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judged already, (ndŋ kekρitai,) because he hath not believed on the name of the ONLY BEGOTTEN Son of GOD," ver. 17, 18.
Here, by a usual anticipation, the future event of the general judgment, is represented as already come, to mark its absolute and infallible certainty, in the fulness of time. See John v. 24 ; Heb. xii. 22; Rom. viii. 28-30.
And our Lord concludes this interesting and awakening discourse, with stating "the grounds of the general judgment," in the vices of mankind; which led, and would lead them, to hate and avoid the light of THE GOSPEL; whereas the well doer readily came to seek it, and to shew that his works were wrought in GOD, ver. 19-21. Thus ending, probably, with an oblique commendation of Nicodemus himself, as a well doer, in thus seeking the light at the fountain head, and afterwards shewing the soundness and sincerity of his faith, by his labour of love in the LORD.
OUR LORD'S concise doctrine of justification by faith, is thus explained and illustrated by his Apostles.
Paul declares, "We are justified freely by God's grace, through the redemption in JESUS CHRIST," Rom. iii. 21; for "GOD approved his love towards us, that while we were yet sinners, CHRIST died for us," Rom. v. 8; and this, by his own gracious act; for "CHRIST loved us also, and gave up himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to GOD, for a fragrant savour," Eph. v. 2; "while we were enemies we were reconciled to GOD by the death of HIS SON," Rom. v. 10.
It is truly remarkable, that GOD is no where in Scripture said to be reconciled to us; but we, every where, to be reconciled to GOD, "when we were dead in trespasses and sins," 2 Cor. v. 18-20; Eph. ii. 1; Col. ii. 13. OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, indeed, is always ready and willing to receive with tenderness and joy, every prodigal son, who shall "come to himself," and with hearty repentance, and true faith, return to him, and humbly entreat to be restored to his household, of his true bounty, not our deserts. "For by grace we are saved, through faith; and this, not of ourselves: it is the gift of GOD, not [the reward] of works; that none should boast," Ephes. ii. 8, 9. "We reckon, therefore, that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the Law," Rom. iii. 28.
In this last passage, the Apostle is usually understood to mean the ceremonial works of the law of Moses, circumcision,
sacrifices*, &c. but that he meant to include the moral works, both of the law of Moses, and of the law of nature, is evident from his reckoning "all under sin, both Jews and Greeks," for their gross violations of moral and religious duties; "not having the fear of GOD before their eyes;" that "every mouth might be stopped" [from boasting,]" and all the world be made liable to punishment from GOD," Rom. iii. 9-19. Compare Ephes. ii. 3.
And the tenor of his argument necessarily includes evangelical works also; " for, if justification could come even of such, without taking in faith in the meritorious sufferings and satisfaction of a MEDIATOR, then might we have whereof to boast, or to glory, (Eph. ii. 9; Rom. iv. 2.) And then it might be justly said, that CHRIST died in vain," (Gal. ii. 21.) And this judicious exposition of Waterland, p. 44, is confirmed by the high authority of Clemens Romanus, the intimate friend of the Apostle Paul, (Phil. iv. 3,) one of the most eminent of the "saints at Rome," to whom this Epistle was addressed, (Rom. i. 17,) in the following passage, which he cites in the original.
"The ancient Patriarchs, [Abraham, &c.] were all, therefore, greatly glorified and magnified; not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they themselves wrought, but through HIS good pleasure. And we [Christians] also, being called, through his good pleasure in CHRIST JESUS, are not justified by ourselves, neither by our own wisdom, or knowledge, or piety, or the works which we have done in holiness of heart, but by that faith by which THE ALMIGHTY GOD justified all, from the beginning of the world." Epist. I. c. 32.
The profound Hooker gives a similar explanation of the doctrine, in his Discourse on Justification by Faith.
"GOD doth justify the believing man, yet not for the worthiness of his belief, but for the worthiness of HIM which is believed; GOD rewardeth abundantly every one which worketh, yet not for any meritorious dignity which is, or can be in the work, but through His mercy, by whose commandment he worketh."- "The best things which we can do, have some
See Bishop Bull's Harmonia Apostolica, or its abridgment in Wells' New Testament, preface to the Epistles.
thing in them to be pardoned. How then can we do any thing meritorious, or worthy to be rewarded? Indeed, God doth liberally promise whatsoever appertaineth to a blessed life, to as many as sincerely keep His law, though they be not exactly able to keep it. Wherefore, we acknowledge a dutiful necessity of doing well, but the meritorious dignity of doing well, we utterly renounce."" Our doctrine, in truth, is no other than we have learned at the feet of CHRIST," p. 21, 34. And we may add, it is also the doctrine of our Articles, XI. XIII.
The shortest, plainest, and fullest account, perhaps any where to be found, of this abstruse but most important doctrine, is furnished by the pious and learned Bishop Hopkins*, in the following passages.
66 Justification is a gracious act of GOD, whereby, through the righteousness of CHRIST's satisfaction imputed, He freely remits to the believing sinner, the guilt and punishment of his sins and, [moreover,] through the righteousness of CHRIST'S perfect obedience, imputed, He accounts him righteous, and accepts him into love and favour, and unto eternal life."
"This is justification, which is the very sum and faith of the whole GOSPEL, and the only end of the COVENANT OF GRACE." For wherefore was there such a covenant made with us, through CHRIST, but as St. Paul tells us, Acts xiii. 39, "that by HIM, all that believe might be justified from all things, which they could not be justified from by the law of Moses."And he proves that justification is equivalent to salvation, by the following syllogism.
If the righteousness of CHRIST be made thine, thou shalt be saved; If thou believest, the righteousness of Christ shall be made thine; therefore, If thou believest, (from first to last,) thou shalt be saved." When, therefore, a sinner, being on one hand thoroughly convinced of his sins, of the wrath of GOD due to him for them, (Rom. ii. 8, 9,) of his utter inability either to escape, or bear this wrath, (Rom. vii. 24,) and on the other hand, being likewise convinced of the sufficiency, willingness, and designation of CHRIST to satisfy justice, and to reconcile and save sinners, (Rom. vii. 25,) doth hereby yield a firm assent unto these truths revealed in THE SCRIPTURES; and doth also accept and receive JESUS CHRIST in all his offices, as his PRO
* See a new edition of his works, lately published, Vol. II. p. 382–386.
PHET, resolving to attend to his teaching, as his LORD and KING, resolving to obey his commands, and as his PRIEST, resolving to rely upon his sacrifice alone, and doth accordingly submit to him, and confide in Him sincerely and perseveringly ; this is that faith which doth justify, and will certainly save all those in whom it is wrought."
This is indeed a plain, rational, and Scriptural account of a doctrine which is the corner-stone of CHRISTIANITY, and the foundation of the REFORMATION.
II. The strong and emphatic expressions of SCRIPTURE, and of the primitive Fathers, stating the utter inability of works to justify us, as a meritorious cause; that "whatsoever is not from faith, is sin," Rom. xiv. 23, which our Article XIII. understands of works before justification; and the slanderous misrepresentation of the Apostle's doctrine, as if he affirmed that GOD permitted the Gentiles "to do evil, that good may come," or that his "grace may abound to sinners," which he deprecates, "GOD forbid !" Rom. iii. 8, vi. 1, gave rise, even in the Apostle's days, to the opposite error of an affected humility, resolving the whole business of justification into "faith alone, not only without works," but even exclusive of works; for "that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," not only not acceptable, but even offensive to GOD; and equally unnecessary and insufficient to cover our nakedness in his sight, before whom no man living shall be justified" by his own righteousness, Psalm cxliii. 2.
Hence "sprung up" early in the Church, "the tares," the licentious and immoral sects of the Solifidians and Antinomians, as they were called, from "resting solely in faith," and "reprobating the law of works;" and the Libertines, who were guilty of the most scandalous excesses, "abusing their gospel liberty as a cloak of licentiousness," "through the ignorance of senseless men," enthusiasts and fanatics, 1 Pet. ii. 15, 16.
It is also remarkable that the same mischievous sect sprouted up again at the revival of pure Christianity, at the auspicious era of the REFORMATION, as will be shewn hereafter. The same mischievous errors are still to be found among the schismatical sects that disgrace our land of liberty.
Hence it became expedient, both for correction of reigning
Libertati præsidia quærentes, non licentiæ, ad impugnandum alios. Livii III. 53.
errors, and anticipation of future, to state in HOLY WRIT the sacred and indissoluble union of faith and works as jointly necessary to salvation.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH AND WORKS.
1. OUR LORD declares, "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned," Matt. xii. 37; words intimating the thoughts and intentions of the heart, and forming no inconsiderable branch of actions, Matt. xv. 19, whence "words" and " things" were considered as synonymous in the Hebrew language, and are both expressed by the word dabar. And that OUR LORD meant both is evident from the following: "Why call ye me LORD, LORD, [expressive of your faith,] and do not the things that I say?" Luke vi. 46. "Many shall say to me in that day [of judgment,] LORD, LORD, have we not prophesied in thy name? and expelled demons in thy name? and done many mighty works in thy name? Then will I profess to them, I never knew you, [or acknowledged you as my disciples,] depart from me all ye that work iniquity," Matt. vii. 21-23. This is an awful and awakening declaration, intimating the insufficiency of the highest degrees of faith, even the miraculous, without good works, to procure salvation.
In like manner Paul declares, and evidently in allusion thereto, "Though I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains figuratively, or work the greatest miracles, (Matt. xi. 23,) and have not charity, I am nothing," or of no value in the sight of God, 1 Cor. xiii. 2. "This is a faithful saying, and I desire thee firmly to maintain (diaßeßaiovola,) that they who have believed in GOD be careful to practise good works,” Tit. iii. 8.
This illustrious Apostle seems to have been aware of the false construction that had been or might be put upon his earlier epistles, especially to the Romans and Galatians, which were rather of a controversial nature, designed to remove the leaven of Judaism, that principally prevailed in those "high minded" Churches, (Rom. xi. 20, Gal. iii. 1.) Hence he so strongly insists on the indispensable necessity of good works to salvation. "Follow holiness, without which no man shall see THE LORD," Heb. xii. 14; "Being freed from [the punishment and dominion of] sin, and made servants to GOD, [by faith] ye have your