all his posterity by imputation.

Hereon none of the absurdities pretended, which are really such, do at all follow. It does not so, that Christ in his own person performed every individual act that we in our circumstances are obliged unto in a way of duty; nor was there any need that so he should do. This imputation, as I have showed, stands on other foundations. Nor does it follow, that every saved person’s righteousness before God is the same identically and numerically with Christ’s in his public capacity as mediator; for this objection destroys itself, by affirming that as it was his, it was the righteousness of God-man, and so it has an especial nature as it respects or relates unto his person. It is the same that Christ in his public capacity did work or effect. But there is a wide difference in the consideration of it as his absolutely, and as made ours. It was formally inherent in him, — is only materially imputed unto us; was actively his, — is passively ours; was wrought in the person of God-man for the whole church, — is imputed unto each single believer, as unto his own concernment only. Adam’s sin, as imputed unto us, is not the sin of a representative, though it be of him that was so, but is the particular sin of every one of us; but this objection must be farther spoken unto, where it occurs afterwards. Nor will it follow, that on this supposition we should be accounted to have done that which was done long before we were in a capacity of doing any thing; for what is done for us and in our stead, before we are in any such capacity, may be imputed unto us, as is the sin of Adam. And yet there is a manifold sense wherein men may be said to have done what was done for them and in their name, before their actual existence; so that therein is no absurdity. As unto what is added by the way, that Christ did not do nor suffer the “idem” that we were obliged unto; whereas he did what the law required, and suffered what the law threatened unto the disobedient, which is the whole of what we are obliged unto, it will not be so easily proved, nor the arguments very suddenly answered, whereby the contrary has been confirmed. That Christ did sustain the place of a surety, or was the surety of the new covenant, the Scripture does so expressly affirm that it cannot be denied. And that there may be sureties in cases criminal as well as civil and pecuniary, has been proved before. What else occurs about the singularity of Christ’s obedience, as he was mediator, proves only that his righteousness, as formally and inherently his, was peculiar unto himself; and that the adjuncts of it, which arise from its relation unto his person, as it was inherent in him, are not communicable unto them to whom it is imputed.

6. It is, moreover, urged, “That upon the supposed imputation of the righteousness of Christ, it will follow that every believer is justified by the works of the law; for the obedience of Christ was a legal righteousness, and if that be imputed unto us, then are we justified by the law; which is contrary unto express testimonies of Scripture in many places.” Ans. (1.) I know nothing more frequent in the writings of some learned men than that the righteousness of Christ is our legal righteousness; who yet, I presume, are able to free themselves of this objection. (2.) If this do follow in the true sense of being justified by the law, or the works of it, so denied in the Scripture, their weakness is much to be pitied who can see no other way whereby we may be freed from an obligation to be justified by the law, but by this imputation of the righteousness of Christ. (3.) The Scripture which affirms that “by the deeds of the law no man can be justified,” affirms in like manner that by “faith we do not make void the law, but establish it;” that “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us;” that Christ “came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it,” and is the “end of the law for righteousness unto them that do believe.” And that the law must be fulfilled, or we cannot be justified, we shall prove afterwards. (4.) We are not hereon justified by the law, or the works of it, in the only sense of that proposition in the Scripture; and to coin new senses or significations of it is not safe. The meaning of it in the Scripture is, that only “the doers of the law shall be justified,” Rom. ii. 13; and that “he that does the things of it shall live by them,” chap. x. 5, — namely, in his own person, by the way of personal duty, which alone the law requires. But if we, who have not fulfilled the law in the way of inherent, personal obedience, are justified by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, then are we justified by Christ, and not by the law.

But it is said that this will not relieve; for if his obedience be so imputed unto us, as that we are accounted by God in judgment to have done what Christ did, it is all one upon the matter, and we are as much justified by the law as if we had in our own proper persons performed an unsinning obedience unto it. This I confess I cannot understand. The nature of this imputation is here represented, as formerly, in such a way as we cannot acknowledge; from thence alone this inference is made, which yet, in my judgment, does not follow thereon. For grant an imputation of the righteousness of another unto us, be it of what nature it will, all justification by the law and works of it, in the sense of the Scripture, is gone for ever. The admission of imputation takes off all power from the law to justify; for it can justify none but upon a righteousness that is originally and inherently his own: “The man that does them shall live in them.” If the righteousness that is imputed be the ground and foundation of our justification, and made ours by that imputation, state it how you will, that justification is of grace, and not of the law. However, I know not of any that say we are accounted of God in judgment personally to have done what Christ did; and it may have a sense that is false, — namely, that God should judge us in our own persons to have done those acts which we never did. But what Christ did for us, and in our stead, is imputed and communicated unto us, as we coalesce into one mystical person with him by faith; and thereon are we justified. And this absolutely overthrows all justification by the law or the works of it; though the law be established, fulfilled, and accomplished, that we may be justified.

Neither can any, on the supposition of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ truly stated, be said to merit their own salvation. Satisfaction and merit are adjuncts of the righteousness of Christ, as formally inherent in his own person; and as such it cannot be transfused into another. Wherefore, as it is imputed unto individual believers, it has not those properties accompanying of it, which belong only unto its existence in the person of the Son of God. But this was spoken unto before, as also much of what was necessary to be here repeated.

These objections I have in this place taken notice of because the answers given unto them do tend to the farther explanation of that truth, whose confirmation, by arguments and testimonies of Scripture, I shall now proceed unto.


[20] From prokatarchō, — pre-existing, or predisposing. The term is now confined to medical science, and employed to distinguish a predisposing from an immediate and exciting cause to disease or fever. — Ed.


Chapter X. Arguments for justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ — The first argument from the nature and use of our own personal righteousness

Arguments for justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ — Our own personal righteousness not that on the account whereof we are justified in the sight of God — Disclaimed in the Scriptures, as to any such end — The truth and reality of it granted — Manifold imperfections accompanying it, rendering it unmeet to be a righteousness unto the justification of life

III. There is a justification of convinced sinners on their believing. Hereon are their sins pardoned, their persons accepted with God, and a right is given unto them unto the heavenly inheritance. This state they are immediately taken into upon their faith, or believing in Jesus Christ. And a state it is of actual peace with God. These things at present I take for granted; and they are the foundation of all that I shall plead in the present argument. And I do take notice of them, because some seem, to the best of my understanding, to deny any real actual justification of sinners on their believing in this life. For they make justification to be only a general conditional sentence declared in the gospel; which, as unto its execution, is delayed unto the day of judgment. For whilst men are in this world, the whole condition of it being not fulfilled, they cannot be partakers of it, or be actually and absolutely justified. Hereon it follows, that indeed there is no real state of assured rest and peace with God by Jesus Christ, for any persons in this life. This at present I shall not dispute about, because it seems to me to overthrow the whole gospel, — the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all the comfort of believers; about which I hope we are not as yet called to contend.

Our inquiry is, how convinced sinners do, on their believing, obtain the remission of sins, acceptance with God, and a right unto eternal life? And if this can no other way be done but by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto them, then thereby alone are they justified in the sight of God. And this assertion proceeds on a supposition that there is a righteousness required unto the justification of any person whatever: for whereas God, in the justification of any person, does declare him to be acquitted from all crimes laid unto his charges, and to stand as righteous in his sight, it must be on the consideration of a righteousness whereon any man is so acquitted and declared; for the judgment of God is according unto truth. This we have sufficiently evidenced before, in that juridical procedure wherein the Scripture represents unto us the justification of a believing sinner. And if there be not other righteousness whereby we may be thus justified but only that of Christ imputed unto us, then thereby must we be justified, or not at all; and if there be any such other righteousness, it must be our own, inherent in us, and wrought out by us; for these two kinds, inherent and imputed righteousness, our own and Christ’s, divide the whole nature of righteousness, as to the end inquired after. And that there is no such inherent righteousness, no such righteousness of our own, whereby we may be justified before God, I shall prove in the first place. And I shall do it, first, from express testimonies of Scripture, and then from the consideration of the thing itself; and two things I shall premise hereunto:—

1. That I shall not consider this righteousness of our own absolutely in itself, but as it may be conceived to be improved and advanced by its relation unto the satisfaction and merit of Christ: for many will grant that our inherent righteousness is not of itself sufficient to justify us in the sight of God; but take it as it has value and worth communicated unto it from the merit of Christ, and so it is accepted unto that end, and judged worthy of eternal life. We could not merit life and salvation had not Christ merited that grace for us whereby we may do so, and merited also that our works should be of such a dignity with respect unto reward. We shall, therefore, allow what worth can be reasonably thought to be communicated unto this righteousness from its respect unto the merit of Christ.

2. Whereas persons of all sorts and parties do take various ways in the assignation of an interest in our justification unto our own righteousness, so as that no parties are agreed about it, nor many of the same mind among themselves, — as might easily be manifested in the Papists, Socinians, and others, — I shall, so far as it is possible in the ensuing arguments, have respect unto them all; for my design is to prove that it has no such interest in our justification before God, as that the righteousness of Christ should not be esteemed the only righteousness whereon we are justified.

And, first, we shall produce some of those many testimonies which may be pleaded unto this purpose, Ps. cxxx. 3, 4, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” There is an inquiry included in these words, how a man, how any man, may be justified before God; how he may stand, that is, in the presence of God, and be accepted with him, — how he shall stand in judgment, as it is explained, Ps. i. 5, “The wicked shall not stand in the judgment,” shall not be acquitted on their trial. That which first offers itself unto this end is his own obedience; for this the law requires of him in the first place, and this his own conscience calls upon him for. But the psalmist plainly declares that no man can thence manage a plea for his justification with any success; and the reason is, because, notwithstanding the best of the obedience of the best of men, there are iniquities found with them against the Lord their God; and if men come to their trial before God, whether they shall be justified or condemned, these also must be heard and taken into the account. But then no man can “stand,” no man can be “justified,” as it is elsewhere expressed. Wherefore, the wisest and safest course is, as unto our justification before God, utterly to forego this plea and not to insist on our own obedience, lest our sins should appear also, and be heard. No reason can any man give on his own account why they should not be so; and if they be so, the best of men will be cast in their trial as the psalmist declares.

Two things are required in this trial, that a sinner may stand:— 1. That his iniquities be not observed, for if they be so, he is lost for ever. 2. That a righteousness be produced and pleaded that will endure the trial; for justification is upon a justifying righteousness. For the first of these, the psalmist tells us it must be through pardon or forgiveness. “But there is forgiveness with thee,” — wherein lies our only relief against the condemnatory sentence of the law with respect unto our iniquities, — that is, through the blood of Christ, for in him “we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” Eph. i. 7. The other cannot be our own obedience, because of our iniquities. Wherefore this the same psalmist directs us unto, Ps. lxxi. 16, “I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, of thine only.” The righteousness of God, and not his own, yea, in opposition unto his own, is the only plea that in this case he would insist upon.

If no man can stand a trial before God upon his own obedience, so as to be justified before him, because of his own personal iniquities; and if our only plea in that case be the righteousness of God, the righteousness of God only, and not our own; then is there no personal, inherent righteousness in any believers whereon they may be justified; — which is that which is to be proved.

The same is again asserted by the same person, and that more plainly and directly, Ps. cxliii. 2, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” This testimony is the more to he considered, because as it is derived from the law, Exod. xxxiv. 7, so it is transferred into the gospel, and twice urged by the apostle unto the same purpose, Rom. iii. 20; Gal. ii. 16.

The person who insists on this plea with God professes himself to be his servant: “Enter not into judgment with thy servant;” that is, one that loved him, feared him, yielded all sincere obedience. He was not a hypocrite, not an unbeliever, not an unregenerate person, who had performed no works but such as were legal, such as the law required, and such as were done in the strength of the law only; such works as all will acknowledge to be excluded from our justification, and which, as many judge, are only those which are so excluded. David it was, who was not only converted, a true believer, had the Spirit of God, and the aids of special grace in his obedience, but had this testimony unto his sincerity, that he was “a man after God’s own heart.” And this witness had he in his own conscience of his integrity, uprightness, and personal righteousness, so as that he frequently avows them, appeals unto God concerning the truth of them, and pleads them as a ground of judgment between him and his adversaries. We have, therefore, a case stated in the instance of a sincere and eminent believer, who excelled most in inherent, personal righteousness.

This person, under these circumstances, thus testified unto both by God and in his own conscience, as unto the sincerity, yea, as unto the eminency, of his obedience, considers how he may “stand before God,” and “be justified in his sight.” Why does he not now plead his own merits; and that, if not “ex condigno,” yet at least “ex congruo,” he deserved to be acquitted and justified? But he left this plea for that generation of men that were to come after, who would justify themselves and despise others. But suppose he had no such confidence in the merit of his works as some have now attained unto, yet why does he not freely enter into judgment with God, put it unto the trial whether he should be justified or no, by pleading that he had fulfilled the condition of the new covenant, that everlasting covenant which God made with him, ordered in all things, and sure? For upon a supposition of the procurement of that covenant and the terms of it by Christ (for I suppose the virtue of that purchase he made of it is allowed to extend unto the Old Testament), this was all that was required of him. Is it not to be feared that he was one of them who see no necessity, or leave none, of personal holiness and righteousness, seeing he makes no mention of it, now it should stand him in the greatest stead? At least he might plead his faith, as his own duty and work, to be imputed unto him for righteousness. But whatever the reason be, he waives them all, and absolutely deprecates a trial upon them. “Come not,” says he, “O Lord, into judgment with thy servant;” as it is promised that he who believes should “not come into judgment,” John v. 24.

And if this holy person renounce the whole consideration of all his personal, inherent righteousness, in every kind, and will not insist upon it under any pretence, in any place, as unto any use in his justification before God, we may safely conclude there is no such righteousness in any, whereby they may be justified. And if men would but leave those shades and coverts under which they hide themselves in their disputations, — if they would forego those pretences and distinctions wherewith they delude themselves and others, and tell us plainly what plea they dare make in the presence of God from their own righteousness and obedience, that they may be justified before him, — we should better understand their minds than now we do. There is one, I confess, who speaks with some confidence unto this purpose, and that is Vasquez the Jesuit, in 1, 2, disp. 204, cap. 4, “Inhærens justitia ita reddit animam justam et sanctam ac proinde filiam Dei, ut hoc ipso reddat eam heredem, et dignam æterna gloria; imo ipse Deus efficere non potest ut hujusmodi justus dignus non sit æterna beatitudine.” Is it not sad, that David should discover so much ignorance of the worth of his inherent righteousness, and discover so much pusillanimity with respect unto his trial before God, whereas God himself could not otherwise order it, but that he was, and must be, “worthy of eternal blessedness?”

The reason the psalmist gives why he will not put it unto the trial, whether he should be acquitted or justified upon his own obedience, is this general axiom: “For in thy sight,” or before thee, “shall no man living be justified.” This must be spoken absolutely, or with respect unto some one way or cause of justification. If it be spoken absolutely, then this work ceases forever, and there is indeed no such thing as justification before God. But this is contrary unto the whole Scripture, and destructive of the gospel. Wherefore it is spoken with respect unto our own obedience and works. He does not pray absolutely that he “would not enter into judgement with him,” for this were to forego his government of the world; but that he would not do so on the account of his own duties and obedience. But if so be these duties and obedience did answer, in any sense or way, what is required of us as a righteousness unto justification, there was no reason why he should deprecate a trial by them or upon them. But whereas the Holy Ghost does so positively affirm that “no man living shall be justified in the sight of God,” by or upon his own works or obedience, it is, I confess, marvellous unto me that some should so interpret the apostle James as if he affirmed the express contrary, — namely, that we are justified in the sight of God by our own works, — whereas indeed he says no such thing. This, therefore, is an eternal rule of truth, — By or upon his own obedience no man living can be justified in the sight of God. It will be said, “That if God enter into judgment with any on their own obedience by and according to the law, then, indeed, none can be justified before him; but God judging according to the gospel and the terms of the new covenant, men may be justified upon their own duties, works, and obedience.” Ans. (1.) The negative assertion is general and unlimited, — that “no man living shall” (on his own works or obedience) “be justified in the sight of God.” And to limit it unto this or that way of judging, is not to distinguish, but to contradict the Holy Ghost. (2.) The judgment intended is only with respect unto justification, as is plain in the words; but there is no judgment on our works or obedience, with respect unto righteousness and justification, but by the proper rule and measure of them, which is the law. If they will not endure the trial by the law, they will endure no trial, as unto righteousness and justification in the sight of God. (3.) The prayer and plea of the psalmist, on this supposition, are to this purpose: “O Lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant by or according unto the law; but enter into judgment with me on my own works and obedience according to the rule of the gospel;” for which he gives this reason, “because in thy sight shall no man living be justified:” which how remote it is from his intention need not be declared. (4.) The judgment of God unto justification according to the gospel does not proceed on our works of obedience, but upon the righteousness of Christ, and our interest therein by faith; as is too evident to be modestly denied. Notwithstanding this exception, therefore, hence we argue, —

If the most holy of the servants of God, in and after a course of sincere, fruitful obedience, testified unto by God himself, and witnessed in their own consciences, — that is, whilst they have the greatest evidences of their own sincerity, and that indeed they are the servants of God, — do renounce all thoughts of such a righteousness thereby, as whereon, in any sense, they may be justified before God; then there is no such righteousness in any, but it is the righteousness of Christ alone, imputed unto us, whereon we are so justified. But that so they do, and ought all of them so to do, because of the general rule here laid down, that in the sight of God no man living shall be justified, is plainly affirmed in this testimony.

I no way doubt but that many learned men, after all their pleas for an interest of personal righteousness and works in our justification before God, do, as unto their own practice, betake themselves unto this method of the psalmist, and cry, as the prophet Daniel does, in the name of the church, “We do not present our supplications before thee for our own righteousness, but for thy great mercies,” chap. ix. 18. And therefore Job (as we have formerly observed), after a long and earnest defence of his own faith, integrity, and personal righteousness, wherein he justified himself against the charge of Satan and men, being called to plead his cause in the sight of God, and declare on what grounds he expected to be justified before him, renounces all his former pleas, and betakes himself unto the same with the psalmist, chap. xl. 4; xlii. 6.

It is true, in particular cases, and as unto some special ends in the providence of God, a man may plead his own integrity and obedience before God himself. So did Hezekiah, when he prayed for the sparing of his life, Isa. xxxviii. 3, “Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.” This, I say, may be done with respect unto temporal deliverance, or any other particular end wherein the glory of God is concerned: so was it greatly in sparing the life of Hezekiah at that time. For whereas he had with great zeal and industry reformed religion and restored the true worship of God, the “cutting him off in the midst of his days” would have occasioned the idolatrous multitude to have reflected on him as one dying under a token of divine displeasure. But none ever made this plea before God for the absolute justification of their persons. So Nehemiah, in that great contest which he had about the worship of God and the service of his house, pleads the remembrance of it before God, in his justification against his adversaries; but resolves his own personal acceptance with God into pardoning mercy: “And spare me according unto the multitude of thy mercies,” chap. xiii. 22.

Another testimony we have unto the same purpose in the prophet Isaiah, speaking in the name of the church, chap. lxiv. 6, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” It is true the prophet does in this place make a deep confession of the sins of the people; but yet withal he joins himself with them, and asserts the especial interest of those concerning whom he speaks, by adoption, — that God was their Father, and they his people, chap. lxiii. 16, lxiv. 8, 9. And the righteousnesses of all that are the children of God are of the same kind, however they may differ in degrees, and some of them may be more righteous than others; but it is all of it described to be such, as that we cannot, I think, justly expect justification in the sight of God upon the account of it. But whereas the consideration of the nature of our inherent righteousness belongs unto the second way of the confirmation of our present argument, I shall not farther here insist on this testimony.

Many others also, unto the same purpose, I shall wholly omit, — namely, all those wherein the saints of God, or the church, in a humble acknowledgment and confession of their own sins, do betake themselves unto the mercy and grace of God alone, as dispensed through the mediation and blood of Christ; and all those wherein God promises to pardon and blot out our iniquities for his own sake, for his name’s sake — to bless the people, not for any good that was in them, nor for their righteousness, nor for their works, the consideration whereof he excludes from having any influence into any acting of his grace towards them; and all those wherein God expresses his delight in them alone, and his approbation of them who hope in his mercy, trust in his name, betaking themselves unto him as their only refuge, pronouncing them accursed who trust in any thing else, or glory in themselves, — such as contain singular promises unto them that betake themselves unto God, as fatherless, hopeless, and lost in themselves.

There is none of the testimonies which are multiplied unto this purpose, but they sufficiently prove that the best of God’s saints have not a righteousness of their own whereon they can, in any sense, be justified before God. For they do all of them, in the places referred unto, renounce any such righteousness of their own, all that is in them, all that they have done or can do, and betake themselves unto grace and mercy alone. And whereas, as we have before proved, God, in the justification of any, does exercise grace towards them with respect unto a righteousness whereon he declares them righteous and accepted before him, they do all of them respect a righteousness which is not inherent in us, but imputed to us.

Herein lies the substance of all that we inquire into, in this matter of justification. All other disputes about qualifications, conditions, causes, aneu hōn ouk, any kind of interest for our own works and obedience in our justification before God, are but the speculations of men at ease. The conscience of a convinced sinner, who presents himself in the presence of God, finds all practically reduced unto this one point, — namely, whether he will trust unto his own personal inherent righteousness, or, in a full renunciation of it, betake himself unto the grace of God and the righteousness of Christ alone. In other things he is not concerned. And let men phrase his own righteousness unto him as they please, let them pretend it meritorious, or only evangelical, not legal, — only an accomplishment of the condition of the new covenant, a cause without which he cannot be justified, — it will not be easy to frame his mind unto any confidence in it, as unto justification before God, so as not to deceive him in the issue.

The second part of the present argument is taken from the nature of the thing itself, or the consideration of this personal, inherent righteousness of our own, what it is, and wherein it does consist, and of what use it may be in our justification. And unto this purpose it may be observed, —

That we grant an inherent righteousness in all that do believe, as has been before declared: “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth,” Eph. v. 9. “Being made free from sin, we become the servants of righteousness,” Rom. vi. 18. And our duty it is to “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness,” 1 Tim. vi. 11. And although righteousness be mostly taken for an especial grace or duty, distinct from other graces and duties, yet we acknowledge that it may be taken for the whole of our obedience before God; and the word is so used in the Scripture, where our own righteousness is opposed unto the righteousness of God. And it is either habitual or actual. There is a habitual righteousness inherent in believers, as they have “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” Eph. iv. 24; as they are the “workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” chap. ii. 10. And there is an actual righteousness, consisting in those good works whereunto we are so created, or the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of God by Jesus Christ. And concerning this righteousness it may be observed, — First, That men are said in the Scripture to be just or righteous by it; but no one is said to be justified by it before God. Secondly, That it is not ascribed unto, or found in, any but those that are actually justified in order of nature antecedent thereunto.

This being the constant doctrine of all the Reformed churches and divines, it is an open calumny whereby the contrary is ascribed unto them, or any of those who believe the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto our justification before God. So Bellarmine affirms that no Protestant writers acknowledge an inherent righteousness but only Bucer and Chemnitius; when there is no one of them by whom either the thing itself or the necessity of it is denied. But some excuse may be made for him, from the manner whereby they expressed themselves, wherein they always carefully distinguished between inherent holiness and that righteousness whereby we are justified. But we are now told by one, that if we should affirm it a hundred times, he could scarce believe us. This is somewhat severe; for although he speaks but to one, yet the charge falls equally upon all who maintain that imputation of the righteousness of Christ which he denies, who being at least the generality of all Protestant divines, they are represented either as so foolish as not to know what they say, or so dishonest as to say one thing and believe another. But he endeavours to justify his censure by sundry reasons; and, first, he says, “That inherent righteousness can on no other account be said to be ours, than that by it we are made righteous; that is, that it is the condition of our justification required in the new covenant. This being denied, all inherent righteousness is denied.” But how is this proved? What if one should say that every believer is inherently righteous, but yet that this inherent righteousness was not the condition of his justification, but rather the consequent of it, and that it is nowhere required in the new covenant as the condition of our justification? How shall the contrary be made to appear? The Scripture plainly affirms that there is such an inherent righteousness in all that believe; and yet as plainly that we are justified before God by faith without works. Wherefore, that it is the condition of our justification, and so antecedent unto it, is expressly contrary unto that of the apostle, “Unto him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted unto him for righteousness,” Rom. iv. 5. Nor is it the condition of the covenant itself, as that whereon the whole grace of the covenant is suspended; for as it is habitual, wherein the denomination of righteous is principally taken, it is a grace of the covenant itself, and so not a condition of it, Jer. xxxi. 33; xxxii. 39; Ezek. xxxvi. 25–27. If no more be intended but that it is, as unto its actual exercise, what is indispensably required of all that are taken into covenant, in order unto the complete ends of it, we are agreed; but hence it will not follow that it is the condition of our justification. It is added, “That all righteousness respects a law and a rule, by which it is to be tried; and he is righteous who has done these things which that law requires by whose rule he is to be judged.” But, First, This is not the way whereby the Scripture expresses our justification before God, which alone is under consideration, — namely, that we bring unto it a personal righteousness of our own, answering the law whereby we are to be judged; yea, an assertion to this purpose is foreign to the gospel, and destructive of the grace of God by Jesus Christ. Secondly, It is granted that all righteousness respects a law as the rule of it; and so does this whereof we speak, namely, the moral law; which being the sole, eternal, unchangeable rule of righteousness, if it do not in the substance of it answer thereunto, a righteousness it is not. But this it does, inasmuch as that, so far as it is habitual, it consists in the renovation of the image of God, wherein that law is written in our hearts; and all the actual duties of it are, as to the substance of them, what is required by that law. But as unto the manner of its communication unto us, and of its performance by us, from faith in God by Jesus Christ, and love unto him, as the author and fountain of all the grace and mercy procured and administered by him, it has respect unto the gospel. What will follow from hence? Why, that he is just that does those things which that law requires whereby he is to be judged. He is so certainly; for “not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified,” Rom. ii. 13. “So Moses describeth the righteousness of the law, that the man which does those things shall live in them,” Rom. x. 5. But although the righteousness whereof we discourse be required by the law, — as certainly it is, for it is nothing but the law in our hearts, from whence we walk in the ways and keep the statutes or commandments of God, — yet does it not so answer the law as that any man can be justified by it. But then it will be said that if it does not answer that law and rule whereby we are to be judged, then it is no righteousness; for all righteousness must answer the law whereby it is required. And I say it is most true, it is no perfect righteousness; it does not so answer the rule and law as that we can be justified by it, or safely judged on it. But, so far as it does answer the law, it is a righteousness, — that is, imperfectly so, and therefore is an imperfect righteousness; which yet gives the denomination of righteous unto them that have it, both absolutely and comparatively. It is said, therefore, that it is “the law of grace or the gospel from whence we are denominated righteous with this righteousness;” but that we are by the gospel denominated righteous, from any righteousness that is not required by the moral law, will not be proved. Nor does the law of grace or the gospel anywhere require of us or prescribe unto us this righteousness, as that whereon we are to be justified before God. It requires faith in Christ Jesus, or the receiving of him as he is proposed in the promises of it, in all that are to be justified. It requires, in like manner, “repentance from dead works” in all that believe; as also the fruits of faith, conversion unto God, and repentance, in the works of righteousness, which are to the praise of God by Jesus Christ, with perseverance therein unto the end; and all this may, if you please, be called our evangelical righteousness, as being our obedience unto God according to the gospel. But yet the graces and duties wherein it does consist do no more perfectly answer the commands of the gospel than they do those of the moral law; for that the gospel abates from the holiness of the law, and makes that to be no sin which is sin by the law, or approves absolutely of less intension or lower degrees in the love of God than the law does, is an impious imagination.

And that the gospel requires all these things entirely and equally, as the condition of our justification before God, and so antecedently thereunto, is not yet proved, nor ever will be. It is hence concluded that “this is our righteousness, according unto the evangelical law which requires it; by this we are made righteous, — that is, not guilty of the non-performance of the condition required in that law.” And these things are said to be very plain! So, no doubt, they seemed unto the author; unto us they are intricate and perplexed. However, I wholly deny that our faith, obedience, and righteousness, considered as ours, as wrought by us, although they are all accepted with God through Jesus Christ, according to the grace declared in the gospel, do perfectly answer the commands of the gospel requiring them of us, as to matter, manner, and degree; and [assert] that therefore it is utterly impossible that they should be the cause or condition of our justification before God. Yet in the explanation of these things, it is added by the same author, that “our maimed and imperfect righteousness is accepted unto salvation, as if it were every way absolute and perfect; for that so it should be, Christ has merited by his most perfect righteousness.” But it is justification, and not salvation, that alone we discourse about; and that the works of obedience or righteousness have another respect unto salvation than they have unto justification, is too plainly and too often expressed in the Scripture to be modestly denied. And if this weak and imperfect righteousness of ours be esteemed and accepted as every way perfect before God, then either it is because God judges it to be perfect, and so declares us to be most just, and justified thereon in his sight; or he judges it not to be complete and perfect, yet declares us to be perfectly righteous in his sight thereby. Neither of these, I suppose, can well be granted. It will therefore be said, it is neither of them; but “Christ has obtained, by his complete and most perfect righteousness and obedience, that this lame and imperfect righteousness of ours should be accepted as every way perfect.” And if it be so, it may be some will think it best not to go about by this weak, halt, and imperfect righteousness, but, as unto their justification, betake themselves immediately unto the most perfect righteousness of Christ; which I am sure the Scripture encourages them unto. And they will be ready to think that the righteousness which cannot justify itself, but must be obliged unto grace and pardon through the merits of Christ, will never be able to justify them. But what will ensue on this explanation of the acceptance of our imperfect righteousness unto justification, upon the merit of Christ? This only, so far as I can discern, that Christ has merited and procured, either that God should judge that to be perfect which is imperfect, and declare us perfectly righteous when we are not so; or that he should judge the righteousness still to be imperfect, as it is, but declare us to be perfectly righteous with and by this imperfect righteousness. These are the plain paths that men walk in who cannot deny but that there is a righteousness required unto our justification, or that we may be declared righteous before God, in the sight of God, according unto the judgment of God; yet, denying the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, will allow us no other righteousness unto this end but that which is so weak and imperfect as that no man can justify it in his own conscience, nor, without a frenzy of pride, can think or imagine himself perfectly righteous thereby.

And whereas it is added, that “he is blind who sees not that this righteousness of ours is subordinate unto the righteousness of Christ,” I must acknowledge myself otherwise minded, notwithstanding the severity of this censure. It seems to me that the righteousness of Christ is subordinate unto this righteousness of our own, as here it is stated, and not the contrary: for the end of all is our acceptance with God as righteous; but according unto these thoughts, it is our own righteousnesses whereon we are immediately accepted with God as righteous. Only Christ has deserved by his righteousness that our righteousness may be so accepted; and is therefore, as unto the end of our justification before God, subordinate thereunto.

But to return from this digression, and to proceed unto our argument. This personal, inherent righteousness which, according to the Scripture, we allow in believers, is not that whereby or wherewith we are justified before God; for it is not perfect, nor perfectly answers any rule of obedience that is given unto us: and so cannot be our righteousness before God unto our justification. Wherefore, we must be justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us, or be justified without respect unto any righteousness, or not be justified at all. And a threefold imperfection does accompany it:—

1. As to the principle of it, as it is habitually resident in us; for, — (1.) There is a contrary principle of sin abiding with it in the same subject, whilst we are in this world. For contrary qualities may be in the same subject, whilst neither of them is in the highest degree. So it is in this case, Gal. v. 17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (2.) None of the faculties of our souls are perfectly renewed whilst we are in this world. “The inward man is renewed day by day,” 2 Cor. iv. 16; and we are always to be purging ourselves from all pollution of flesh and spirit, 2 Cor. vii. 1. And hereunto belongs whatever is spoken in the Scripture, whatever believers find in themselves by experience, of the remainders of indwelling sin, in the darkness of our minds; whence at best we know but in part, and through ignorance are ready to wander out of the way, Heb. v. 2, in the deceitfulness of the heart and disorder of affections. I understand not how any one can think of pleading his own righteousness in the sight of God, or suppose that he can be justified by it, upon this single account, of the imperfection of its inherent habit or principle. Such notions arise from the ignorance of God and ourselves, or the want of a due consideration of the one and the other. Neither can I apprehend how a thousand distinctions can safely introduce it into any consideration in our justification before God. He that can search in any measure, by a spiritual light, into his own heart and soul, will find “God be merciful to me a sinner,” a better plea than any he can be furnished withal from any worth of his own. “What is man, that he should be clean? And he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” Job xv. 14–16; iv. 18, 19. Hence says Gregory, in Job ix., lib. ix., cap. 14, “Ut sæpe diximus omnis justitia humana injustitia esse convincitur si distincte judicetur.” Bernard speaks to the same purpose, and almost in the same words, Serm. i. fest. omn. sanct., “Quid potest esse omnis justitia nostra coram Deo? nonne juxta prophetam velut ‘pannus menstruatæ’ reputabitur; et si districtè judicetur, injustitia invenietur omnis justitia nostra, et minus habens.” A man cannot be justified in any sense by that righteousness which, upon trial, will appear rather to be an unrighteousness.

2. It is imperfect with respect unto every act and duty of it, whether internal or external. There is iniquity cleaving unto our holy things, and all our “righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” Isa. lxiv. 6. It has been often and well observed, that if a man, the best of men, were left to choose the best of his works that ever he performed, and thereon to enter into judgment with God, if only under this notion, that he has answered and fulfilled the condition required of him as unto his acceptation with God, it would be his wisest course (at least it would be so in the judgment of Bellarmine) to renounce it, and betake himself unto grace and mercy alone.

3. It is imperfect by reason of the incursion of actual sins. Hence our Saviour has taught us continually to pray for the “forgiveness of our sins;” and “if we say that we have no sins, we deceive ourselves,” for “in many things we offend all.” And what confidence can be placed in this righteousness, which those who plead for it in this cause acknowledge to be weak, maimed, and imperfect?

I have but touched on these things, which might have been handled at large, and are indeed of great consideration in our present argument. But enough has been spoken to manifest, that although this righteousness of believers be on other accounts like the fruit of the vine, that glads the heart of God and man, yet as unto our justification before God, it is like the wood of the vine, — a pin is not to be taken from it to hang any weight of this cause upon.

Two things are pleaded in the behalf of this righteousness, and its influence into our justification:— 1. That it is absolutely complete and perfect. Hence some say that they are perfect and sinless in this life; they have no more concern in the mortification of sin, nor of growth in grace. And indeed this is the only rational pretence of ascribing our justification before God thereunto; for were it so with any, what should hinder him from being justified thereon before God, but only that he has been a sinner? — which spoils the whole market. But this vain imagination is so contrary unto the Scripture, and the experience of all that know the terror of the Lord, and what it is to walk humbly before him, as that I shall not insist on the refutation of it.

2. It is pleaded, “That although this righteousness be not an exact fulfilling of the moral law, yet is it the accomplishment of the condition of the new covenant, or entirely answers the law of grace, and all that is required of us therein.”

Ans. (1.) This wholly takes away sin, and the pardon of it, no less than does the conceit of sinless perfection which we now rejected; for if our obedience do answer the only law and rule of it whereby it is to be tried, measured, and judged, then is there no sin in us, nor need of pardon. No more is required of any man, to keep him absolutely free from sin, but that he fully answer, and exactly comply with, the rule and law of his obedience whereby he must be judged. On this supposition, therefore, there is neither sin nor any need of the pardon of it. To say that there is still both sin and need of pardon, with respect unto the moral law of God, is to confess that law to be the rule of our obedience, which this righteousness does no way answer; and therefore none by it can be justified in the sight of God.

(2.) Although this righteousness be accepted in justified persons by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet consider the principle of it, with all the acts and duties wherein it does consist, as they are required and prescribed in the gospel unto us, and they do neither jointly nor severally fulfil and answer the commands of the gospel, no more than they do the commands of the law. Wherefore, they cannot all of them constitute a righteousness consisting in an exact conformity unto the rules of the gospel, or the law of it; for it is impious to imagine that the gospel requiring any duty of us, suppose the love of God, does make any abatement, as unto the matter, manner, or degrees of perfection in it, from what was required by the law. Does the gospel require a lower degree of love to God, a less perfect love, than the law did? God forbid. The same may be said concerning the inward frame of our natures, and all other duties whatever. Wherefore, although this righteousness is accepted in justified persons (as God had respect unto Abel, and then unto his offering), in the way and unto the ends that shall be afterwards declared; yet, as it relates unto the commands of the gospel, both it and all the duties of it are no less imperfect than it would be if it should be left unto its trial by the law of creation only.

(3.) I know not what some men intend. On the one hand they affirm that our Lord Jesus Christ has enlarged and heightened the spiritual sense of the moral law, and not only so, but added unto it new precepts of more exact obedience than it did require; — but on the other, they would have him to have brought down or taken off the obligation of the law, so as that a man, according as he has adapted it unto the use of the gospel, shall be judged of God to have fulfilled the whole obedience which it requires, who never answered any one precept of it according unto its original sense and obligation; for so it must be if this imperfect righteousness be on any account esteemed a fulfilling of the rule of our obedience, as that thereon we should be justified in the sight of God.

(4.) This opinion puts an irreconcilable difference between the law and the gospel, not to be composed by any distinctions; for, according unto it, God declares by the gospel a man to be perfectly righteous, justified, and blessed, upon the consideration of a righteousness that is imperfect; and in the law he pronounces every one accursed who continues not in all things required by it, and as they are therein required. But it is said that this righteousness is no otherwise to be considered but as the condition of the new covenant, whereon we obtain remission of sins on the sole account of the satisfaction of Christ, wherein our justification does consist.

Ans. (1.) Some, indeed, do say so, but not all, not the most, not the most learned, with whom in this controversy we have to do. And in our pleas for what we believe to be the truth, we cannot always have respect unto every private opinion whereby it is opposed. (2.) That justification consists only in the pardon of sin is so contrary to the signification of the word, the constant use of it in the Scripture, the common notion of it amongst mankind, the sense of men in their own consciences who find themselves under an obligation unto duty, and express testimonies of the Scripture, as that I somewhat wonder how it can be pretended. But it shall be spoken unto elsewhere. (3.) If this righteousness be the fulfilling of the condition of the new covenant whereon we are justified, it must be in itself such as exactly answers some rule or law of righteousness, and so be perfect: which it does not; and therefore cannot bear the place of a righteousness in our justification. (4.) That this righteousness is the condition of our justification before God, or of that interest in the righteousness of Christ whereby we are justified, is not proved, nor ever will be.

I shall briefly add two or three considerations, excluding this personal righteousness from its pretended interest in our justification, and close this argument:—

1. That righteousness which neither answers the law of God nor the end of God in our justification by the gospel, is not that whereon we are justified. But such is this inherent righteousness of believers, even of the best of them. (1.) That it answers not the law of God has been proved from its imperfection. Nor will any sober person pretend that it exactly and perfectly fulfil the law of our creation. And this law cannot be disannulled whilst the relation of creator and rewarder on the one hand, and of creatures capable of obedience and rewards on the other, between God and us does continue. Wherefore, that which answers not this law will not justify us; for God will not abrogate that law, that the transgressors of it may be justified. “Do we,” says the apostle, by the doctrine of justification by faith without works, “make void the law? God forbid: yea, we establish it,” Rom. iii. 31. (2.) That we should be justified with respect unto it answers not the end of God in our justification by the gospel; for this is to take away all glorying in ourselves and all occasion of it, every thing that might give countenance unto it, so as that the whole might be to the praise of his own grace by Christ, Rom. iii. 27; 1 Cor. i. 29–31. How it is faith alone that gives glory to God herein has been declared in the description of its nature. But it is evident that no man has, or can possibly have, any other, any greater occasion of boasting in himself, with respect unto his justification, than that he is justified on his performance of that condition of it, which consists in his own personal righteousness.

2. No man was ever justified by it in his own conscience, much less can he be justified by it in the sight of God; “for God is greater than our hearts and knoweth all things.” There is no man so righteous, so holy, in the whole world, nor ever was, but his own conscience would charge him in many things with his coming short of the obedience required of him, in matter or manner, in the kind or degrees of perfection; for there is no man that lives and sins not. Absolutely, “Nemo absolvitur se judice.” Let any man be put unto a trial in himself whether he can be justified in his own conscience by his own righteousness, and he will be cast in the trial at his own judgment-seat; and he that does not thereon conclude that there must be another righteousness whereby he must be justified, that originally and inherently is not his own, will be at a loss for peace, with God. But it will be said, that “men may be justified in their consciences that they have performed the condition of the new covenant, which is all that is pleaded with respect unto this righteousness.” And I no way doubt but that men may have a comfortable persuasion of their own sincerity in obedience, and satisfaction in the acceptance of it with God. But it is when they try it as an effect of faith, whereby they are justified, and not as the condition of their justification. Let it be thus stated in their minds, — that God requires a personal righteousness in order unto their justification, whereon their determination must be, “This is my righteousness which I present unto God that I may be justified,” and they will find difficulty in arriving at it, if I be not much mistaken.

3. None of the holy men of old, whose faith and experience are recorded in the Scripture, did ever plead their own personal righteousness, under any notion of it, either as to the merit of their works or as unto their complete performance of what was required of them as the condition of the covenant, in order unto their justification before God. This has been spoken unto before.


Chapter XI. The nature of the obedience that God requires of us — The eternal obligation of the law thereunto

Nature of the obedience or righteousness required unto justification — Original and causes of the law of creation — The substance and end of that law — The immutability or unchangeableness of it, considered absolutely, and as it was the instrument of the covenant between God and man — Arguments to prove it unchangeable; and its obligation unto the righteousness first required perpetually in force — Therefore not abrogated, not dispensed withal, not derogated from, but accomplished — This alone by Christ, and the imputation of his righteousness unto us

Our second argument shall be taken from the nature of that obedience or righteousness which God requires of us that we may be accepted of him, and approved by him. This being a large subject, if fully to be handled, I shall reduce what is of our present concernment in it unto some special heads or observations:—

1. God being a most perfect, and therefore a most free agent, all his acting towards mankind, all his dealings with them, all his constitutions and laws concerning them, are to be resolved into his own sovereign will and pleasure. No other reason can be given of the original of the whole system of them. This the Scripture testifies unto, Ps. cxv. 3; cxxxv. 6; Prov. xvi. 4; Eph. i. 9, 11; Rev. iv. 11. The being, existence, and natural circumstances of all creatures being an effect of the free counsel and pleasure of God, all that belongs unto them must be ultimately resolved thereinto.

2. Upon a supposition of some free acts of the will of God, and the execution of them, constituting an order in the things that outwardly are of him, and their mutual respect unto one another, some things may become necessary in this relative state, whose being was not absolutely necessary in its own nature. The order of all things, and their mutual respect unto one another, depend on God’s free constitution no less than their being absolutely. But upon a supposition of that constitution, things have in that order a necessary relation one to another, and all of them unto God. Wherefore, —

3. It was a free, sovereign act of God’s will, to create, effect, or produce such a creature as man is; that is, of a nature intelligent, rational, capable of moral obedience, with rewards and punishments. But on a supposition hereof, man, so freely made, could not be governed any other ways but by a moral instrument of law or rule, influencing the rational faculties of his soul unto obedience, and guiding him therein. He could not in that constitution be contained under the rule of God by a mere physical influence, as are all irrational or brute creatures. To suppose it, is to deny or destroy the essential faculty and powers wherewith he was created. Wherefore, on the supposition of his being, it was necessary that a law or rule of obedience should be prescribed unto him and be the instrument of God’s government towards him.

4. This necessary law, so far forth as it was necessary, did immediately and unavoidably ensue upon the constitution of our nature in relation unto God. Supposing the nature, being, and properties of God, with the works of creation, on the one hand; and suppose the being, existence, and the nature of man, with his necessary relation unto God, on the other; and the law whereof we speak is nothing but the rule of that relation, which can neither be nor be preserved without it. Hence is this law eternal, indispensable, admitting of no other variation than does the relation between God and man, which is a necessary exurgence from their distinct natures and properties.

5. The substance of this law was, that man, adhering unto God absolutely, universally, unchangeably, uninterruptedly, in trust, love, and fear, as the chiefest good, the first author of his being, of all the present and future advantages whereof it was capable, should yield obedience unto him, with respect unto his infinite wisdom, righteousness, and almighty power to protect, reward, and punish, in all things known to be his will and pleasure, either by the light of his own mind or especial revelation made unto him. And it is evident that no more is required unto the constitution and establishment of this law but that God be God, and man be man, with the necessary relation that must thereon ensue between them. Wherefore, —

6. This law does eternally and unchangeably oblige all men unto obedience to God, — even that obedience which it requires, and in the manner wherein it requires it; for both the substance of what it requires, and the manner of the performance of it, as unto measures and degrees, are equally necessary and unalterable, upon the suppositions laid down. For God cannot deny himself, nor is the nature of man changed as unto the essence of it, whereunto alone respect is had in this law, by any thing that can fall out. And although God might superadd unto the original obligations of this law what arbitrary commands he pleased, such as did not necessarily proceed or arise from the relation between him and us, which might be, and be continued without them; yet would they be resolved into that principle of this law, that God in all things was absolutely to be trusted and obeyed.

7. “Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world.” In the constitution of this order of things he made it possible, and foresaw it would be future, that man would rebel against the preceptive power of the law, and disturb that order of things wherein he was placed under his moral rule. This gave occasion unto that effect of infinite divine righteousness, in constituting the punishment that man should fall under, upon his transgression of this law. Neither was this an effect of arbitrary will and pleasure, any more than the law itself was. Upon the supposition of the creation of man, the law mentioned was necessary, from all the divine properties of the nature of God; and upon a supposition that man would transgress the law, God being now considered as his ruler and governor, the constitution of the punishment due unto his sin and transgression of it was a necessary effect of divine righteousness. This it would not have been had the law itself been arbitrary; but that being necessary, so was the penalty of its transgression. Wherefore, the constitution of this penalty is liable to no more change, alteration, or abrogation than the law itself, without an alteration in the state and relation between God and man.

8. This is that law which our Lord Jesus Christ came “not to destroy, but to fulfil,” that he might be “the end of it for righteousness unto them that do believe.” This law he abrogated not, nor could do so without a destruction of the relation that is between God and man, arising from, or ensuing necessarily on, their distinct beings and properties; but as this cannot be destroyed, so the Lord Christ came unto a contrary end, — namely, to repair and restore it where it was weakened. Wherefore, —

9. This law, the law of sinless, perfect obedience, with its sentence of the punishment of death on all transgressors, does and must abide in force forever in this world; for there is no more required hereunto but that God be God, and man be man. Yet shall this be farther proved:—

(1.) There is nothing, not one word, in the Scripture intimating any alteration in or abrogation of this law; so as that any thing should not be duty which it makes to be duty, or any thing not be sin which it makes to be sin, either as unto matter or degrees, or that the thing which it makes to be sin, or which is sin by the rule of it, should not merit and deserve that punishment which is declared in the sanction of it, or threatened by it: “The wages of sin is death.” If any testimony of Scripture can be produced unto either of these purposes, — namely, that either any thing is not sin, in the way of omission or commission, in the matter or manner of its performance, which is made to be so by this law, or that any such sin, or any thing that would have been sin by this is law, is exempted from the punishment threatened by it, as unto merit or desert, — it shall be attended unto. It is, therefore, in universal force towards all mankind. There is no relief in this case, but “Behold the Lamb of God.”

In exception hereunto it is pleaded, that when it was first given unto Adam, it was the rule and instrument of a covenant between God and man, — a covenant of works and perfect obedience; but upon the entrance of sin, it ceased to have the nature of a covenant unto any. And it is so ceased, that on an impossible supposition that any man should fulfil the perfect righteousness of it, yet should he not be justified, or obtain the benefit of the covenant thereby. It is not, therefore, only become ineffectual unto us as a covenant by reason of our weakness and disability to perform it, but it is ceased in its own nature so to be; but these things, as they are not unto our present purpose, so are they wholly unproved. For, —

[1.] Our discourse is not about the federal adjunct of the law, but about its moral nature only. It is enough that, as a law, it continues to oblige all mankind unto perfect obedience, under its original penalty. For hence it will unavoidably follow, that unless the commands of it be complied withal and fulfilled, the penalty will fall on all that transgress it. And those who grant that this law is still in force as unto its being a rule of obedience, or as unto its requiring duties of us, do grant all that we desire. For it requires no obedience but what it did in its original constitution, — that is, sinless and perfect; and it requires no duty, nor prohibits any sin, but under the penalty of death upon disobedience.

[2.] It is true, that he who is once a sinner, if he should afterwards yield all that perfect obedience unto God that the law requires, could not thereby obtain the benefit of the promise of the covenant. But the sole reason of it is, because he is antecedently a sinner, and so obnoxious unto the curse of the law; and no man can be obnoxious unto its curse and have a right unto its promise at the same time. But so to lay the supposition, that the same person is by any means free from the curse due unto sin, and then to deny that, upon the performance of that perfect, sinless obedience which the law requires, he should have right unto the promise of life thereby, is to deny the truth of God, and to reflect the highest dishonour upon his justice. Jesus Christ himself was justified by this law; and it is immutably true, that he who does the things of it shall live therein.

[3.] It is granted that man continued not in the observation of this law, as it was the rule of the covenant between God and him. The covenant it was not, but the rule of it; which, that it should be, was superadded unto its being as a law. For the covenant comprised things that were not any part of a result from the necessary relation of God and man. Wherefore man, by his sin as unto demerit, may be said to break this covenant, and as unto any benefit unto himself, to disannul it. It is also true, that God did never formally and absolutely renew or give again this law as a covenant a second time. Nor was there any need that so he should do, unless it were declaratively only, for so it was renewed at Sinai; for the whole of it being an emanation of eternal right and truth, it abides, and must abide, in full force forever. Wherefore, it is only thus far broken as a covenant, that all mankind having sinned against the commands of it, and so, by guilt, with the impotency unto obedience which ensued thereon, defeated themselves of any interest in its promise, and possibility of attaining any such interest, they cannot have any benefit by it. But as unto its power to oblige all mankind unto obedience, and the unchangeable truth of its promises and threatenings, it abides the same as it was from the beginning.

(2.) Take away this law, and there is left no standard of righteousness unto mankind, no certain boundaries of good and evil, but those pillars whereon God has fixed the earth are left to move and float up and down like the isle of Delos in the sea. Some say, the rule of good and evil unto men is not this law in its original constitution, but the light of nature and the dictates of reason. If they mean that light which was primigenial and concreated with our natures, and those dictates of right and wrong which reason originally suggested and improved, they only say, in other words, that this law is still the unalterable rule of obedience unto all mankind. But if they intend the remaining light of nature that continues in every individual in this depraved state thereof, and that under such additional deprivations as traditions, customs, prejudices, and lusts of all sorts, have affixed unto the most, there is nothing more irrational; and it is that which is charged with no less inconvenience than that it leaves no certain boundaries of good and evil. That which is good unto one, will, on this ground, be in its own nature evil unto another, and so on the contrary; and all the idolaters that ever were in the world might on this pretence be excused.

(3.) Conscience bears witness hereunto. There is no good nor evil required or forbidden by this law, that, upon the discovery of it, any man in the world can persuade or bribe his conscience not to comply with it in judgment, as unto his concernment therein. It will accuse and excuse, condemn and free him, according to the sentence of this law, let him do what he can to the contrary.

In brief, it is acknowledged that God, by virtue of his supreme dominion over all, may, in some instances, change the nature and order of things, so as that the precepts of the divine law shall not in them operate in their ordinary efficacy. So was it in the case of his command unto Abraham to slay his son, and unto the Israelites to rob the Egyptians. But on a supposition of the continuance of that order of things which this law is the preservation of, such is the intrinsic nature of the good and evil commanded and forbidden therein, that it is not the subject of divine dispensation; as even the schoolmen generally grant.

10. From what we have discoursed, two things do unavoidably ensue:—

(1.) That whereas all mankind have by sin fallen under the penalty threatened unto the transgression of this law, — and [the] suffering of this penalty, which is eternal death, being inconsistent with acceptance before God, or the enjoyment of blessedness, — it is utterly impossible that any one individual person of the posterity of Adam should be justified in the sight of God, accepted with him or blessed by him, unless this penalty be answered, undergone, and suffered, by them or for them. The dikaiōma tou Theou herein is not to be abolished, but established.

(2.) That unto the same end, of acceptation with God, justification before him, and blessedness from him, the righteousness of this eternal law must be fulfilled in us in such a way as that, in the judgment of God, which is according unto truth, we may be esteemed to have fulfilled it, and be dealt with accordingly. For upon a supposition of a failure herein, the sanction of the law is not arbitrary, so as that the penalty may or may not be inflicted, but necessary, from the righteousness of God as the supreme governor of all.

11. About the first of these, our controversy is with the Socinians only, who deny the satisfaction of Christ, and any necessity thereof. Concerning this I have treated elsewhere at large, and expect not to see an answer unto what I have disputed on that subject. As unto the latter of them, we must inquire how we may be supposed to comply with the rule, and answer the righteousness of this unalterable law, whose authority we can no way be exempted from. And that which we plead is, that the obedience and righteousness of Christ imputed unto us, — his obedience as the surety of the new covenant, granted unto us, made ours by the gracious constitution, sovereign appointment, and donation of God, — is that whereon we are judged and esteemed to have answered the righteousness of the law. “By the obedience of one many are made righteous,” Rom. v. 19. “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” Rom. viii. 4. And hence we argue, —

If there be no other way whereby the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us, without which we cannot be justified, but must fall inevitably under the penalty threatened unto the transgression of it, but only the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us, then is that the sole righteousness whereby we are justified in the sight of God. But the former is true, and so, therefore is the latter.

12. On the supposition of this law, and its original obligation unto obedience, with its sanction and threatenings, there can be but one of three ways whereby we may come to be justified before God, who have sinned, and are no way able in ourselves to perform the obedience for the future which it does require. And each of them has a respect unto a sovereign act of God with reference unto this law. The first is the abrogation of it, that it should no more oblige us either unto obedience or punishment. This we have proved impossible; and they will woefully deceive their own souls who shall trust unto it. The second is by transferring of its obligation, unto the end of justification, on a surety or common undertaker. This is that which we plead for, as the substance of the mystery of the gospel, considering the person and grace of this undertaker or surety. And herein all things do tend unto the exaltation of the glory of God in all the holy properties of his nature, with the fulfilling and establishing of the law itself, Matt. v. 17; Rom. iii. 31; viii. 4; x. 3, 4. The third way is by an act of God towards the law, and another towards us, whereby the nature of the righteousness which the law requires is changed; which we shall examine as the only reserve against our present argument.

13. It is said, therefore, that by our own personal obedience we do answer the righteousness of the law, so far as it is required of us. But whereas no sober person can imagine that we can, or that any one in our lapsed condition ever did, yield in our own persons that perfect, sinless obedience unto God which is required of us in the law of creation, two things are supposed, that our obedience, such as it is, may be accepted with God as if it were sinless and perfect. For although some will not allow that the righteousness of Christ is imputed unto us for what it is, yet they contend that our own righteousness is imputed unto us for what it is not. Of these things the one respects the law, the other our obedience.

14. That which respects the law is not the abrogation of it. For although this would seem the most expedite way for the reconciliation of this difficulty, — namely, that the law of creation is utterly abrogated by the gospel, both as unto its obligation unto obedience and punishment, and no law is to be continued in force but that which requires only sincere obedience of us, whereof there is, as unto duties [and] the manner of their performance, not any absolute rule or measure, — yet this is not by many pretended. They say not that this law is so abrogated as that it should not have the power and efficacy of a law towards us. Nor is it possible it should be so; nor can any pretence be given how it should so be. It is true, it was broken by man, is so by us all, and that with respect unto its principal end of our subjection unto God and dependence upon him, according to the rule of it; but it is foolish to think that the fault of those unto whom a righteous law is rightly given should abrogate or disannul the law itself. A law that is good and just may cease and expire as unto any power of obligation, upon the ceasing or expiration of the relation which it did respect; so the apostle tells us that “when the husband of a woman is dead, she is free from the law of her husband,” Rom. vii. 2. But the relation between God and us, which was constituted in our first creation, can never cease. But a law cannot be abrogated without a new law given, and made by the same or an equal power that made it, either expressly revoking it, or enjoining things inconsistent with it and contradictory unto its observation. In the latter way the law of Mosaical institutions was abrogated and disannulled. There was not any positive law made for the taking of it away; but the constitution and introduction of a new way of worship by the gospel, inconsistent with it and contrary unto it, deprived it of all its obligatory power and efficacy. But neither of these ways has God taken away the obligation of the original law of obedience, either as unto duties or recompenses of reward. Neither is there any direct law made for its abrogation; nor has he given any new law of moral obedience, either inconsistent with or contrary unto it: yea, in the gospel it is declared to be established and fulfilled.

It is true, as was observed before, that this law was made the instrument of a covenant between God and man; and so there is another reason of it, for God has actually introduced another covenant inconsistent with it, and contrary unto it. But yet neither does this instantly, and “ipso facto,” free all men unto the law, in the way of a covenant. For, unto the obligation of a law, there is no more required but that the matter of it be just and righteous; that it be given or made by him who has just authority so to give or make it; and be sufficiently declared unto them who are to be obliged by it. Hence the making and promulgation of a new law does “ipso facto” abrogate any former law that is contrary unto it, and frees all men from obedience unto it who were before obliged by it. But in a covenant it is not so. For a covenant does not operate by mere sovereign authority; it becomes not a covenant without the consent of them with whom it is made. Wherefore, no benefit accrues unto any, or freedom from the old covenant, by the constitution of the new, unless he has actually complied with it, has chosen it, and is interested in it thereby. The first covenant made with Adam, we did in him consent unto and accept of. And therein, not withstanding our sin, do we and must we abide, — that is, under the obligation of it unto duty and punishment, — until by faith we are made partakers of the new. It cannot therefore be said, that we are not concerned in the fulfilling of the righteousness of this law, because it is abrogated.

15. Nor can it be said that the law has received a new interpretation, whereby it is declared that it does not oblige, nor shall be construed for the future to oblige, any unto sinless and perfect obedience, but may be complied with on far easier terms. For the law being given unto us when we were sinless, and on purpose to continue and preserve us in that condition, it is absurd to say that it did not oblige us unto sinless obedience; and not an interpretation, but a plain depravation of its sense and meaning. Nor is any such thing once intimated in the gospel. Yea, the discourses of our Saviour upon the law are absolutely destructive of any such imagination. For whereas the scribes and Pharisees had attempted, by their false glosses and interpretations, to accommodate the law unto the inclinations and lusts of men (a course since pursued both nationally and practically, as all who design to burden the consciences of men with their own commands do endeavour constantly to recompense them by an indulgence with respect unto the commands of God), he, on the contrary, rejects all such pretended epieikias [accommodations] and interpretations, restoring the law unto its pristine crown, as the Jews’ tradition is, that the Messiah shall do.

16. Nor can a relaxation of the law be pretended, if there be any such thing in rule; for if there be, it respects the whole being of the law, and consists either in the suspension of its whole obligation, at least for a season, or the substitution of another person to answer its demands, who was not in the original obligation, in the room of them that were. For so some say that the Lord Christ was made under the law for us by an act of relaxation of the original obligation of the law; how properly, “ipsi viderint.” But here, in no sense, it can have place.

17. The act of God towards the law in this case intended, is a derogation from its obliging power as unto obedience. For whereas it did originally oblige unto perfect, sinless obedience in all duties, both as unto their substance and the manner of their performance, it shall be allowed to oblige us still unto obedience, but not unto that which is absolutely the same, especially not as unto the completeness and perfection of it; for if it do so, either it is fulfilled in the righteousness of Christ for us, or no man living can ever be justified in the sight of God. Wherefore, by an act of derogation from its original power, it is provided that it shall oblige us still unto obedience, but not that which is absolutely sinless and perfect; but although it be performed with less intension of love unto God, or in a lower degree than it did at first require, so it be sincere and universal as unto all parts of it, it is all that the law now requires of us. This is all that it now requires, as it is adapted unto the service of the new covenant, and made the rule of obedience according to the law of Christ. Hereby is its preceptive part, so far as we are concerned in it, answered and complied withal. Whether these things are so or no, we shall see immediately in a few words.

18. Hence it follows, that the act of God with respect unto our obedience is not an act of judgment according unto any rule or law of his own; but an acceptilation, or an esteeming, accounting, accepting that as perfect, or in the room of that which is perfect, which really and in truth is not so.

19. It is added, that both these depend on, and are the procurements of, the obedience, suffering, and merits of Christ. For on their account it is that our weak and imperfect obedience is accepted as if it were perfect; and the power of the law, to require obedience absolutely perfect, is taken away. And these being the effects of the righteousness of Christ, that righteousness may on their account, and so far, be said to be imputed unto us.

20. But notwithstanding the great endeavours that have been used to give a colour of truth unto these things, they are both of them but fictions and imaginations of men, that have no ground in the Scripture, nor do comply with the experience of them that believe. For to touch a little on the latter, in the first place, there is no true believer but has these two things fixed in his mind and conscience, —

(1.) That there is nothing in principles, habits, qualities, or actions, wherein he comes short of a perfect compliance with the holy law of God, even as it requires perfect obedience, but that it has in it the nature of sin, and that in itself deserving the curse annexed originally unto the breach of that law. They do not, therefore, apprehend that its obligation is taken off, weakened, or derogated from in any thing. (2.) That there is no relief for him, with respect unto what the law requires or unto what it threatens, but by the mediation of Jesus Christ alone, who of God is made righteousness unto him. Wherefore, they do not rest in or on the acceptation of their own obedience, such as it is, to answer the law, but trust unto Christ alone for their acceptation with God.

21. They are both of them doctrinally untrue; for as unto the former, — (1.) It is unwritten. There is no intimation in the Scripture of any such dispensation of God with reference unto the original law of obedience. Much is spoken of our deliverance from the curse of the law by Christ, but of the abatement of its preceptive power nothing at all. (2.) It is contrary to the Scripture; for it is plainly affirmed that the law is not to be abolished, but fulfilled; not to be made void, but to be established; that the righteousness of it must be fulfilled in us. (3.) It is a supposition both unreasonable and impossible. For, — [1.] The law was a representation unto us of the holiness of God, and his righteousness in the government of his creatures. There can be no alteration made herein, seeing with God himself there is no variableness nor shadow of changing. [2.] It would leave no standard of righteousness, but only a Lesbian rule, which turns and applies itself unto the light and abilities of men, and leaves at least as many various measures of righteousness as there are believers in the world. [3.] It includes a variation in the centre of all religion, which is the natural and moral relation of men unto God; for so there must be, if all that was once necessary thereunto do not still continue so to be. [4.] It is dishonourable unto the mediation of Christ; for it makes the principal end of it to be, that God should accept of a righteousness unto our justification inexpressibly beneath that which he required in the law of our creation. And this in a sense makes him the minister of sin, or that he has procured an indulgence unto it; not by the way of satisfaction and pardon, whereby he takes away the guilt of it from the church, but by taking from it its nature and demerit, so as that what was so originally should not continue so to be, or at least not to deserve the punishment it was first threatened withal. [5.] It reflects on the goodness of God himself; for on this supposition, that he has reduced his law into that state and order as to be satisfied by an observation of it so weak, so imperfect, accompanied with so many failures and sins, as it is with the obedience of the best men in this world (whatever thoughts unto the contrary the frenzy of pride may suggest unto the minds of any), what reason can be given, consistent with his goodness, why he should give a law at first of perfect obedience, which one sin laid all mankind under the penalty of unto their ruin?

22. All these things, and sundry others of the same kind, do follow also on the second supposition, of an acceptilation or an imaginary estimation of that as perfect which is imperfect, as sinless which is attended with sins innumerable. But the judgment of God is according unto truth; neither will he reckon that unto us for a perfect righteousness in his sight which is so imperfect as to be like tattered rags, especially having promised unto us robes of righteousness and garments of salvation.

That which necessarily follows on these discourses is, That there is no other way whereby the original, immutable law of God may be established and fulfilled with respect unto us, but by the imputation of the perfect obedience and righteousness of Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness unto all that do believe.


Chapter XII. The imputation of the obedience of Christ unto the law declared and vindicated

Imputation of the obedience of Christ no less necessary than that of his suffering, on the same ground — Objections against it:— First, That it is impossible — Management hereof by Socinus — Ground of this objection, that the Lord Christ was for himself obliged unto all the obedience he yielded unto God, and performed it for himself, answered — The obedience inquired after, the obedience of the person of Christ the Son of God — In his whole person Christ was not under the law — He designed the obedience he performed for us, not for himself — This actual obedience not necessary as a qualification of his person unto the discharge of his office — The foundation of this obedience in his being made man, and of the posterity of Abraham, not for himself, but for us — Right of the human nature unto glory, by virtue of union — Obedience necessary unto the human nature, as Christ in it was made under the law — This obedience properly for us — Instances of that nature among men — Christ obeyed as a public person, and so not for himself — Human nature of Christ subject unto the law, so an eternal rule of dependence on God, and subjection to him; not as prescribed unto us whilst we are in this world, in order unto our future blessedness or reward — Second objection, That it is useless, answered — He that is pardoned all his sins is not thereon esteemed to have done all that is required of him — Not to be unrighteous negatively, not the same with being righteous positively — The law obliges both unto punishment and obedience — How, and in what sense — Pardon of sin gives no title to eternal life — The righteousness of Christ, who is one, imputed unto many — Arguments proving the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto the justification of life

From the foregoing general argument another does issue in particular, with respect unto the imputation of the active obedience or righteousness of Christ unto us, as an essential part of that righteousness whereon we are justified before God. And it is as follows:— “If it were necessary that the Lord Christ, as our surety, should undergo the penalty of the law for us, or in our stead, because we have all sinned, then it was necessary also that, as our surety, he should yield obedience unto the preceptive part of the law for us also; and if the imputation of the former be needful for us unto our justification before God, then is the imputation of the latter also necessary unto the same end and purpose.” For why was it necessary, or why would God have it so, that the Lord Christ, as the surety of the covenant, should undergo the curse and penalty of the law, which we had incurred the guilt of by sin, that we may be justified in his sight? Was it not that the glory and honour of his righteousness, as the author of the law, and the supreme governor of all mankind thereby, might not be violated in the absolute impunity of the infringers of it? And if it were requisite unto the glory of God that the penalty of the law should be undergone for us, or suffered by our surety in our stead, because we had sinned, wherefore is it not as requisite unto the glory of God that the preceptive part of the law be complied withal for us, inasmuch as obedience thereunto is required of us? And as we are no more able of ourselves to full the law in a way of obedience than to undergo the penalty of it, so as that we may be justified thereby; so no reason can be given why God is not as much concerned, in honour and glory, that the preceptive power and part of the law be complied withal by perfect obedience, as that the sanction of it be established by undergoing the penalty of it. Upon the same grounds, therefore, that the Lord Christ’s suffering the penalty of the law for us was necessary that we might be justified in the sight of God, and that the satisfaction he made [might] thereby be imputed unto us, as if we ourselves had made satisfaction unto God, as Bellarmine speaks and grants; on the same it was equally necessary, — that is, as unto the glory and honour of the Legislator and supreme Governor of all by the law, — that he should fulfil the preceptive part of it, in his perfect obedience thereunto; which also is to be imputed unto us for our justification.

Concerning the first of these, — namely, the satisfaction of Christ, and the imputation of it unto us, — our principal difference is with the Socinians. And I have elsewhere written so much in the vindication of the truth therein, that I shall not here again re-assume the same argument; it is here, therefore, taken for granted, although I know that there are some different apprehensions about the notion of Christ’s suffering in our stead, and of the imputation of those sufferings unto us. But I shall here take no notice of them, seeing I press this argument no farther, but only so far forth that the obedience of Christ unto the law, and the imputation thereof unto us, are no less necessary unto our justification before God, than his suffering of the penalty of the law, and the imputation thereof unto us, unto the same end. The nature of this imputation, and what it is formally that is imputed, we have considered elsewhere.

That the obedience of Christ the mediator is thus imputed to us, shall be afterwards proved in particular by testimonies of the Scripture. Here I intend only the vindication of the argument as before laid down, which will take us up a little more time than ordinary. For there is nothing in the whole doctrine of justification which meets with a more fierce and various opposition; but the truth is great, and will prevail.

The things that are usually objected and vehemently urged against the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto our justification, may be reduced unto three heads — I. That it is impossible. II. That it is useless. III. That it is pernicious to believe it. And if the arguments used for the enforcement of these objections be as cogent as the charge itself is fierce and severe, they will unavoidably overthrow the persuasions of it in the minds of all sober persons. But there is ofttimes a wide difference between what is said and what is proved, as will appear in the present case:—

I. It is pleaded impossible, on this single ground, — namely, “That the obedience of Christ unto the law was due from him on his own account, and performed by him for himself, as a man made under the law.” Now, what was necessary unto himself, and done for himself, cannot be said to be done for us, so as to be imputed unto us.

II. It is pretended to be useless from hence, because all “our sins of omission and commission being pardoned in our justification on the account of the death and satisfaction of Christ, we are thereby made completely righteous; so as that there is not the least necessity for, or use of, the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto us.”

III. Pernicious also they say it is, as that which takes away “the necessity of our own personal obedience, introducing antinomianism, libertinism, and all manner of evils.”

For this last part of the charge, I refer it unto its proper place; for although it be urged by some against this part of the doctrine of justification in a peculiar manner, yet is it managed by others against the whole of it. And although we should grant that the obedience of Christ unto the law is not imputed unto us unto our justification, yet shall we not be freed from disturbance by this false accusation, unless we will renounce the whole of the satisfaction and merit of Christ also; and we intend not to purchase our peace with the whole world at so dear a rate. Wherefore, I shall in its proper place give this part of the charge its due consideration, as it reflects on the whole doctrine of justification, and all the causes thereof, which we believe and profess.

I. The first part of this charge, concerning the impossibility of the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto us, is insisted on by Socinus de Servat., part iii. cap. 5. And there has been nothing since pleaded unto the same purpose but what has been derived from him, or wherein, at least, he has not prevented the inventions of other men, and gone before them. And he makes this consideration the principal engine wherewith he endeavours the overthrow of the whole doctrine of the merit of Christ; for he supposes that if all he did in a way of obedience was due from himself on his own account, and was only the duty which he owed unto God for himself in his station and circumstances, as a man in this world, it cannot be meritorious for us, nor any way imputed unto us. And in like manner, to weaken the doctrine of his satisfaction, and the imputation thereof unto us, he contends that Christ offered as a priest for himself, in that kind of offering which he made on the cross, part ii. cap. 22. And his real opinion was, that whatever was of offering or sacrifice in the death of Christ, it was for himself; that is, it was an act of obedience unto God, which pleased him, as the savour of a sweet-smelling sacrifice. His offering for us is only the presentation of himself in the presence of God in heaven; now he has no more to do for himself in a way of duty. And the truth is, if the obedience of Christ had respect unto himself only, — that is, if he yielded it unto God on the necessity of his condition, and did not do it for us, — I see no foundation left to assert his merit upon, no more than I do for the imputation of it unto them that believe.

That which we plead is, that the Lord Christ fulfilled the whole law for us; he did not only undergo the penalty of it due unto our sins, but also yielded that perfect obedience which it did require. And herein I shall not immix myself in the debate of the distinction between the active and passive obedience of Christ; for he exercised the highest active obedience in his suffering, when he offered himself to God through the eternal Spirit. And all his obedience, considering his person, was mixed with suffering, as a part of his exinanition and humiliation; whence it is said, that “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” And however doing and suffering are in various categories of things, yet Scripture testimonies are not to be regulated by philosophical artifices and terms. And it must needs be said, that the sufferings of Christ, as they were purely penal, are imperfectly called his passive righteousness; for all righteousness is either in habit or in action, whereof suffering is neither; nor is any man righteous, or so esteemed, from what he suffers. Neither do sufferings give satisfaction unto the commands of the law, which require only obedience. And hence it will unavoidably follow, that we have need of more than the mere sufferings of Christ, whereby we may be justified before God, if so be that any righteousness be required thereunto; but the whole of what I intend is, that Christ’s fulfilling of the law, in obedience unto its commands, is no less imputed unto us for our justification than his undergoing the penalty of it is.

I cannot but judge it sounds ill in the ears of all Christians, “That the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, as our mediator and surety, unto the whole law of God, was for himself alone, and not for us;” or, that what he did therein was not that he might be the end of the law for righteousness unto them that do believe, nor a means of the fulfilling of the righteousness of the law in us; — especially considering that the faith of the church is, that he was given to us, born to us; that for us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, and did and suffered what was required of him. But whereas some who deny the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto us for our justification, do insist principally on the second thing mentioned, — namely, the unusefulness of it, — I shall under this part of the charge consider only the arguing of Socinus; which is the whole of what some at present do endeavour to perplex the truth withal.

To this purpose is his discourse, part iii. cap. 5. De Servat.: “Jam vero manifestum est, Christum quia homo natus fuerat, et quidem, ut inquit Paulus, factus sub lege, legi divinæ inquam, quæ æterna et immutabilis est, non minus quam cæteri homines obnoxium fuisse. Alioqui potuisset Christus æternam Dei legem negligere, sive etiam universam si voluisset infringere, quod impium est vel cogitare. Immo ut supra alicubi explicatum fuit, nisi ipse Christus legi divinæ servandæ obnoxius fuisset, ut ex Pauli verbis colligitur, non potuisset iis, qui ei legi servandæ obnoxii sunt, opem ferre et eos ad immortalitatis firmam spem traducere. Non differebat igitur hac quidem ex parte Christus, quando homo natus erat, a cæteris hominibus. Quocirca nec etiam pro aliis, magis quam quilibet alius homo, legem divinam conservando satisfacere potuit, quippe qui ipse eam servare omnino debuit.” I have transcribed his words, that it may appear with whose weapons some young disputers among ourselves do contend against the truth.

The substance of his plea is, — that our Lord Jesus Christ was for himself, or on his own account, obliged unto all that obedience which he performed. And this he endeavours to prove with this reason, — “Because if it were otherwise, then he might, if he would, have neglected the whole law of God, and have broken it at his pleasure.” For he forgot to consider, that if he were not obliged unto it upon his own account, but was so on ours, whose cause he had undertaken, the obligation on him unto most perfect obedience was equal to what it would have been had he been originally obliged on his own account. However, hence he infers “That what he did could not be for us, because it was so for himself; no more than what any other man is bound to do in a way of duty for himself can be esteemed to have been done also for another.” For he will allow of none of those considerations of the person of Christ which make what he did and suffered of another nature and efficacy than what can be done or suffered by any other man. All that he adds in the process of his discourse is, — “That whatever Christ did that was not required by the law in general, was upon the especial command of God, and so done for himself; whence it cannot be imputed unto us.” And hereby he excludes the church from any benefit by the mediation of Christ, but only what consists in his doctrine, example, and the exercise of his power in heaven for our good; which was the thing that he aimed at. But we shall consider those also which make use of his arguments, though not as yet openly unto all his ends.

To clear the truth herein, the things ensuing must be observed, —

1. The obedience we treat of was the obedience of Christ the mediator: but the obedience of Christ, as “the mediator of the covenant,” was the obedience of his person; for “God redeemed his church with his own blood,” Acts xx. 28. It was performed in the human nature; but the person of Christ was he that performed it. As in the person of a man, some of his acts, as to the immediate principle of operation, are acts of the body, and some are so of the soul; yet, in their performance and accomplishment, are they the acts of the person: so the acts of Christ in his mediation, as to their energēmata, or immediate operation, were the acting of his distinct natures, — some of the divine and some of the human, immediately; but as unto their apotelesmata, and the perfecting efficacy of them, they were the acts of his whole person, — his acts who was that person, and whose power of operation was a property of his person. Wherefore, the obedience of Christ, which we plead to have been for us, was the obedience of the Son of God; but the Son of God was never absolutely made hupo nomon, — “under the law,” — nor could be formally obliged thereby. He was, indeed, as the apostle witnesses, made so in his human nature, wherein he performed this obedience: “Made of a woman, made under the law,” Gal. iv. 4. He was so far forth made under the law, as he was made of a woman; for in his person he abode “Lord of the sabbath,” Mark ii. 28; and therefore of the whole law. But the obedience itself was the obedience of that person who never was, nor ever could absolutely be, made under the law in his whole person; for the divine nature cannot be subjected unto an outward work of its own, such as the law is, nor can it have an authoritative, commanding power over it, as it must have if it were made hupo nomon, — “under the law.” Thus the apostle argues that “Levi paid tithes in Abraham,” because he was then in his loins, when Abraham himself paid tithes unto Melchizedek, Heb. vii. And thence he proves that he was inferior unto the Lord Christ, of whom Melchizedek was a type. But may it not thereon be replied, that then no less the Lord Christ was in the loins of Abraham than Levi? “For verily,” as the same apostle speaks, “he took on him the seed of Abraham.” It is true, therefore, that he was so in respect of his human nature; but as he was typed and represented by Melchizedek in his whole person, “without father, without mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life,” so he was not absolutely in Abraham’s loins, and was exempted from being tithed in him. Wherefore, the obedience whereof we treat, being not the obedience of the human nature abstractedly, however performed in and by the human nature; but the obedience of the person of the Son of God, however the human nature was subject to the law (in what sense, and unto what ends, shall be declared afterwards); it was not for himself, nor could be for himself; because his whole person was not obliged thereunto. It is therefore a fond thing, to compare the obedience of Christ with that of any other man, whose whole person is under the law. For although that may not be for himself and others (which yet we shall show that in some cases it may), yet this may, yea, must be for others, and not for himself. This, then, we must strictly hold unto. If the obedience that Christ yielded unto the law were for himself, whereas it was the act of his person, his whole person, and the divine nature therein, were “made under the law;” which cannot be. For although it is acknowledged that, in the ordination of God, his exinanition was to precede his glorious, majestical exaltation, as the Scripture witnesses, Phil. ii. 9; Luke xxiv. 26; Rom. xiv. 9; yet absolutely his glory was an immediate consequent of the hypostatical union, Heb. i. 6; Matt. ii. 11.

Socinus, I confess, evades the force of this argument, by denying the divine person of Christ. But in this disputation I take that for granted, as having proved it elsewhere beyond what any of his followers are able to contradict. And if we may not build on truths by him denied, we shall scarce have any one principle of evangelical truth left us to prove any thing from. However, I intend them only at present who concur with him in the matter under debate, but renounce his opinion concerning the person of Christ.

2. As our Lord Jesus Christ owed not in his own person this obedience for himself, by virtue of any authority or power that the law had over him, so he designed and intended it not for himself, but for us. This, added unto the former consideration, gives full evidence unto the truth pleaded for; for if he was not obliged unto it for himself, — his person that yielded it not being under the law, — and if he intended it not for himself; then it must be for us, or be useless. It was in our human nature that he performed all this obedience. Now, the susception of our nature was a voluntary act of his own, with reference unto some end and purpose; and that which was the end of the assumption of our nature was, in like manner, the end of all that he did therein. Now, it was for us, and not for himself, that he assumed our nature; nor was any thing added unto him thereby. Wherefore, in the issue of his work, he proposes this only unto himself, that he may be “glorified with that glory which he had with the Father before the world was,” by the removal of that vail which was put upon it in his exinanition. But that it was for us that he assumed our nature, is the foundation of Christian religion, as it is asserted by the apostle, Heb. ii. 14; Phil. ii. 5–8.

Some of the ancient schoolmen disputed, that the Son of God should have been incarnate although man had not sinned and fallen; the same opinion was fiercely pursued by Osiander, as I have elsewhere declared: but none of them once imagined that he should have been so made man as to be made under the law, and be obliged thereby unto that obedience which now he has performed; but they judged that immediately he was to have been a glorious head unto the whole creation. For it is a common notion and presumption of all Christians, but only such as will sacrifice such notions unto their own private conceptions, that the obedience which Christ yielded unto the law on the earth, in the state and condition wherein he yielded it, was not for himself, but for the church, which was obliged unto perfect obedience, but was not able to accomplish it. That this was his sole end and design in it is a fundamental article, if I mistake not, of the creed of most Christians in the world; and to deny it does consequentially overthrow all the grace and love both of the Father and [of the] Son in his mediation.

It is said, “That this obedience was necessary as a qualification of his person, that he might be meet to be a mediator for us; and therefore was for himself.” It belongs unto the necessary constitution of his person, with respect unto his mediatory work; but this I positively deny. The Lord Christ was every way meet for the whole work of mediation, by the ineffable union of the human nature with the divine, which exalted it in dignity, honour, and worth, above any thing or all things that ensued thereon. For hereby he became in his whole person the object of all divine worship and honour; for “when he bringeth the First-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” Again, that which is an effect of the person of the Mediator, as constituted such, is not a qualification necessary unto its constitution; that is, what he did as mediator did not concur to the making of him meet so to be. But of this nature was all the obedience which he yielded unto the law; for as such “it became him to fulfil all righteousness.”

Whereas, therefore, he was neither made man nor of the posterity of Abraham for himself, but for the church, — namely, to become thereby the surety of the covenant, and representative of the whole, — his obedience as a man unto the law in general, and as a son of Abraham unto the law of Moses, was for us, and not for himself, so designed, so performed; and, without a respect unto the church, was of no use unto himself. He was born to us, and given to us; lived for us, and died for us; obeyed for us, and suffered for us, — that “by the obedience of one many might be made righteous.” This was the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ;” and this is the faith of the catholic church. And what he did for us is imputed unto us. This is included in the very notion of his doing it for us, which cannot be spoken in any sense, unless that which he so did be imputed unto us. And I think men ought to be wary that they do not, by distinctions and studied evasions, for the defence of their own private opinions, shake the foundations of Christian religion. And I am sure it will be easier for them, as it is in the proverb, to wrest the club out of the hand of Hercules, than to dispossess the minds of true believers of this persuasion: “That what the Lord Christ did in obedience unto God, according unto the law, he designed in his love and grace to do it for them.” He needed no obedience for himself, he came not into a capacity of yielding obedience for himself, but for us; and therefore for us it was that he fulfilled the law in obedience unto God, according unto the terms of it. The obligation that was on him unto obedience was originally no less for us, no less needful unto us, no more for himself, no more necessary unto him, than the obligation was on him, as the surety of the covenant, to suffer the penalty of the law, was either the one or the other.

3. Setting aside the consideration of the grace and love of Christ, and the compact between the Father and the Son as unto his undertaking for us, which undeniably proves all that he did in the pursuit of them to be done for us, and not for himself; I say, setting aside the consideration of these things, and the human nature of Christ, by virtue of its union with the person of the Son of God, had a right unto, and might have immediately been admitted into, the highest glory whereof it was capable, without any antecedent obedience unto the law. And this is apparent from hence, in that, from the first instant of that union, the whole person of Christ, with our nature existing therein, was the object of all divine worship from angels and men; wherein consists the highest exaltation of that nature.

It is true, there was a peculiar glory that he was actually to be made partaker of, with respect unto his antecedent obedience and suffering, Phil. ii. 8, 9. The actual possession of this glory was, in the ordination of God, to be consequential unto his obeying and suffering, not for himself, but for us. But as unto the right and capacity of the human nature in itself, all the glory whereof it was capable was due unto it from the instant of its union; for it was therein exalted above the condition that any creature is capable of by mere creation. And it is but a Socinian fiction, that the first foundation of the divine glory of Christ was laid in his obedience, which was only the way of his actual possession of that part of his glory which consists in his mediatory power and authority over all. The real foundation of the whole was laid in the union of his person; whence he prays that the Father would glorify him (as unto manifestation) with that glory which he had with him before the world was.

I will grant that the Lord Christ was “viator” whilst he was in this world, and not absolutely “possessor;” yet I say withal, he was so, not that any such condition was necessary unto him for himself, but he took it upon him by especial dispensation for us. And, therefore, the obedience he performed in that condition was for us, and not for himself.

4. It is granted, therefore, that the human nature of Christ was made hupo nomon, as the apostle affirms, “That which was made of a woman, was made under the law.” Hereby obedience became necessary unto him, as he was and whilst he was “viator.” But this being by especial dispensation, — intimated in the expression of it, he was “made under the law,” namely, as he was “made of a woman,” by especial dispensation and condescension, expressed, Phil. ii. 6–8, — the obedience he yielded thereon was for us, and not for himself. And this is evident from hence, for he was so made under the law as that not only he owed obedience unto the precepts of it, but he was made obnoxious unto its curse. But I suppose it will not be said that he was so for himself, and therefore not for us. We owed obedience unto the law, and were obnoxious unto the curse of it, or hupodikoi tō Theō. Obedience was required of us, and was as necessary unto us if we would enter into life, as the answering of the curse for us was if we would escape death eternal. Christ, as our surety, is “made under the law” for us, whereby he becomes liable and obliged unto the obedience which the law required, and unto the penalty that it threatened. Who shall now dare to say that he underwent the penalty of the law for us indeed, but he yielded obedience unto it for himself only? The whole harmony of the work of his mediation would be disordered by such a supposition.

Judah, the son of Jacob, undertook to be a bondsman instead of Benjamin his brother, that he might go free, Gen. xliv. 33. There is no doubt but Joseph might have accepted of the stipulation. Had he done so, the service and bondage he undertook had been necessary unto Judah, and righteous for him to bear: howbeit he had undergone it, and performed his duty in it, not for himself, but for his brother Benjamin; and unto Benjamin it would have been imputed in his liberty. So when the apostle Paul wrote these words unto Philemon concerning Onesimus, Ei de ti ēdikēse se, ē opheilen, touto emoi ellogei, egō apotisō, verse 18, — “ ‘If he hath wronged thee,’ dealt unrighteously or injuriously with thee, ‘or oweth thee ought,’ wherein thou hast suffered loss by him, ‘put that on mine account,’ or impute it all unto me, ‘I will repay it,’ or answer for it all,” — he supposes that Philemon might have a double action against Onesimus, the one “injuriarum,” and the other “damni” or “debiti,” of wrong and injury, and of loss or debt, which are distinct actions in the law: “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought.” Hereon he proposes himself, and obliges himself by his express obligation: Egō Paulos egrapsa tē emē cheiri, — “I Paul have written it with mine own hand,” that he would answer for both, and pay back a valuable consideration if required. Hereby was he obliged in his own person to make satisfaction unto Philemon; but yet he was to do it for Onesimus, and not for himself. Whatever obedience, therefore, was due from the Lord Christ, as to his human nature, whilst in the form of a servant, either as a man or as an Israelite, seeing he was so not necessarily, by the necessity of nature for himself, but by voluntary condescension and stipulation for us; for us it was, and not for himself.

5. The Lord Christ, in his obedience, was not a private but a public person. He obeyed as he was the surety of the covenant, — as the mediator between God and man. This, I suppose, will not be denied. He can by no imagination be considered out of that capacity. But what a public person does as a public person, — that is, as a representative of others, and an undertaker for them, — whatever may be his own concernment therein, he does it not for himself, but for others. And if others were not concerned therein, if it were not for them, what he does would be of no use or signification; yea, it implies a contradiction that any one should do any thing as a public person, and do it for himself only. He who is a public person may do that wherein he alone is concerned, but he cannot do so as he is a public person. Wherefore, as Socinus, and those that follow him, would have Christ to have offered for himself, which is to make him a mediator for himself, his offering being a mediatory act, which is both foolish and impious; so to affirm his mediatory obedience, his obedience as a public person, to have been for himself, and not for others, has but little less of impiety in it.

6. It is granted, that the Lord Christ having a human nature, which was a creature, it was impossible but that it should be subject unto the law of creation; for there is a relation that does necessarily arise from, and depend upon, the beings of a creator and a creature. Every rational creature is eternally obliged, from the nature of God, and its relation thereunto, to love him, obey him, depend upon him, submit unto him, and to make him its end, blessedness, and reward. But the law of creation, thus considered, does not respect the world and this life only, but the future state of heaven and eternity also; and this law the human nature of Christ is subject unto in heaven and glory, and cannot but be so whilst it is a creature, and not God, — that is, whilst it has its own being. Nor do any men fancy such a transfusion of divine properties into the human nature of Christ, as that it should be self-subsisting, and in itself absolutely immense; for this would openly destroy it. Yet none will say that he is now hupo nomon, — “under the law,” — in the sense intended by the apostle. But the law, in the sense described, the human nature of Christ was subject unto, on its own account, whilst he was in this world. And this is sufficient to answer the objection of Socinus, mentioned at the entrance of this discourse, — namely, that if the Lord Christ were not obliged unto obedience for himself, then might he, if he would, neglect the whole law, or infringe it; for besides that it is a foolish imagination concerning that “holy thing” which was hypostatically united unto the Son of God, and thereby rendered incapable of any deviation from the divine will, the eternal, indispensable law of love, adherence, and dependence on God, under which the human nature of Christ was, and is, as a creature, gives sufficient security against such suppositions.

But there is another consideration of the law of God, — namely, as it is imposed on creatures by especial dispensation, for some time and for some certain end, with some considerations, rules, and orders that belong not essentially unto the law; as before described. This is the nature of the written law of God, which the Lord Christ was made under, not necessarily, as a creature, but by especial dispensation. For the law, under this consideration, is presented unto us as such, not absolutely and eternally, but whilst we are in this world, and that with this especial end, that by obedience thereunto we may obtain the reward of eternal life. And it is evident that the obligation of the law, under this consideration, ceases when we come to the enjoyment of that reward. It obliges us no more formally by its command, “Do this, and live,” when the life promised is enjoyed. In this sense the Lord Christ was not made subject unto the law for himself, nor did yield obedience unto it for himself; for he was not obliged unto it by virtue of his created condition. Upon the first instant of the union of his natures, being “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,” he might, notwithstanding the law that he was made subject unto, have been stated in glory; for he that was the object of all divine worship needed not any new obedience to procure for him a state of blessedness. And had he naturally, merely by virtue of his being a creature, been subject unto the law in this sense, he must have been so eternally, which he is not; for those things which depend solely on the natures of God and the creature are eternal and immutable. Wherefore, as the law in this sense was given unto us, not absolutely, but with respect unto a future state and reward, so the Lord Christ did voluntarily subject himself unto it for us; and his obedience thereunto was for us, and not for himself. These things, added unto what I have formerly written on this subject, whereunto nothing has been opposed but a few impertinent cavils, are sufficient to discharge the first part of that charge laid down before, concerning the impossibility of the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto us; which, indeed, is equal unto the impossibility of the imputation of the disobedience of Adam unto us, whereby the apostle tells us that “we were all made sinners.”

II. The second part of the objection or charge against the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto us is, “That it is useless unto the persons that are to be justified; for whereas they have in their justification the pardon of all their sins, they are thereby righteous, and have a right or title unto life and blessedness; for he who is so pardoned as not to be esteemed guilty of any sin of omission or commission wants nothing that is requisite thereunto; for he is supposed to have done all that he ought, and to have omitted nothing required of him in a way of duty. Hereby he becomes not unrighteous; and to be not unrighteous is the same as to be righteous; as he that is not dead is alive. Neither is there, nor can there be, any middle state between death and life. Wherefore, those who have all their sins forgiven have the blessedness of justification; and there is neither need nor use of any farther imputation of righteousness unto them.” And sundry other things of the same nature are urged unto the same purpose, which will be all of them either obviated in the ensuing discourse, or answered elsewhere.

Ans. This cause is of more importance, and more evidently stated in the Scriptures, than to be turned into such niceties, which have more of philosophical subtilty than theological solidity in them. This exception, therefore, might be dismissed without farther answer than what is given us in the known rule, that a truth well established and confirmed is not to be questioned, much less relinquished, on every entangling sophism, though it should appear insoluble; but, as we shall see, there is no such difficulty in these arguings but what may easily be discussed. And because the matter of the plea contained in them is made use of by sundry learned persons, who yet agree with us in the substance of the doctrine of justification, — namely, that it is by faith alone, without works, through the imputation of the merit and satisfaction of Christ, — I shall, as briefly as I can, discover the mistakes that it proceeds upon.

1. It includes a supposition, that he who is pardoned his sins of omission and commission, is esteemed to have done all that is required of him, and to have committed nothing that is forbidden; for, without this supposition, the bare pardon of sin will neither make, constitute, nor denominate any man righteous. But this is far otherwise, nor is any such thing included in the nature of pardon: for, in the pardon of sin, neither God nor man does judge that he who has sinned has not sinned; which must be done, if he who is pardoned be esteemed to have done all that he ought, and to have done nothing that he ought not to do. If a man be brought on his trial for any evil act, and, being legally convicted thereof, is discharged by sovereign pardon, it is true that, in the eye of the law, he is looked upon as an innocent man, as unto the punishment that was due unto him; but no man thinks that he is made righteous thereby, or is esteemed not to have done that which really he has done, and whereof he was convicted. Joab, and Abiathar the priest, were at the same time guilty of the same crime. Solomon gives order that Joab be put to death for his crime; but unto Abiathar he gives a pardon. Did he thereby make, declare, or constitute him righteous? Himself expresses the contrary, affirming him to be unrighteous and guilty, only he remitted the punishment of his fault, 1 Kings ii. 26. Wherefore, the pardon of sin discharges the guilty person from being liable or obnoxious unto anger, wrath, or punishment due unto his sin; but it does not suppose, nor infer in the least, that he is thereby, or ought thereon, to be esteemed or adjudged to have done no evil, and to have fulfilled all righteousness. Some say, pardon gives a righteousness of innocency, but not of obedience. But it cannot give a righteousness of innocency absolutely, such as Adam had; for he had actually done no evil. It only removes guilt, which is the respect of sin unto punishment, ensuing on the sanction of the law. And this supposition, which is an evident mistake, animates this whole objection.

The like may be said of what is in like manner supposed, — namely, that not to be unrighteous, which a man is on the pardon of sin, is the same with being righteous. For if not to be unrighteous be taken privatively, it is the same with being just or righteous: for it supposes that he who is so has done all the duty that is required of him that he may be righteous. But not to be unrighteous negatively, as the expression is here used, it does not do so: for, at best, it supposes no more but that a man as yet has done nothing actually against the rule of righteousness. Now this may be when yet he has performed none of the duties that are required of him to constitute him righteous, because the times and occasions of them are not yet. And so it was with Adam in the state of innocence; which is the height of what can be attained by the complete pardon of sin.

2. It proceeds on this supposition, that the law, in case of sin, does not oblige unto punishment and obedience both, so as that it is not satisfied, fulfilled, or complied withal, unless it be answered with respect unto both; for if it does so, then the pardon of sin, which only frees us from the penalty of the law, does yet leave it necessary that obedience be performed unto it, even all that it does require. But this, in my judgment, is an evident mistake, and that such as does not “establish the law, but make it void,” And this I shall demonstrate:—

(1.) The law has two parts or powers:— First, Its preceptive part, commanding and requiring obedience, with a promise of life annexed: “Do this, and live.” Secondly, The sanction on supposition of disobedience, binding the sinner unto punishment, or a meet recompense of reward: “In the day thou sinnest thou shalt die.” And every law, properly so called, proceeds on these suppositions of obedience or disobedience, whence its commanding and punishing power are inseparate from its nature.

(2.) This law whereof we speak was first given unto man in innocence, and therefore the first power of it was only in act; it obliged only unto obedience: for an innocent person could not be obnoxious unto its sanction, which contained only an obligation unto punishment, on supposition of disobedience. It could not, therefore, oblige our first parents unto obedience and punishment both, seeing its obligation unto punishment could not be in actual force but on supposition of actual disobedience. A moral cause of, and motive unto, obedience it was, and had an influence into the preservation of man from sin. Unto that end it was said unto him, “In the day thou eatest, thou shalt surely die.” The neglect hereof, and of that ruling influence which it ought to have had on the minds of our first parents, opened the door unto the entrance of sin. But it implies a contradiction, that an innocent person should be under an actual obligation unto punishment from the sanction of the law. It bound only unto obedience, as all laws, with penalties, do before their transgression. But, —

(3.) On the committing of sin (and it is so with every one that is guilty of sin), man came under an actual obligation unto punishment. This is no more questionable than whether at first he was under an obligation unto obedience. But then the question is, whether the first intention and obligation of the law unto obedience does cease to affect the sinner, or continue so as at the same time to oblige him unto obedience and punishment, both its powers being in act towards him? And hereunto I say, —

[1.] Had the punishment threatened been immediately inflicted unto the utmost of what was contained in it, this could have been no question; for man had died immediately, both temporally and eternally, and been cast out of that state wherein alone he could stand in any relation unto the preceptive power of the law. He that is finally executed has fulfilled the law so as that he owes no more obedience unto it.

But, [2.] God, in his wisdom and patience, has otherwise disposed of things. Man is continued a “viator” still, in the way unto his end, and not fully stated in his eternal and unchangeable condition, wherein neither promise nor threatening, reward nor punishment, could be proposed unto him. In this condition he falls under a twofold consideration:— First, Of a guilty person, and so is obliged unto the full punishment that the law threatens. This is not denied. Second, Of a man, a rational creature of God, not yet brought unto his eternal end.

[3.] In this state, the law is the only instrument and means of the continuance of the relation between God and him. Wherefore, under this consideration, it cannot but still oblige him unto obedience, unless we shall say that by his sin he has exempted himself from the government of God. Wherefore, it is by the law that the rule and government of God over men is continued whilst they are in “statu viatorum;” for every disobedience, every transgression of its rule and order, as to its commanding power, casts us afresh and farther under its power of obliging unto punishment.

Neither can these things be otherwise. Neither can any man living, not the worst of men, choose but judge himself, whilst he is in this world, obliged to give obedience unto the law of God, according to the notices that he has of it by the light of nature or otherwise. A wicked servant that is punished for his fault, if it be with such a punishment as yet continues his being and his state of servitude, is not by his punishment freed from an obligation unto duty, according unto the rule of it; yea, his obligation unto duty, with respect unto that crime for which he was punished, is not dissolved until his punishment be capital, and so put an end unto his state. Wherefore, seeing that by the pardon of sin we are freed only from the obligation unto punishment, there is, moreover, required unto our justification an obedience unto what the law requires.

And this greatly strengthens the argument in whose vindication we are engaged; for we being sinners, we were obnoxious both unto the command and curse of the law. Both must be answered, or we cannot be justified. And as the Lord Christ could not by his most perfect obedience satisfy the curse of the law, “Dying thou shalt die;” so by the utmost of his suffering he could not fulfil the command of the law, “Do this, and live.” Passion, as passion, is not obedience, — though there may be obedience in suffering, as there was in that of Christ unto the height. Wherefore, as we plead that the death of Christ is imputed unto us for our justification, so we deny that it is imputed unto us for our righteousness. For by the imputation of the sufferings of Christ our sins are remitted or pardoned, and we are delivered from the curse of the law, which he underwent; but we are not thence esteemed just or righteous, which we cannot be without respect unto the fulfilling of the commands of the law, or the obedience by it required. The whole matter is excellently expressed by Grotius in the words before alleged: “Cum duo nobis peperisse Christum dixerimus, impunitatem et præmium, illud satisfctioni, hoc merito Christi distincte tribuit vetus ecclesia. Satisfactio consistit in meritorum translatione, meritum in perfectissimæ obedientiæ pro nobis præstitiæ imputatione.”

(4.) The objection mentioned proceeds also on this supposition, that pardon of sin gives title unto eternal blessedness in the enjoyment of God; for justification does so, and, according to the authors of this opinion, no other righteousness is required thereunto but pardon of sin. That justification does give right and title unto adoption, acceptation with God, and the heavenly inheritance, I suppose will not be denied, and it has been proved already. Pardon of sin depends solely on the death or suffering of Christ: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,” Eph. i. 7. But suffering for punishment gives right and title unto nothing, only satisfies for something; nor does it deserve any reward: it is nowhere said, “Suffer this, and live,” but “Do this, and live.”

These things, I confess, are inseparably connected in the ordinance, appointment, and covenant of God. Whosoever has his sins pardoned is accepted with God, has right unto eternal blessedness. These things are inseparable; but they are not one and the same. And by reason of their inseparable relation are they so put together by the apostle, Rom. iv. 6–8, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works: Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” It is the imputation of righteousness that gives right unto blessedness; but pardon of sin is inseparable from it, and an effect of it, both being opposed unto justification by works, or an internal righteousness of our own. But it is one thing to be freed from being liable unto eternal death, and another to have right and title unto a blessed and eternal life. It is one thing to be redeemed from under the law, — that is, the curse of it; another, to receive the adoption of sons; — one thing to be freed from the curse; another, to have the blessing of Abraham come upon us: as the apostle distinguishes these things, Gal. iii. 13, 14; iv. 4, 5; and so does our Lord Jesus Christ, Acts xxvi. 18, “That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance” (a lot and right to the inheritance) “amongst them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Aphesis hamartiōn, which we have by faith in Christ, is only a dismission of sin from being pleadable unto our condemnation; on which account “there is no condemnation unto them that are in Christ Jesus.” But a right and title unto glory, or the heavenly inheritance, it gives not. Can it be supposed that all the great and glorious effects of present grace and future blessedness should follow necessarily on, and be the effect of, mere pardon of sin? Can we not be pardoned but we must thereby of necessity be made sons, heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ?

Pardon of sin is in God, with respect unto the sinner, a free, gratuitous act: “Forgiveness of sin through the riches of his grace.” But with respect unto the satisfaction of Christ, it is an act in judgment. For on the consideration thereof, as imputed unto him, does God absolve and acquit the sinner upon his trial. But pardon on a juridical trial, on what consideration soever it be granted, gives no right nor title unto any favour, benefit, or privilege, but only mere deliverance. It is one thing to be acquitted before the throne of a king of crimes laid unto the charge of any man, which may be done by clemency, or on other considerations; another to be made his son by adoption, and heir unto his kingdom.

And these things are represented unto us in the Scripture as distinct, and depending on distinct causes: so are they in the vision concerning Joshua the high priest, Zech. iii. 4, 5, “And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments.” It has been generally granted that we have here a representation of the justification of a sinner before God. And the taking away of filthy garments is expounded by the passing away of iniquity. When a man’s filthy garments are taken away, he is no more defiled with them; but he is not thereby clothed. This is an additional grace and favour thereunto, — namely, to be clothed with change of garments. And what this raiment is, is declared, Isa. lxi. 10, “He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness;” which the apostle alludes unto, Phil. iii. 9. Wherefore these things are distinct, — namely, the taking away of the filthy garments, and the clothing of us with change of raiment; or, the pardon of sin, and the robe of righteousness. By the one are we freed from condemnation; by the other have we right unto salvation. And the same is in like manner represented, Ezek. xvi. 6–12.

This place I had formerly urged to this purpose about communion with God, p. 187; [21] which Mr Hotchkis, in his usual manner, attempts to answer. And to omit his reviling expressions, with the crude, unproved assertion of his own conceits, his answer is, — that by the change of raiment mentioned in the prophet, our own personal righteousness is intended; for he acknowledges that our justification before God is here represented. And so also he expounds the place produced in the confirmation of the exposition given, Isa. lxi. 10, where this change of raiment is called, “The garments of salvation, and the robe of righteousness;” and thereon affirms that our righteousness itself before God is our personal righteousness p. 203, — that is, in our justification before him, which is the only thing in question. To all which presumptions I shall oppose only the testimony of the same prophet, which he may consider at his leisure, and which, at one time or other, he will subscribe unto. Isa. lxiv. 6, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” He who can make garments of salvation and robes of righteousness of these filthy rags, has a skill in composing spiritual vestments that I am not acquainted withal. What remains in the chapter wherein this answer is given unto that testimony of the Scripture, I shall take no notice of; it being, after his accustomed manner, only a perverse wresting of my words unto such a sense as may seem to countenance him in casting a reproach upon myself and others.

There is, therefore, no force in the comparing of these things unto life and death natural, which are immediately opposed: “So that he who is not dead is alive, and he who is alive is not dead;” — there being no distinct state between that of life and death; for these things being of different natures, the comparison between them is no way argumentative. Though it may be so in things natural, it is otherwise in things moral and political, where a proper representation of justification may be taken, as it is forensic. If it were so, that there is no difference between being acquitted of a crime at the bar of a judge, and a right unto a kingdom, nor different state between these things, it would prove that there is no intermediate estate between being pardoned and having a right unto the heavenly inheritance. But this is a fond imagination.

It is true that right unto eternal life does succeed unto freedom from the guilt of eternal death: “That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified.” But it does not do so out of a necessity in the nature of the things themselves, but only in the free constitution of God. Believers have the pardon of sin, and an immediate right and title unto the favour of God, the adoption of sons, and eternal life. But there is another state in the nature of the things themselves, and this might have been so actually, had it so seemed good unto God; for who sees not that there is a “status,” or “conditio personæ,” wherein he is neither under the guilt of condemnation nor has an immediate right and title unto glory in the way of inheritance? God might have pardoned men all their sins past, and placed them in a state and condition of seeking righteousness for the future by the works of the law, that so they might have lived; for this would answer the original state of Adam. But God has not done so. True; but whereas he might have done so, it is evident that the disposal of men into this state and condition of right unto life and salvation, does not depend on nor proceed from the pardon of sin, but has another cause; which is, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, as he fulfilled the law for us.

And, in truth, this is the opinion of the most of our adversaries in this cause: for they do contend, that over and above the remission of sin, which some of them say is absolute, without any respect unto the merit or satisfaction of Christ, others refer it unto them; they all contend that there is, moreover, a righteousness of works required unto our justification; — only they say this is our own incomplete, imperfect righteousness imputed unto us as if it were perfect; that is, for what it is not, and not the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us for what it is.

From what has been discoursed, it is evident that unto our justification before God is required, not only that we be freed from the damnatory sentence of the law, which we are by the pardon of sin, but, moreover, “that the righteousness of the law be fulfilled in us,” or, that we have a righteousness answering the obedience that the law requires; whereon our acceptance with God, through the riches of his grace, and our title unto the heavenly inheritance, do depend. This we have not in and of ourselves, nor can attain unto; as has been proved. Wherefore the perfect obedience and righteousness of Christ is imputed unto us, or in the sight of God we can never be justified.

Nor are the cavilling objections of the Socinians, and those that follow them, of any force against the truth herein. They tell us, “That the righteousness of Christ can be imputed but unto one, if unto any; for who can suppose that the same righteousness of one should become the righteousness of many, even of all that believe? Besides, he performed not all the duties that are required of us in all our relations, he being never placed in them.” These things, I say, are both foolish and impious, destructive unto the whole gospel; for all things here depend on the ordination of God. It is his ordinance, that as “through the offence of one many are dead,” so “disgrace, and the gift of grace, through one man, Christ Jesus, has abounded unto many;” and “as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men unto condemnation, so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all unto the righteousness of life;” and “by the obedience of one many are made righteous;” as the apostle argues, Rom. v. For “God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” chap. viii. 3, 4; for he was “the end of the law” (the whole end of it), “for righteousness unto them that do believe,” chap. x. 4. This is the appointment of the wisdom, righteousness, and grace of God, that the whole righteousness and obedience of Christ should be accepted as our complete righteousness before him, imputed unto us by his grace, and applied unto us or made ours through believing; and, consequently, unto all that believe. And if the actual sin of Adam be imputed unto us all, who derive our nature from him, unto condemnation, though he sinned not in our circumstances and relations, is it strange that the actual obedience of Christ should be imputed unto them who derive a spiritual nature from him, unto the justification of life? Besides, both the satisfaction and obedience of Christ, as relating unto his person, were, in some sense, infinite, — that is, of an infinite value, — and so cannot be considered in parts, as though one part of it were imputed unto one, and another unto another, but the whole is imputed unto every one that does believe; and if the Israelites could say that David was “worth ten thousand of them,” 2 Sam. xviii. 3, we may well allow the Lord Christ, and so what he did and suffered, to be more than us all, and all that we can do and suffer.

There are also sundry other mistakes that concur unto that part of the charge against the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, which we have now considered. I say of his righteousness; for the apostle in this case uses those two words, dikaiōma and hupakoē, “righteousness” and “obedience,” as isodunamounta — of the same signification, Rom. v. 18, 19. Such are these:— that remission of sin and justification are the same, or that justification consists only in the remission of sin; — that faith itself, as our act and duty, seeing it is the condition of the covenant, is imputed unto us for righteousness; — or that we have a personal, inherent righteousness of our own, that one way or other is our righteousness before God unto justification; either a condition it is, or a disposition unto it, or has a congruity in deserving the grace of justification, or a downright merit of condignity thereof: for all these are but various expressions of the same thing, according unto the variety of the conceptions of the minds of men about it. But they have been all considered and removed in our precedent discourses.

To close this argument, and our vindication of it, and therewithal to obviate an objection, I do acknowledge that our blessedness and life eternal is, in the Scripture, ofttimes ascribed unto the death of Christ. But, — 1. It is so katexochēn, — as the principal cause of the whole, and as that without which no imputation of obedience could have justified us; for the penalty of the law was indispensably to be undergone. 2. It is so kata sungeneian, — not exclusively unto all obedience, whereof mention is made in other places, but as that whereunto it is inseparably conjoined. “Christus in vita passivam habuit actionem; in morte passionem activam sustinuit; dum salutem operaretur in medio terræ,” Bernard. And so it is also ascribed unto his resurrection katendeixin, with respect unto evidence and manifestation; but the death of Christ exclusively, as unto his obedience, is nowhere asserted as the cause of eternal life, comprising that exceeding weight of glory wherewith it is accompanied.

Hitherto we have treated of and vindicated the imputation of the active obedience of Christ unto us, as the truth of it was deduced from the preceding argument about the obligation of the law of creation. I shall now briefly confirm it with other reasons and testimonies:—

1. That which Christ, the mediator and surety of the covenant, did do in obedience unto God, in the discharge and performance of his office, that he did for us; and that is imputed unto us. This has been proved already, and it has too great an evidence of truth to be denied. He was “born to us, given to us,” Isa. ix. 6; for “what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” Rom. viii. 3, 4. Whatever is spoken of the grace, love, and purpose of God in sending or giving his Son, or of the love, grace, and condescension of the Son in coming and undertaking of the work of redemption designed unto him, or of the office itself of a mediator or surety, gives testimony unto this assertion; yea, it is the fundamental principle of the gospel, and of the faith of all that truly believe. As for those by whom the divine person and satisfaction of Christ are denied, whereby they evert the whole work of his mediation, we do not at present consider them. Wherefore what he so did is to be inquired into. And, —

(1.) The Lord Christ, our mediator and surety, was, in his human nature, made hupo nomon, — “under the law,” Gal. iv. 4. That he was not so for himself, by the necessity of his condition, we have proved before. It was, therefore, for us. But as made under the law, he yielded obedience unto it; this, therefore, was for us, and is imputed unto us. The exception of the Socinians, that it is the judicial law only that is intended, is too frivolous to be insisted on; for he was made under that law whose curse we are delivered from. And if we are delivered only from the curse of the law of Moses, wherein they contend that there was neither promises nor threatening of eternal things, of any thing beyond this present life, we are still in our sins, under the curse of the moral law, notwithstanding all that he has done for us. It is excepted, with more colour of sobriety, that he was made under the law only as to the curse of it. But it is plain in the text that Christ was made under the law as we are under it. He was “made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.” And if he was not made so as we are, there is no consequence from his being made under it unto our redemption from it. But we were so under the law, as not only to be obnoxious unto the curse, but so as to be obliged unto all the obedience that it required; as has been proved. And if the Lord Christ has redeemed us only from the curse of it by undergoing it, leaving us in ourselves to answer its obligation unto obedience, we are not freed nor delivered. And the expression of “under the law” does in the first place, and properly, signify being under the obligation of it unto obedience, and consequentially only with a respect unto the curse. Gal. iv. 21, “Tell me, ye that desire to be hupo nomon, — “under the law.” They did not desire to be under the curse of the law, but only its obligation unto obedience; which, in all usage of speech, is the first proper sense of that expression. Wherefore, the Lord Christ being made under the law for us, he yielded perfect obedience unto it for us; which is therefore imputed unto us. For that what he did was done for us, depends solely on imputation.

(2.) As he was thus made under the law, so he did actually fulfil it by his obedience unto it. So he testifies concerning himself, — “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil,” Matt. v. 17. These words of our Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded by the evangelist, the Jews continually object against the Christians, as contradictory to what they pretend to be done by him, — namely, that he has destroyed and taken away the law. And Maimonides, in his treatise, “De Fundamentis Legis,” has many blasphemous reflections on the Lord Christ, as a false prophet in this matter. But the reconciliation is plain and easy. There was a twofold law given unto the church, — the moral and the ceremonial law. The first, as we have proved, is of an eternal obligation; the other was given only for a time. That the latter of these was to be taken away and abolished, the apostle proves with invincible testimonies out of the Old Testament against the obstinate Jews, in his Epistle unto the Hebrews. Yet was it not to be taken away without its accomplishment, when it ceased of itself. Wherefore, our Lord Christ did no otherwise dissolve or destroy that law but by the accomplishment of it; and so he did put an end unto it, as is fully declared, Eph. ii. 14–16. But the law katexochēn, that which obliges all men unto obedience unto God always, he came not katalusai, to destroy, — that is athetēsai, to abolish it, as an athetēsis is ascribed unto the Mosaical law, Heb. ix. 26 (in the same sense is the word used, Matt. xxiv. 2; xxvi. 61; xxvii. 40; Mark xiii. 2; xiv. 58; xv. 29; Luke xxi. 6; Acts v. 38, 39; vi. 14; Rom. xiv. 20; 2 Cor. v. 1; Gal. ii. 18, mostly with an accusative case, of the things spoken of), or katargēsai, which the apostle denies to be done by Christ, and faith in him. Rom. iii. 31, Nomon oun katargoumen dia tēs pisteōs? Mē genoito; alla nomon histōmen; — “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law.” Nomon histanai is to confirm its obligation unto obedience; which is done by faith only, with respect unto the moral law; the other being evacuated as unto any power of obliging unto obedience. This, therefore, is the law which our Lord Christ affirms that he came “not to destroy;” so he expressly declares in his ensuing discourse, showing both its power of obliging us always unto obedience, and giving an exposition of it. This law the Lord Christ came plērōsai. Plērōsai ton nomon, in the Scripture, is the same with emplēsai ton nomon in other writers; that is, to yield full, perfect obedience unto the commands of the law, whereby they are absolutely fulfilled. Plērōsai nomon is not to make the law perfect; for it was always nomos teleios, — a “perfect law,” James i. 25; but to yield perfect obedience unto it: the same that our Saviour calls plērōsai pasan dikaiosunēn, Matt. iii. 15, “to fulfil all righteousness;” that is, by obedience unto all God’s commands and institutions, as is evident in the place. So the apostle uses the same expression, Rom. xiii. 8, “He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”

2. It is a vain exception, that Christ fulfilled the law by his doctrine, in the exposition of it. The opposition between the words plērōsai and katalusai, — “to fulfil” and “to destroy,” — will admit of no such sense; and our Saviour himself expounds this “fulfilling of the law,” by doing the commands of it, Matt. v. 19. Wherefore, the Lord Christ as our mediator and surety fulfilling the law, by yielding perfect obedience thereunto, he did it for us; and to us it is imputed.

This is plainly affirmed by the apostle, Rom. v. 18, 19, “Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” The full plea from, and vindication of, this testimony, I refer unto its proper place in the testimonies given unto the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto our justification in general. Here I shall only observe, that the apostle expressly and in terms affirms that “by the obedience of Christ we are made righteous,” or justified; which we cannot be but by the imputation of it unto us. I have met with nothing that had the appearance of any sobriety for the eluding of this express testimony, but only that by the obedience of Christ his death and sufferings are intended, wherein he was obedient unto God; as the apostle says, he was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” Phil. ii. 8. But yet there is herein no colour of probability. For, — (1.) It is acknowledged that there was such a near conjunction and alliance between the obedience of Christ and his sufferings, that though they may be distinguished, yet can they not be separated. He suffered in the whole course of his obedience, from the womb to the cross; and he obeyed in all his sufferings unto the last moment wherein he expired. But yet are they really things distinct, as we have proved; and they were so in him who “learned obedience by the things that he suffered,” Heb. v. 8. (2.) In this place, [Rom. v.] hupakoē, verse 19, and dikaiōma, verse 18, are the same, — obedience and righteousness. “By the righteousness of one,” and “by the obedience of one,” are the same. But suffering, as suffering, is not dikaiōma, is not righteousness; for if it were, then every one that suffers what is due to him should be righteous, and so be justified, even the devil himself. (3.) The righteousness and obedience here intended are opposed tō paraptōmati, — to the offence: “By the offence of one.” But the offence intended was an actual transgression of the law; so is paraptōma, a fall from, or a fall in, the course of obedience. Wherefore the dikaiōma, or righteousness, must be an actual obedience unto the commands of the law, or the force of the apostle’s reasoning and antithesis cannot be understood. (4.) Particularly, it is such an obedience as is opposed unto the disobedience of Adam, — “one man’s disobedience,” “one man’s obedience;” — but the disobedience of Adam was an actual transgression of the law: and therefore the obedience of Christ here intended was his active obedience unto the law; — which is that we plead for. And I shall not at present farther pursue the argument, because the force of it, in the confirmation of the truth contended for, will be included in those that follow.


[21] See vol. ii. p. 164 in the present edition of Owen’s works. — Ed.


Chapter XIII. The nature of justification proved from the difference of the covenants

The difference between the two covenants stated — Arguments from thence

That which we plead in the third place unto our purpose is, the difference between the two covenants. And herein it may be observed, —

1. That by the two covenants I understand those which were absolutely given unto the whole church, and were all to bring it eis teleiotēta, — unto a complete and perfect state; that is, the covenant of works, or the law of our creation as it was given unto us, with promises and threatenings, or rewards and punishments, annexed unto it; and the covenant of grace, revealed and proposed in the first promise. As unto the covenant of Sinai, and the new testament as actually confirmed in the death of Christ, with all the spiritual privileges thence emerging, and the differences between them, they belong not unto our present argument.

2. The whole entire nature of the covenant of works consisted in this, — that upon our personal obedience, according unto the law and rule of it, we should be accepted with God, and rewarded with him. Herein the essence of it did consist; and whatever covenant proceeds on these terms, or has the nature of them in it, however it may be varied with additions or alterations, is the same covenant still, and not another. As in the renovation of the promise wherein the essence of the covenant of grace was contained, God did ofttimes make other additions unto it (as unto Abraham and David), yet was it still the same covenant for the substance of it, and not another; so whatever variations may be made in, or additions unto, the dispensation of the first covenant, so long as this rule is retained, “Do this, and live,” it is still the same covenant for the substance and essence of it.

3. Hence two things belonged unto this covenant:— First, That all things were transacted immediately between God and man. There was no mediator in it, no one to undertake any thing, either on the part of God or man, between them; for the whole depending on every one’s personal obedience, there was no place for a mediator. Secondly, That nothing but perfect, sinless obedience would be accepted with God, or preserve the covenant in its primitive state and condition. There was nothing in it as to pardon of sin, no provision for any defect in personal obedience.

4. Wherefore, this covenant being once established between God and man, there could be no new covenant made, unless the essential form of it were of another nature, — namely, that our own personal obedience be not the rule and cause of our acceptation and justification before God; for whilst this is so, as was before observed, the covenant is still the same, however the dispensation of it may be reformed or reduced to suit unto our present state and condition. What grace soever might be introduced into it, that could not be so which excluded all works from being the cause of our justification. But if a new covenant be made, such grace must be provided as is absolutely inconsistent with any works of ours, as unto the first ends of the covenant; as the apostle declares, Rom. xi. 6.

5. Wherefore, the covenant of grace, supposing it a new, real, absolute covenant, and not a reformation of the dispensation of the old, or a reduction of it unto the use of our present condition (as some imagine it to be), must differ, in the essence, substance, and nature of it, from that first covenant of works. And this it cannot do if we are to be justified before God on our personal obedience; wherein the essence of the first covenant consisted. If, then, the righteousness wherewith we are justified before God be our own, our own personal righteousness, we are yet under the first covenant, and no other.

6. But things in the new covenant are indeed quite otherwise; for, — First, It is of grace, which wholly excludes works; that is, so of grace, as that our own works are not the means of justification before God; as in the places before alleged. Secondly, It has a mediator and surety; which is built alone on this supposition, that what we cannot do in ourselves which was originally required of us, and what the law of the first covenant cannot enable us to perform, that should be performed for us by our mediator and surety. And if this be not included in the very first notion of a mediator and surety, yet it is in that of a mediator or surety that does voluntarily interpose himself, upon an open acknowledgment that those for whom he undertakes were utterly insufficient to perform what was required of them; — on which supposition all the truth of the Scripture does depend. It is one of the very first notions of Christian religion, that the Lord Christ was given to us, born to us; that he came as a mediator, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves, and not merely to suffer what we had deserved. And here, instead of our own righteousness, we have the “righteousness of God;” instead of being righteous in ourselves before God, he is “The Lord our Righteousness.” And nothing but a righteousness of another kind and nature, unto justification before God, could constitute another covenant. Wherefore, the righteousness whereby we are justified is the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us, or we are still under the law, under the covenant of works.

It will be said that our personal obedience is by none asserted to be the righteousness wherewith we are justified before God, in the same manner as it was under the covenant of works; but the argument speaks not as unto the manner or way whereby it is so, but to the thing itself. If it be so in any way or manner, under what qualifications soever, we are under that covenant still. If it be of works any way, it is not of grace at all. But it is added, that the differences are such as are sufficient to constitute covenants effectually distinct: as, — 1. “The perfect, sinless obedience was required in the first covenant; but in the new, that which is imperfect, and accompanied with many sins and failings, is accepted.” Ans. This is “gratis dictum,” and begs the question. No righteousness unto justification before God is or can be accepted but what is perfect. 2. “Grace is the original fountain and cause of all our acceptation before God in the new covenant.” Ans. It was so also in the old. The creation of man in original righteousness was an effect of divine grace, benignity, and goodness; and the reward of eternal life in the enjoyment of God was of mere sovereign grace: yet what was then of works was not of grace; — no more is it at present. 3. “There would then have been merit of works, which is now excluded.” Ans. Such a merit as arises from an equality and proportion between works and reward, by the rule of commutative justice, would not have been in the works of the first covenant; and in no other sense is it now rejected by them that oppose the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. 4. “All is now resolved into the merit of Christ, upon the account whereof alone our own personal righteousness is accepted before God unto our justification.” Ans. The question is not, on what account, nor for what reason, it is so accepted? but, whether it be or no? — seeing its so being is effectually constitutive of a covenant of works.


Chapter XIV. The exclusion of all sorts of works from an interest in justification — What is intended by “the law,” and the “works” of it, in the epistles of Paul

All works whatever are expressly excluded from any interest in our justification before God — What intended by the works of the law — Not those of the ceremonial law only — Not perfect works only, as required by the law of our creation — Not the outward works of the law, performed without a principle of faith — Not works of the Jewish law — Not works with a conceit of merit — Not works only wrought before believing, in the strength of our own wills — Works excluded absolutely from our justification, without respect unto a distinction of a first and second justification — The true sense of the law in the apostolical assertion that none are justified by the works thereof — What the Jews understood by the law — Distribution of the law under the Old Testament — The whole law a perfect rule of all inherent moral or spiritual obedience — What are the works of the law, declared from the Scripture, and the argument thereby confirmed — The nature of justifying faith farther declared

We shall take our fourth argument from the express exclusion of all works, of what sort soever, from our justification before God. For this alone is that which we plead, — namely, that no acts or works of our own are the causes or conditions of our justification; but that the whole of it is resolved into the free grace of God, through Jesus Christ, as the mediator and surety of the covenant. To this purpose the Scripture speaks expressly. Rom. iii. 28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.” Rom. iv. 5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Rom. xi. 6, “If it be of grace, then is it no more of works.” Gal. ii. 16, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Eph. ii. 8, 9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith … not of works, lest any man should boast.” Tit. iii. 5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.”

These and the like testimonies are express, and in positive terms assert all that we contend for. And I am persuaded that no unprejudiced person, whose mind is not prepossessed with notions and distinctions whereof not the least tittle is offered unto them from the texts mentioned, nor elsewhere, can but judge that the law, in every sense of it, and all sorts of works whatever, that at any time, or by any means, sinners or believers do or can perform, are, not in this or that sense, but every way and in all senses, excluded from our justification before God. And if it be so, it is the righteousness of Christ alone that we must betake ourselves unto, or this matter must cease for ever. And this inference the apostle himself makes from one of the testimonies before mentioned, — namely, that of Gal. ii. 19–21; for he adds upon it, “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

Our adversaries are extremely divided amongst themselves and can come unto no consistency, as to the sense and meaning of the apostle in these assertions; for what is proper and obvious unto the understanding of all men, especially from the opposition that is made between the law and works on the one hand, and faith, grace, and Christ on the other (which are opposed as inconsistent in this matter of our justification), they will not allow; nor can do so without the ruin of the opinions they plead for. Wherefore, their various conjectures shall be examined, as well to show their inconsistency among themselves by whom the truth is opposed, as to confirm our present argument:—

1. Some say it is the ceremonial law alone, and the works of it, that are intended; or the law as given unto Moses on mount Sinai, containing that entire covenant that was afterwards to be abolished. This was of old the common opinion of the schoolmen, though it be now generally exploded. And the opinion lately contended for, that the apostle Paul excludes justification from the works of the law, or excludes works absolutely perfect, and sinless obedience, not because no man can yield that perfect obedience which the law requires, but because the law itself which he intends could not justify any by the observation of it, is nothing but the renovation of this obsolete notion, that it is the ceremonial law only, or, which upon the matter is all one, the law given on mount Sinai, abstracted from the grace of the promise, which could not justify any in the observation of its rites and commands. But of all other conjectures, this is the most impertinent and contradictory unto the design of the apostle; and is therefore rejected by Bellarmine himself. For the apostle treats of that law whose doers shall be justified, Rom. ii. 13; and the authors of this opinion would have it to be a law that can justify none of them that do it. That law he intends whereby is the knowledge of sin; for he gives this reason why we cannot be justified by the works of it, — namely, because “by it is the knowledge of sin,” chap. iii. 20: and by what law is the knowledge of sin he expressly declares, where he affirms that he “had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet,” chap. vii. 7; which is the moral law alone. That law he designs which stops the mouth of all sinners, and makes all the world obnoxious unto the judgment of God, chap. iii. 19; which none can do but the law written in the heart of men at their creation, chap. ii. 14, 15; — that law, which “if a man do the works of it, he shall live in them,” Gal. iii. 12, Rom. x. 5; and which brings all men under the curse for sin, Gal. iii. 10; — the law that is established by faith, and not made void, Rom. iii. 31; which the ceremonial law is not, nor the covenant of Sinai; — the law whose righteousness is “to be fulfilled in us,” Rom. viii. 4. And the instance which the apostle gives of justification without the works of that law which he intends, — namely, that of Abraham, — was some hundreds of years before the giving of the ceremonial law. Neither yet do I say that the ceremonial law and the works of it are excluded from the intention of the apostle: for when that law was given, the observation of it was an especial instance of that obedience we owed unto the first table of the decalogue; and the exclusion of the works thereof from our justification, inasmuch as the performance of them was part of that moral obedience which we owed unto God, is exclusive of all other works also. But that it is alone here intended, or that law which could never justify any by its observation, although it was observed in due manner, is a fond imagination, and contradictory to the express assertion of the apostle. And, whatever is pretended to the contrary, this opinion is expressly rejected by Augustine, Lib. de Spiritu et Litera, cap. viii.Ne quisquam putaret hic apostolum ea lege dixisse neminem justificari, quæ in sacramentis veteribus multa continet figurata præcepta, unde etiam est ista circumcisio carnis, continuo subjunxit, quam dixerit legem et ait; ‘per legem cognitio peccati.’ ” And to the same purpose he speaks again, Epist. cc., “Non solum illa opera legis quæ sunt in veteribus sacramentis, et nunc revelato testamento novo non observantur a Christianis, sicut est circumcisio præputii, et sabbati carnalis vacatio; et a quibusdam escis abstinentia, et pecorum in sacrificiis immolatio, et neomenia et azymum, et cætera hujusmodi, verum etiam illud quod in lege dictum est, ‘Non concupisces,’ quod utique et Christianis nullus ambigit esse dicendum, non justificat hominem, nisi per fidem Jesu Christi, et gratiam Dei per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.”

2. Some say the apostle only excludes the perfect works required by the law of innocence; which is a sense diametrically opposite unto that foregoing. But this best pleases the Socinians. “Paulus agit de operibus et perfectis in hoc dicto, ideo enim adjecit, sine operibus legis, ut indicaretur loqui eum de operibus a lege requisitis, et sic de perpetua et perfectissima divinorum præceptorum obedientia sicut lex requirit. Cum autem talem obedientiam qualem lex requirit nemo præstare possit, ideo subjecit apostolus nos justificari fide, id est, fiduciâ et obedientiâ ea quantum quisque præstare potest, et quotidie quam maximum præstare studet, et connititur. Sine operibus legis, id est, etsi interim perfecte totam legem sicut debebat complere nequit;” says Socinus himself. But, — (1.) We have herein the whole granted of what we plead for, — namely, that it is the moral, indispensable law of God that is intended by the apostle; and that by the works of it no man can be justified, yea, that all the works of it are excluded from our justification: for it is, says the apostle, “without works.” The works of this law being performed according unto it, will justify them that perform them, as he affirms, chap. ii. 13; and the Scripture elsewhere witnesses that “he that does them shall live in them.” But because this can never be done by any sinner, therefore all consideration of them is excluded from our justification. (2.) It is a wild imagination that the dispute of the apostle is to this purpose, — that the perfect works of the law will not justify us, but imperfect works, which answer not the law, will do so. (3.) Granting the law intended to be the moral law of God, the law of our creation, there is no such distinction intimated in the least by the apostle, that we are not justified by the perfect works of it which we cannot perform, but by some imperfect works that we can perform, and labour so to do. Nothing is more foreign unto the design and express words of his whole discourse. (4.) The evasion which they betake themselves unto, that the apostle opposes justification by faith unto that of works, which he excludes, is altogether vain in this sense; for they would have this faith to be our obedience unto the divine commands, in that imperfect manner which we can attain unto. For when the apostle has excluded all such justification by the law and the works thereof, he does not advance in opposition unto them, and in their room, our own faith and obedience; but adds, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.”

3. Some of late among ourselves, — and they want not them who have gone before them, — affirm that the works which the apostle excludes from justification are only the outward works of the law, performed without an inward principle of faith, fear, or the love of God. Servile works, attended unto from a respect unto the threatening of the law, are those which will not justify us. But this opinion is not only false, but impious. For, — (1.) The apostle excludes the works of Abraham, which were not such outward, servile works as are imagined. (2.) The works excluded are those which the law requires; and the law is holy, just, and good. But a law that requires only outward works, without internal love to God, is neither holy, just, nor good. (3.) The law condemns all such works as are separated from the internal principle of faith, fear, and love; for it requires that in all our obedience we should love the Lord our God with all our hearts. And the apostle says, that we are not justified by the works which the law condemns, but not by them which the law commands. (4.) It is highly reflexive on the honour of God, that he unto whose divine prerogative it belongs to know the hearts of men alone, and therefore regards them alone in all the duties of their obedience, should give a law requiring outward, servile works only; for if the law intended require more, then are not those the only works excluded.

4. Some say, in general, it is the Jewish law that is intended; and think thereby to cast off the whole difficulty. But if, by the Jewish law, they intend only the ceremonial law, or the law absolutely as given by Moses, we have already showed the vanity of that pretence; but if they mean thereby the whole law or rule of obedience given unto the church of Israel under the Old Testament, they express much of the truth, — it may be more than they designed.

5. Some say that it is works with a conceit of merit, that makes the reward to be of debt, and not of grace, that are excluded by the apostle. But no such distinction appears in the text or context; for, — (1,) The apostle excludes all works of the law, — that is, that the law requires of us in a way of obedience, — be they of what sort they will. (2.) The law requires no works with a conceit of merit. (3.) Works of the law originally included no merit, as that which arises from the proportion of one thing unto another in the balance of justice; and in that sense only is it rejected by those who plead for an interest of works in justification. (4.) The merit which the apostle excludes is that which is inseparable from works, so that it cannot be excluded unless the works themselves be so. And unto their merit two things concur:— First, A comparative boasting; that is, not absolutely in the sight of God, which follows the “meritum ex condigno” which some poor sinful mortals have fancied in their works, but that which gives one man a preference above another in the obtaining of justification; which grace will not allow, chap. iv. 2. Secondly, That the reward be not absolutely of grace, but that respect he had therein unto works; which makes it so far to be of debt, not out of an internal condignity, which would not have been under the law of creation, but out of some congruity with respect unto the promise of God, verse 4. In these two regards merit is inseparable from works; and the Holy Ghost, utterly to exclude it, excludes all works from which it is inseparable, as it is from all. Wherefore, (5.) The apostle speaks not one word about the exclusion of the merit of works only; but he excludes all works whatever, and that by this argument, that the admission of them would necessarily introduce merit in the sense described; which is inconsistent with grace. And although some think that they are injuriously dealt withal, when they are charged with maintaining of merit in their asserting the influence of our works into our justification; yet those of them who best understand themselves and the controversy itself, are not so averse from some kind of merit, as knowing that it is inseparable from works.

6. Some contend that the apostle excludes only works wrought before believing, in the strength of our own wills and natural abilities, without the aid of grace. Works, they suppose, required by the law are such as we perform by the direction and command of the law alone. But the law of faith requires works in the strength of the supplies of grace; which are not excluded. This is that which the most learned and judicious of the church of Rome do now generally betake themselves unto. Those who amongst us plead for works in our justification, as they use many distinctions to explain their minds, and free their opinion from a coincidence with that of the Papists; so, as yet, they deny the name of merit, and the thing itself in the sense of the church of Rome, as it is renounced likewise by all the Socinians: wherefore, they make use of the preceding evasion, that merit is excluded by the apostle, and works only as they are meritorious; although the apostle’s plain argument be, that they are excluded because such a merit as is inconsistent with grace is inseparable from their admission.

But the Roman church cannot so part with merit. Wherefore, they are to find out a sort of works to be excluded only, which they are content to part withal as not meritorious. Such are those before described, wrought, as they say, before believing, and without the aids of grace; and such, they say, are all the works of the law. And this they do with some more modesty and sobriety than those amongst us who would have only external works and observances to be intended. For they grant that sundry internal works, as those of attrition, sorrow for sin, and the like, are of this nature. But the works of the law it is, they say, that are excluded. But this whole plea, and all the sophisms wherewith it is countenanced, have been so discussed and defeated by Protestant writers of all sorts against Bellarmine and others, as that it is needless to repeat the same things, or to add any thing unto them. And it will be sufficiently evinced of falsehood in what we shall immediately prove concerning the law and works intended by the apostle. However, the heads of the demonstration of the truth to the contrary may be touched on. And, — (1.) The apostle excludes all works, without distinction or exception. And we are not to distinguish where the law does not distinguish before us. (2.) All the works of the law are excluded: therefore all works wrought after believing by the aids of grace are excluded; for they are all required by the law. See Ps. cxix. 35; Rom. vii. 22. Works not required by the law are no less an abomination to God than sins against the law. (3.) The works of believers after conversion, performed by the aids of grace, are expressly excluded by the apostle. So are those of Abraham, after he had been a believer many years, and abounded in them unto the praise of God. So he excludes his own works after his conversion, Gal. ii. 16; 1 Cor. iv. 4; Phil. iii. 9; and so he excludes the works of all other believers, Eph. ii. 9, 10. (4.) All works are excluded that might give countenance unto boasting, Rom. iv. 2; iii. 27; Eph. ii. 9; 1 Cor. i. 29–31. But this is done more by the good works of regenerate persons than by any works of unbelievers. (5.) The law required faith and love in all our works; and therefore if all the works of the law be excluded, the best works of believers are so. (6.) All works are excluded which are opposed unto grace working freely in our justification; but this all works whatever are, Rom. xi. 6. (7.) In the Epistle unto the Galatians, the apostle does exclude from our justification all those works which the false teachers pressed as necessary thereunto: but they urged the necessity of the works of believers, and those which were by grace already converted unto God; for those upon whom they pressed them unto this end were already actually so. (8.) They are good works that the apostle excludes from our justification; for there can be no pretence of justification by those works that are not good, or which have not all things essentially requisite to make them so: but such are all the works of unbelievers performed without the aids of grace, — they are not good, nor as such accepted with God, but want what is essentially requisite unto the constitution of good works; and it is ridiculous to think that the apostle disputes about the exclusion of such works from our justification as no man in his wits would think to have any place therein. (9.) The reason why no man can be justified by the law, is because no man can yield perfect obedience thereunto; for by perfect obedience the law will justify, Rom. ii. 13; x. 5. Wherefore, all works are excluded that are not absolutely perfect; but this the best works of believers are not, as we have proved before. (10.) If there be a reserve for the works of believers, performed by the aid of grace, in our justification, it is, that either they may be concauses thereof, or be indispensably subservient unto those things that are so. That they are concauses of our justification is not absolutely affirmed; neither can it be said that they are necessarily subservient unto them that are so. They are not so unto the efficient cause thereof, which is the grace and favour of God alone, Rom. iii. 24, 25; iv. 16; Eph. ii. 8, 9; Rev. i. 5; — nor are they so unto the meritorious cause of it, which is Christ alone, Acts xiii. 38; xxvi. 18; 1 Cor. i. 30; 2 Cor. v. 18–21; — nor unto the material cause of it, which is the righteousness of Christ alone, Rom. x. 3, 4, — nor are they so unto faith, in what place soever it be stated; for not only is faith only mentioned, wherever we are taught the way how the righteousness of Christ is derived and communicated unto us, without any intimation of the conjunction of works with it, but also, as unto our justification, they are placed in opposition and contradiction one to the other, Rom. iii. 28. And sundry other things are pleadable unto the same purpose.

7. Some affirm that the apostle excludes all works from our first justification, but not from the second; or, as some speak, the continuation of our justification. But we have before examined these distinctions, and found them groundless.

Evident it is, therefore, that men put themselves into an uncertain, slippery station, where they know not what to fix upon, nor wherein to find any such appearance of truth as to give them countenance in denying the plain and frequently-repeated assertion of the apostle.

Wherefore, in the confirmation of the present argument, I shall more particularly inquire into what it is that the apostle intends by the law and works whereof he treats. For as unto our justification, whatever they are, they are absolutely and universally opposed unto grace, faith, the righteousness of God, and the blood of Christ, as those which are altogether inconsistent with them. Neither can this be denied or questioned by any, seeing it is the plain design of the apostle to evince that inconsistency.

1. Wherefore, in general, it is evident that the apostle, by the law and the works thereof, intended what the Jews with whom he had to do did understand by the law, and their own whole obedience thereunto. I suppose this cannot be denied; for without a concession of it there is nothing proved against them, nor are they in any thing instructed by him. Suppose those terms equivocal, and to be taken in one sense by him, and by them in another, and nothing can be rightly concluded from what is spoken of them. Wherefore, the meaning of these terms, “the law,” and “works,” the apostle takes for granted as very well known, and agreed on between himself and those with whom he had to do.

2. The Jews by “the law” intended what the Scriptures of the Old Testament meant by that expression; for they are nowhere blamed for any false notion concerning the law, or that they esteemed any thing to be so but what was so indeed, and what was so called in the Scripture. Their present oral law was not yet hatched, though the Pharisees were brooding of it.

3. “The law” under the Old Testament does immediately refer unto the law given at mount Sinai, nor is there any distinct mention of it before. This is commonly called “the law” absolutely; but most frequently “the law of God,” “the law of the Lord;” and sometimes “the law of Moses,” because of his especial ministry in the giving of it: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him,” Mal iv. 4. And this the Jews intended by “the law.”

4. Of the law so given at Horeb, there was a distribution into three parts. (1.) There was עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים, — Deut iv. 13, “The ten words;” so also chap. x. 4; — that is, the ten commandments written upon two tables of stone. This part of the law was first given, was the foundation of the whole, and contained that perfect obedience which was required of mankind by law of creation; and was now received into the church with the highest attestations of its indispensable obligation unto obedience or punishment. (2.) חֻקֶּים, which the LXX. render by dikaiōmata, — that is, “jura,” “rites,” or “statutes;” but the Latin from thence, “justificationes,” (“justifications,”) which has given great occasion of mistake in many, both ancient and modern divines. We call it “the ceremonial law.” The apostle terms this part of the law distinctly, Nomos entolōn en dogmasi, Eph. ii. 15, “The law of commandments contained in ordinances;” that is, consisting in a multitude of arbitrary commands. (3.) מִשְׁפָּתִים, which we commonly call “the judicial law.” This distribution of the law shuts up the Old Testament, as it is used in places innumerable before; only the עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים, — “the ten words,” — is expressed by the general word תּוֹרָה, — “the law,” Mal iv. 4.

5. These being the parts of the law given unto the church in Sinai, the whole of it is constantly called תּוֹרָה, — “the law,” — that is, the instruction (as the word signifies) that God gave unto the church, in the rule of obedience which he prescribed unto it. This is the constant signification of that word in Scripture, where it is taken absolutely; and thereon does not signify precisely the law as given at Horeb, but comprehends with it all the revelations that God made under the Old Testament, in the explanation and confirmation of that law, in rules, motives, directions, and enforcements of obedience.

6. Wherefore; תּוֹרָה, — “the law,” — is the whole rule of obedience which God gave to the church under the Old Testament, with all the efficacy wherewith it was accompanied by the ordinances of God, including in it all the promises and threatenings that might be motives unto the obedience that God did require; — this is that which God and the church called “the law” under the Old Testament, and which the Jews so called with whom our apostle had to do. That which we call “the moral law” was the foundation of the whole; and those parts of it which we call “the judicial and ceremonial law,” were peculiar instances of the obedience which the church under the Old Testament was obliged unto, in the especial polity and divine worship which at that season were necessary unto it. And two things does the Scripture testify unto concerning this law:—

(1.) That it was a perfect, complete rule of all that internal spiritual and moral obedience which God required of the church: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple,” Ps. xix. 7. And it so was of all the external duties of obedience, for matter and manner, time and season; that in both the church might walk “acceptably before God,” Isa. viii. 20. And although the original duties of the moral part of the law are often preferred before the particular instances of obedience in duties of outward worship, yet the whole law was always the whole rule of all the obedience, internal and external, that God required of the church, and which he accepted in them that did believe.

(2.) That this law, this rule of obedience, as it was ordained of God to be the instrument of his rule of the church, and by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham, unto whose administration it was adapted, and which its introduction on Sinai did not disannul, was accompanied with a power and efficacy enabling unto obedience. The law itself, as merely preceptive and commanding, administered no power or ability unto those that were under its authority to yield obedience unto it; no more do the mere commands of the gospel. Moreover, under the Old Testament it enforced obedience on the minds and consciences of men by the manner of its first delivery, and the severity of its sanction, so as to fill them with fear and bondage; and was, besides, accompanied with such burdensome rules of outward worship, as made it a heavy yoke unto the people. But as it was God’s doctrine, teaching, instruction in all acceptable obedience unto himself, and was adapted unto the covenant of Abraham, it was accompanied with an administration of effectual grace, procuring and promoting obedience in the church. And the law is not to be looked on as separated from those aids unto obedience which God administered under the Old Testament; whose effects are therefore ascribed unto the law itself See Ps. i., xix., cxix.

This being “the law” in the sense of the apostle, and those with whom he had to do, our next inquiry is, What was their sense of “works,” or “works of the law?” And I say it is plain that they intended hereby the universal sincere obedience of the church unto God, according unto this law. And other works the law of God acknowledges not; yea, it expressly condemns all works that have any such defect in them as to render them unacceptable unto God. Hence, notwithstanding all the commands that God had positively given for the strict observance of sacrifices, offerings, and the like; yet, when the people performed them without faith and love, he expressly affirms that he “commanded them not,” — that is, to be observed in such a manner. In these works, therefore, consisted their personal righteousness, as they walked “in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless,” Luke i. 6; wherein they did “instantly serve God day and night,” Acts xxvi. 7. And this they esteemed to be their own righteousness, their righteousness according unto the law; as really it was, Phil. iii. 6, 9. For although the Pharisees had greatly corrupted the doctrine of the law, and put false glosses on sundry precepts of it; yet, that the church in those days did, by “the works of the law,” understand either ceremonial duties only, or external works, or works with a conceit of merit, or works wrought without an internal principle of faith and love to God, or any thing but their own personal sincere obedience unto the whole doctrine and rule of the law, there is nothing that should give the least colour of imagination. For, —

1. All this is perfectly stated in the suffrage which the scribe gave unto the declaration of the sense and design of the law, with the nature of the obedience which it does require, and was made at his request by our blessed Saviour. Mark xii. 28–33, “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?” (or as it is, Matt. xxii. 36, “Which is the great commandment in the law?”) “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our Gods is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none but he: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.” And this [is] so expressly given by Moses as the sum of the law, — namely, faith and love, as the principle of all our obedience, Deut. vi. 4, 5, that it is marvellous what should induce any learned, sober person to fix upon any other sense of it; as that it respected ceremonial or external works only, or such as may be wrought without faith or love. This is the law concerning which the apostle disputes, and this the obedience wherein the works of it do consist; and more than this, in the way of obedience, God never did nor will require of any in this world. Wherefore, the law and the works thereof which the apostle excludes from justification, is that whereby we are obliged to believe in God as one God, the only God, and love him with all our hearts and souls, and our neighbours as ourselves; and what works there are, or can be, in any persons, regenerate or not regenerate, to be performed in the strength of grace or without it, that are acceptable unto God, that may not be reduced unto these heads, I know not.

2. The apostle himself declares that it is the law and the works of it, in the sense we have expressed, that he excludes from our justification. For the law he speaks of is “the law of righteousness,” Rom. ix. 31, — the law whose righteousness is to be “fulfilled in us,” that we may be accepted with God, and freed from condemnation, chap. viii. 4; — that in obedience whereunto our own personal righteousness does consist, whether that we judge so before conversion, Rom. x. 3; or what is so after it, Phil. iii. 9; — the law which if a man observe, “he shall live,” and be justified before God, Rom. ii. 13; Gal. iii. 12; Rom. x. 5; — that law which is “holy, just, and good,” which discovers and condemns all sin whatever, chap. vii. 7, 9.

From what has been discoursed, these two things are evident in the confirmation of our present argument:— first, That the law intended by the apostle, when he denies that by the works of the law any can be justified, is the entire rule and guide of our obedience unto God, even as unto the whole frame and spiritual constitution of our souls, with all the acts of obedience or duties that he requires of us; and, secondly, That the works of this law, which he so frequently and plainly excludes from our justification, and therein opposes to the grace of God and the blood of Christ, are all the duties of obedience, — internal, supernatural; external, ritual, — however we are or may be enabled to perform them, that God requires of us. And these things excluded, it is the righteousness of Christ alone, imputed unto us, on the account whereof we are justified before God.

The truth is, so far as I can discern, the real difference that is at this day amongst us, about the doctrine of our justification before God, is the same that was between the apostle and the Jews, and no other. But controversies in religion make a great appearance of being new, when they are only varied and made different by the new terms and expressions that are introduced into the handling of them. So has it fallen out in the controversy about nature and grace; for as unto the true nature of it, it is the same in these days as it was between the apostle Paul and the Pharisees; between Austin and Pelagius afterwards. But it has now passed through so many forms and dresses of words, as that it can scarce be known to be what it was. Many at this day will condemn both Pelagius and the doctrine that he taught, in the words wherein he taught it, and yet embrace and approve of the things themselves which he intended. The introduction of every change in philosophical learning gives an appearance of a change in the controversies which are managed thereby; but take off the covering of philosophical expressions, distinctions, metaphysical notions, and futilous terms of art, which some of the ancient schoolmen and later disputants have cast upon it, and the difference about grace and nature is amongst us all the same that it was of old, and as it is allowed by the Socinians.

Thus the apostle, treating of our justification before God, does it in those terms which are both expressive of the thing itself, and were well understood by them with whom he had to do; such as the Holy Spirit, in their revelation, had consecrated unto their proper use. Thus, on the one hand, he expressly excludes the law, our own works, our own righteousness, from any interest therein; and in opposition unto, and as inconsistent with them, in the matter of justification, he ascribes it wholly unto the righteousness of God, righteousness imputed unto us, the obedience of Christ, Christ made righteousness unto us, the blood of Christ as a propitiation, faith, receiving Christ, and the atonement. There is no awakened conscience, guided by the least beam of spiritual illumination, but in itself plainly understands these things, and what is intended in them. But through the admission of exotic learning, with philosophical terms and notions, into the way of teaching spiritual things in religion, a new face and appearance is put on the whole matter; and a composition made between those things which the apostle directly opposes as contrary and inconsistent. Hence are all our discourses about preparations, dispositions, conditions, merits “de congruo et condigno,” with such a train of distinctions, as that if some bounds be not fixed unto the inventing and coining of them (which, being a facile work, grows on us every day), we shall not ere long be able to look through them, so as to discover the things intended, or rightly to understand one another; for as one said of lies, so it may be said of arbitrary distinctions, they must be continually new thatched over, or it will rain through. But the best way is to cast off all these coverings, and we shall then quickly see that the real difference about the justification of a sinner before God is the same, and no other, as it was in the days of the apostle Paul between him and the Jews. And all those things which men are pleased now to plead for, with respect unto a causality in our justification before God, under the names of preparations, conditions, dispositions, merit, with respect unto a first or second justification, are as effectually excluded by the apostle as if he had expressly named them every one; for in them all there is a management, according unto our conceptions and the terms of the learning passant in the present age, of the plea for our own personal righteousness, which the Jews maintained against the apostle. And the true understanding of what he intends by the law, the works and righteousness thereof, would be sufficient to determine this controversy, but that men are grown very skilful in the art of endless wrangling.


Chapter XV. Faith alone

Of faith alone

The truth which we plead has two parts:— 1. That the righteousness of God imputed to us, unto the justification of life, is the righteousness of Christ, by whose obedience we are made righteous. 2. That it is faith alone which on our part is required to interest us in that righteousness, or whereby we comply with God’s grant and communication of it, or receive it unto our use and benefit; for although this faith is in itself the radical principle of all obedience, — and whatever is not so, which cannot, which does not, on all occasions, evidence, prove, show, or manifest itself by works, is not of the same kind with it, — yet, as we are justified by it, its act and duty is such, or of that nature, as that no other grace, duty, or work, can be associated with it, or be of any consideration. And both these are evidently confirmed in that description which is given us in the Scripture of the nature of faith and believing unto the justification of life.

I know that many expressions used in the declaration of the nature and work of faith herein are metaphorical, at least are generally esteemed so to be; — but they are such as the Holy Ghost, in his infinite wisdom, thought meet to make use of for the instruction and edification of the church. And I cannot but say, that those who understand not how effectually the light of knowledge is communicated unto the minds of them that believe by them, and a sense of the things intended unto their spiritual experience, seem not to have taken a due consideration of them. Neither, whatever skill we pretend unto, do we know always what expressions of spiritual things are metaphorical. Those oftentimes may seem so to be, which are most proper. However, it is most safe for us to adhere unto the expressions of the Holy Spirit, and not to embrace such senses of things as are inconsistent with them, and opposite unto them. Wherefore, —

1. That faith whereby we are justified is most frequently in the New Testament expressed by receiving. This notion of faith has been before spoken unto, in our general inquiry into the use of it in our justification. It shall not, therefore, be here much again insisted on. Two things we may observe concerning it:— First, That it is so expressed with respect unto the whole object of faith, or unto all that does any way concur unto our justification; for we are said to receive Christ himself: “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,” John i. 12; “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord,” Col. ii. 6. In opposition hereunto unbelief is expressed by not receiving of him, John i. 11; iii. 11; xii. 48; xiv. 17. And it is a receiving of Christ as he is “The Lord our Righteousness,” as of God he is made righteousness unto us. And as no grace, no duty, can have any co-operation with faith herein, — this reception of Christ not belonging unto their nature, nor comprised in their exercise, — so it excludes any other righteousness from our justification but that of Christ alone; for we are “justified by faith.” Faith alone receives Christ; and what it receives is the cause of our justification, whereon we become the sons of God. So we “receive the atonement” made by the blood of Christ, Rom. v. 11; for “God hath set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” And this receiving of the atonement includes the soul’s approbation of the way of salvation by the blood of Christ, and the appropriation of the atonement made thereby unto our own souls. For thereby also we receive the forgiveness of sins: “That they may receive forgiveness of sins … by faith that is in me,” Acts xxvi. 18. In receiving Christ we receive the atonement; and in the atonement we receive the forgiveness of sins. But, moreover, the grace of God, and righteousness itself, as the efficient and material cause of our justification, are received also; even the “abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness,” Rom. v. 17. So that faith, with respect unto all the causes of justification, is expressed by “receiving;” for it also receives the promise, the instrumental cause on the part of God thereof, Acts ii. 41; Heb. ix. 15. Secondly, That the nature of faith, and its acting with respect unto all the causes of justification, consisting in receiving, that which is the object of it must be offered, tendered, and given unto us, as that which is not our own, but is made our own by that giving and receiving. This is evident in the general nature of receiving. And herein, as was observed, as no other grace or duty can concur with it, so the righteousness whereby we are justified can be none of our own antecedent unto this reception, nor at any time inherent in us. Hence we argue, that if the work of faith in our justification be the receiving of what is freely granted, given, communicated, and imputed unto us, — that is, of Christ, of the atonement, of the gift of righteousness, of the forgiveness of sins, — then have our other graces, our obedience, duties, works, no influence into our justification, nor are any causes or conditions thereof; for they are neither that which does receive nor that which is received, which alone concur thereunto.

2. Faith is expressed by looking: “Look unto me, and be ye saved,” Isa. xlv. 22; “A man shall look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect unto the Holy One of Israel,” chap. xvii. 7; “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced,” Zech. xii. 10. See Ps. cxxiii. 2. The nature hereof is expressed, John iii. 14, 15, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” For so was he to be lifted up on the cross in his death, John viii. 28, chap. xii. 32. The story is recorded Numb. xxi. 8, 9. I suppose none doubt but that the stinging of the people by fiery serpents, and the death that ensued thereon, were types of the guilt of sin, and the sentence of the fiery law thereon; for these things happened unto them in types, 1 Cor. x. 11. When any was so stung or bitten, if he betook himself unto any other remedies, he died and perished. Only they that looked unto the brazen serpent that was lifted up were healed, and lived; for this was the ordinance of God, — this way of healing alone had he appointed. And their healing was a type of the pardon of sin, with everlasting life. So by their looking is the nature of faith expressed, as our Saviour plainly expounds it in this place: “So must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him,” — that is, as the Israelites looked unto the serpent in the wilderness, — [“should not perish.”] And although this expression of the great mystery of the gospel by Christ himself has been by some derided, or, as they call it, exposed, yet is it really as instructive of the nature of faith, justification, and salvation by Christ, as any passage in the Scripture. Now, if faith, whereby we are justified, and in that exercise of it wherein we are so, be a looking unto Christ, under a sense of the guilt of sin and our lost condition thereby, for all, for our only help and relief, for deliverance, righteousness, and life, then is it therein exclusive of all other graces and duties whatever; for by them we neither look, nor are they the things which we look after. But so is the nature and exercise of faith expressed by the Holy Ghost; and they who do believe understand his mind. For whatever may be pretended of metaphor in the expression, faith is that act of the soul whereby they who are hopeless, helpless, and lost in themselves, do, in a way of expectancy and trust, seek for all help and relief in Christ alone, or there is not truth in it. And this also sufficiently evinces the nature of our justification by Christ.

3. It is, in like manner, frequently expressed by coming unto Christ: “Come unto me, all ye that labour,” Matt. xi. 28. See John vi. 35, 37, 45, 65; vii. 37. To come unto Christ for life and salvation, is to believe on him unto the justification of life; but no other grace or duty is a coming unto Christ: and therefore have they no place in justification. He who has been convinced of sin, who has been wearied with the burden of it, who has really designed to fly from the wrath to come, and has heard the voice of Christ in the gospel inviting him to come unto him for help and relief, will tell you that this coming unto Christ consists in a man’s going out of himself, in a complete renunciation of all his own duties and righteousness, and betaking himself with all his trust and confidence unto Christ alone, and his righteousness, for pardon of sin, acceptation with God, and a right unto the heavenly inheritance. It may be some will say this is not believing, but canting; be it so: we refer the judgment of it to the church of God.

4. It is expressed by fleeing for refuge: Heb. vi. 18, “Who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us.” [See] Prov. xviii. 10. Hence some have defined faith to be “perfugium animæ,” the flight of the soul unto Christ for deliverance from sin and misery. And much light is given unto the understanding of the thing intended thereby. For herein it is supposed that he who believes is antecedently thereunto convinced of his lost condition, and that if he abide therein he must perish eternally; that he has nothing of himself whereby he may be delivered from it; that he must betake himself unto somewhat else for relief; that unto this end he considers Christ as set before him, and proposed unto him in the promise of the gospel; that he judges this to be a holy, a safe way, for his deliverance and acceptance with God, as that which has the characters of all divine excellencies upon it: hereon he flees unto it for refuge, that is, with diligence and speed, that he perish not in his present condition; he betakes himself unto it by placing his whole trust and affiance thereon. And the whole nature of our justification by Christ is better declared hereby, unto the supernatural sense and experience of believers, than by a hundred philosophical disputations about it.

5. The terms and notions by which it is expressed under the Old Testament are, leaning on God, Mic. iii. 11; or Christ, Cant. viii. 5; — rolling or casting ourselves and our burden on the Lord, Ps. xxii. 8, [margin,] xxxvii. 5 — (the wisdom of the Holy Ghost in which expressions has by some been profanely derided); — resting on God, or in him, 2 Chron. xiv. 11; Ps. xxxvii. 7; — cleaving unto the Lord, Deut. iv. 4; Acts xi. 23; as also by trusting, hoping, and waiting, in places innumerable. And it may be observed, that those who acted faith as it is thus expressed, do everywhere declare themselves to be lost, hopeless, helpless, desolate, poor, orphans; whereon they place all their hope and expectation on God alone.

All that I would infer from these things is, that the faith whereby we believe unto the justification of life, or which is required of us in a way of duty that we may be justified, is such an act of the whole soul whereby convinced sinners do wholly go out of themselves to rest upon God in Christ for mercy, pardon, life, righteousness, and salvation, with an acquiescence of heart therein; which is the whole of the truth pleaded for.


Chapter XVI. The truth pleaded farther confirmed by testimonies of Scripture. — Jer. xxiii. 6

Testimonies of Scripture confirming the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ — Jer. xxiii. 6, explained and vindicated

That which we now proceed unto, is the consideration of those express testimonies of Scripture which are given unto the truth pleaded for, and especially of those places where the doctrine of the justification of sinners is expressly and designedly handled. From them it is that we must learn the truth, and into them must our faith be resolved; unto whose authority all the arguing and objections of men must give place. By them is more light conveyed into the understandings of believers than by the most subtile disputations. And it is a thing not without scandal, to see among Protestants whole books written about justification, wherein scarce one testimony of Scripture is produced, unless it be to find out evasions from the force of them. And, in particular, whereas the apostle Paul has most fully and expressly (as he had the greatest occasion so to do) declared and vindicated the doctrine of evangelical justification, not a few, in what they write about it, are so far from declaring their thoughts and faith concerning it out of his writings, as that they begin to reflect upon them as obscure, and such as give occasion unto dangerous mistakes; and unless, as was said, to answer and except against them upon their own corrupt principles, seldom or never make mention of them; as though we were grown wiser than he, or that Spirit whereby he was inspired, guided, acted in all that he wrote. But there can be nothing more alien from the genius of Christian religion, than for us not to endeavour humbly to learn the mystery of the grace of God herein, in the declaration of it made by him. But the foundation of God stands sure, what course soever men shall be pleased to take into their profession of religion.

For the testimonies which I shall produce and insist upon, I desire the reader to observe, — 1. That they are but some of the many that might be pleaded unto the same purpose. 2. That those which have been, or yet shall be alleged, on particular occasions, I shall wholly omit; and such are most of them that are given unto this truth in the Old Testament. 3. That in the exposition of them I shall, with what diligence I can, attend, — First, Unto the analogy of faith; that is, the manifest scope and design of the revelation of the mind and will of God in the Scripture. And that this is to exalt the freedom and riches of his own grace, the glory and excellency of Christ and his mediation; to discover the woeful, lost, forlorn condition of man by sin; to debase and depress every thing that is in and of ourselves, as to the attaining life, righteousness, and salvation; cannot be denied by any who have their sense exercised in the Scriptures. Secondly, Unto the experience of them that do believe, with the condition of them who seek after justification by Jesus Christ. In other things I hope the best helps and rules of the interpretation of the Scripture shall not be neglected.

There is weight in this case deservedly laid on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as promised and given unto us, — namely, “The Lord our Righteousness,” Jer. xxiii. 6. As the name Jehovah, being given and ascribed unto him, is a full indication of his divine person; so the addition of his being our righteousness, sufficiently declares that in and by him alone we have righteousness, or are made righteous. So was he typed by Melchizedek, as first the “King of righteousness,” then the “King of peace,” Heb. vii. 2; for by his righteousness alone have we peace with God. Some of the Socinians would evade this testimony, by observing, that righteousness in the Old Testament is urged sometimes for benignity, kindness, and mercy; and so they suppose it may be here. But the most of them, avoiding the palpable absurdity of this imagination, refer to the righteousness of God in the deliverance and vindication of his people. So Brenius [22] briefly, “Ita vocatur quia Dominus per manum ejus judicium et justitiam faciet Israeli.” But these are evasions of bold men, who care not, so they may say somewhat, whether what they say be agreeable to the analogy of faith or the plain words of the Scripture. Bellarmine, who was more wary to give some appearance of truth unto his answers, first gives other reasons why he is called “The Lord our Righteousness;” and then, whether unawares or overpowered by the evidence of truth, grants that sense of the words which contains the whole of the cause we plead for. “Christ,” he says, “may be called ‘The Lord our Righteousness,’ because he is the efficient cause of our righteousness;” — as God is said to be our “strength and salvation.” Again, “Christ is said to be our righteousness, as he is our wisdom, our redemption, and our peace; because he has redeemed us, and makes us wise and righteous, and reconciles us unto God.” And other reasons of the same nature are added by others. But not trusting to these expositions of the words, he adds, “Deinde dicitur Christus justitia nostra, quoniam satisfecit patri pro nobis, et eam satisfactionem ita nobis donat et communicat, cum nos justificat, ut nostra satisfactio et justitia dici possit.” And afterward, “Hoc modo non esset absurdum, si quis diceret nobis imputari Christi justitiam et merita, cum nobis donantur et applicantur, ac si nos ipsi Deo satisfecissimus,” De Justificat., lib. ii. cap. 10; — “Christ is said to be our righteousness because he has made satisfaction for us to the Father; and does so give and communicate that satisfaction unto us when he justifies us, that it may be said to be our satisfaction and righteousness. And in this sense it would not be absurd if any one should say that the righteousness of Christ and his merits are imputed unto us, as if we ourselves had satisfied God.” In this sense we say that Christ is “The Lord our Righteousness;” nor is there any thing of importance in the whole doctrine of justification that we own, which is not here granted by the cardinal, and that in terms which some among ourselves scruple at and oppose. I shall therefore look a little farther into this testimony, which has wrested so eminent a confession of the truth from so great an adversary. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up unto David a righteous Branch; … and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness,” Jer. xxiii. 5, 6. It is confessed among Christians that this is an illustrious renovation of the first promise concerning the incarnation of the Son of God, and our salvation by him. This promise was first given when we had lost our original righteousness, and were considered only as those who had sinned and come short of the glory of God. In this estate a righteousness was absolutely necessary, that we might be again accepted with God; for without a righteousness, yea, that which is perfect and complete, we never were so, nor ever can be so. In this estate it is promised that he shall be our “righteousness;” or, as the apostle expresses it, “the end of the law for righteousness to them that do believe.” That he is so, there can be no question; the whole inquiry is, how he is so? This [is], say the most sober and modest of our adversaries, because he is the efficient cause of our righteousness; that is, of our personal, inherent righteousness. But this righteousness may be considered either in itself, as it is an effect of God’s grace, and so it is good and holy, although it be not perfect and complete; or it may be considered as it is ours, inherent in us, accompanied with the remaining defilements of our nature. In that respect, as this righteousness is ours, the prophet affirms that, in the sight of God, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” Isa. lxiv. 6. כָּל־צִדְקֹתֵינוּ comprises our whole personal, inherent righteousness; and the Lord Christ cannot from hence be denominated יְהוָה צִדְקֵנוּ, — “The Lord our Righteousness,” seeing it is all as filthy rags. It must therefore be a righteousness of another sort whence this denomination is taken, and on the account whereof this name is given him: wherefore he is our righteousness, as all our righteousnesses are in him. So the church, which confesses all her own righteousnesses to be as filthy rags, says, “In the Lord have I righteousness,” chap. xlv. 24, (which is expounded of Christ by the apostle, Rom. xiv. 11;) אַךְ בַּיהוָה לִי צְדָקוֹת, — “Only in the Lord are my righteousnesses:” which two places the apostle expresses, Phil. iii. 8, 9, “That I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law” (in this case as filthy rags), “but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Hence it is added, “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified,” Isa. xlv. 25, — namely, because he is, in what he is, in what he was, and did, as given unto and for us, “our righteousness,” and our righteousness is all in him; which totally excludes our own personal, inherent righteousness from any interest in our justification, and ascribes it wholly unto the righteousness of Christ. And thus is that emphatical expression of the psalmist, “I will go in the strength of the Lord God” (for as unto holiness and obedience, all our spiritual strength is from him alone); “and I will make mention” צִדְקָתְךָ לְבַדֶּךָ, Ps. lxxi. 16, “of thy righteousness, of thine only.” The redoubling of the affix excludes all confidence and trusting in any thing but the righteousness of God alone. For this the apostle affirms to be the design of God in making Christ to be righteousness unto us, — namely, “that no flesh should glory in his presence; but that he that glorieth, should glory in the Lord,” 1 Cor. i. 29, 31. For it is by faith alone making mention, as unto our justification, of the righteousness of God, of his righteousness only, that excludes all boasting, Rom. iii. 27. And, besides what shall be farther pleaded from particular testimonies, the Scripture does eminently declare how he is “The Lord our Righteousness,” — namely, in that he “makes an end of sin and reconciliation for iniquity, and brings in everlasting righteousness,” Dan. ix. 24. For by these things is our justification completed, — namely, in satisfaction made for sin, the pardon of it in our reconciliation unto God, and the providing for us an everlasting righteousness. Therefore is he “The Lord our Righteousness,” and so rightly called. Wherefore, seeing we had lost original righteousness, and had none of our own remaining, and stood in need of a perfect, complete righteousness to procure our acceptance with God, and such a one as might exclude all occasion of boasting of any thing in ourselves, the Lord Christ being given and made unto us “The Lord our Righteousness,” in whom we have all our righteousness (our own, as it is ours, being as filthy rags in the sight of God); and this by making an end of sin, and reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in everlasting righteousness: it is by his righteousness, by his only, that we are justified in the sight of God, and do glory. This is the substance of what in this case we plead for; and thus it is delivered in Scripture, in a way bringing more light and spiritual sense into the minds of believers than those philosophical expressions and distinctions which vaunt themselves with a pretence of propriety and accuracy.


[22] The works of Dan. Brenius will be found in one of the two supplementary volumes to the “Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum.” — Ed.


Chapter XVII. Testimonies out of the evangelists considered

Testimonies out of the evangelists considered — Design of our Saviour’s sermon on the mount — The purity and penalty of the law vindicated by him — Arguments from thence — Luke xviii. 9–14, the parable of the Pharisee and publican explained and applied to the present argument — Testimonies out of the Gospel by John, chap. i. 12; iii. 14–18, etc.

The reasons why the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is more fully and clearly delivered in the following writings of the New Testament than it is in those of the evangelists, who wrote the history of the life and death of Christ, have been before declared; but yet in them also it is sufficiently attested, as unto the state of the church before the death and resurrection of Christ, which is represented in them. Some few of the many testimonies which may be pleaded out of their writings unto that purpose I shall consider, first, —

The principal design of our blessed Saviour’s sermon, especially that part of it which is recorded, Matt. v., is to declare the true nature of righteousness before God. The scribes and Pharisees, from a bondage unto whose doctrines he designed to vindicate the consciences of those that heard him, placed all our righteousness before God in the works of the law, or men’s own obedience thereunto. This they taught the people, and hereon they justified themselves, as he charges them, Luke xvi. 15, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts, for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God,” — as in this sermon he makes it evident; and all those who were under their conduct did seek to “establish their own righteousness, as it were by the works of the law,” Rom. ix. 32; x. 3. But yet were they convinced in their own consciences that they could not attain unto the law of righteousness, or unto that perfection of obedience which the law did require. Yet would they not forego their proud, fond imagination of justification by their own righteousness; but, as the manner of all men is in the same case, sought out other inventions to relieve them against their convictions; for unto this end they corrupted the whole law by their false glosses and interpretations, to bring down and debase the sense of it, unto what they boasted in themselves to perform. So does he in whom our Saviour gives an instance of the principle and practice of the whole society, by way of a parable, Luke xviii. 11, 12; and so the young man affirmed that he had kept the whole law from his youth, — namely, in their sense, Matt. xix. 20.

To root this pernicious error out of the church, our Lord Jesus Christ in many instances gives the true, spiritual sense and intention of the law, manifesting what the righteousness is which the law requires, and on what terms a man may be justified thereby. And among sundry others to the same purpose, two things he evidently declares:— 1. That the law, in its precepts and prohibitions, had regard unto the regulation of the heart, with all its first motions and acting; for he asserts that the inmost thoughts of the heart, and the first motions of concupiscence therein, though not consented unto, much less actually accomplished in the outward deeds of sin, and all the occasions leading unto them, are directly forbidden in the law. This he does in his holy exposition of the seventh commandment, chap. v. 27–30. 2. He declares the penalty of the law on the least sin to be hell-fire, in his assertion of causeless anger to be forbidden in the sixth commandment. If men would but try themselves by these rules, and others there given by our Saviour, it would, it may be, take them off from boasting in their own righteousness and justification thereby. But as it was then, so is it now also; the most of them who would maintain a justification by works, do attempt to corrupt the sense of the law, and accommodate it unto their own practice. The reader may see an eminent demonstration hereof in a late excellent treatise, whose title is, “The Practical Divinity of the Papists Discovered to be Destructive of Christianity and Men’s Souls.” [23] The spirituality of the law, with the severity of its sanction, extending itself unto the least and most imperceptible motions of sin in the heart, are not believed, or not aright considered, by them who plead for justification by works in any sense. Wherefore, the principal design of the sermon of our Saviour is, as to declare what is the nature of that obedience which God requires by the law, so to prepare the minds of his disciples to seek after another righteousness, which, in the cause and means of it, was not yet plainly to be declared, although many of them, being prepared by the ministry of John, did hunger and thirst after it.

But he sufficiently intimates wherein it did consist, in that he affirms of himself that he “came to fulfil the law,” verse 17. What he came for, that he was sent for; for as he was sent, and not for himself, “he was born to us, given unto us.” This was to fulfil the law, that so the righteousness of it might be fulfilled in us. And if we ourselves cannot fulfil the law, in the proper sense of its commands (which yet is not to be abolished but established, as our Saviour declares); if we cannot avoid the curse and penalty of it upon its transgression; and if he came to fulfil it for us (all which are declared by himself); — then is his righteousness, even [that] which he wrought for us in fulfilling the law, the righteousness wherewith we are justified before God. And whereas here is a twofold righteousness proposed unto us — one in the fulfilling of the law by Christ; the other in our own perfect obedience unto the law, as the sense of it is by him declared; and other middle righteousness between them there is none, — it is left unto the consciences of convinced sinners whether of these they will adhere and trust unto; and their direction herein is the principal design we ought to have in the declaration of this doctrine.

I shall pass by all those places wherein the foundations of this doctrine are surely laid, because it is not expressly mentioned in them; but such they are as, in their proper interpretation, do necessarily infer it. Of this kind are they all wherein the Lord Christ is said to die for us or in our stead, to lay down his life a ransom for us or in our stead, and the like; but I shall pass them by, because I will not digress at all from the present argument.

But the representation made by our Saviour himself of the way and means whereon and whereby men come to be justified before God, in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, is a guide unto all men who have the same design with them. Luke xviii. 9–14: “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful unto me, a sinner. I tell you, that this man went down unto his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and every one that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

That the design of our Saviour herein was to represent the way of our justification before God is evident, — 1. From the description given of the persons whom he reflected on, verse 9. They were such as “trusted in themselves that they were righteous;” or that they had a personal righteousness of their own before God. 2. From the general rule wherewith he confirms the judgment he had given concerning the persons described: “Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” verse 14. As this is applied unto the Pharisee, and the prayer that is ascribed unto him, it declares plainly that every plea of our own works, as unto our justification before God, under any consideration, is a self-exaltation which God despises; and, as applied unto the publican, that a sense of sin is the only preparation on our part for acceptance with him on believing. Wherefore, both the persons are represented as seeking to be justified; for so our Saviour expresses the issue of their address unto God for that purpose: the one was justified, the other was not.

The plea of the Pharisee unto this end consists of two parts:— 1. That he had fulfilled the condition whereon he might be justified. He makes no mention of any merit, either of congruity or condignity. Only, whereas there were two parts of God’s covenant then with the church, the one with respect unto the moral, the other with respect unto the ceremonial law, he pleads the observation of the condition of it in both parts, which he shows in instances of both kinds: only he adds the way that he took to farther him in this obedience, somewhat beyond what was enjoined, — namely, that he fasted twice in the week; for when men begin to seek for righteousness and justification by works, they quickly think their best reserve lies in doing something extraordinary, more than other men, and more, indeed, than is required of them. This brought forth all the pharisaical austerities in the Papacy. Nor can it be said that all this signified nothing, because he was a hypocrite and a boaster; for it will be replied that it should seem all are so who seek for justification by works; for our Saviour only represents one that does so. Neither are these things laid in bar against his justification, but only that he “exalted himself” in “trusting unto his own righteousness.” 2. In an ascription of all that he did unto God: “God, I thank thee.” Although he did all this, yet he owned the aid and assistance of God by his grace in it all. He esteemed himself much to differ from other men; but ascribed it not unto himself that so he did. All the righteousness and holiness which he laid claim unto, he ascribed unto the benignity and goodness of God. Wherefore, he neither pleaded any merit in his works, nor any works performed in his own strength, without the aid of grace. All that he pretends is, that by the grace of God he had fulfilled the condition of the covenant; and thereon expected to be justified. And whatever words men shall be pleased to make use of in their vocal prayers, God interprets their minds according to what they trust in, as unto their justification before him. And if some men will be true unto their own principles, this is the prayer which, “mutatis mutandis,” they ought to make.

If it be said, that it is charged on this Pharisee that he “trusted in himself,” and “despised others,” for which he was rejected; I answer, — 1. This charge respects not the mind of the person, but the genius and tendency of the opinion. The persuasion of justification by works includes in it a contempt of other men; for “if Abraham had been justified by works, he should have had whereof to glory.” 2. Those whom he despised were such as placed their whole trust in grace and mercy, — as this publican. It were to be wished that all others of the same mind did not so also.

The issue is, with this person, that he was not justified; neither shall any one ever be so on the account of his own personal righteousness. For our Saviour has told us, that when we have done all (that is, when we have the testimony of our consciences unto the integrity of our obedience), instead of pleading it unto our justification, we should say (that is, really judge and profess) that we are douloi achreioi, — “unprofitable servants,” Luke xvii. 10: as the apostle speaks, “I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified,” 1 Cor. iv. 4. And he that is doulos achreios, and has nothing to trust unto but his service, will be cast out of the presence of God, Matt. xxv. 30. Wherefore, on the best of our obedience, to confess ourselves douloi achreioi, is to confess that, after all, in ourselves, we deserve to be cast out of the presence of God.

In opposition hereunto, the state and prayer of the publican, under the same design of seeking justification before God, are expressed. And the outward acts of his person are mentioned, as representing and expressive of the inward frame of his mind: “He stood afar off,” and “did not so much as lift up his eyes;” he “smote upon his breast.” All of them represent a person desponding, yea, despairing in himself. This is the nature, this is the effect, of that conviction of sin which we before asserted to be antecedently necessary unto justification. Displicency, sorrow, sense of danger, fear of wrath, — all are present with him. In brief he declares himself guilty before God, and his mouth stopped as unto any apology or excuse. And his prayer is a sincere application of his soul unto sovereign grace and mercy, for a deliverance out of the condition wherein he was by reason of the guilt of sin. And in the use of the word; hilaskomai, there is respect had unto a propitiation. In the whole of his address there is contained, — 1. Self-condemnation and abhorrence. 2. Displicency and sorrow for sin. 3. A universal renunciation of all works of his own, as any condition of his justification. 4. An acknowledgment of his sin, guilt, and misery. And this is all that, on our part, is required unto justification before God, excepting that faith whereby we apply ourselves unto him for deliverance.

Some make a weak attempt from hence to prove that justification consists wholly in the remission of sin, because, on the prayer of the publican for mercy and pardon, he is said to be “justified:” but there is no force in this argument; for, — 1. The whole nature of justification is not here declared, but only what is required on our part whereunto. The respect of it unto the mediation of Christ was not yet expressly to be brought to light; as was showed before. 2. Although the publican makes his address unto God under a deep sense of the guilt of sin, yet he prays not for the bare pardon of sin, but for all that sovereign mercy or grace God has provided for sinners. 3. The term of justification must have the same sense when applied unto the Pharisee as when applied unto the publican; and if the meaning of it with respect unto the publican be, that he was pardoned, then has it the same sense with respect unto the Pharisee, — he was not pardoned. But he came on no such errand. He came to be justified, not pardoned; nor does he make the least mention of his sin, or any sense of it. Wherefore, although the pardon of sin be included in justification, yet to justify, in this place, has respect unto a righteousness whereon a man is declared just and righteous; wrapped up, on the part of the publican, in the sovereign producing cause, — the mercy of God.

Some few testimonies may be added out of the other evangelist, in whom they abound: “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” John i. 12. Faith is expressed by the receiving of Christ; for to receive him, and to believe on his name, are the same. It receives him as set forth of God to be a propitiation for sin, as the great ordinance of God for the recovery and salvation of lost sinners. Wherefore, this notion of faith includes in it, — 1. A supposition of the proposal and tender of Christ unto us, for some end and purpose. 2. That this proposal is made unto us in the promise of the gospel. Hence, as we are said to receive Christ, we are said to receive the promise also. 3. The end for which the Lord Christ is so proposed unto us in the promise of the gospel; and this is the same with that for which he was so proposed in the first promise, — namely, the recovery and salvation of lost sinners. 4. That in the tender of his person, there is a tender made of all the fruits of his mediation, as containing the way and means of our deliverance from sin and acceptance with God. 5. There is nothing required on our part unto an interest in the end proposed, but receiving of him, or believing on his name. 6. Hereby are we entitled unto the heavenly inheritance; we have power to become the sons of God, wherein our adoption is asserted, and justification included. What this receiving of Christ is, and wherein it does consist, has been declared before, in the consideration of that faith whereby we are justified. That which hence we argue is, that there is no more required unto the obtaining of a right and title unto the heavenly inheritance, but faith alone in the name of Christ, the receiving of Christ as the ordinance of God for justification and salvation. This gives us, I say, our original right thereunto, and therein our acceptance with God, which is our justification; though more be required unto the actual acquisition and possession of it. It is said, indeed, that other graces and works are not excluded, though faith alone be expressed. But every thing which is not a receiving of Christ is excluded. It is, I say, virtually excluded, because it is not of the nature of that which is required. When we speak of that whereby we see, we exclude no other member from being a part of the body; but we exclude all but the eye from the act of seeing. And if faith be required, as it is a receiving of Christ, every grace and duty which is not so is excluded, as unto the end of justification.

Chap. iii. 14–18, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

I shall observe only a few things from these words, which in themselves convey a better light of understanding in this mystery unto the minds of believers than many long discourses of some learned men:— 1. It is of the justification of men, and their right to eternal life thereon, that our Saviour discourses. This is plain in verse 18, “He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already.” 2. The means of attaining this condition or state on our part is believing only, as it is three times positively asserted, without any addition. 3. The nature of this faith is declared, — (1.) By its object, — that is, Christ himself, the Son of God, “Whosoever believeth in him;” which is frequently repeated. (2.) The especial consideration wherein he is the object of faith unto the justification of life; and that is as he is the ordinance of God, given, sent, and proposed, from the love and grace of the Father: “God so loved the world, that he gave;” “God sent his Son.” (3.) The especial act yet included in the type, whereby the design of God in him is illustrated; for this was the looking unto the brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness by them who were stung with fiery serpents. Hereunto our faith in Christ unto justification does answer, and includes a trust in him alone for deliverance and relief. This is the way, these are the only causes and means, of the justification of condemned sinners, and are the substance of all that we plead for.

It will be said, that all this proves not the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, which is the thing principally inquired after; but if nothing be required on our part unto justification but faith acted on Christ, as the ordinance of God for our recovery and salvation, it is the whole of what we plead for. A justification by the remission of sins alone, without a righteousness giving acceptance with God and a right unto the heavenly inheritance, is alien unto the Scripture and the common notion of justification amongst men. And what this righteousness must be, upon a supposition that faith only on our part is required unto a participation of it, is sufficiently declared in the words wherein Christ himself is so often asserted as the object of our faith unto that purpose.

Not to add more particular testimonies, which are multiplied unto the same purpose in this evangelist, the sum of the doctrine declared by him is, “That the Lord Jesus Christ was ‘the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world;’ that is, by the sacrifice of himself, wherein he answered and fulfilled all the typical sacrifices of the law: that unto this end he sanctified himself, that those who believe might be sanctified, or perfected forever, by his own offering of himself: that in the gospel he is proposed as lifted up and crucified for us, as bearing all our sins in his body on the tree: that by faith in him we have adoption, justification, freedom from judgment and condemnation, with a right and title unto eternal life: that those who believe not are condemned already, because they believe not on the Son of God; and, as he elsewhere expresses it, ‘make God a liar,’ in that they believe not his testimony, namely, that ‘he hath given unto us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son.’ ” Nor does he anywhere make mention of any other means, cause, or condition of justification on our part but faith only, though he abounds in precepts unto believers for love, and keeping the commands of Christ. And this faith is the receiving of Christ in the sense newly declared; and this is the substance of the Christian faith in this matter; which ofttimes we rather obscure than illustrate, by debating the consideration of any thing in our justification but the grace and love of God, the person and mediation of Christ, with faith in them.


[23] Dr Owen refers to a treatise written by David Clarkson, his colleague in the charge of his congregation in London, and published in 1676. Clarkson had been tutor to Archbishop Tillotson, and in 1662 had been ejected from Mortlake in Surrey. He was held in high esteem, and wrote some other works, which are considered able and judicious. His sermons were published in one of the volumes issued under the auspices of the Wycliffe Society. He preached the funeral sermon on the death of Dr Owen, whom he did not long survive. On the occasion of his death in 1686 Dr Bates preached the funeral sermon, and commended the excellence of the deceased in terms of great force and beauty, as one whose “life was a silent repetition of his holy discourses.” Howe and Baxter also unite in praising his great learning and singular worth. — Ed.


Chapter XVIII. The nature of justification as declared in the epistles of St Paul, in that unto the Romans especially. — Chap. iii. [iv. v. x.; 1 Cor. i. 30; 2 Cor. v. 21; Gal. ii. 16; Eph. ii. 8–10; Phil. iii. 8, 9.]


Testimonies out of the Epistles of Paul the apostle — His design in the third, fourth and fifth chapters to the Romans — That design explained at large, and applied to the present argument

That the way and manner of our justification before God, with all the causes and means of it, are designedly declared by the apostle in the Epistle to the Romans, chap. iii., iv., v., as also vindicated from objections, so as to render his discourse thereon the proper seat of this doctrine, and whence it is principally to be learned, cannot modestly be denied. The late exceptions of some, that this doctrine of justification by faith without works is found only in the writings of St Paul, and that his writings are obscure and intricate, are both false and scandalous to Christian religion, so as that, in this place, we shall not afford them the least consideration. He wrote hupo Pneumatos hagiou pheromenos, — as he was “moved by the Holy Ghost.” And as all the matter delivered by him was sacred truth, which immediately requires our faith and obedience, so the way and manner wherein he declared it was such as the Holy Ghost judged most expedient for the edification of the church. And as he said himself with confidence, that if the gospel which he preached, and as it was preached by him, though accounted by them foolishness, was hid, so as that they could not understand nor comprehend the mystery of it, it was “hid unto them that are lost;” so we may say, that if what he delivers in particular concerning our justification before God seems obscure, difficult, or perplexed unto us, it is from our prejudices, corrupt affections, or weakness of understanding at best, not able to comprehend the glory of this mystery of the grace of God in Christ, and not from any defect in his way and manner of the revelation of it. Rejecting, therefore, all such perverse insinuations, in a due sense of our own weakness, and acknowledgment that at best we know but in part, we shall humbly inquire into the blessed revelation of this great mystery of the justification of a sinner before God, as by him declared in those chapters of his glorious Epistle to the Romans; and I shall do it with all briefness possible, so as not, on this occasion, to repeat what has been already spoken, or to anticipate what may be spoken in place more convenient.

The first thing he does is to prove all men to be under sin, and to be guilty before God. This he gives as the conclusion of his preceding discourse, from chap. i. 18, or what he had evidently evinced thereby, chap. iii. 19, 23. Hereon an inquiry does arise, how any of them come to be justified before God? And whereas justification is a sentence upon the consideration of a righteousness, his grand inquiry is, what that righteousness is, on the consideration whereof a man may be so justified? And concerning this, he affirms expressly that it is not the righteousness of the law, nor of the works of it; whereby what he does intend has been in part before declared, and will be farther manifested in the process of our discourse. Wherefore, in general, he declares that the righteousness whereby we are justified is the righteousness of God, in opposition unto any righteousness of our own, chap. i. 17; iii. 21, 22. And he describes this righteousness of God by three properties:— 1. That it is chōris nomou, — “without the law,” verse 21; separated in all its concerns from the law; not attainable by it, nor any works of it, which they have no influence into. It is neither our obedience unto the law, nor attainable thereby. Nor can any expression more separate and exclude the works of obedience unto the law from any concernment in it than this does. Wherefore, whatever is, or can be, performed by ourselves in obedience unto the law, is rejected from any interest in this righteousness of God, or the procurement of it to be made ours. 2. That yet it “is witnessed unto by the law,” verse 21: “The law and the prophets.”

The apostle, by this distinction of the books of the Old Testament into “the law and the prophets,” manifests that by the “law” he understands the books of Moses. And in them testimony is given unto this righteousness of God four ways:—

(1.) By a declaration of the causes of the necessity of it unto our justification. This is done in the account given of our apostasy from God, of the loss of his image, and the state of sin that ensued thereon; for hereby an end was put unto all possibility and hope of acceptance with God by our own personal righteousness. By the entrance of sin our own righteousness went out of the world; so that there must be another righteousness prepared and approved of God, and called “the righteousness of God,” in opposition unto our own, or all relation of love and favour between God and man must cease forever.

(2.) In the way of recovery from this state, generally declared in the first promise of the blessed seed, by whom this righteousness of God was to be wrought and introduced; for he alone was “to make an end of sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,” צֶדֶק עֹלָמִים, Dan. ix. 24; that righteousness of God that should be the means of the justification of the church in all ages, and under all dispensations.

(3.) By stopping up the way unto any other righteousness, through the threatenings of the law, and that curse which every transgression of it was attended withal. Hereby it was plainly and fully declared that there must be such a righteousness provided for our justification before men as would answer and remove that curse.

(4.) In the prefiguration and representation of that only way and means whereby this righteousness of God was to be wrought. This it did in all its sacrifices, especially in the great anniversary sacrifice on the day of expiation, wherein all the sins of the church were laid on the head of the sacrifice, and so carried away.

3. He describes it by the only way of our participation of it, the only means on our part of the communication of it unto us. And this is by faith alone: “The righteousness of God which is by the faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference,” Rom. iii. 22. Faith in Christ Jesus is so the only way and means whereby this righteousness of God comes upon us, or is communicated unto us, that it is so unto all that have this faith, and only unto them; and that without difference on the consideration of any thing else besides. And although faith, taken absolutely, may be used in various senses, yet, as thus specified and limited, the faith of Christ Jesus, or, as he calls it, “the faith that is in me,” Acts xxvi. 18, it can intend nothing but the reception of him, and trust in him, as the ordinance of God for righteousness and salvation.

This description of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, which the apostle asserts as the only means and cause of our justification before God, with the only way of its participation and communication unto us, by the faith of Christ Jesus, fully confirms the truth we plead for. For if the righteousness wherewith we must be justified before God be not our own, but the righteousness of God, as these things are directly opposed, Phil. iii. 9; and the only way whereby it comes upon us, or we are made partakers of it, is by the faith of Jesus Christ; then our own personal, inherent righteousness or obedience has no interest in our justification before God: which argument is insoluble, nor is the force of it to be waived by any distinctions whatever, if we keep our hearts unto a due reverence of the authority of God in his word.


Chap. iii. 24–26 explained, and the true sense of the words vindicated — The causes of justification enumerated — Apostolical inference from the consideration of them

Having fully proved that no men living have any righteousness of their own whereby they may be justified, but are all shut up under the guilt of sin; and having declared that there is a righteousness of God now fully revealed in the gospel, whereby alone we may be so, leaving all men in themselves unto their own lot, inasmuch as “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;” — he proceeds to declare the nature of our justification before God in all the causes of it, Rom. iii. 24–26, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God, to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of them that believe in Jesus.”

Here it is that we may and ought, if anywhere, to expect the interest of our personal obedience, under some qualification or other, in our justification to be declared. For if it should be supposed (which yet it cannot, with any pretence of reason) that, in the foregoing discourse, the apostle had excluded only the works of the law as absolutely perfect, or as wrought in our own strength without the aid of grace, or as meritorious; yet having generally excluded all works from our justification, verse 20, without distinction or limitation, it might well be expected, and ought to have been so, that, upon the full declaration which he gives us of the nature and way of our justification, in all the causes of it, he should have assigned the place and consideration which our own personal righteousness had in our justification before God, — the first, or second, or continuation of it, somewhat or other, — or at least made some mention of it, under the qualification of gracious, sincere, or evangelical, that it might not seem to be absolutely excluded. It is plain the apostle thought of no such thing, nor was at all solicitous about any reflection that might be made on his doctrine, as though it overthrew the necessity of our own obedience. Take in the consideration of the apostle’s design, with the circumstances of the context, and the argument from his utter silence about our own personal righteousness, in our justification before God, is unanswerable. But this is not all; we shall find, in our progress, that it is expressly and directly excluded by him.

All unprejudiced persons must needs think, that no words could be used more express and emphatical to secure the whole of our justificati