Page images
PDF
EPUB

cendent favour. O how wonderful the grace that gave rise to this incomparably excellent blessing ! Here Jehovah loveth because he loveth; he is gracious because he is gracious. With respect to the believer who inherits this inestimable blessing, justification is "freely by his grace." The original word here rendered freely, is used by the LXX. to express the meaning of that word in Psalm lxix. 4., which we translate,- -" Without a cause.” It is the word, too, which is employed in John xv. 25., where Christ saith of the Jews, “ They hated me without a cause.” To be justified freely, then, is to be justified without a cause; without any holy qualities in the sinner, or any good works done by him, as the cause of the high privilege. As the innocent Lamb of God was hated without a cause, so the sinner considered as in himself is justified without a cause.

There is no cause in him why he should be justified; nothing in or about him that God can consider as a qualification for such a blessing. In the act of justification, the sinner is considered by the impartial Judge as absolutely unworthy in himself. O how free, how immensely free, how gratuitous to you and me, is this justification ! Such, indeed, as are acquitted and declared righteous are justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; but, this instead of obscuring, serves rather to increase the glory of the grace displayed in it. The redemption which is in Christ is the honourable channel through which justifying grace flows to the sinner, Eph. i. 7. Hence is this illustrious expression of our Apostle, —" Even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord,” Rom. v. 21. Here grace reigns in all its exalted dignity, in all its magnificence.

3d, The meritorious cause is the surety-righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is sometimes called the matter or ground of justification. It is not his essential righteousness that is here intended, for that is incommunicable, but his surety-righteousness ; that righteousness consisting of the holiness of human nature, obedience of life, and satisfaction for sin, which Jesus our Representative and Surety fulfilled in our stead ; that righteousness of which he himself spoke when he said, “ Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness ;” and of which Paul speaks when he says, “ Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” This righteousness is altogether perfect; it is abundantly satisfactory to the high demands of the holy law. By this the penalty of the broken covenant has been fully endured, and the precepts of the law perfectly obeyed; by this Divine justice is completely satisfied, and the honour of the holy law highly magnified. None can be justified without a perfect righteousness. The use of such a righteousness is, not to make the believer meet for heaven, but to give him a title to heaven. By breaking the first covenant, justifying righteousness had left the world : “there was none righteous, no, not one.” None of Adam's guilty race could perform a single duty corresponding to the purity and extent of the holy law, far less an obedience absolutely perfect, in parts, degrees, and continuance. But without such a righteousness, none of them could ever be entitled to eternal life. The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Jesus Christ, therefore, the Surety of elect sinners, yielded to the law as a covenant, in their room, a righteousness fully commensurate to its high requirements. Hence this is mentioned as his honourable and endearing name, “ The Lord our Righteousness ;” and he is introduced in Dan. ix. 24., as about “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” Now, this consummate righteousness is strictly meritorious of justification for the believing sin

As it was fulfilled by Him who is both God and man, it strictly merits that eternal life for men which consists in the full enjoyment of God. Though the believer did not fulfil it in his own person ; yet it is as much his for the purpose of justification, as if he had done so.

“For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many

be made righteous," Rom. v. 19.

This glorious righteousness becomes the believer's by

ner.

a twofold right; the right of a free gift received, and the right of communion with Christ. It is his by the right of a free gift received. Hence we read of receiving the gift of righteousness, so as to reign in life. What we receive as a gift is as much our own as what we pay the highest price for. It is his, too, by right of communion with him who fulfilled it. The believer has real communion, or common interest with Jesus in his righteousness, for his justification, Phil. iii. 9. This righteousness is the sole meritorious cause of his title to life. None of the believer's own works are to be connected with it in the affair of justification. It is therefore styled “righteousness without works,” Rom. iv. 6. No works of any sort are to be joined with it in that view ; neither the performance of rites of the ceren

remonial, nor of works of obedience to the precepts of the moral law ; neither works performed before regeneration, nor good works performed after it. - Therefore we conclude,” says Paul, “ that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." “By grace are ye saved through faith ;--not of works.” “ Not by works of righteousness which we have done,” &c. The apostle, in these passages, does not exclude some particular works merely; but works in general, duties of every kind. That obedience by which many are constituted righteous, is the obedience of one, and not of many. Paul clearly distinguishes between the righteousness by which he was justified, and all his own righteous deeds, Phil. iii. 9. Add to this, that if our works be connected with Christ's righteousness, in the affair of justification, it will convert the covenant of grace into a covenant of works, and will effectually obscure the lustre of justifying grace. Sooner, o self-righteous sinner, will you increase the brightness of the meridian sun by the feeble light of a candle, than increase the merit, the infinite merit of the Saviour's righteousness, by your poor, your polluted performances. If they cannot merit any good thing, how can they add to the merit of a Divine righteousness? Can they increase the value of that which is already infinite in value ?

4th, The formal cause of a sinner's justification, or that by which the righteousness of Christ is made his, is its being imputed to him. It is graciously imputed to all who have believed through grace ; that is, it is placed to their account. God accounts it unto them for their justification, as if they had fulfilled it in their own persons, and treats them accordingly. Nay, it is so effectually placed on their account, that they are called righteousness in the abstract, 2 Cor. v. 21. Believers are not only made righteous, but the righteousness of God in Christ. O amazing grace! incomparable benignity! In imputing this consummate righteousness, God does not reckon that the believer fulfilled it in his own person, for that would be a judgment not according to truth ; but he accounts it to him for justification, as if he had fulfilled it personally. When the Psalmist, in Psalm xxxii. 2., says,

« Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity," the apostle Paul explains it by saying, that he imputeth righteousness to him. “ Even as David describeth the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works,” Rom. iv. 6. What daring impiety is it, then, to be avowedly offended with that expression, when it is used repeatedly in sacred Scripture? After the apostle had, in the 6th verse of the forecited chapter, said, that God " imputeth righteousness without works," he adds, in the 11th verse, “ That righteousness might be imputed to them also ;" and in the 24th verse, “ But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe,” &c. As to the grounds of this imputation of righteousness to the believer, it is imputed to him on the surest grounds,—the ground of his federal union with Christ from eternity, and that of his vital union with him in time. The Lord Jesus as our Surety engaged from everlasting to fulfil this righteousness for us; he fulfilled it in our nature, the nature that was to be adorned in it, and his eternal Father eclared bis high approbation of it in our room. “ The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable, Isa. xlii. 21.

It is so imputed, that none of the parties concerned can have any just cause of complaint : not the justice of God, for it is a satisfaction of infinite value, abun. dantly sufficient to compensate the infinite offence given to justice by sin ; not the law, for the law is thereby magnified and made honourable ; not the glorious Sponsor himself, for in fulfilling all righteousness, no man took his life from him : he had power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. Though innocent in himself, yet the law had a right to inflict punishment upon him, as one who was made sin, and undertook to satisfy for it.

As God, he had an absolute right to dispose of his life which way he pleased ; nor could his death occasion any loss to society, as he was soon to rise again from the dead. Besides, he engaged to lay down his life, in order to accomplish the highest and noblest design of love to his people.

The sinner to whom this glorious righteousness is imputed has no cause to complain, but rather to rejoice and say, “ I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness,” Isa. Ixi. 10. This is an imputation of the righteousness of Christ, not only in its effects but in itself. As Adam's first sin is imputed, so is this righteousness. The guilt itself of that sin was imputed, by which judg. ment hath come upon all men to condemnation ; in like manner, this righteousness itself is imputed to the elect, in consequence of which the free gift comes upon them unto justification of life. Some one will ask, How can that obedience which Christ as man owed for himself, be imputed to others for justification ? Answer: As his human nature had no personality of its own, but, from the moment it was assumed, subsisted in his Divine person, it owed no obedience for eternal life to itself. Another will say, How can the law require obedience from the believer, if he has a perfect obedience already

« PreviousContinue »