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A SERMON UPON JUSTIFICATION: Preached at New-Brunswick on the Saturday before the Dispensing of the HOLY SACRA­MENT, which was the first Sabbath in August, Anno 1740.

By GILBERT TENNENT, A. M. And Minister of the Gospel in the Place aforesaid.

1 COR. i. 30. Who of God is made unto us Wisdom, Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption.

PHILADELPHIA: Printed and sold by BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, in Market-Street. M,DCC,XLI.

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ROMANS iii. 28.

Therefore we conclude, that a Man is justified by Faith, without the Deeds of the Law.

IT is as foolish and fatal as it is common, for Mankind, in general, to go on con­tentedly and securely, if they have but an outward Reformation; without Examining their State towards God, and the Princi­ples of their Action.

Is it possible, that Men's Actions should be spiritually good, when their State towards GOD, and the Springs of their Action, are bad? What can an unjustify'd Person do who is an Enemy to GOD, that shall be acceptable to the God he hates? Can those that are in the Flesh please God? No, surely! Is it not the Prac­tice of wise Builders to lay the Foundation first? But, alas! the very Contrary is the common Course of the World. They suppose, without Examination and Reason, that their Foundation is good; and so vainly attempt to build upon the Sand. They carefully strive from time to time to mend and patch their Practices; and if they can get that done, they are easy in the appa­rent Cleanness of the outside of the Cup and Platter; altho' they know nothing of getting into a new State by Justification, or of obtaining new Principles by Regeneration.

It is for a Lamentation, that the most of People be­gin at the wrong End of Religion; they attempt to grow in Grace, before they get Grace, and to bring forth living Fruit, before they have a living Principle.

[Page 4] O! how hard is it to call foolish Sinners back from their empty, airy Fabricks, to an impartial Tryal of their States and Principles, that they may lay a firm Foundation that will stand all Weathers; without which all their wild Grapes, and dead Performances will but serve with the greater Ease and Magnificence to lead their deluded Souls into everlasting Burnings. No doubt, it is their Ignorance and love of Rest which make them so averse to examine their States; which is notwithstanding of such vast Necessity.

To promote this, I have therefore determined to dis­course at this Time upon Justification; which, as Luther justly observes, Is the Article of a standing or falling Church: It is undoubtedly a fundamental Truth of the Christian Religion; For, no other Foundation can any Man lay, save that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. This, the Apostle, after a long Train of close Reason­ing, concludes to be by Faith, without the Deeds of the Law, i. e. by Faith, as an Instrument applying the Righteousness of Christ to the Soul; for which alone the Sinner is justified, without any Mixture of our Obedience to the moral Law join'd with it, as a deser­ving Cause thereof.

But, to make this more plain, I would discourse upon the two following Heads, namely:

I. I would endeavour to open the Nature of Justifi­cation. And,

II. Prove that it cannot be by the Works of the Law.

The

I. GENERAL HEAD to be spoken upon, is, to open the Nature of Justification: Here let it be observed, That Justification is derived from two Words which signify to make Just. Now, he is Just, who is free from the Guilt of any Crime (whereby Right is violated) and so deserves not to be punished; and to make Just or Righteous, is either by infusing Righteousness, as was done to our first Parents at their Creation; or by ab­solving [Page 5]or declaring to free one from the Punishment due for Sin. It is in this last Sense the Word is ge­nerally taken in Scripture: It alludes to Persons ar­raign'd at a civil Court, who, upon Hearing of their Case, are acquitted, by reason of another's Discharg­ing their Debt for them. Justification is diametrically opposed to Condemnation, and may be said to be three fold, viz. In the Sight of GOD, Conscience, and Man. Justification in the Sight of God, may be thus described, namely, That it is a Declaration of God's pure Grace, whereby, upon the Account of the Obedience and Sufferings of Christ, imputed and received by Faith, he frees Persons from the Guilt of Sin, and gives them a Right to eternal Salvation. Justification in the Sight of Conscience, is the Sense or Knowledge of being justified before God; which usually follows the Exercise of a Saving Faith. Hence the Apostle observes, That we have not received the Spirit of Bondage again to fear; but the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry Abba Father. Justification before Man, consists in the spiritual Fruits of Faith appearing in our Practice; which evidence to others the Reality of our Justification before God. In this Sense the Apostle James asserts a Man to be justi­fied by Works, and desired those who profess'd Faith, to shew it by their Works. And thus is the seeming Diffe­rence between the two Apostles Paul and James removed; the former speaks only of Justification before God, while the latter speaks of a Justification before Man. It may be also observed, that these Apostles had to deal with very different Sorts of People, viz. strict Pharisees and loose Libertines; while the former depended upon their strict Obedience for Acceptance with God, the latter depended on a Faith which did not produce Obe­dience. Now, as it was necessary to drive the Phari­sees from a carnal Dependance upon Works, that so with Poverty of Spirit they might receive and rest up­on the Redeemer, so it was necessary to convince the [Page 6]Libertines that their Faith was not Justifying, because it did not produce good Fruits, that so they might be humbled before God, and with Importunity implore his Favour.

But it is Justification before God of which the Text under our present Consideration treats, this therefore the present Argument concerns; which is, as was be­fore described, viz. a gracious Declaration of God, &c.

God alone is the Author of Justification, and that under the Consideration of a Supream Lord, Law­giver, Judge and Creditor, whom by Sin we have of­fended, to whom, by Sin, we are become Debtors, and who therefore can only dissolve our Obligation to Punishment. It is he alone, who, in infinite Wisdom, devised the Scene of Salvation for fallen Mankind, which the Gospel reveals. It is he, who has, in infinite Love, provided a Surety for Sinners, qualified him for this Work, and accepted his Accomplishment of it up­on their Account. And, it is he, who unites those that are to be justified, to the Mediator; as well as imputes his Righteousness to them for their Acceptance. Now, God the Father does not only concur in the Justifica­tion of a Sinner, as has been observed; but also the Son of God concurs by Satisfying as a Sacrifice, and Interceeding as an Advocate; and likewise, the Holy Spirit, by his testifying and sealing Influences.

JUSTIFICATION, in its Nature, may be called a Declaration of Almighty God, or judicial Pronounc­ing of Sentence (a) which was, as it were, conceived in the Mind of God from Eternity, by the Decree of Justification (b) pronounced in Christ, as Head of his People, raised from the Dead; (c) but more sensibly and satisfactorily in the Conscience, upon the Exercise of Faith in Christ; especially when the Holy Spirit tes­tifies with ours, that we are the Sons of God. By [Page 7]Faith we know we are justified, according to the divine Promise: (d) And indeed, before Faith is implanted in the Soul, the very Elect are under Condemnation. (d)

In the mean Time, the aforesaid Declaration is en­tirely gracious in respect of us: It springs from the pure unexcited Goodness of the blessed God; No inhe­rent Righteousness in us, or good Work done by us, bears the least Part in our Justification; for we have all sinned and come short of the Glory of God. The same pure Grace that gave a Redeemer to the World, and calls the Elect to embrace him, pronounces those Righ­teous who are by Faith united to him: For what is our Justification but a Blotting out of our Iniquities, a Forgiving and Hiding of our Sins (e) as the Psalmist observes; hereby alluding to the Mercy-Seats Co­vering of the Ark, in which were the Tables of the Testimony, which are against us. The Freeness of the Divine Goodness in his Dealings with Sinners is most nobly represented by the Prophet Ezekiel, where he compares Man in his natural State to a new-born In­fant lying in the open Field in its Blood, equally ex­posed to Loathing and to Ruin.

Now, this, even this, be astonished O Heavens! is a Time of Love, a Time when the great Lord of the Universe spreads the Spirit of his condescending Kind­ness over us, and says to us, Live. Blessed God, how pure is thy Mercy, and how well worthy of our Su­pream Regards! But tho' they be Sinners whom God justifies, yet are they elected, redeemed, called, regene­rated and believing Ones. (f)

Here it will be proper to enquire, what that Righ­teousness is for which a Sinner is justified before God? Seeing the Judge of all the Earth must needs do right, and that his Judgments are just and true, it will ne­cessarily [Page 8]follow, that he cannot pronounce those Righ­teous who have no Righteousness at all in any Sense. And seeing that the Person to be justified is in himself ungodly, having no inward Righteousness for which he can be justified, it is therefore absolutely necessary that another's Righteousness intervene, for which the Sin­ner may be pronounc'd Righteous. But the Righteous­ness of no meer Creature can intervene; because every one of them owes it (by Virtue of Creation) as a Debt to God, from whom he has received his Being and all his Benefits.

The Righteousness of Christ therefore alone remains, as the deserving Cause of a Sinner's Justification before God: Hence he is said to be made Sin, for us, who knew no Sin (i. e. by Imputation) that in like Manner we might be made the Righteousness of God in him: He is called, The Lord our Righteousness; and by the Righteousness of One, the free Gift is said to come upon all Men (i. e. all Believers) unto Justification of Life. Him, as the Apostle justly observes, Hath God set forth to be a Propitiation (or Atonement) thro' Faith in his Blood. As by the Unrighteousness of the First Adam all his natural Offspring are condemned, so by the Righ­teousness of the Second, all his spiritual Offspring, viz. Believers, are justified.

But seeing the Righteousness of Christ is two-fold, viz. essential and acquired, of his Nature and Life; it may be queried, which of these is imputed to Believers? To this it may be replied, that, albeit, the whole Saviour, and his entire Righteousness, does conduce to our Justifica­tion, inasmuch as he is wholly given of God to the World, that whosoever believes in him might obtain eternal Salvation; his Birth and Life was not for him­self, but for us; hence it's said, that he came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give his Life a Ransom for many: Nevertheless, the essential Righ­teousness of Christ, both divine and humane, does not [Page 9]conduce to our Justification, as our Righteousness, for which we are justified; because that that was necessary for himself: And to suppose that it is imputed to us, would render the Righteousness of his Life and Death unnecessa­ry. It was nevertheless necessary to qualify the Person of the Mediator, to compass that Righteousness for which we are justified, which is the Righteousness of his Life and Death. This is usually called his active and passive Obedience: The active Obedience of Christ is his per­fect fulfilling the Commands of the Law of God: His passive, is his Suffering those Penalties which were threaten'd for our Breaches of it, if not altogether in Kind, yet in Weight. The Precept and Penalty of the Law must both be fulfilled, because of God's Holi­ness and Truth, in order to free us from the Guilt of Sin, and acquire for us a Right to Salvation, which we had forfeited by it. Our Justification is to be ascrib'd to the whole Obedience of Christ, both active and pas­sive, considered complexly or together; because that Satisfying and Meriting don't differ really in this Affair. Does not the Scripture inform us, that as by one Man's Disobedience many were made Sinners, so by the Obedience of one shall many be made Righteous.

That the Satisfaction of Christ was sufficient to an­swer the Demands of the Law and Justice, violated and incensed by the Creature's Sin, will appear, by consi­dering the Quality of his Person, the Degrees of his Sufferings, and the Perfection of his Obedience.

The blessed Jesus was not the Son of God meerly by Office, but by Nature: On this Account we are told, that he reckoned it no Robbery to be equal with God; and hence he is called the Brightness of his Father's Glory. Now the Dignity of his Person must needs derive an in­finite Value both upon his Sufferings and Obedience, seeing they were endured and performed by one who was as really God (in the strictest Sense of the Word) as he was truly Man; they must of Necessity contain in [Page 10]them infinite Worth. Is it not the unniversal Suffrage of all Nations, that Punishments receive their Estimate from the Quality of the Persons suffering? Had not our Lord been Man he could not have suffered at all; for the Deity is impassible: And had he not been God as well as Man, his Sufferings could not have contain'd infinite Value in them, and so never have answered the infinite demerit of Sin.

Now, the Sufferings which our Lord endured in his Body and Soul in his Life, and at his Death, were great in degree; this, his Agony and bloody Sweat in the Gar­den, and Out-cry on the Cross, viz. Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani, sufficiently confirm. Hence he is said to tread the Wine-Press of his Father's Wrath alone: Undoubt­edly a Weight of Wrath equal, in Degree, to the Num­ber and Heinousness of all the Sins of the Elect-World, was laid upon the Soul and Body of Christ, which no­thing less than the Divine Nature could support him under. O how affecting is the Narrative which the Evangelists give us of the Sufferings of Christ in his Body, by Blows, Scourges, Nails, Thorns, and a cruel Spear! And was not his Soul sorrowful even to Death?

Had not our Lord, in the Quality of a Surety, suf­ficiently satisfied the Law in his Death, he could not have obtain'd an Acquittance in his Resurrection; but inasmuch as he was released from the Grave, as a Pri­son, by publick Sentence, and had a triumphant Entry into Heaven, it evidently proves the Sufficiency of his Satisfaction. And the active Obedience of Christ, was compleat and spotless. Hence we are told, that he was holy, harmless and undefiled, and that it became him to fulfil all Righteousness.

That the Satisfaction of a Surety in the Sinners room should be accepted upon his Account, is wholly owing to the absolute Sovereignty and meer good Pleasure of the great God.

[Page 11] Right Reason will inform us, that the Almighty, by an Act of Supremacy, might relax the Law as to the Letter of it (which required perfect, personal Obedience, upon Pain of Death, to be endured by the Delinquent) and dispense with its Execution upon such Considera­tions, as might answer the Ends of Government. And this, we are assured by the sacred Oracles, the blessed God did. Men not being able to obey perfectly, they being themselves imperfect, and being equally un­capable to satisfy for their Offences, themselves being finite; in order to prevent their unavoidable and ever­lasting Ruin, it pleased the eternal Father to appoint a Mediator to interpose, by Way of Surety, to authorize and qualify him for this Office, and to declare his Ac­ceptance of his Execution of it. Hence we are told, that Him hath the Father sealed, and that in him is the Father well pleased.

But that which compleats the Whole, is the Redee­mer's consenting to his Father's Proposals, viz. to suffer and obey in the Sinners room, and thereby to satisfy divine Justice for them. The Efficacy of the Redee­mer's Obedience depends much upon his own volunta­ry Engagement; for being the Lord of Heaven there was no superiour Authority to compel him; and sup­posing there were, he being perfectly innocent, it would not accord with Justice, to force him to suffer for ano­ther's Crimes: But as the Proverb is, To a willing Mind there is no Injury done. Our Lord informs us, that he had Power to lay down his Life, and that he was willing to do it. He himself also assures us, by saying, Lo I come, in the Volume of thy Book it is written of me: I delight to do thy Will, O my God; yea, thy Law is within my Heart.

But however excellent and perfect the Righteousness of the Mediator is, it can be of no avail to us, without an Appropriation. Here therefore it will be necessary to enquire how it is made ours? and that is two Ways, [Page 12] viz. by Imputation, and Faith, as was observed in the Description; the former is without us, and the latter is within us.

He that hath no inward or inherent Righteousness of his own, for which he should be justified; can be justified no other way but by Imputation. However this Term has been scoffed at by Papists, and other Opposers of the Doctrines of Grace; yet we find it is a scriptural one. It is said of Abraham, that he believ'd God, and it was counted to him for Righteousness; and that the Man is blessed to whom God will not impute Sin. (g)

Now the aforesaid Imputation consists in the Father's giving of his Son to us; (h) and in his referring or ac­counting the Virtue of his Death and Obedience so far to us as thereby to free us from everlasting Punishment, and entitle us to everlasting Rest.

But the inward Mean on Men's Part, of Appropria­ting the Righteousness of Christ to us, is Faith; not a dead Faith! which is destitute of good Works: No, such a historical, ineffectual Assent to Truth, if it be depended upon, will but serve to deceive us into Ruin, and aggravate our everlasting Pains thro' Surprize. The Faith which justifies, is a living Principle of good Action, form'd by God's almighty Power in the Soul, by which we are resolved to have God for our last End, and Christ for our only Mediator. (h) This operative Faith is only a Mean of our Justification, or prerequisite to it; not any deserving Cause of it, either in Whole or in Part: Therefore our Text asserts, that we are justified by Faith, not for Faith: Faith, in the Business of Justification, is only an Instrument whereby we ap­prehend and lay hold of the Righteousness of Christ for our Justification. If Faith, considered as a Work of the [Page 13]Creature, was in any degree a meritorious Cause of our Justification, then we should be justified by Works, con­trary to the Scriptures. That Faith should have any Instrumentality in our Justification above other Graces, is entirely owing to the most free Constitution of Al­mighty God: But in the mean Time, we may ven­ture to say, that in this Method the Pureness of divine Grace shines with the greatest Glory towards poor Sin­ners, in that God will justify them upon the Account of the Righteousness of his Son, received by Faith alone: And the Wildom of God is also discover'd in Choosing this Grace to be the Instrument of a Sinner's Justifica­tion, or a Prerequisite before it; because as it inclines to exalting Thoughts of God, so it empties a Man of Self, and breaks the Pride of the Heart.

It was before observed, in the Description of Justifi­cation, that God thereby frees Persons from the Guilt of Sin, and gives them a Right to eternal Salvation.

By the Guilt of Sin, an Obligation or [...] to Punishment, by reason of the Threatnings of the Law against Transgressors, is intended. There is no Con­demnation to those that are justified. (i) It is true, by Justification the almighty God does not take away the Stain of Sin; for that is done afterwards by Sanctifica­tion. Neither are all Effects of Sin together and at once removed. Even justified Persons are excercis'd with various Afflictions, and at last endure the Pains of a temporal Death. But these are not proper Punish­ments inflicted with any view to compensate the Injury offered by Sin to God. Neither do they proceed from his vindicative Justice, or tend to the Hurt of the Person afflicted: No, they are Chastnings indeed! oc­casioned by Sin, but proceeding from the fatherly Love of God; they are made to promote the Good of the Justify'd. (k) Now, seeing the Guilt of Sin is two­fold [Page 14]namely, potential and actual, it is not to be sup­posed that Justification removes both: No, potential Guilt is inseparable from Sin; for it is contradictory to suppose any thing to be Sin and not at the same time to deserve Punishment: It is therefore the latter only which Justification abolishes, namely, the Sinner's O­bligation to Punishment; and that by transferring it upon the Surety, who in this respect was made Sin for us, and therefore bore our Iniquities (i. e. the Punish­ments due for them) on his Body on the Tree.

Moreover, as the Guilt of Sin involves or includes a certain Captivity to Corruption, a Debt or Subjection to Punishment, and an Enmity against God; (l) so that Absolution, which Justification includes, has a threefold Denomination: In respect of Bondage it is cal­led Redemption, which is the Freeing of a Captive Soldier, by the Payment of a certain Price: In respect of Debt and Punishment, it is called Remission or For­giveness: (m) In respect of Enmity and Hatred there­by removed, it is called Reconciliation (n) inasmuch as it signifies the Application of Reconciliation to the Soul. When Guilt, which is the only Cause of En­mity, is removed, then a sweet Peace, Friendship and Communion with God is hereby introduced into the Soul. Truely, such have Fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The Guilt of Sin being removed, a Right to eternal Life must needs succeed; which it is best to ascribe to the whole undivided Righteousness of Christ, viz. of his active and passive Obedience, as the meritorious Cause thereof. Inasmuch as there seems to be no real Difference between a Freedom from eternal Death, and a Right to eternal Life, no more than between Satisfac­tion and Merit; it therefore seems not proper (in our [Page 15]Sentiments) to deprive the passive Obedience of Christ of the Honour of Deserving, or the Active of the Ho­nour of Satisfying.

Albeit, that Justification is an unalterable Sentence of almighty God, that can never be repealed, the Sins of the Justify'd will not be remembered to their Con­demnation; for it is God that justifieth, who is he therefore that condemneth? Yet it is necessary to have the Righteousness of Christ repeatedly apply'd to the Soul by frequent Acts of Faith; because of Sins com­mitted after the Beginning of our Justification, that so it may be continued until it is consummate at the last Judgment by that Voice of Christ, Come ye blessed of my Father.

Altho' the Perseverance of the Justify'd is bottom'd upon the Promise of a faithful God; (n) yet it is such as renders the Use of a Means necessary. We must la­bour to keep ourselves in the Love of God: And altho' Works are no meritorious Cause of our Justification, yet are they necessary Means to obtain it from God, who will be enquired of the House of Israel to do those Things for them which he has even purposed to confer.

But it is time to proceed to the

SECOND GENERAL HEAD of Discourse, which was to shew that Justification cannot be attain'd by the Works of the Law. To this end, let it be con­sidered, that in order to Justification by the Law a Perfection of Obedience is necessary; the Law curses for the least Default in Thought, Word or Action. Gal. iii. 10.

Now, this is, at present, impossible for us to perform; for we have already, in our first Parents, sinned and come short of the Glory of God; and on this Account every Mouth is stop'd, and the whole World is become guilty before God: That awful Trespass has robb'd us [Page 16]of our original Integrity, Harmony and Beauty, and in­troduc'd into all our Powers a universal Depravity, Discord and Deformity. How therefore can such im­perfect Causes produce perfect Effects? This is impos­sible in the Nature of Things. But supposing we could keep the Law of God in time to come; yet how could we make Satisfaction for our past Disobedience? seeing that Sin is an Offence committed against a Being of infinite Perfections, a Being to whom we are under infinite Obligations, not only by reason of his essential Excellency, but communicative Kindness to us; of all which, Sin is a rebellious and ungrateful Breach; it must therefore, in its Nature, deserve infinite Punishment. which God, in Justice, is obliged to inflict. But this, contracted into a finite Space, no meer Creature can sustain; it would surely destroy his Being: Therefore what the Punishment wants in Weight nust be made up in Continuance; and thus the sinning Creature will be forever suffering, and can never satisfy.

Before Persons have Faith, the divine Word informs us, that whatever they do is Sin; and as soon as they attain Faith, they are united to Christ, and so must needs be justified by his Righteousness. Now, is it not un­reasonable to suppose that what is Sin, at least in the Manner of Performance, should be a meritorious Cause of Justification?

To suppose that we are justified by Works, is to say that the Reward is not of Grace but of Debt; contrary to the most plain and repeated Declarations of Scrip­ture, that our Justification is free and gracious. (o) Neither can our Justification be partly of Grace, and partly of Works; for thus, as the Apostle justly observes, Grace would be no more Grace, and Works would be no more Works. To be justified by Grace is to be justified freely, without a Respect to any Work of the Creature as a deserving Cause thereof: But to be justified by [Page 17]Works, in any degree respects them as a deserving Cause. Now, here is an unreconcilable Contra­diction. It is the same Thing substantially in the Case before us, whether Merit is supposed to consist in the Worth of the Work done, or in a Promise of the Al­mighty, pretended to be annexed to the Endeavours of natural Men: Which the Papists distinguish by the Terms of Congruity and Condignity; for both Ways God is bound, by the Labours of his Enemies to give them Happiness. Whatever Probability of obtaining does attend the Endeavours of natural Men, there is no certainty, otherwise Justification would be by the Works of the Law; and indeed, we may as easily reconcile Light and Darkness, Fire and Water, Life and Death, as Justification partly by Works, and partly by Grace; for Grace must lose its Nature, if it be by Works with it, and Works must lose their Nature, if it be by Grace together with them.

Besides, to suppose that the Works of the Creature are join'd with the Righteousness of Christ, as deserving Causes of Justification, reflects great Dishonour upon his Satisfaction; for it plainly intimates that it is incom­pleat: If it is compleat, as the Testimony of the Father declares, by saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; then there is no Need of the Creature's Additions: If it be incompleat, then how can an im­perfect Creature accomplish that which God himself is supposed to have left unfinished. Undoubtedly, there is still a Necessity of Obedience to the moral Law, as it is an invariable Rule of Righteousness corresponding to the divine Perfections, in order to testify our Regard to God's commanding Authority, and our Gratitude for his Love to us, as well as to testify the Truth of our Faith in him: But by no means is our Obedience to be admitted as a meritorious Cause of our Acceptance with God; for in that respect Christ has become the End of the Law to every one that believeth; as Bernard, of [Page 18]old, observed, Tho' Works be the Way to the Kingdom, yet they are not the Cause of our Reigning there. Surely we should expect Justification only in that Way in which Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, obtain'd it; but that was not by Works, but by Faith. If Abraham, says the Apostle Paul, were justified by Works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

The Scripture asserts, that we are justified in that Way, which excludes all Boasting; but by what Law is it excluded; is it by the Law of Works? nay, but by the Law of Faith. If Man contributed any thing towards his Justification, he would have whereof to glory, but this no Man hath; hence we are told that God justifieth the Ungodly, i. e. such as have no Righ­teousness of their own to commend them to his Favour; and that he imputeth Righteousness without Works.

If they which are of the Law be Heirs, i. e. if Men by Obedience to the Law can procure an Interest in the heavenly Inheritance, then is Faith made void, and the Promise made of none Effect: There is no need of Believing in Jesus for that which we have in ourselves; nor any need of his Attonement, seeing that the Matter can be otherwise adjusted, according to this Notion; and if so the very Foundation of the Gospel is overthrown; for what need is there of a Saviour to do that for us which we can do for ourselves.

The Apostle Paul on the Contrary informs us, That Israel, who sought after Righteousness, did not obtain it; because they sought it, as it were, by the Works of the Law; and that being ignorant of God, and going about to establish their own Righteousness, they did not submit themselves to the Righteousness of God: But of himself he says, That he desired not to be found in that Righteousness which is of the Law; but that which is thro' the Faith of Christ.

Well, seeing Justification by Works is of impossible Attainment, and there being no other Way of Justifi­cation open'd but by Faith, it must therefore of Neces­sity [Page 19]be by Faith; and this, indeed is frequently and and roundly asserted in the Epistles of Paul to the Romans and Galatians.

The Righteousness of Christ is such alone as can dis­charge the Sinner's Debts, and procure for him an heavenly Inheritance; and in this Way of Acceptance God is most glorified, and Man most humbled.

Neither does this Scheme of Free-Justification, open a Door to Licentiousness, as some have imagined; but on the Contrary, it secures Obedience upon the best Foundation, inasmuch as that Faith, which justifies, is a living, lasting Principle of holy and humble Ac­tion; and the more free and rich the Love of God is to us the more it must needs excite our Love to him: For Love is Love's-Load stone; and must not every one confess that Love is the only Principle of evangelical and acceptable Obedience; and that in Proportion to the Strength of the Cause, will be the Effects produced by it. That Obedience, which principally springs from a meaner Source, viz. slavish dread of the divine Re­venge, or hireling Notions of thereby purchasing Hap­piness, however fair Appearances it may have in the Eye of Man, is fleshly and dead; and therefore abhor'd by that God who is a Spirit. The Apostle therefore, justly rejected the aforesaid Cavil with Detestation, Shall we continue in Sin that Grace may abound? God forbid, say'd he: How shall we that are dead to Sin, live any longer therein? And elsewhere, do we make void the Law by Faith? Yea (says he) we establish the Law: Namely, by providing a Righteousness which fully an­swers its Demands, and by exciting Obedience to its Precepts from the noblest Principle, viz. Love.

If it be opposed, to what has been before observed, that we can no more be righteous, because of another's Righteousness, than we can be wise or learn'd, because of another's Wisdom or Learning; it may be reply'd, that the Objection will hold so far as it concerns an [Page 20]essential or inherent Righteousness, which cannot, by Imputation, be so made another's, that thro' That he he should be reckon'd inherently Righteous; neither do we affirm any such Thing relating to Justification. Besides, there is also a Difference in this, that one can­not be united with another, so as Believers are with Christ, as Members with the Head. By the Righteous­ness of Christ being imputed to us, we understand no more, than that his Merit and Satisfaction is so far reckoned to us as that we are thereby freed from the Guilt of Sin, and obtain a Right to Salvation.

But it is time to proceed to the IMPROVEMENT of this noble and important Subject: And here let us con­sider a little of that Honour that is hereby reflected upon the divine Atributes. With what surprizing and un­rival'd Glory does the unsearchable Wisdom of Jeho­vah shine, in Devising and Concerting a Method, which at the same time establishes his inviolable Truth, engaged to issue the Threats of the broken Covenant, satisfies his awful and inflexible Justice, wrong'd by the Creature's Sin, thro' an almighty Surety's Sufferings in their Room and Stead; secures the End of Govern­ment, by Honouring the Law more than it ever was before, thro' the spotless Obedience of one who was God, as well as Man, in the Guilty Sinner's Place: And yet opens a Door for the Manifestation of the purest and richest Grace upon unworthy and condemned Ra­bels, in their Acceptance and Salvation! while fallen Angels, a nobler Order of Creatures, are wholly passed by, and no Offer of Mercy made to them! What Man, what Angel, can sufficiently declare the Depth, the Glory of divine Wisdom, which has taken occasion by the Creature's Sin, which is the vilest Evil, to bring the greatest Glory to himself, and the greatest Good to Mankind? O! with what Majesty and Sweetness, does the Harmony of divine Perfections sparkle forth in the Re­demption [Page 21]of Man by Jesus Christ? And, O! how a­mazingly is their Salvation hereby secured upon a more unshaken Foundation than while Man remained in a State of Innocency; for now is their Stock in the Me­diator's Hands. O! let us dwell upon the Thoughts of these Things 'til our Hearts be fir'd with Love and Gratitude.

But how can we express Gratitude without Searching the Foundations of our Hope; seeing that all our Peace and Consolation in Adversity, depends upon the Cer­tainty of our Justification? It must needs be a Duty of the last Necessity for us to enquire into our present State: Which that we may do to some Purpose, Faith, which is the Instrument of our Justification, should be impartially examined. Now, those that have true Faith, have been, according to the Promise of our Saviour, convinced of their Unbelief, i. e. of their total Want of Faith, their Inability to believe, their utter Unworthiness of the Gift of Faith; as well as of the Rebellion and Ingratitude, that is grasp'd in Unbelief, and of the hor­rible Miseries consequent thereupon. And seeing Faith is a Receiving of Christ, in all his Offices, upon Gos­pel Terms, Joh. i. 12. Therefore, those that do be­lieve, have been made sensible of their Need of Christ in all his Offices: They have groan'd under the Burden of their Ignorance, Guilt and Slavery, and have ex­perienced a Vertue flowing from the several Offices of Christ to the Healing of the aforesaid Diseases. And indeed, every Believer feels a daily Need of Christ, in all his Offices; he daily lives upon Christ, and to him, and no more to himself; he comes out of the Wilder­ness of this World leaning upon his Beloved; for to him to live is Christ. Christ is the principal Support and highest End of the Believer's Life; as the Glory of Christ is the highest Mark of all the different Kinds of his Action (in general) so the Love of Christ, as a Principle, constrains him to act; and under a Sense of [Page 22]his own Folly and Weakness, by the Exercise of Faith, he desires Strength from Christ, as the Head of Influence, to serve God spiritually, not in the Oldness of the Letter, but in the Newness of the Spirit.

Again, as the vital Act of Faith consists in the Con­sent of the Will to Gospel Terms; therefore, those that believe to Justification, must needs know, and have seriously considered them, as well as without Re­serve, and with Resolution comply'd with them. Hence, we may safely assert, that such who know not, in some Measure, by Experience, what it is to deny their natural, civil, sinful and religious Self, are Unbe­lievers: For, not only Sin, is to be deny'd or forsaken absolutely and immediately; but even the other Kinds of Self, in some Respects: And those also who take not up the Cross of Christ, and follow him, do not believe in him with a justifying Faith.

It may be here observ'd, that as the Person (mention­ed in the Gospel) in his Coming to Christ, was thrown down and torn by the Devil; so it is common for those, that believe to Justification, to be opposed and tempted by the Devil in Believing. Justifying Faith does also produce powerful Effects; as it makes Christ precious to the Soul, so it humbles the Sinner's Heart, and makes him think, with Paul, that He is less than the least of all Saints: It gives Victory over the World (viz. the Lusts of it) and works by Love to God and Man. What is said of Hope may be justly apply'd to Faith, viz. that it purifies the Heart, i. e. makes Persons de­sirous after, and labouring for Heart-Purity, and cau­ses them to enter into a Course of War against the Contrary.

Such as have a justifying Faith, must needs have been brought to a Heart-affecting Complaisance with the Gospel Scheme of Salvation by Grace: This Way they desire to be saved, and no other. Phil. iii. 7, 8, 9.

[Page 23] And seeing that Faith is the Bond of Union to Christ, it must needs affect Believers with a high Regard to his Honour and Kingdom. Every Believer therefore has a a single Eye to the Glory of God in the Course of his Actions. O how much depends upon this! If our Eye be single, our whole Body is full of Light; if not, it is full of Darkness. O! if you think that this is of easy Attainment, and that you have always had it, you are surely ignorant of God and yourselves! For no natural Man on Earth hath, or while he so remains, can have a single Eye: A Fountain can't send forth Streams above a Level with itself.

If you have a justifying Faith, my dear Brethren, ye surely have a tender Regard to the Church of God; as a Member of the natural Body, that is united by a li­ving Band to the Whole, must be sensibly touch'd with the Pains and Pleasures of any Part thereof. Thus it is with you, if ye believe. When God's Name is prophan'd, and his Kingdom is not promoted, ye mourn; but when God is glorified, and Sinners are convinced and converted, ye rejoice.

Again, such as are justified, are effectually called, Rom. viii. 30. The Voice of Christ is accompanied with supernatural Light and irresistible Power upon their Minds and Hearts, which banish their natural Dark­ness, Rebellion and Prejudice, and make them stoop to the Saviour's Scepter. He that commanded the Light to shine at first out of Darkness, gives them the Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God in the Face of Christ. God sends the Rod of his Strength out of Zion, and makes his People a willing People in the Day of his Power.

And those that are justified do confess their Sins with deep Humiliation, Shame and Sorrow; as the Publican, who stood afar off, and smote upon his Breast, and said, God be merciful to me a Sinner. This Man went to his House justify'd, when the proud Pharisee was rejected.

[Page 24] But the justified Person does not only confess Sin, but forsake it in his Heart, and Practice: For there is an in­separable Conection between Justification and Sanctifi­cation, 1 Cor. vi. 11. As Justification includes in it Reconciliation to God; this, in the Order of Nature, as well as of God, necessarily supposes our being sor­rowfully sensible of our natural Enmity against him; and therefore such as have not been made sensible of the latter, may assure themselves that they are unacquainted with the former, Rom. viii. 7. 2 Cor. v. 20.

And those that are reconcil'd to God himself, must needs be reconcil'd to his People, his Laws and Pro­vidences.

By these Things, my dear Friends, we should exa­mine ourselves, and see whether we be justified or not.

As to those who have experienced the aforesaid Signs of Justification, ye are blessed indeed! Psa. xxxi. 1. Blessed is the Man whose Iniquity is forgiven, and whose Sin is covered: For ye have Peace with God, and Peace with Conscience; that Peace which passes all under­standing; that Peace which Christ left as a Legacy to his Disciples, Rom. v. 1. And such have free Access, with a humble Boldness, to a gracious God in all their Straits, who is both willing and able to relieve them, Eph. iii. 12. And, O how noble! how sweet! how precious! and how important, is thy Privilege! Who can express it? Such shall persevere in the Grace of God, and be carry'd by his mighty Power thro' Faith unto Salvation. The Gates of Hell shall never prevail against them, nor Death or Life separate them from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. Such may re­joice in the Hope of the Glory of God, and triumph in all Adversity; seeing every Affliction they meet with springs from a Father's Love, and shall surely, by his Direction, promote their Good; especially considering that under Affliction the Love of God is more frequent­ly shed abroad in their Hearts. Such are by the Righ­teousness [Page 25]of Christ freed from the Guilt of Sin, the Wrath of God, and eternal Condemnation. O what sweet Consolation springs from the Doctrine of Justifi­cation to every pious Soul in every Distress! whether it be Trouble of Conscience about the Multitude and Heinousness of their Sins, or Fears of Death, Judg­ment and Hell, or worldly Calamities and unjust Cen­sures. What can more effectually support the Soul than to think that it is God who justifieth, against whom neither the Accusations of Satan and of the World; nay, nor of our own Consciences, can in the least a­vail. As also, that God does not justify the Righteous, but Sinners; and that of the deepest Dye, namely, the Ungodly and Rebellious, from pure Grace; whereby he imputes the Righteousness of his only begotten Son to them; and thereby, upon their Believing in him, frees them from the Guilt of all their Offences, how many and great soever they be, and entitules them to eternal Glory. Hence he is said, not to behold Iniqui­ty in Jacob, or Perversness in Israel.

But on the Contrary, how miserable is the Case of all unjustify'd Persons! namely, such who want the Signs of Faith and Justification, before described: Such who profess Christ in Words, but in Works deny him: Such who have only a dead Faith without Works: Such who are Strangers to the Power of experimental Re­ligion, Communion with God, and Conformity to him.

If we consider the Unjustify'd in Life, their Persons are cover'd with the basest Deformity; their Bodies are Instruments of Unrighteousness to Sin; and their Minds and Consciences are defil'd.

In respect of their worldly Goods, they are Usurpers; Man having by his Fall lost his original Right to the Creatures, it can be only recover'd by an Interest in Christ, thro' Faith; who is made, by his Father, Heir of all Things. Now, inasmuch as they want this, they [Page 26]are Usurpers in the Sight of God, whatever civil Claim they may have notwithstanding.

In regard to their Pleasures and Prosperity, it is just­ly said, that their Table is a Snare and a Trap to their Souls, and that the Prosperity of Fools destroys them; they stand on slippery Places, and are but the more pre­par'd for an aggravated Ruin by all their prosperous Suc­cesses; even their very Blessings are accursed, as the Prophet Malachi expresses it.

Their honourable Exaltations serve but to sink them lower at last in the Dungeon of Devils.

Their Afflictions are dreadful Presages of their ap­proaching, unavoidable and eternal Miseries.

And, O! how dreadful is the Case of the Unjustify'd at Death (especially if awakened to a Sense of Danger) when they must turn their Backs forever upon all cre­ated Enjoyments, face Death with all its grizly Hor­rors, feel its invenom'd Sting, and launch the eternal Deep; and in the mean time have no Grain of Com­fort, or Glimpse of Hope; to use the Psalmist's Words, How are they brought into Destruction, as in a Moment, they are utterly consumed with Terrors!

But if in our Mediation we follow the Unjustify'd farther, we may behold their increasing Miseries: With what Confusion shall they stand before the Bar of the great God at the general Judgment! while every of their Sins are exposed in all their awful Aggravations, and they have none to plead their Cause. What Hor­ror, Indignation and Pain must tear their guilty Souls, when they hear the great Judge pronounce their final Sentence, Go, ye accursed, into everlasting Burnings, pre­pared for the Devil and his Angels: And, behold him laughing at their Calamities.

But if we view their eternal State, alas! how dread­ful and how shocking is the Sight! For in that Prison where they are irrecoverably fixed; there their Worm does not die, and the Fire is unquenchable, and they [Page 27]shall be an Abhorring to all Flesh, Isa. lxvi. 24. How shall Horror for past Sins, and lost Mercies, with Fears of future Miseries, and utter Despair of Relief from them, together with the Vials of divine Vengeance, everlast­ingly rack damned Souls!

Now, seeing the Miseries of the Unjustify'd are so great, then let Sinners be entreated to beware of abu­sing the precious Doctrine of Justification to their own Ruin, by vainly imagining themselves to be Possessors of it, when they are far from it. Those who justify themselves when God condemns them, are an Abomi­nation to him; they deceive themselves, and obstruct the Way to their Justification and Salvation, Prov. xvii. 15. Gal. vi. 3. Mat. xiii. This those do, who depend upon Church-Privileges, a dead Faith, the un­covenanted Mercy of God, the Death of Christ unap­ply'd to the Soul, or their own Righteousness.

It is infinitely better for you, my Friends, to know and own the worst of your Case, and to seek after Justifica­tion thro' Christ with the utmost Vehemence, by deny­ing your own Righteousness (for he that is proud of his own, will not prize, seek or obtain another) by deep Humiliation for your many and heinous Offences, in the Language of the penitent Publican, by seeking the Knowledge of Christ crucify'd, and Help from God to receive him by a living Faith.

And the Saints of God should be careful that they abuse not the aforesaid Doctrine to Sloth and sinful Indulgence in their cold Frames; for as this is very Grieving to the Spirit of God, and blots our Evi­dences for Heaven; so it manifests the vilest Ingratitude, and ministers an Occasion of Reflection to the Adver­saries of the Doctrines of Grace.

The People of God should also beware of condem­ning themselves when God justifies them; seeing that the Father hath lay'd upon Christ the Iniquities of us all, why should we as ungratefully as foolishly lay them [Page 28]upon ourselves? and so act the Adversary's Part against our own Interest. We ought not to cast away our Hope because we have not had such deep Convictions, such great Temptations, and Consolations as some others; or because we have not arrived to the like Degrees of Goodness; rather let us deal with Christ as Aaron, of old, did with the live Goat, who lay'd both his Hands upon him and confess'd the Iniquities of the Children of Israel over him, Lev. xvi. 21. After which he is said to bear their Iniquities into a Land not inhabited. Let us cast the whole Weight of our Souls and our Sins upon Christ, by Believing, and then we need not fear Condemnation.

But in the mean Time the Freeness of Justification, the Honours and Happiness of that Condition into which the rebellious, mean and miserable Sinner is thereby introduced, should excite the utmost Gratitude to the Author of so great and durable a Benefit; the Sense of the Worth of this Mercy should be ever in our Minds, and the Perfections of its Author perpetually celebrated with our Lips; while in the mean time in our Lives we glorify God by all holy Obedience. See­ing God has justify'd us freely, without good Works, we should express our Thankfulness to him, by a more chearful, sincere and steady Practice of them; to which let the Love of God constrain us.

And particularly, let justify'd Persons obey their Lords command, in sitting down at his Table, and Commemorating his dying Love. Here! ye Friends of God! you may see, as in a Glass, what the Purchase of your Pardon cost your dearest Lord. At this Banquet you may behold the dreadful Agonies of his Soul, and Sufferings of his Body for your Sins; which should stir up in us, my dear Brethren, the strongest Affection. O methinks! the holy Jesus looks exceedingly lovely as he comes with died Garments from Bozzra and Edom.

[Page 29] O Sirs! it is the Exercise of a justifying Faith, which as an Eye, can only help us to behold our Lord's Sufferings in a right Manner; and, as a Conduit, can convey to us the Benefits of them. Which may it please the good God to give us all for Christ's sake. Amen.

THE END.
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Lately Published, GOSPEL SONNETS, OR, SPIRITUAL SONGS. By RALPH ERSKINE, M. A. LONDON: Printed. PHILADELPHHA: Re-printed and Sold by B. FRANKLIN.

Lately Published, CHRIST Triumphing & Satan Raging. A SERMON on Matt. xii. 28. Wherein is proven, that the King­dom of God is come unto us at this Day. First preached at Nottingham in Pensilvania, Jan. 20. 1740, 1. And now published for the common Benefit. By Samuel Finley, Preacher of the Gospel. Printed and sold by B. Franklin.

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