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sense, for the approbation itself, that is only that by which we become fit to be approved : But if it be understood in the latter sense, for the manifestation of this approbation, it is by whatever is a proper evidence of that fitness. In the former, only faith is concerned ; because it is by that only in us that we become fit to be accepted and approved: In the latter, whatever is an evidence of our fitness, is alike concerned. And therefore, take justification in this sense, and then faith, and all other graces and good works, have a common and equal concern in it: For any other grace, or holy act, is equally an evidence of a qualification for acceptance or approbation, as faith.
To justify has always, in common speech, signified indifferently, either simply approbation, or testifying that approbation; sometimes one, and sometimes the other; because they are both the same, only as one is outwardly what the other is inwardly. So we, and it
So we, and it may be all nations, are wont to give the same names to two things, when one is only declarative of the other. Thus sometimes judging, intends only judging in our thoughts; at other times, testifying and declaring judge ment. Šo such words as justify, condemn, accept, reject, prize, slight, approve, renounce, are sometimes put for mental acts, at other times, for an outward treatment. So in the sense in whieh the apostle James seems to use the word justify, for manifestative justification, a man is justified not only by faith, but also by works; as a tree is manifested to be good, not only by immediately examining the tree, but also by the fruit,*
This distinction is just and scriptural as far as it goes, but it does not reach the bottom of the difficulty, since believing in order to justification is itself a part of obedience, and is expressly called “ the obedience of faith.” Hence justification by faith, in comparison of what precedes it, is only mani. festative. The tree must be good, that is, the person must be vitally united to Christ, as the adequate cause of believing, otherwise he would be still carnal. The faith of a man spiritually dead or carnal, must needs be a dead faith; but to suppose that such faith unites to Christ, has neither scripture nor any plausible reason to support it.
To him that is in Christ Jesus by a vital union, there is no condemnation; and as there is no medium between condemnation and justification, he who is in Christ is justified, or “accepted in the beloved ” Saviour. That union which Christ effects by his quickening spirit, makes the tree good, and believing with the heart, in order to receive the promised righteousness, is the fruit of a good tree. Therefore the justification which is received as the consequence of believing is only manifestative of union; even as justification by works, as asserted by St. James, is manifestative of a living faith. As without works there is no sufficieot evidence of union to Christ on our part, so without faith in Christ as our complete righteousness, there is no sufficient evidence of union with him on his part.
The true Christian's works, are “works of faith and labours of love,” performed in obedience to God's authority, directed to his glory, and inspired by gratitude for the blessings of his grace, and this is the first of all such works, called “ the work of God,” even to believe on Jesus Christ in whom alone is righteousness and life. By believing we receive the divine testimony respecting a gratuitous righteousness, and renounce all hope of obtaining justification by any other way. VOL. VI.
Prov. xx. 11. “ Even a child is known by his doing, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.”
The drift of the apostle does not require that he should be
The justifying righteousness is only one, but the appointed ways of becoming interested in it are divers. One way is by the will of God our Saviour, the other by the will of man the accountable agent, each in its own order. The will of God gives the fundamental interest, and the will of man the consequent, and manifestative interest. In the first way, we are interested in Christ's righteousness by one act continued, commencing with, and permanent as the primary vital union ; in the other way, it is by repeated acts, commencing with the first act of faith in Christ, and repeated with every succeeding reception of him.
Among persons who have made any, even the smallest progress in Christian knowledge, there can be no dispute respecting the fundamental cause of justifcation. All such acknowledge, that the righteousness, or federal perfection of Jesus Christ, is that for the sake of which any of the fallen race of Adam can be justified. The difference of sentiment arises from the appointed method of obtaining an interest in this meritorious cause, For want of consideration, we too hastily infer, that if the scripture states one appointed method, that it must be an exclusive appointment.--Hence one pleads from scripture, and especially St. James's epistle, that this appointed method is by works, that is, evangelical obedience, of which faith is a leading part. Another pleads from scripture, that it is by faith, not as an act of moral obedience, but as a suitable bond of union, to the exclusion of all works. And a third, from the same scripture, pleads, that we are justified by an eternal immanent act of God, and that faith only brings us to enjoy a privilege which belongs to the elect from eternity.
Now each of these schemes overlooks the important truth, that the imme. diate ground of justification is the vital union between Christ and the soul. Justification from eternity precedes vital union; justification by works denies the fact of a vital union being an adequate ground of a justifying sentence; and justification by faith alone, or believing in Christ, to the exclusion of a prior vital union on the part of the Spirit, confounds the work of man and the work of God. This last being the most difficult part of the subject, I beg leave to inake a few observations upon it,
1. The claims of God, in reference to justification, are two-fold. In the first instance, he claims from man a federul perfection; and in the second instance, he claims compliance with his method of bestowing an interest in it. The former claim may be answered by the surety, and in fact is answered by his act of a vital union on his part. For by this he gives an interest in himself to the soul he savingly adopts. Thus there is no condemnation to you that are in Christ Jesus. But the latter claim can be answered only by the believer himself, when he actually receives Christ as his righteousness, and so answers the divine requisition. Thus he that believeth in Christ is justified from all things. In the first instance, Christ pleads his own righteousness in behalf of the adopted sinner; in the last instance, the believer pleads the same righteo ousness in his own behalf.
2. The obligations of man, in reference to justification, are also of two kinds. In the first place, he stands obliged to be conformed to the law as a covenant, which demands a sinless perfection; and, in the second place, he is obliged to conform to the law as a rule. Now whatever God enjoins as a duty is a part of this rule; whether it be to hate sin, to love God, to believe in Christ, or to observe whatever Christ hath commanded. Our obligation to be conformed to the law as a covenant, is discharged by Christ only as our surety; and our ability to discharge our obligation of being conformed to the law as a rule is from him. We are obliged to believe on bim as our justifying righteousness, under pain of God's displeasure, but man will ever continue in unbelief until Christ slays bis enmity, and enables him to believe. But to slay a sinner's enmity, to change his nature, or to give him ability to believe, is the effect of a vital union ; for as there is no such ability without gracious in
1 Auence, so there is no gracious influence without union to the source of spiritual life. When thus enabled, mao exercises repentance towards God, and 4. The rule of moral government, in reference to justification, is, that we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as the end of the law for righteousness. For this end is the gospel proclaimed to all nations, even for " the obedience of faith.” This is the language of divine government, “He that believeth shall be saved ; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” The unbeliever is condemned already, because he rejects the counsel of God, and neglects so great salvation. Mercy hath provided an adequate and all-sufficient remedy, and government requires our closing with it as the only ground of hope left us. An endeavour to set up our own obedience instead of the righteousness of Christ, is rebellion against the authority of God, and undervaluing his wisdom and grace. None deserve condemnation more than those who reject the only remedy. And even they who believe have no ground of boasting. For we are saved by grace, and justified by faith, and that is not of ourselves, but is the gift of God. The influence of works in justification our author has well explained. W.
understood in any other sense: For all that he aims at, as appears by a view of the context, is to prove that good works are necessary. The error of those that he opposed was this, That good works were not necessary to salvation; that if they did but believe that there was but one God, and that Christ was the Son of God, and the like, and were baptized, they were safe, let them live how they would; which doctrine greatly tended to licentiousness. The evincing the contrary of this is evidently the apostle's scope.
And that we should understand the apostle, of works justifying as an evidence, and in a declarative judgment, is what a due consideration of the context will naturally lead us to.For it is plain, that the apostle is here insisting on works, in the quality of a necíssary manifestation and evidence of faith, or as what the truth of faith is made to appear by: As ver. 18. “ Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” And when he says, ver. 26. “ As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also;' it is much more rational and natural to understand him as speaking of works, as the proper signs and evidences of the reality, life, and goodness of faith. Not that the very works or actions done are properly the life of faith, as the spirit in the body; but it is the active, working nature of faith, of which the actions or works done are the signs, that is itself the life and spirit of faith. The sign of a thing is often in scripture language said to be that thing; as it is in that comparison by
faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Receiving him by faith alone, as our righteousness and life, the law is obeyed as the voice of God, requiring the obedience of faith.
3. The method of mercy, in reference to justification, includes the substitution of the Saviour, and our acceptance in him, without any works of righteousness on our part. In this respect, not by works of righteousness which we have done, whether faith, repentance, or any kind of obedience, but according to his mercy he saveth us provides a Saviour and gives us a saving interest in him. Grace provides, and grace applies the remedy. Mercy imputes to Jesus our sins, and imputes to us his righteousness. He who knew no sin was by sovereigo mercy made a sin-offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Mercy laid the foundation, and placed us on it, that we might become living stones on him; and in consequence find him to be precious.
which the apostle illustrates it. Not the actions themselves of a body, are properly the life or spirit of the body; but the active nature, of wbich those actions or motions are the signs, is the life of the body. That which makes men pronounce any thing to be alive, is, that they observe it has an active operative nature; which they observe no otherwise than by the actions or motions which are the signs of it. It is plainly the apostle's aim to prove, that if faith hath not works, it is a sign that it is not a good sort of faith; which would not have been to his purpose, if it was his design to shew that it is not by faith alone, though of a right sort, that we have acceptance with God, but that we are accepted on the account of obedience as well as faith. It is evident, by the apostle's reasoning, that the necessity of works, is not from their having a parallel concern in our salvation with faith; but he speaks of works only as related to faith, and expressive of it; which, after all, leaves faith the alone fundamental condition, without any thing else having a parallel concern with it in this affair; and other things conditions, only as several expressions and evidences of it.
That the apostle speaks of works justifying only as a sign or evidence, and in God's declarative judgment, is further confirmed by verse 21. 6 Was not Abraham our father justi. fied by works, when he had offered up Isaac his son upon the altar ?" Here the apostle seems plainly to refer to that declarative judgment of God, concerning Abraham's sincerity, manifested to him, for the peace and assurance of his own conscience, after his offering up Isaac bis son on the altar. Gen. xxii. 12. “ Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.' But here it is plain, and expressed in the very words of justification or approbation, that this work of Abraham offering up his son on the altar, justified him as an evidence. When the apostle James says, we are justified by works, he may, and ought to be understood in a sense agreeable to the instance he brings for the proof of it: but justification in that instance appears by the words of justification themselves, to be by works evidence. And where this instance of Abraham's obedience is elsewhere mentioned in the New Testament, it is mentioned as a fruit and evidence of his faith. Heb. xi. 17.“ By faith
a . Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises, offered up his only begotten Son."
And in the other instance which the apostle mentions, verse 25. “ Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way ?" The apostle refers to a declarative judgment, in that particular testimony which was given of God's approbation of her as a believer, in directing Joshua to
save her when the rest of Jericho was destroyed, Josh. vi. 25. “ And Joshua sa ved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day ; because she hid the messengers which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.” This was accepted as an evidence and expression of her faith. Heb. xi. 31.“ By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace." The apostle in
' saying, “ Was not Rahab the harlot justified by works?" by the manner of his speaking has reference to something in her history; but we have no account in her history of any other justification of her but this.
4. If, notwithstanding, any choose to take justification in St. James's, precisely as we do in Paul's epistles, for God's acceptance or approbation itself, and not any expression of that approbation; what has been already said concerning the manner in wbich acts of evangelical obedience are concerned in the affair of our justification, affords a very easy, clear, and full answer. For if we take works as acts or expressions of faith, they are not excluded; so a man is not justified by faith only, but also by works; i. e. he is not justified only by faith as a principle in the heart, or in its first and more immanent acts, but also by the effective acts of it in life, which are the expressions of the life of faith, as the operations and actions of the body are of the life of that; agreeable to verse 26.
What has been said in answer to these objections, may also, I hope, abundantly serve for an answer to another objection, often made against this doctrine, viz. that it encourages licentiousness in life. For, from what has been said, we may see that the scripture doctrine of justification by faith alone, without any manner of goodness or excellency of ours, does in no wise diminish either the necessity or benefit of a sincere evangelical universal obedience. Man's salvation is not only indissolubly connected with obedience, and damnation with the want of it, in those who have opportunity for it, but depends upon it in many respects. It is the way to salvation, and the necessary preparation for it; eternal blessings are bestowed in reward for it, and our justification in our own consciences and at the day of judgment, depends on it, as the proper evidence of our acceptable state; and that, even in accepting of us as entitled to life in our justification, God has respect to this, as that on which the fitness of such an act of justification depends; so that our salvation does as truly depend upon it, as if we were justified for the moral excellency of it. And besides all this, the degree of our happiness to all eternity is suspended on, and determined by the degree of this. So that this gospel scheme of justification is as far from encouraging licentiousness, and contains as much to encourage and