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JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
AND yet the great Moral Power obtained by Christ for the reconciliation of men to God, fortified and buttressed by these vigorous law-factors of which I have been speaking, is obviously still no absolute or complete power, as regards the result proposed. No moral power ever goes to its mark in that way. The force or fiat-power of God strikes directly through, by its own cogency, but his moral power works only by inducement; that is, by impressions, or attractions that may be resisted; for it is not one of the possibilities, Moral power supposes the consent of faith. that character should be struck out, by any exterior action that does not act through choice or faith, in the subject. That would be not only a miracle, but a morally absurd miracle. Moral power therefore, acting by itself, always falls inevitably short of the result proposed, appearing thus, in one view, to be scarcely any real power at all. The grandest, most ineffable kind of power—in Christ a glory most visibly divine or deific—it still bears a look of insufficiency, whenever it moves on a moral nature that will not suffer it to be sufficient. But where it wins consent, or faith, it is not so; there it is visibly, 404consciously power, bearing some of the highest attributes of sovereignty; even transforming the subject all through, in the deepest secrets of impulse; creating, as it were, new possibilities of character, new springs of liberty in good. Beginning in the plane of inducement, or attraction, it no sooner wins consent, or faith, than it becomes inspiration; bearing the soul up out of its thraldom and weak self-endeavor, to be a man newborn, ranging in God’s freedom, and consciously glorious sonship.
And this, if I am right, is the very greatest thing done below the stars, evincing the greatest power. The subject is reconnected herein with the divine nature, atoned, reconciled with God, transformed by the inward touch of God’s feeling and character. This, if any thing, is power, the power of God unto salvation. Only it is by the supposition a salvation by faith. Winning faith, it works by the faith it wins; and so, being trusted in, it makes the trust a new footing of life and character.
Now it is this new footing of faith, or salvation by faith, which the New Testament Scriptures call Justification by Faith. Not that men Justification by faith is the result proposed. were never justified by faith before—they were never justified in any other way, never saved on any other footing. The Old Testament saints, and as truly the outside saints, of whom I believe there have been many besides Jethro and Job and Cornelius, were all justified by faith. They were such as, not knowing Christ, trusted themselves practically 405to God as their Helper and Keeper; or not knowing God, trusted themselves implicitly to some supernatural Helper felt to be near, and accepted as their Unknown Friend. We only speak of justification by faith in Christ, as a new footing of salvation, because there is such a power obtained for God, by the human life and death of Christ, and the new enforcements of his doctrine, as begets a new sense of sin, provokes the sense of spiritual want, and, when trust is engaged, creates a new element of advantage and help, to bring the soul up into victory over itself and seal it as the heir of God. And thus it is, or in a sense thus qualified, that we speak of justification by faith, as the grand result of Christ’s work, and the all-inclusive grace of his salvation.
Holding this view of Christ and his gospel, we can see beforehand, that justification by faith will even be a principal matter of Christianity; and Practical faith and church opinion may not wholly coincide. then it will not be strange, if some should glorify it more as an idol of dogmatic opinion, and others more as a footing of grace and divine liberty. It will be dear to many, living in their heads and supervising the gospel as thinkers, because it is the articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae; but a great deal more dear, to a much greater number, as the point where Jesus practically meets their want, and becomes a new celestial confidence in their faith. What however it means, may not be very exactly understood or agreed, between those who prize it as a church article, and those who value it as the new 406footing and spring of their spiritual liberty—the justification of life. Nay, it will not be strange, if some whose souls are most kindled by the grace of it, should nevertheless make a church article of it that is quite inconsistent, or even revolting. In my present chapter, therefore, I shall endeavor to gather in what light I can from the previous chapters, upon this truly principal matter of the Christian salvation.
The single text of Scripture at which the doctrine begins, and in which, we may almost say that it ends, The principal text discussed. though hundreds of other passages bring in their consenting evidence, is the much debated testimony of Paul5757Romans iii, 25-6—“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in 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 him which believeth in Jesus.”
The first clause of the passage, relating to propitiation, will be considered more properly in another chapter. At present, our concern is to settle the true meaning of the remaining part, relating to the righteousness of God, and the dispensation of his justifying mercy.
The mere English reader will not know, that the three words here occurring, righteousness, just, and justifier of—The three words all of one family.noun, adjective, and participle—are all words of the same root in the original, and, of course, are as closely related in meaning, 407as they can be in so many different parts of speech, that are grammatical offshoots of the same root. Informed of this, he will ask, at once, why the three words are not translated so as to preserve the impression of their kinship?—thus to read, either “the righteousness of God,” “that he may be righteous and make righteous,” or else, the “justice of God, that he may be just and the justifier of”—so to reflect the apostle’s meaning, in the exact one color he gave it, by his three co-relative words in the Greek? I hardly know what answer to make to this question, unless it be that the text had been already warped, by a dogmatic construction, before the translation was made. This, however, is not quite certain; for the latter class of words from the Latin —justice, just and justify—are commonly used in the translation in precisely the same meaning as the former class from the Saxon—righteousness, righteous and make righteous. I say “commonly used,” but they are not always so used; for the Romans had two senses, very distinct from each other, when they spoke of justice. They were a very intensely legal people, and they sometimes meant by justice, justice under political analogies—vindicatory and forensic justice—and sometimes justice in the moral sense; that is, righteousness. The Greek word or class of words, never means justice and just under political analogies, but always moral justice; that is uprightness, or rightness of principle. Hence the mixing of both classes of words in the translation of this text, so as to read “righteousness” and “just” and “the justifier of,” 408wears a suspicious look, and is, to say the least, unfortunate, because of the ambiguity it creates.
Still no very great detriment will be suffered, if due care is taken always to understand the words just and justify as having, like the word righteousness that precedes them, a purely moral significance—that God is just, as being righteous, and justifies, simply as communicating his own character and becoming a righteousness upon us. Unhappily this caution is not observed by theologians, and these two words are construed very commonly by them, under the judicial analogies; as if there were a fixed attribute in God called his justice, which is immutably set for the vindication of right, and the redress of wrong, by deserved punishments. “That he might be just” therefore “and the justifier,” is taken as if there were some adversative relation between the clauses, or as if it read “just and yet the justifier” &c.—Christ having so exactly satisfied the immutable justice, by his sufferings, that God appears to be just as ever, even though he justifies, or passes judgment in favor of, those who deserve nothing but punishment.
It will be seen accordingly that a right view of Christian justification will depend, to a great extent, on a proper and true understanding of the three staple words referred to. I propose therefore at the outset, and before offering any construction of the passage in question, to pause on the words themselves, and show, by a sufficiently careful investigation, what is their true meaning.
The Old Testament has two words, one a moral and 409spiritual, and the other a judicial, which, as was noted in the last chapter,5858Vide note p. 382. are very commonly used in conjunction, yet never appear to cross, or get confused, in their meaning. Our present concern is with the first. It means originally straight just as our Saxon word right and the Latin word rectus denote, in their symbol, a straight line; that being nature’s type of moral rightness, or rectitude. Now this moral word of the Old Testament is translated, taking noun, adjective, and verb, either righteousness, righteous, and being right; or justice, just, and being just. The noun is How the three words stand in the Old Testament. translated righteousness more times than can well be numbered, and justice in the moral sense of righteousness at least twenty-five times—never, that I have been able to discover, in any judicial, or vindicatory sense. The adjective is translated righteous still more frequently, and just, in the sense of morally upright, or righteous, about fifty times—never as just, in the retributive and judicial sense. The verb, which is here the principal matter of debate, is translated to be upright, holy, true, honest, innocent—all words of moral significance—also finally to justify. Here only does it take on even a semblance of judicial character; and the semblance is, to say the least, extremely doubtful here. The Hebrew grammar, it may be necessary to observe, has a causative mood for the verb, which is called the Hiphil. Thus the Indicative he is right, becomes in the Hiphil, he causes to be right, makes right, or righteous. We have 410three terminations that give a Hiphil power in English, ize [harmon-ize] from the Greek, fy [sancti-fy] from the Latin, and en [hard-en] from the Saxon. But our English verb to be right had never taken a Hiphil form, or power, and for this reason, perhaps, the translators passed over, in many instances, to the Latin word justify, adopting that; though they sometimes manufacture a phrase that carries the causative meaning. Thus, instead of saying in Daniel, “they that justify many,” they say “they that turn many to righteousness.”5959Dan. xii, 3. And yet when they come to Isaiah they read—“by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;6060Isa. liii, 11. when the meaning is exactly as before—“turn many to righteousness.” Plainly enough, in both these cases, there is no thought of the many being made even with God’s law, or judicially acquitted, but only of their being made righteous. It is as if the very un-English expression were used—“shall right-en,” or “shall be the righteousser of, many.”
It may readily be seen that, out of this causative or Hiphil use, there will be a sliding naturally into the idea of passing as righteous; because, in that, we only make righteous to ourselves; and then this passing as righteous will have a certain look of justifying judicially, in the sense of acquittal. “He is near that justifieth me, who will contend with me?”6161Isa. l, 8.— where the idea is, neither that God makes right, nor that he acquits and absolves, but simply that he passes, or approves as right. Hence the pertinence of the question 411—“who will contend with me?” or show me to be wrong? In two other cases6262Deut. xxv, 1, and 1 Kings viii, 32. we encounter the expression “justify the righteous;” where, of course, there is no righteoussing of such as are not, neither is there any more a justifying in the sense of acquitting or absolving; but there is simply a passing of the righteous as righteous. In three other cases6363Ex. xxiii, 7; Prov. xvii, 15; Is. v, 23. we find the expression—“justify the wicked” where the very point of the charge is that the wicked are taken to favor, passed as righteous, and so that moral distinctions, not forensic, are confounded. There is here no reference whatever to any judicial defection, save through the moral of which it is a result. On the whole I do not know an example in the Old Testament, where the original moral word above referred to, whether translated righteousness, righteous, and be right, or justice, just, and justify, is used in any but a properly moral sense.
We come now to the Greek word of the New Testament, the same which is translated righteousness, just, and justify, in the particular passage I How they stand in the New Testament. am debating. Here we find the noun [δικαιοσυνη] always translated righteousness, never justice; for justice is a word which does not once occur in the New Testament; the adjective [δικαιος,] translated about fifty times righteous, and just in the moral sense (“condemned and killed the just”)6464James v, 66. about thirty times, never once in a judicial, unless it be in the passage we have under examination; also the verb 412[δικαιοω,] always translated to justify, because we have no other Hiphil word to fill the place; still showing clearly always, by the collocation it is in, as here, that it has a moral force only, just as it has in the Old Testament. Taking this very sentence then—“to declare his righteousness that he might be just and the justifier”—who can imagine that the two latter words, just and justifier, are words to be turned away from their family relation in the very same sentence, and made to carry a forensic or judicial meaning? There was never such an example of bad writing in the world. Besides it may be safely affirmed, that no hardest possible strain of labor put upon this causative or Hiphil word, to justify, can make it carry, at all, the complicated, artificial notion of such a justifying—that which justifies, without either making any body just, or accepting any body as being just, but only passes a verdict of quasi justice, on grounds of penal suffering not personal in the subject, but contributed by another. Why if the transgressor had borne his own suffering, and had perfectly filled up the measure of it, who can imagine a fiction so extravagant, as that he should be called a just man? He would not even be forensically just, any more than a malefactor who has served out his sentence.
I ought perhaps to note, in this connection, the very intensely, mysteriously moral impression held by such Uses and conceptions of Plato. a writer as Plato, when he speaks of right, or righteousness; or, if so he is translated, of the just, or justice. “Justice,” he says, “is the virtue of the soul, injustice its vice. The just 413soul then and the just man will live well.”6565Republic, Lib. I., Cap. 24. In the same connection he speaks of the harmonizing effect on the moral nature, calling righteousness, or justice, “a correct arrangement of the parts of the soul towards each other, or about each other.” He recurs again and again to a discussion of right, or justice, and gets lost in the mystery, not finding how to conceive it. He represents Socrates in a discourse upon it, telling how he has inquired of many, and has only been sunk in greater doubts by their answers—this only is clear that they all conceive it as a certain divine something, going through all things, to rule them by its unseen sway. One whom he questions goes into the etymology of the word δικαιος, conceiving that it was originally διαϊον, because it goes through and governs all things, and that the κ was inserted “for elegant enunciation.” Another, consulting the mysteries, found it to mean the same as cause; viz., a power to rule and set in order. Another referred it to the sun, because it had a pervading and heating and all-nourishing power. Another, for a like reason, took it to be a certain divine fire in the soul. Another took it as a kind of piercing world-soul, that, like the soul of Anaxagoras, mingled with nothing, yet pervaded all things. Whereupon affectingly baffled by so many sublime guesses, he gives over the search, declaring that he is now in greater doubt and mystery of thought, than before he undertook to learn what justice is.6666Cratylus. How far off now, in all these wondering, almost adoring struggles of thought, is this great teacher, from even so 414much as the faintest mental reference to any judicial analogies! Could he have conceived the right, as everlasting, necessary idea, a law before all government, going through, as it were, even God and God’s perfections, and so through all moral natures, he would, at least, have found the Monarch Principle of the universe in that also, some fit point of rest for his inquiries Even the groping in which we have just followed him, the lofty burning mystery he is in, were a preparation how sublime, how almost sacred, for the apostle’s doctrine of the cross, when he says—“Whom God hath set forth to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” The transcendent principle he could not find, yet even worshipfully sought, is there discovered—a law, as Hooker conceives, “laid up in the bosom of God.”6767I have said nothing, in this verbal disquisition, of a very singular philological anomaly, that occurs, in the etymology of this word δικαιοσυνη. Used, as far as I have been able to discover, in an exclusively moral sense, it appears, and is taken by the lexicographers, to be of the same root, as another family of words, that have none but a vindictive and intensely judicial meaning. Thus we have δὶκη translated vengeance, punishment, and the like; ενδικος just, in the sense of justly deserved; ενδικεω to avenge, or revenge; καταδικαζω to condemn. Now this forensic family and the moral family are supposed, both together, to be derived from the Sanscrit radical dik, which means to show, and is the undoubted root of the Greek word δεικνυμι, which also means to show. And perhaps we get a clue in this, to the manner in which both the families above referred to raise their meaning. For to show is to spread out, to level, or, as we say, to ex-plain. And this kind of figure associates well with the true straight line of rectitude, and also with the even impartiality of retributive justice; as when the prophet says—“Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet.” In the same way it comes to pass, that Solon calls the calm, smooth sea, “the right [δικαὶον] sea.” Xenophon also calls a jolting chariot a “not right [not level] chariot,” in the same way. Virgil too calls the outspread, even plain, “justissima tellus.” Whatever may be true, in this very singular problem of etymology, the two great families, the moral and judicial, are certainly distinct in their meaning, and there is no fair pretext for carrying over a judicial meaning to the moral family, on the ground of their etymological relationship.415
We come back thus upon the apostle’s great text of justification, to settle, if we can, the true construction of its meaning. And it could hardly The three words then, are moral not judicial. be more clear, I think, that none of the words here grouped together, righteousness, just, justifier of, are to receive a judicial, or judicially vindicative meaning; which, again, is but another form of the conclusion that, in Christian justification, there is no reference of thought whatever to the satisfaction of God’s retributive justice, or to any acquittal passed on guilty men, because the score of their account with God’s justice has been made even by the sufferings of Christ. The justification spoken of is a moral affair, related only to faith in the subject, and the righteousness of God, operative in or through his faith. In this conviction we shall be farther confirmed, if we take up each of the three co-relative words and follow them into their relational uses.
1. The righteousness of God. Many teachers appear to understand this expression, in the particular case now in hand, as meaning, in fact, the vindicatory justice of God. God declares his justice, they conceive, in the penal sufferings of Christ, so that he can remit the sins 416that are past and keep his justice good. If so, there is no other such use of the term. We do not read “the justice of God which is by faith;”6868Rom. iii, 22. nor No judicial meaning in the righteousness of God. “by the justice of one the free gift came upon all;”6969Rom. v, 18. nor “going about to establish their own justice, have not submitted themselves to the justice of God;”7070Rom. x, 3. nor “the justice of God unto all, and upon all them that believe.”7171Rom. iii, 22. These passages all turn upon the word righteousness, and if we substitute their meaning by that of justice, they only become absurd, or even revolting.
2. That he might be just. Here it is often conceived, that God must needs keep himself just, in men’s convictions; The being just not judicially meant. that is just in the judicial and vindicatory sense, as the avenger of transgression, else he can not forgive, or justify. The English word just occurs only twice in the New Testament, in this retributive and judicial sense, where it translates, not δικαιος, the moral word, but ενδικος, a word always retributive.7272Just now referred to in the note, p. 414. Meantime, in the more than thirty other examples, where it translates δικαιος, it means simply just in the sense of right, or righteous, and can not be made to mean any thing else. In the phrase we are now debating, therefore, we can not understand the word just to mean retributively, forensically just, without supposing that, in this one single use, the original word has forgotten its meaning—which is the most unlikely thing possible. Besides, the adversative 417construction that goes almost necessarily with the idea of a retributive meaning in the epithet just, is favored by nothing in the grammar, but is forbidden rather. It does not read—“that he might be just [retributively] and yet justify,” but “that he might be just and justify;” that is that he might be so conspicuously, gloriously righteous, as to communicate righteousness to every believer. Neither will it signify any thing to say that, in undertaking to be so conspicuously righteous, he will rather repel than draw, and of course will do any thing but communicate; for though there may be something appalling in the perfect and pure righteousness of God, it is also, in another view, a character most tender, benignant, and patient. If I were a wholly righteous man, given up to right in a perfect and unfaltering homage, I should certainly forgive my enemy for that reason. And in just this way an apostle conceives the righteousness of God, saying—“faithful and just [that is, righteous] to forgive us our sins.”73731 John i, 9. His opinion of God’s righteousness is such, that he even grounds the confidence of forgiveness in it. And another apostle grounds the confidence of a most tender treatment of the undeserving, on the same idea of God’s righteousness, saying—“God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, in that ye have ministered to the saints,” &c.7474Heb. vi, 10. Fallen sadly away from their faith, he even conceives that God will have it still as a point of righteousness, to remember their good deeds and make more of them than they deserve. In this way, God will 418have declared his righteousness in Christ-shown him self righteous, even to the extent of putting righteousness upon every one that believeth.
3. And the justifier of. Here we have the causative mood of the Old Testament word reappearing in the The justifying not judicial. New. And there is no example, that I know, where it carries a judicial meaning though there is, of course, a large variety of meaning in the uses. When it is declared that men shall “justify God,” it certainly does not mean the same thing as when God is said “to justify the ungodly;” and yet there is a closer approach of meaning, in the two cases, than might, at first, be supposed. When men justify God, they pass him righteous, and when God justifies the ungodly, he passes them righteous—only he becomes, besides, the righteousness upon them that makes it true. The justification is purely moral in the first case, because no justification but a moral one is here possible; and that, in the second, there is no thought of a judicial acquittal, on account of penal compensations paid by Christ, will be most conclusively shown from the fact that the common uses of the word so plainly relate to what is moral only. Thus it is declared, by our apostle, in the very discussion we are having in review, that Abraham “believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness;”7575Rom. iv, 3, 20-22. and the very particular matter of promise on which he believed, being so justified by his faith, is given us expressly; viz., that he should have an heir to perpetuate his family. He is justified, we 419can see, by simply being brought nigh enough to God in his faith, to be the friend of God, and become in vested in God’s righteousness. This justification again is called “the justification of life,”7676Rom. v, 18. supposing evidently the fact of some life-giving power in the dispensation of it; and where is the life-giving of a mere acquittal, passed on the ground that the bad account of sin is made even? Again Christ is declared to have been “delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification.”7777Rom. iv, 25. But if the whole matter of the justification depends on what he has suffered for our offenses, we shall as certainly be justified, or have our account made even, if he does not rise, as if he does. Doubtless the rising has an immense significance, when the justification is conceived to be the renewing of our moral nature in righteousness; for it is only by the rising that his incarnate life and glory are fully discovered, and the righteousness of God declared in his person, in its true moral power. But in the other view of justification, there is plainly enough nothing depending, as far as that is concerned, on his resurrection. When, again, he is himself declared, though “manifest in the flesh” and subject to its low estate, to be “justified in the spirit,”78781 Tim. iii, 16. what does it mean but that his higher life is seen to be invested with tile evident righteousness of God—inwardly just, or justified? To imagine that he is only declared to be legally acquitted, judicially justified, is quite impossible. When again we read—“but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the 420name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God”79791 Cor. vi, 11.—what is the very subject matter of the declaration, but the moral renewing of the soul? Besides, “the Spirit of God” is conceived to be concerned in the justifying spoken of; as he certainly could not be and is never even supposed to be, in the doctrine of a mere compensational and judicial justification.
Having now these three main points of the apostle’s language made out and established, in a manner that leaves no room for dispute, we need also The “declaring” and the “remission” explained. to notice, in a very brief manner, two or three of the subordinate points which affect the general meaning. The expression “to declare,” is rather insufficient. The original, very forcible expression is, “for the in-showing” [ενδειξιν,] that is, “for producing an effective impression of, the righteousness of God.” For every thing, as regards a justifying effect depends, it will be seen, on the powerful demonstration made of God’s righteousness, in the incarnate life and death of Christ. It appears to be a matter of doubt, with the commentators, whether the phrase, “through the forbearance of God,” is to be connected with the participial clause, “that are past,” or with the clause, “for the remission.” But the participle, “that are past,” does not mean “that are passed by,” but only “that took place in past time.” To conceive, therefore, that the sins took place, by the forbearance of God, is too weak to be a true conjunction. Say, instead, “for the remission, by God’s forbearance, of sins in the ages 421past;” and the vigor of good sense returns. There appears to have been a fear of saying “the remission of sins by God’s forbearance,” lest it might not be the true theology. It is not considered, perhaps, how the declaration of God’s righteousness will have covered up that laxity, if laxity there was.
We read the whole passage then as follows—“To declare [that is, demonstrate, inwardly impress] his righteousness, for the remission, by God’s forbearance, The true version. of sins heretofore committed; to declare [demonstrate,] I say, for this present time, his righteousness, that he might be righteous [stand full before us in the evident glory of his righteousness] and the justifier [righteousser] of him that believeth in Jesus.”
If any apology is necessary for using again this very ungrammatical, mock-English substitute for the word “justifier,” it must be that, without some Catholic and Protestant versions both considered. such device, I do not see in what way I can steer my exposition exactly enough, through the close and perilous strait between the Catholic doctrine on one hand, and the Protestant on the other, to avoid an appearance of lapsing in this or that—when both, in fact, are only unsuccessful attempts to exhibit the true gospel idea. The Catholic says, “making righteous;” the Protestant says, “declaring to be righteous;” neither of which is the exact conception of Christian justification. The Christian is not a man made righteous in himself, or in his own habit; neither is he a man held to be righteous, when he is not, by what is called a “declaratio pro justo;” for 422it is no fitting way, for a gospel of divine mercy, to end off in a fiction that falsifies even the eternal distinctions of character. Hence there is wanted here a verb that we have not—even as the Greeks appear to have made one out of their adjective—so that we also may say, “that he might be righteous and the righteousser,” &c.; for it is the peculiar and exact result of this outlandish word, that it describes a state, where the righteousness may be conceived as a flowing in of God’s righteousness upon the believing soul, thus and forever to flow. The subject is not conceived to be made righteous personally, by infusion, and started off as an inherently right-going character, but is thought of as being held in everlasting confidence and right-going, because he is vitally connected, by his faith, with the inspirations of God, or of the righteousness of God. He is made righteous, using the Catholic words, in the sense that he is always to be so derivatively from the righteousness of God; accounted righteous, using the Protestant, in the sense that he is always being made so, by the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. And this is his condition of justification; his being always just because he always believes; never to be just, for a moment, after he ceases to believe.
In this careful exposition of what may be called the charter text of Christian justification, two points have been held in reserve for separate consideration; viz.. the righteousness of God as related to justification; and the relation we ourselves have to God’s righteousness, in the faith by which we are justified.423
I. The righteousness of God as related to justification. The apostle, as we have already observed, makes much of the in-showing, or felt impression produced, of the righteousness of God; The Righteousness of God as related to justification. repeating, for the sake of emphasis—“to declare”—“to declare, I say, the righteousness of God”—first “for the remission of sins,” and next “for the justifying,” or righteoussing of sinners; evidently conceiving that, in the declaration, or impression made [ενδειξιν] of God’s righteousness, lies all the principal value of his work.
According to the common conception, his declaration of the righteousness of God prepares a ground of remission, or a ground of justification; and in Christ not a ground, but a power, of justification. that sense Christ obtains, by his death, the grace of remission, or of justification. Perhaps we shall find reason to believe, that Christ is a great deal more to us than a ground; viz., a power of the same things—in such sense a power that, if they were not wrought by him, they would never, in fact, be, at whatever cost of grounding they obtain a right to be.
The very light notions prevalent concerning remission, or forgiveness, and especially in connection with the idea that Christ is concerned to prepare Light notions of remission. a ground of remission, make it necessary to revise our impressions at this point. It is a rather common question, whether God could forgive sins on the ground of our mere repentance, without any ground of compensation made to his justice? But if he 424could, meaning only what is commonly meant by remission, the remission would make no change and confer no benefit whatever. Besides the question only asks what God could bestow, if we should do the impossible? For no man is able, by his own act, to really cast off sin and renew himself in good; and to ask what God may do, in such a case, indicates a very superficial view both of sin and of remission.
What then is remission more sufficiently conceived? The word, both in Greek and English, is a popular word, which signifies, in common speech, a letting go; that is, a letting go of blame, a consenting to raise no impeachment farther and to have all wounded feeling dismissed. But though God accommodates our understanding, in the use of this rather superficial word, we can easily see, as I have already intimated in another place, that his relations to a sinning soul under his government, taken hold of, as it is already, by the retributive causes arrayed in nature itself for the punishment of transgression, are so different from those of a man to a wrong doing fellow man, that a mere letting go, or consenting no longer to blame, really accomplishes nothing as regards the practical release of sin. It is only a kind of formality, or verbal discharge, that carries practically no discharge at all. It says “go” but leaves the prison doors shut.8080Dr. Whitley says with great truth—“Remission of sin is not the mere cold reputative or forensic remission of a bond or debt; it is not a bare judicial, external discharge from the obligation of the law to positive pains and penalties; it is something more distinct and practical, something more present and homefelt within us—it is remission or liberation from the essential naughtiness, heinousness, and malignity of moral evil itself; for whilst all penal ire and positive infliction might be remitted and foreborne, the spiritual disease and death of the soul might remain in all their genuine horrors, in all their innate mischief and misery.” (Atonement and Sacrifice, Sect. 12.)425
We ought to be sure beforehand, that the Scripture will not leave the matter here, but will somehow man age to strike a deeper key. And we find, Three conceptions held by the Scripture. as we go into the inquiry, that we have, at least, three distinct forms of expression given us, to accommodate our uses, according to the particular mode of thought by which we are, or are to be, exercised.
Thus, if we are thinking of God’s displeasure, or his feeling of blame, we have the word “remission,” that speaks of releasing the blame; and we often use the much deeper word forgiveness in the same superficial sense.
If, again, we think of our sin as a state of moral incapacity and corruption, fastened upon us by the retributive causes which our sin has provoked, we are allowed to speak of “forgiveness” as the “taking away” of our sin; just as we may of being “healed,” “washed,” “reconciled,” “delivered,” “turned away,” “made free.” Here we conceive that God is able, in the declaration of his righteousness, to get such a hold of the souls that are sweltering in disorder, under the natural effects of transgression, as to bring them out of their disorder into righteousness. By his moral power, which 426is the power of his righteousness supernaturally revealed in Christ, he masters the retributive causations of their nature, and they receive what is more than a ground of remission; viz., the executed fact of remission, or spiritual release. Otherwise, under a mere letting go, the bad causes hold fast like fire in brimstone refusing to be cheated of their prey. The same is true of forgiveness; only when this same deliverance is called, in the English, “forgiveness,” there appears to be a reference to the fact that Christ forgives, in the sense of giving himself for, the transgressor, to get so great power over him and be the power of God unto salvation upon him.8181By a singular coincidence, other languages make their word of release out of the verb to give, in the same manner. Thus we have condono, par-don, ver-geben, accurately matching our English word for-give. A coincidence the more remarkable that the Greek word χαριζομαι, translated by our word forgive, has no reference to the figure of giving at all. Still Christ is put in this figure, [δεδωμε ὑπερ,] many times over in the New Testament, and that perhaps is the sufficient explanation. Gal. ii, 20; Eph. v, 25; 1 Tim. ii, 6; Tit. ii, 14; John vi, 51.
If, again, we think of something higher and more sovereign, even than this executed release; if we want to get above all the condemnations of statutes, and the severe motivities or enforcements of instituted government itself; if we raise our thought, with a certain divine envy, to God, longing to be as little hampered as He, by fears and requirements and bad liabilities; then it is given us to know that we are “justified”—made and kept righteous, by the righteousness of God upon us, and reigning as a Divine Moral Power in us. And 427therefore it is that so much is made of “the declaring [in-showingj of the righteousness of God” by Christ because, in real verity, our justification is to be the righteousness of God upon us. For this righteousness declared is but another name for the great Moral Power already shown to be obtained by Christ in his sacrifice. Beginning at the point of Christ’s humanity, and tracing his course onward through death and the resurrection, he is obtaining, all the while, as man, a great Name and Power; till finally we see him culminate in absolute, deific perfection, or the righteousness of God. Beginning at the other pole, and conceiving him in deific perfection, or righteousness, which is by him to be declared, or made a power on men, we only describe inversely the same thing. In one case the humanity culminates in the righteousness of God; and in the other the righteousness of God is incarnated and declared in humanity. The result is an embodiment, in either case, of God’s perfection in a human life and character, to be a new-creating, justifying power, and so a gospel.
Christian justification has, in this view, no reference whatever to justice under the political analogies, or to any compensation of justice. As respects Justification has no reference to justice. the full, round conception of it, an immense advantage is gained by the distinction I have drawn, between the law before government, and the instituted government by which God undertakes the maintenance of it, and our final restoration to it. The righteousness of God is what God was, before the eternal, necessary law of his own nature, 428When we are justified by faith, or “by yielding our members instruments of righteousness unto God,” which is the same thing, we are carried directly back into the recesses, so to speak, of God’s eternity—back of all instituted government, back of the creation, back of the statutes, and penalties, and the coming wrath of guiltiness, and all the contrived machineries and means of grace, including in a sense even the Bible itself, and rested with God, on the base of His antecedent, spontaneous, immutable righteousness. We are taken by all the foundations of the world, and the governings, compulsions, fears, and judgments that make up the scaffolding of our existence, and have our relations, with God, only to the law before government; being in it, and the freedom of it, as being in Him and His freedom. In so far as we are still incomplete, statutes, penal enforcements, and all kinds of instituted means and machineries, are necessary to the mixed quality we are in; but in so far as we are in the righteousness of God, we are raised above them, into that primal law which God undertook, as the total object of his administration, to establish in created minds. We are thus united to God in the antecedent glories and liberties of his eternal character. The bondages and fears of our guiltiness are left behind. Being in God’s righteousness, we also share the confidence of his integrity. And the work of righteousness, both for Him and for us, shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
This is justification with a meaning, and it is only 429this, however we may conceive it, that makes our justification a state of peace and liberty, so unspeakably strong and triumphant. How artificial, and meager, and cold in comparison, is the justification which only means that justice is satisfied in Christ’s pains, and that faith, seizing on that fact, concludes that punishment is escaped! This is justification as before justice—which is only one of God’s means of government—not before the everlasting standard for which government exists. In other words, it is justification without righteousness; for if any thing is said of that, it appears to be only meant, that as good a footing is obtained for the soul without righteousness, as if it were righteous.
But if justifying faith has no respect to the fact that justice is satisfied, then it will be objected that the liabilities of justice still remain. Undoubtedly Objected that the liabilities of justice still remain. they do, if by liabilities we mean the dues of justice; and our dues would be exactly the same if a ground of release were provided in the pains of another. That ground provided would not make the dues of penalty any the less due, in justice, from us. The objection here is created by an assumption that there is no deliverance from the claims of justice, save as they are legally compensated. What has been said of justice and penalty, in the four previous chapters, will sufficiently show the contrary. Besides, no soul that has felt the righteoussing power of God, and been raised to a conscious participation of his righteousness—set in His confidence, let forth unto His liberty—will assuredly want any other evidence.430
Another kind of objection will occur to many; viz., that the righteousness of God is too severe and stern to have, when declared, any such attractive Another objection that righteousness condemns and repels. power over souls that are in wrong, and is most of all unfitted to become a new-creating force in their life. Such persons have been somehow accustomed to think of God’s righteousness, as being one and the same thing with his justice, and their associations correspond. Instead of blessing themselves, and counting all souls blessed, in the fact that God is everlastingly right, having all the benignities, fidelities, integrities, and supreme glories of a perfect righteousness, they speak of it as being an appalling character, one that creates inevitable dread and revulsion; setting it forth in terrorem, not seldom, as a hard and fateful rigor opposite to love. Whereas righteousness, translated into a word of the affections, is love, and love, translated back into a word of the conscience, is righteousness. We associate a more fixed exactness, it may be, and a stronger thunder of majesty with righteousness, but there is no repugnance between it and the very love itself of Christ. When Christ thinking of his death and resurrection, says that he will convince the world, in that manner, of righteousness, does he mean that he will not also draw the world by love? or does he rather mean that, raising the conviction of righteousness, he will draw the more powerfully? Nowhere, in fact, do we feel such a sense of the righteousness of God, as we do in the dying scene of Christ—“Certainly this was a righteous man”—and we only feel the more powerfully that God is a forgiving God.431
Indeed we have just the same opinion of righteousness in men—we only expect the more confidently to be forgiven, because the man we have injured is a righteous man. If I have an enemy who has done me a great personal wrong; if I can bring him to justice and make an example of him that will do much to honor the laws; if, too, I have a fire of natural indignation that, apart from all revenge, arms me against him and prepares me to see him suffer; shall I be false, therefore, to my own virtue, if I do not make him suffer? Calling this my instinct of justice, is it therefore a finality with me, beyond the control of reason and right? Is there no justice above justice, in which, as a righteous man, I am even bound to subordinate the lower ranges of vindictive impulse, and give myself tenderly to courses of patience and suffering sacrifice, that I may gain my enemy? Nay, if my vindicatory impulse should indeed assume to be my law, what can I do but call it a temptation of the devil, and betake myself to fasting if need be to subdue it?
Dismissing then all such false impressions, and taking the righteousness of God no more as a preventive to mercy, but as a ground of mercy rather, Justification restores the normal state of being. we begin to see how much it means that Christ, in becoming the moral power of God in his sacrifice, becomes, in another, but nowise contrary view, the righteousness of God declared. For in the original normal state of being, the righteousness of God was to be a power all diffusive, a central, self radiating orb—Sun itself of Righteousness, shining 432abroad on all created minds and overspreading them, as it were, with the sovereign day of its own excellence. The plan never was that created beings should be righteous, in such a sense, by their own works, or their own inherent force, as not to be derivatively righteous and by faith. They had and were eternally to have, their righteoussing in God. Remaining upright, they would consciously have had their righteousness in God’s inspirations, and would even have been hurt by a contrary suggestion.
Hence the dismal incapacity of sin; because it separates the soul from God’s life-giving character and inspirations. Having Him no more, as the fontal source, of righteousness, it falls off into an abnormal, self-centered state, where it comes under fears, and legal enforcements, and judicial wrath, and struggles vainly, if at all, to keep its account even, or recover itself to its own ideals. Works of the law, dead works carefully piled, will-works, works of supererogation, penances, alms, austerities of self-mortification—none of these, nor all of them, make out the needed righteousness. Still there is a felt deficiency, which the apostle calls “a coming short of the glory of God.” Nothing will suffice for this, but to come back, finite to infinite, creature to Creator, and take derivatively what, in its nature, must be derivative; viz., the righteousness that was normally and forever to be, unto, and upon, all them that believe.
Here then is the grand renewing office and aim of the gospel of Christ. He comes to men groping in a state 433of separation from God, consciously not even with their own standards of good, and, what is more, consciously not able to be—self-condemned when they are trying most to justify themselves, and despairing even the more, the more they endeavor to make themselves righteous by their own works—to such Christ comes forth, out of the righteousness of God, and also in the righteousness of God, that he may be the righteousness of God upon all them that believe, and are so brought close enough to him in their faith, to receive his inspirations. And this is the state of justification, not because some debt is made even, by the penal suffering of Christ, but because that normal connection with God is restored by his sacrifice, which permits the righteoussing of God to renew its everlasting flow.
When I speak thus of the connection with God as being restored, by the sacrifice of Christ, let me not be understood as meaning, by the sacrifice, only what is tenderly sympathetic and submissive in Christ’s death. I include all that is energetic, strong, and piercing; his warnings, his doctrines of punishment and judgment, all that is done for the law before government, by his powerful ministry and doctrine. His sacrifice is no mere suit or plaint of weakness, for the righteousness of God is in it. When the metallic ring of principle, or everlasting right, is heard in the agonies and quakings of the cross, the sacrifice becomes itself a sword of conviction, piercing irresistibly through the subject, and causing him to quiver, as it were, on the point by which he is fastened. Mere sympathy, as we commonly speak, 434is no great power; it must be somehow a tremendous sympathy, to have the true divine efficacy. Hence the glorious justifying efficacy of Christ; because the righteousness of God is declared in his sacrifice. We pass now to consider—
II. The relation of faith to justification. Though the righteousness of God is declared and made to shine Faith how related to justification. with its true divine luster and glory by Christ, still the justification is not conceived to be an accomplished fact, as indeed it never can be, prior to faith in the subject. It is justification by faith and not without—“and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” What is this faith, and why is it necessary?
It is not the belief that Christ has come to even our account with justice; neither is it the belief that he has obtained a surplus merit, which is offered, over and above, as a positive righteousness and set to our credit, if we will have it. Neither of the two is a fact, or at all credible any way. Neither would both, if believed as mere facts, do any thing more for us than a belief in any other facts. Our sins do not fly away because we believe in a fact of any kind. We can even believe in all the historic facts of Christianity, as thousands do, with. out being any the more truly justified.
No, the real faith is this, and very little intelligence is required to see the necessity of it; viz., the trusting of one’s self over, sinner to Saviour, to be in him, and of him, and new charactered by him; because it is only 435in that way that the power of Christ gets opportunity to work. So the sinner is justified, and the justificatior is a most vital affair; “the justification of Faith defined. life.” The true account of it is that Jesus, coming into the world, with all God’s righteousness upon him, declaring it to guilty souls in all the manifold evidences of his life and passion, wins their faith, and by that faith they are connected again with the life of God, and filled and overspread with his righteousness. And there springs up, in this reconnection of the soul with God’s righteousness, a perfect liberty and confidence; for it is no more trying to climb up into a righteous consciousness and confidence by itself, but it has the righteousness by derivation; flowing down upon it, into it, and through it, from the everlasting spring of God’s excellence. And just here it is that Christianity wins its triumph. It shows man how to be free in good and makes it possible. The best that all other religions and moralities can do, is to institute a practice of works, and a climbing up into perfection by our own righteous deeds; but the gospel of Jesus comes to our relief, in showing us how to find righteousness, and have it as an eternal inspiration; “even the righteousness of God that is by the faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.”8282Rom. iii, 22. In it we do not climb, but rest; we goad ourselves into no impossibilities, groan under no bondage that we can not lift; sink into no deep mires because we try to struggle out. We have a possible righteousness, because it is not ours but God’s; 436Christ received by our faith, to be upon us and for us, all that we could wish to be for ourselves. This is the transcendent distinction, the practically sublime glory of our gospel, our great all-truth—Justification by Faith. Here is conquered the grandest of all problems, how to put confidence in the bosom of guilt, and settle a platform of virtue, that shall make duty fxee and joyful under all conscious disabilities.
Here it was that Luther broke into heaven, as it were, and a bewilderment of change that he could not, for the Luther’s great discovery of justification. time, understand. He had been trying to be justified by works; that is, by fastings, penances, alms, vigils, wearing down the body under the load of his sins, and crying to God in his cell, day and night, for some deliverance that should ease the torment of his still and always self-condemning soul. A right word from Staupitz let him see the fool that he was—that Christ would take him because he was guilty; having died for him because he was guilty, and not because he was righteous. At that point broke in, what light and confidence! His emancipated soul burst off all its chains in a moment, and took, as it were, the range of heaven in its liberty. He was new himself, the world was new, the gospel was new. It had not entered into his heart to conceive the things that were freely given him of God, but now he has them all at once. Justification by faith, justification by faith—his great soul is full of it; he must preach it, he must fight for it, die for it, know nothing else.
In the inspiration of this truth it was, that his great 437career as a reformer and spiritual hero began, If any thing will make a man a hero, it will be the righteousness of God upon him, and the confidence Luther’s head did not understand his heart. he gets in the sense of it. If he can be eloquent for any thing, it will be in the testimony of what Christ is to him, in the now glorified consciousness of his inward life, But we must not fall into a very great mistake here. Luther is, in fact, two, not one; viz., a Christian, and a theologian; and his Christian justification by faith, that which puts such a grand impulsion into his feeling, and raises the tone of his manly parts to such a pitch of vigor, is a very different, altogether separate matter, from that theologic contriving of his head, which he took so confidently for the certain equivalent. Taking this latter, it would be difficult to find how any one should become much. of a hero, or be lifted to the pitch of any great sentiment, in it. Indeed, the very great wonder is, that a man so intelligent should imagine, for a moment, that he was fired with a passion so mighty, and a joy so transcendent, by the fact that an innocent being had taken his sins and evened the account of justice by suffering their punishment! This he thought he believed; but we are not obliged to believe that he did. Really believing it, and conceiving what it means, the fact would have set his stout frame shuddering, and turned his life to gall. The truth indeed appears to be, that his heart sailed over his theology, and did not come down to see it. We find him contriving, in his “Epistle to the Galatians,” how Christ, having all the sins of mankind imputed to him, 438“becomes the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer thief,’ rebel, and blasphemer, that ever was, or could be, in all the world;” and his doctrine is, that suffering the just wrath of God, for the sin that is upon him, Christ makes out a right of justification for us before God which is complete, because it completely satisfies the law. And then to be just cleared of punishment, and believe that he is, he conceives to be the very thing that makes his glorious liberty and raises the tempest of his joy! The manner appears to be hideous, the deliverance to be negative and legal only; but his heart is ranging high enough, in its better element—the righteousness of God—even not to be offended by the crudities he is taking for a gospel.
But this is not the first time, that the head of a great man has not been equal even to the. understanding, or true interpretation, of his heart. Indeed, nothing is more common, as a matter of fact, than for men of real or even the highest intelligence, to so far misinterpret their own experience in matters of religion, as to ascribe it to and find it springing radically out of, that which has no sound verity, and could never have produced such an experience. Let no one be surprised, then, that Luther’s justification by faith, that which puts his soul ringing with such an exultant and really sublime liberty, makes a plunge so bewildering into bathos and general unreason, when it comes to be affirmed theologically in his doctrine. As he had it in his Christian consciousness, the soul of his joy, the rest of his confidence, the enlargement of his gracious liberty, 439nothing could be more evidently real and related to the deepest realities of feeling; but as he gave it in his dogmatic record, I confess that calling it justification by faith—articulus stantis, vel cadentis ecclesiae—I could more easily see the church fall than believe it. Happily our very great reverence and admiration for the man may be accommodated in the confidence, that any one may reject it utterly, and yet receive all that his faith received in his justification; and may also be with him in profoundest sympathy, in the magnificat he chants, and, with such exhaustless eloquence of boasting, reiterates, in his preaching of the cross and the glorious liberty it brings. Certain it is that no man is a proper Christian, who is not practically, at least, in the power of this great truth. If any thing defines a Christian, it is that he is one who seeks and also finds his righteousness in God.
I am well aware how insufficient this exposition of the great Christian truth, justification by faith, will be to many—to some, because it is a truth that can be sufficiently expounded, by nothing but a living experience of its power; to others, because they have already learned to find their experience in words and forms of doctrine, by which it is poorly, or even falsely represented. What questions the view presented will encounter, especially from this latter class, I very well know, and will therefore bring the subject to a conclusion by answering a few of them.
Do we not then, by holding a view of justification so 440essentially subjective, virtually annihilate the distinction between justification and sanctification? This is Justification and sanctification not confounded. one of the questions, and I answer it by saying that if the two experiences were more closely related than they are commonly supposed to be, I do not see that we need be greatly disturbed on that account. Still they are sufficiently distinct. According to the Catholic doctrine they are virtually identical; because the “making just,” or “making righteous,” which is conceived to be the sense of justification, is understood to be a completed subjective change, one that goes below consciousness and makes the soul inherently right—which is the very significance also of sanctification. But if we only conceive the soul to be so joined, by its faith, to the righteousness of God, as to be rather invested by it, or enveloped in it, than to be transformed all through in its own inherent quality; if the righteoussing goes on, even as the sun goes on shining when it makes the day, and stops of necessity when the faith withdrawn permits it to go on no longer; then we have a very wide and palpable distinction. The consciousness of the subject, in justification, is raised in its order, filled with the confidence of right, set free from the bondage of all fears and scruples of legality; but there is a vast realm back of the consciousness, or below it, which remains to be changed or sanctified, and never will be, except as a new habit is generated by time, and the better consciousness descending into the secret roots below, gets a healing into them more and more perfect. 441In this manner, one who is justified at once, can be sanctified only in time; and one who is completely justified is only incipiently sanctified; and one who has consciously “yielded his members as instruments of righteousness unto God,” may discover even more and more distinctly, and, by manifold tokens, a law in his members not yet sanctified away. There is also a certain reference in justification to one’s standing in the everlasting law; whereas sanctification refers more especially to the conscious purity of the soul’s aims, and the separation of its moral habit from evil. By another distinction, justification is the purgation of the conscience, and sanctification a cleansing of the soul’s affections and passions. Both of course are operated by God’s inspirations, and are operated only in and through the faith of the subject.
There is indeed no objection to saying that, in a certain general way, they are one—just as faith is one with love, and love with regeneration, and this with genuine repentance, and all good states with all others. The same divine life or quickening of God is: supposed in every sort of holy exercise, and the different names we give it represent real and important differences of meaning, accordingly as we consider the new life quickened’ in relation to our own agency, or to God’s, or to means accepted, trusts reposed, or effects wrought. In the same way, justification is sanctification, and both are faith; and yet their difference is by no means annihilated.
Another question likely to be raised in the way of 442objection is, whether, in the kind of justification stated, I do not give in to the rather antiquated notion of imputed How related to imputation. righteousness? To this I answer that if the notion supposed to be thus antiquated, is the theologic fiction of a surplus obedience, over and above what was due from Christ as a man—contributed by him in pains and acts of duty from the obedience of his higher nature—which surplus is imputed to us and reckoned to our account, such imputation is plainly enough rejected; still there will be left the grand, experimental, Scripture truth of imputed righteousness, a truth never more to be antiquated, than holiness itself.
The theologic fiction more fully stated appears to have been something like this: that Christ, taken simply as a man, was under. all the obligations that belong to a man; therefore that he was only righteous as he should be in fulfilling those obligations, and had no righteousness to spare; but that, as being the God-man, he was under no such obligations; whence it resulted that, by his twofold obedience, passive and active, he gained two kinds of surplus righteousness; a passive to stand in the place of our punishment and be a complete satisfaction for it, and an active to be set to our account as being our positive obedience—both received by imputation. And so we are justified and saved by a double imputed righteousness, one to be our suffered penalty, the other to be such an obedience for us as will put us even with the precept of the law. It is even a sad office to recite the scholastic jingle of such a scheme, 443made up and received for a gospel. Plainly it is all a fiction. The distinction of a passive and active obedience is a fiction; the passive obedience being just as voluntary as the active, and therefore just as active, The assumption that Christ, to put righteousness upon us, must provide a spare righteousness not wanted for himself, is a fiction that excludes even the possible koinonia of the righteousness of God. And a still greater fiction is the totally impossible conception of a surplus righteousness. Christ was just as righteous as he should be, neither more nor less, and the beauty of his sacrifice lay in the fact, not that it overlapped the eternal law, but that it so exactly fulfilled that law. His merit therefore was not that he was better than he should be, but all that he should be; for if he was perfect without the surplus, then he was more than perfect with it, and we are left holding the opinion, that there is a righteousness above and outside of perfection! Still again the imputation of such a perfection to us, so that we shall have the credit of it, is a fiction also of the coldest, most unfructifying kind, and impossible even at that. What has any such pile of merit in Christ, be it suffering, or sacrifice, or punishment, or active righteousness, to do with my personal deserts? If a thousand worlds-full of the surplus had been provided for me, I should be none the less ill deserving, if I had the total reckoning in possession.
The experimental, never-to-be antiquated, Scripture truth of imputed righteousness, on the other hand, is this:—That the soul, when it is gained to faith, is 444brought back, according to the degree of faith, into its original, normal relation to God; to be invested in God’s; light, feeling, character—in one word, righteousness—and live derivatively from Him. It is not made righteous, in the sense of being set in a state of self-centered righteousness, to be maintained by an ability complete in the person, but it is made righteous in the sense of being always to be made righteous; just as the day is made luminous, not by the light of sunrise staying in it, or held fast by it, but by the ceaseless outflow of the solar effulgence. Considered in this view, the sinning man justified is never thought of as being, or to. be, just in himself; but he is to be counted so, be so by imputation, because his faith holds him to a relation to. God, where the sun of His righteousness will be forever gilding him with its fresh radiations. Thus Abraham believed God enough to become the friend of God—saying nothing of justice satisfied, nothing of surplus merit, nothing of Christ whatever—and it was imputed to him for righteousness. No soul comes into such a relation of trust, without having God’s investment upon it; and whatever there may be in God’s righteousness—love, truth, sacrifice—will be rightfully imputed, or counted to be in it, because, being united to Him, it will have them coming over derivatively from Him,. Precisely here therefore, in this most sublimely practical of all truths, imputed righteousness, Christianity culminates. Here we have coming upon us, or upon our faith, all that we most want, whether for our confidence, or the complete deliverance and upraising of our guilty and dreadfully 445enthralled nature. Here we triumph. There is therefore now no condemnation, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free. If we had a righteousness of the law to work out, we should feel a dreadful captivity upon us. If we were put into the key of righteous living, and then, being so started,; were left to keep the key ourselves, by manipulating our own thoughts, affections, actions, in a way of self-superintendence, the practice would be so artificial, so, inherently weak, as to pitch us into utter despair in a single day. Nothing meets our want, but to have our life and righteoussing in God, thus to be kept in liberty and victory always by our trust in Him. Calling this imputed righteousness, it is: no conceit of theology, no fiction, but the grandest and most life-giving of all the Christian truths.
We have this imputation also in another form that is equally natural and practical. Thus, instead of having our faith imputed unto us for righteousness, We also to have our righteousness putatively in God. we ourselves teach our faith to locate all our righteousness putatively in God; saying “The Lord our righteousness,” “Christ who is our life,” “made unto us righteousness;” as if the stock of our virtue, or holiness, were laid up for us in God. All the hope of our character that is to be we place, not in the inherent good we are to work out, or become in ourselves, but in the capital: stock that is funded for us in Him. And then the character, the righteousness, is the more dear to us, because it is to have so high a spring; and God is the more dear to us, 446that he will have us hang upon him by our faith, for a matter so divine. And the joy also, the confidence, the assurance and rest—all that we include in our justification—is the more sublimely dear, that we have it on a footing of permitted unity with God so transforming and glorious. There is, in short, no truth that is richer and fuller of meaning and power, than this same figure of mental imputation, in which we behold our character laid up and funded for us in the righteousness of God. In one view it is not true; there is no such quantity, or substance, separate from him, and laid up in store for us; but there is a power in him everlastingly able to beget in us, or keep flowing over upon us, every gift our sin most needs; and this we represent to our hearts, by conceiving, in a figure, that we have a stock, just what we call “our righteousness,” laid up for us even beforehand, in the sublime quarter-mastering of his love.
It is no fault then of our doctrine of justification by faith, that it favors a notion of imputed righteousness; for in just this fact it is, that the gospel takes us out of the bondage of works into a really new divine liberty. Here, in fact, is the grand triumph of Christianity; viz., in the new style of righteousness inaugurated, which makes the footing even of a sinner good, and helps the striving bondman of duty to be free; even the righteousness of God that is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe. When this is anti. quated, just then also will salvation be.447
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