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Chapter VII. Imputation, and the nature of it; with the imputation of the righteousness of Christ in particular
Imputation, and the nature of it — The first express record of justification determines it to be by imputation, Gen. xv. 6 — Reasons of it — The doctrine of imputation cleared by Paul; the occasion of it — Maligned and opposed by many — Weight of the doctrine concerning imputation of righteousness, on all hands acknowledged — Judgment of the Reformed churches herein, particularly of the church of England — By whom opposed, and on what grounds — Signification of the word — Difference between “reputare” and “imputare” — Imputation of two kinds:— 1. Of what was ours antecedently unto that imputation, whether good or evil — Instances in both kinds — Nature of this imputation — The thing imputed by it, imputed for what it is, and nothing else. 2. Of what is not ours antecedently unto that imputation, but is made so by it — General nature of this imputation — Not judging of others to have done what they have not done — Several distinct grounds and reasons of this imputation:— 1. “Ex justitia;” (1.) “Propter relationem fœderalem;” (2.) “Propter relationem naturalem;” 2. “Ex voluntaria sponsione” — Instances, Philem. 18; Gen. xliii. 9 — Voluntary sponsion, the ground of the imputation of sin to Christ. 3. “Ex injuria,” 1 Kings i. 21. 4. “Ex mera gratia,” Rom. iv. — Difference between the imputation of any works of ours, and of the righteousness of God — Imputation of inherent righteousness is “ex justitia” — Inconsistency of it with that which is “ex mera gratia,” Rom. xi. 6 — Agreement of both kinds of imputation — The true nature of the imputation of righteousness unto justification explained — Imputation of the righteousness of Christ — The thing itself imputed, not the effect of it; proved against the Socinians
The first express record of the justification of any sinner is of Abraham. Others were justified before him from the beginning, and there is that affirmed of them which sufficiently evidences them so to have been; but this prerogative was reserved for the father of the faithful, that his justification, and the express way and manner of it, should be first entered on the sacred record. So it is, Gen. xv. 6, “He believed in the Lord, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ, — it was “accounted” unto him, or “imputed” unto him, for righteousness. Ἐλογίσθη, — it was “counted, reckoned, imputed.” And “it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed unto him, but for us also, unto whom it shall be imputed if we believe,” Rom. iv. 23, 24. Wherefore, the first express declaration of the nature of justification in the Scripture affirms it to be by imputation, — the imputation of somewhat unto righteousness; and this [is] done in that place and instance which is recorded on purpose, as the precedent and example of all those that shall be justified. As he was justified so are we, and no otherwise.
Under the New Testament there was a necessity of a more full and clear declaration of the doctrine of it; for it is among the first and most principal parts of that heavenly mystery of truth which was to be brought to light by the gospel. And, besides, there was from the first a strong and dangerous opposition made unto it; for this matter of justification, the doctrine of it, and what necessarily belongs thereunto, was that whereon the Jewish church broke off from God, refused Christ and the gospel, perishing in their sins; as is expressly declared, Rom. ix. 31; x. 3, 4. And, in like manner, a dislike of it, an opposition unto it, ever was, and ever will be, a principle and cause of the apostasy of any professing church from Christ and the gospel that falls under the power and deceit of them; as it fell out afterwards in the churches of the Galatians. But in this state the doctrine of justification was fully declared, stated, and vindicated, by the apostle Paul, in a peculiar manner. And he does it especially by affirming and proving that we have the righteousness whereby and 163wherewith we are justified by imputation; or, that our justification consists in the non-imputation of sin, and the imputation of righteousness.
But yet, although the first-recorded instance of justification, — and which was so recorded that it might be an example, and represent the justification of all that should be justified unto the end of the world, — is expressed by imputation and righteousness imputed, and the doctrine of it, in that great case wherein the eternal welfare of the church of the Jews, or their ruin, was concerned, is so expressed by the apostle; yet is it so fallen out in our days, that nothing in religion is more maligned, more reproached, more despised, than the imputation of righteousness unto us, or an imputed righteousness. “A putative righteousness, the shadow of a dream, a fancy, a mummery, an imagination,” say some among us. An opinion, “fœda, execranda, pernitiosa, detestanda,” says Socinus. And opposition arises unto it every day from great variety of principles; for those by whom it is opposed and rejected can by no means agree what to set up in the place of it.
However, the weight and importance of this doctrine is on all hands acknowledged, whether it be true or false. It is not a dispute about notions, terms, and speculations, wherein Christian practice is little or not at all concerned (of which nature many are needlessly contended about); but such as has an immediate influence into our whole present duty, with our eternal welfare or ruin. Those by whom this imputation of righteousness is rejected, do affirm that the faith and doctrine of it do overthrow the necessity of gospel obedience, of personal righteousness and good works, bringing in antinomianism and libertinism in life. Hereon it must, of necessity, be destructive of salvation in those who believe it, and conform their practice thereunto. And those, on the other hand, by whom it is believed, seeing they judge it impossible that any man should be justified before God any other way but by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, do, accordingly, judge that without it none can be saved. Hence a learned man of late concludes his discourse concerning it, “Hactenus de imputatione justitiæ Christi; sine qua nemo unquam aut salvatus est, aut salvari queat,” Justificat. Paulin. cap. viii.; — “Thus far of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; without which no man was ever saved, nor can any so be.” They do not think nor judge that all those are excluded from salvation who cannot apprehend, or do deny, the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, as by them declared; but they judge that they are so unto whom that righteousness is not really imputed: nor can they do otherwise, whilst they make it the foundation of all their own acceptation with God and eternal salvation. These things greatly differ. 164To believe the doctrine of it, or not to believe it, as thus or thus explained, is one thing; and to enjoy the thing, or not enjoy it, is another. I no way doubt but that many men do receive more grace from God than they understand or will own, and have a greater efficacy of it in them than they will believe. Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which, in opinion, they deny to be imputed: for the faith of it is included in that general assent which they give unto the truth of the gospel, and such an adherence unto Christ may ensue thereon, as that their mistake of the way whereby they are saved by him shall not defraud them of a real interest therein. And for my part, I must say that notwithstanding all the disputes that I see and read about justification (some whereof are full of offence and scandal), I do not believe but that the authors of them (if they be not Socinians throughout, denying the whole merit and satisfaction of Christ) do really trust unto the mediation of Christ for the pardon of their sins and acceptance with God, and not unto their own works or obedience; nor will I believe the contrary, until they expressly declare it. Of the objection, on the other hand, concerning the danger of the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, in reference unto the necessity of holiness and works of righteousness, we must treat afterwards.
The judgment of the Reformed churches herein is known unto all, and must be confessed, unless we intend by vain cavils to increase and perpetuate contentions. Especially the church of England is in her doctrine express as unto the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, both active and passive, as it is usually distinguished. This has been of late so fully manifested out of her authentic writings, — that is, the articles of religion, and books of homilies, and other writings publicly authorized, — that it is altogether needless to give any farther demonstration of it. Those who pretend themselves to be otherwise minded are such as I will not contend withal; for to what purpose is it to dispute with men who will deny the sun to shine, when they cannot bear the heat of its beams? Wherefore, in what I have to offer on this subject, I shall not in the least depart from the ancient doctrine of the church of England; yea, I have no design but to declare and vindicate it, as God shall enable.
There are, indeed, sundry differences among persons learned, sober, and orthodox (if that term displease not), in the way and manner of the explication of the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, who yet all of them agree in the substance of it, — in all those things wherein the grace of God, the honour of Christ, and the peace of the souls of men, are principally concerned. As far as it is possible for me, I shall avoid the concerning of myself 165at present in these differences; for unto what purpose is it to contend about them, whilst the substance of the doctrine itself is openly opposed and rejected? Why should we debate about the order and beautifying of the rooms in a house, whilst fire is set unto the whole? When that is well quenched, we may return to the consideration of the best means for the disposal and use of the several parts of it.
There are two grand parties by whom the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is opposed, — namely, the Papists and the Socinians; but they proceed on different principles, and unto different ends. The design of the one is to exalt their own merits; of the other, to destroy the merit of Christ. But besides these, who trade in company, we have many interlopers, who, coming in on their hand, do make bold to borrow from both as they see occasion. We shall have to do with them all in our progress; not with the persons of any, nor the way and manner of their expressing themselves, but the opinions of all of them, so far as they are opposite unto the truth: for it is that which wise men despise, and good men bewail, — to see persons pretending unto religion and piety, to cavil at expressions, to contend about words, to endeavour the fastening of opinions on men which they own not, and thereon mutually to revile one another, publishing all to the world as some great achievement or victory. This is not the way to teach the truths of the gospel, nor to promote the edification of the church. But, in general, the importance of the cause to be pleaded, the greatness of the opposition that is made unto the truth, and the high concernment of the souls of believers to be rightly instructed in it, do call for a renewed declaration and vindication of it. And what I shall attempt unto this purpose I do it under this persuasion, — that the life and continuance of any church on the one hand, and its apostasy or ruin on the other, do depend in an eminent manner on the preservation or rejection of the truth in this article of religion; and, I shall add, as it has been professed, received, and believed in the church of England in former days.
The first thing we are to consider is the meaning of these words, to impute, and imputation; for, from a mere plain declaration hereof, it will appear that sundry things charged on a supposition of the imputation we plead for are vain and groundless, or the charge itself is so.
חָשַב, the word first used to this purpose, signifies to think, to esteem, to judge, or to refer a thing or matter unto any; to impute, or to be imputed, for good or evil. See Lev. vii. 18; xvii. 4, and Ps. cvi. 31. וַתֵּחָשֶב לוֹ לִצְדָקָה, — “And it was counted, reckoned, imputed unto him for righteousness;” to judge or esteem this or that good or evil to belong unto him, to be his. The LXX. express it by 166λογιζω1818 Λογιζω is never used either in the LXX. or in purer Greek. We have allowed the passage to stand as written by Owen. — Ed. and λογίζομαι, as do the writers of the New Testament also; and these are rendered by “reputare, imputare, acceptum ferre, tribuere, assignare, ascribere.” But there is a different signification among these words: in particular, to be reputed righteous, and to have righteousness imputed, differ, as cause and effect; for that any may be reputed righteous, — that is, be judged or esteemed so to be, — there must be a real foundation of that reputation, or it is a mistake, and not a right judgment; as a man may be reputed to be wise who is a fool, or reputed to be rich who is a beggar. Wherefore, he that is reputed righteous must either have a righteousness of his own, or another antecedently imputed unto him, as the foundation of that reputation. Wherefore, to impute righteousness unto one that has none of his own, is not to repute him to be righteous who is indeed unrighteous; but it is to communicate a righteousness unto him, that he may rightly and justly be esteemed, judged, or reputed righteous.
“Imputare” is a word that the Latin tongue owns in the sense wherein it is used by divines. “Optime de pessimis meruisti, ad quos pervenerit incorrupta rerum fides, magno authori suo imputata,” Senec. ad Mart. And Plin., lib. xviii. cap. 1, in his apology for the earth, our common parent, “Nostris eam criminibus urgemus, culpamque nostram illi imputamus.”
In their sense, to impute any thing unto another is, if it be evil, to charge it on him, to burden him with it: so says Pliny, “We impute our own faults to the earth, or charge them upon it.” If it be good, it is to ascribe it unto him as his own, whether originally it were so or no: “Magno authori imputata.” Vasquez, in Thom. 22, tom. ii. disp. 132, attempts the sense of the word, but confounds it with “reputare:” “Imputare aut reputare quidquam alicui, est idem atque inter ea quæ sunt ipsius, et ad eum pertinent, connumerare et recensere.” This is “reputare” properly; “imputare” includes an act antecedent unto this accounting or esteeming a thing to belong unto any person.
But whereas that may be imputed unto us which is really our own antecedently unto that imputation, the word must needs have a double sense, as it has in the instances given out of Latin authors now mentioned. And, —
1. To impute unto us that which was really ours antecedently unto that imputation, includes two things in it:— (1.) An acknowledgment or judgment that the thing so imputed is really and truly ours, or in us. He that imputes wisdom or learning unto any man does, in the first place, acknowledge him to be wise or learned. (2.) A dealing with them according unto it, whether it be good or evil. So 167when, upon a trial, a man is acquitted because he is found righteous; first, he is judged and esteemed righteous, and then dealt with as a righteous person, — his righteousness is imputed unto him. See this exemplified, Gen. xxx. 33.
2. To impute unto us that which is not our own antecedently unto that imputation, includes also in it two things:— (1.) A grant or donation of the thing itself unto us, to be ours, on some just ground and foundation; for a thing must be made ours before we can justly be dealt withal according unto what is required on the account of it. (2.) A will of dealing with us, or an actual dealing with us, according unto that which is so made ours; for in this matter whereof we treat, the most holy and righteous God does not justify any, — that is, absolve them from sin, pronounce them righteous, and thereon grant unto them right and title unto eternal life, — but upon the interveniency of a true and complete righteousness, truly and completely made the righteousness of them that are to be justified in order of nature antecedently unto their justification. But these things will be yet made more clear by instances; and it is necessary they should be so.
(1.) There is an imputation unto us of that which is really our own, inherent in us, performed by us, antecedently unto that imputation, and this whether it be evil or good. The rule and nature hereof is given and expressed, Ezek. xviii. 20, “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Instances we have of both sorts. First, in the imputation of sin when the person guilty of it is so judged and reckoned a sinner as to be dealt withal accordingly. This imputation Shimei deprecated, 2 Sam. xix. 19. He said unto the king, “Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me,” — אַל־יַחֲשָׁב־לִי אַדֹנִי עָוֹן, the word used in the expression of the imputation of righteousness, Gen. xv. 6, — “neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely: for thy servant doth know that I have sinned.” He was guilty, and acknowledged his guilt; but deprecates the imputation of it in such a sentence concerning him as his sin deserved. So Stephen deprecated the imputation of sin unto them that stoned him, whereof they were really guilty, Acts vii. 60, “Lay not this sin to their charge;” — impute it not unto them: as, on the other side, Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, who died in the same cause and the same kind of death with Stephen, prayed that the sin of those which slew him might be charged on them, 2 Chron. xxiv. 22. Wherefore to impute sin is to lay it unto the charge of any, and to deal with them according unto its desert.
To impute that which is good unto any, is to judge and acknowledge it so to be theirs, and thereon to deal with them in whom it is according unto its respect unto the law of God. The “righteousness 168of the righteous shall be upon him.” So Jacob provided that his “righteousness should answer for him,” Gen. xxx. 33. And we have an instance of it in God’s dealing with men, Ps. cvi. 30, 31, “Then stood up Phinehas and executed judgment; and that was counted unto him for righteousness.” Notwithstanding it seemed that he had not sufficient warrant for what he did, yet God, that knew his heart, and what guidance of his own Spirit he was under, approved his act as righteous, and gave him a reward testifying that approbation.
Concerning this imputation it must be observed, that whatever is our own antecedently thereunto, which is an act of God thereon, can never be imputed unto us for any thing more or less than what it is really in itself. For this imputation consists of two parts, or two things concur thereunto:— First, A judgment of the thing to be ours, to be in us, or to belong unto us. Secondly, A will of dealing with us, or an actual dealing with us, according unto it. Wherefore, in the imputation of any thing unto us which is ours, God esteems it not to be other than it is. He does not esteem that to be a perfect righteousness which is imperfect; so to do, might argue either a mistake of the thing judged on, or perverseness in the judgment itself upon it. Wherefore, if, as some say, our own faith and obedience are imputed unto us for righteousness, seeing they are imperfect, they must be imputed unto us for an imperfect righteousness, and not for that which is perfect; for that judgment of God which is according unto truth is in this imputation. And the imputation of an imperfect righteousness unto us, esteeming it only as such, will stand us in little stead in this matter. And the acceptilation which some plead (traducing a fiction in human laws to interpret the mystery of the gospel) does not only overthrow all imputation, but the satisfaction and merit of Christ also. And it must be observed, that this imputation is a mere act of justice, without any mixture of grace; as the apostle declares, Rom. xi. 6. For it consists of these two parts:— First, An acknowledging and judging that to be in us which is truly so; Secondly, A will of dealing with us according unto it: both which are acts of justice.
(2.) The imputation unto us of that which is not our own antecedently unto that imputation, at least not in the same manner as it is afterwards, is various also, as unto the grounds and causes that it proceeds upon. Only it must be observed, that no imputation of this kind is to account them unto whom anything is imputed to have done the things themselves which are imputed unto them. That were not to impute, but to err in judgment, and, indeed, utterly to overthrow the whole nature of gracious imputation. But it is to make that to be ours by imputation which was not ours before, unto all ends and purposes whereunto it would have served if it had been our own without any such imputation.
169It is therefore a manifest mistake of their own which some make the ground of a charge on the doctrine of imputation. For they say, “If our sins were imputed unto Christ, then must he be esteemed to have done what we have done amiss, and so be the greatest sinner that ever was;” and on the other side, “If his righteousness be imputed unto us, then are we esteemed to have done what he did, and so to stand in no need of the pardon of sin.” But this is contrary unto the nature of imputation, which proceeds on no such judgment; but, on the contrary, that we ourselves have done nothing of what is imputed unto us, nor Christ any thing of what was imputed unto him.
To declare more distinctly the nature of this imputation, I shall consider the several kinds of it, or rather the several grounds whence it proceeds. For this imputation unto us of what is not our own antecedent unto that imputation, may be either, — 1. “Ex justitia;” or, 2. “Ex voluntaria sponsione;” or, 3. “Ex injuria; or, 4. “Ex gratia;” — all which shall be exemplified. I do not place them thus distinctly, as if they might not some of them concur in the same imputation, which I shall manifest that they do; but I shall refer the several kinds of imputation unto that which is the next cause of every one.
1. Things that are not our own originally, personally, inherently, may yet be imputed unto us “ex justitia,” by the rule of righteousness. And this may be done upon a double relation unto those whose they are:— (1.) Federal. (2.) Natural.
(1.) Things done by one may he imputed unto others, “propter relationem fœderalem,” — because of a covenant relation between them. So the sin of Adam was and is imputed unto all his posterity; as we shall afterward more fully declare. And the ground hereof is that we stood all in the same covenant with him, who was our head and representative therein. The corruption and depravation of nature which we derive from Adam is imputed unto us with the first kind of imputation, — namely, of that which is ours antecedently unto that imputation: but his actual sin is imputed unto us as that which becomes ours by that imputation; which before it was not. Hence, says Bellarmine himself, “Peccatum Adami ita posteris omnibus imputatur, ac si omnes idem peccatum patravissent,” De Amiss. Grat., lib. iv. cap. 10; — “The sin of Adam is so imputed unto all his posterity, as if they had all committed the same sin.” And he gives us herein the true nature of imputation, which he fiercely disputes against in his books on justification. For the imputation of that sin unto us, as if we had committed it, which he acknowledges, includes both a transcription of that sin unto us, and a dealing with us as if we had committed it; which is the doctrine of the apostle, Rom. v.
(2) There is an imputation of sin unto others, “ex justitia 170propter relationem naturalem,” — on the account of a natural relation between them and those who had actually contracted the guilt of it. But this is so only with respect unto some outward, temporary effects of it. So God speaks concerning the children of the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness, “Your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms,” Numb. xiv. 33; — “Your sin shall be so far imputed unto your children, because of their relation unto you, and your interest in them, as that they shall suffer for them in an afflictive condition in the wilderness.” And this was just because of the relation between them; as the same procedure of divine justice is frequently declared in other places of the Scripture. So, where there is a due foundation of it, imputation is an act of justice.
2. Imputation may justly ensue “ex voluntaria sponsione,” — when one freely and willingly undertakes to answer for another. An illustrious instance hereof we have in that passage of the apostle unto Philemon in the behalf of Onesimus, verse 18, “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought” (τοῦτο ἐμοι ἐλλόγει), “impute it unto me, — put it on my account.” He supposes that Philemon might have a double action against Onesimus. (1.) “Injuriarum,” of wrongs: Εἰ δέ τι ἠδίκησέ σε· — “If he hath dealt unjustly with thee, or by thee, if he hath so wronged thee as to render himself obnoxious unto punishment.” (2.) “Damni,” or of loss: Ἢ ὀφείλει· — “If he oweth thee ought, be a debtor unto thee;” which made him liable to payment or restitution. In this state the apostle interposes himself by a voluntary sponsion, to undertake for Onesimus: “I Paul have written it with my own hand,” Ἐγὼ ἀποτίσω· — “I Paul will answer for the whole.” And this he did by the transcription of both the debts of Onesimus unto himself; for the crime was of that nature as might be taken away by compurgation, being not capital. And the imputation of them unto him was made just by his voluntary undertaking of them. “Account me,” says he, “the person that has done these things; and I will make satisfaction, so that nothing be charged on Onesimus.” So Judah voluntarily undertook unto Jacob for the safety of Benjamin, and obliged himself unto perpetual guilt in case of failure, Gen. xliii. 9, “I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee,” וְחָטָאתִי לְךָ כָּל־הַיָּמִים, — “I will sin,” or “be a sinner before thee always,” — be guilty, and, as we say, bear the blame. So he expresses himself again unto Joseph, chap. xliv. 32. It seems this is the nature and office of a surety; what he undertakes for is justly to be required at his hand, as if he had been originally and personally concerned in it. And this voluntary sponsion was one ground of the imputation of our sin unto Christ. He took on him the person 171of the whole church that had sinned, to answer for what they had done against God and the law. Hence that imputation was “fundamentaliter ex compacto, ex voluntaria sponsione;” — it had its foundation in his voluntary undertaking. But, on supposition hereof, it was actually “ex justitia;” it being righteous that he should answer for it, and make good what he had so undertaken, the glory of God’s righteousness and holiness being greatly concerned herein.
3. There is an imputation “ex injuria,” when that is laid unto the charge of any whereof he is not guilty: so Bathsheba says unto David, “It shall come to pass that when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon shall be חַטָּאִים,” (sinners), 1 Kings i. 21; — “shall be dealt with as offenders, as guilty persons; have sin imputed unto us, on one pretence or other, unto our destruction. We shall be sinners, — be esteemed so, and be dealt withal accordingly.” And we may see that, in the phrase of the Scripture, the denomination of sinners follows the imputation as well as the inhesion of sin; which will give light unto that place of the apostle, “He was made sin for us,” 2 Cor. v. 21. This kind of imputation has no place in the judgment of God. It is far from him that the righteous should be as the wicked.
4. There is an imputation “ex mera gratia,” — of mere grace and favour. And this is, when that which antecedently unto this imputation was no way ours, not inherent in us, not performed by us, which we had no right nor title unto, is granted unto us, made ours, so as that we are judged of and dealt with according unto it. This is that imputation, in both branches of it, — negative in the non-imputation of sin, and positive in the imputation of righteousness, — which the apostle so vehemently pleads for, and so frequently asserts, Rom. iv.; for he both affirms the thing itself, and declares that it is of mere grace, without respect unto any thing within ourselves. And if this kind of imputation cannot be fully exemplified in any other instance but this alone whereof we treat, it is because the foundation of it, in the mediation of Christ, is singular, and that which there is nothing to parallel in any other case among men.
From what has been discoursed concerning the nature and grounds of imputation, sundry things are made evident, which contribute much light unto the truth which we plead for, at least unto the right understanding and stating of the matter under debate. As, —
1. The difference is plain between the imputation of any works of our own unto us, and the imputation of the righteousness of faith without works. For the imputation of works unto us, be they what they will, be it faith itself as a work of obedience in us, is the imputation of that which was ours before such imputation; but the imputation of the righteousness of faith, or the righteousness of God 172which is by faith, is the imputation of that which is made ours by virtue of that imputation. And these two imputations differ in their whole kind. The one is a judging of that to be in us which indeed is so, and is ours before that judgment be passed concerning it; the other is a communication of that unto us which before was not ours. And no man can make sense of the apostle’s discourse, — that is, he cannot understand any thing of it, — if he acknowledge not that the righteousness he treats of is made ours by imputation, and was not ours antecedently thereunto.
2. The imputation of works, of what sort soever they be, of faith itself as a work, and all the obedience of faith, is “ex justitia,” and not “ex gratia,” — of right, and not of grace. However the bestowing of faith on us, and the working of obedience in us, may be of grace, yet the imputation of them unto us, as in us, and as ours, is an act of justice; for this imputation, as was showed, is nothing but a judgment that such and such things are in us, or are ours, which truly and really are so, with a treating of us according unto them. This is an act of justice, as it appears in the description given of that imputation; but the imputation of righteousness, mentioned by the apostle, is as unto us “ex mera gratia,” of mere grace, as he fully declares, — δωρεὰν τῇ χάριτι αὐτοῦ. And, moreover, he declares that these two sorts of imputation are inconsistent and not capable of any composition, so that any thing should be partly of the one, and partly of the other, Rom. xi. 6, “If by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace: but if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” For instance, if faith itself as a work of ours be imputed unto us, it being ours antecedently unto that imputation, it is but an acknowledgment of it to be in us and ours, with an ascription of it unto us for what it is; for the ascription of any thing unto us for what it is not, is not imputation, but mistake. But this is an imputation “ex justitia,” of works; and so that which is of mere grace can have no place, by the apostle’s rule. So the imputation unto us of what is in us is exclusive of grace, in the apostle’s sense. And on the other hand, if the righteousness of Christ be imputed unto us, it must be “ex mera gratia,” of mere grace; for that is imputed unto us which was not ours antecedently unto that imputation, and so is communicated unto us thereby. And here is no place for works, nor for any pretence of them. In the one way, the foundation of imputation is in ourselves; in the other, it is in another; which are irreconcilable.
3. Herein both these kinds of imputation do agree, — namely, in that whatever is imputed unto us, it is imputed for what it is, and not for what it is not. If it be a perfect righteousness that is imputed unto us, so it is esteemed and judged to be; and accordingly 173are we to be dealt withal, even as those who have a perfect righteousness; and if that which is imputed as righteousness unto us be imperfect, or imperfectly so, then as such must it be judged when it is imputed; and we must be dealt withal as those which have such an imperfect righteousness, and no otherwise. And therefore, whereas our inherent righteousness is imperfect (they are to be pitied or despised, not to be contended withal, that are otherwise minded), if that be imputed unto us, we cannot be accepted on the account thereof as perfectly righteous, without an error in judgment.
4. Hence the true nature of that imputation which we plead for (which so many cannot or will not understand) is manifest, and that both negatively and positively; for, — (1.) Negatively. First, It is not a judging or esteeming of them to be righteous who truly and really are not so. Such a judgment is not reducible unto any of the grounds of imputation before mentioned. It has the nature of that which is “ex injuria,” or a false charge, only it differs materially from it; for that respects evil, this that which is good. And therefore the clamours of the Papists and others are mere effects of ignorance or malice, wherein they cry out “ad ravim,” [till they are hoarse,] that we affirm God to esteem them to be righteous who are wicked, sinful, and polluted. But this falls heavily on them who maintain that we are justified before God by our own inherent righteousness: for then a man is judged righteous who indeed is not so; for he who is not perfectly righteous cannot be righteous in the sight of God unto justification. Secondly, It is not a naked pronunciation or declaration of any one to be righteous, without a just and sufficient foundation for the judgement of God declared therein. God declares no man to be righteous but him who is so; the whole question being how he comes so to be. Thirdly, It is not the transmission or transfusion of the righteousness of another into them that are to be justified, that they should become perfectly and inherently righteous thereby; for it is impossible that the righteousness of one should be transfused into another, to become his subjectively and inherently: but it is a great mistake, on the other hand, to say that therefore the righteousness of one can no way be made the righteousness of another; which is to deny all imputation.
Wherefore, — (2.) Positively. This imputation is an act of God “ex mera gratia,” — of his mere love and grace; whereby, on the consideration of the mediation of Christ, he makes an effectual grant and donation of a true, real, perfect righteousness, even that of Christ himself unto all that do believe; and accounting it as theirs, on his own gracious act, both absolves them from sin and grants them right and title unto eternal life. Hence, —
5. In this imputation, the thing itself is first imputed unto us, and not any of the effects of it, but they are made ours by virtue of that 174imputation. To say that the righteousness of Christ, — that is, his obedience and sufferings, — are imputed unto us only as unto their effects, is to say that we have the benefit of them, and no more; but imputation itself is denied. So say the Socinians; but they know well enough, and ingenuously grant, that they overthrow all true, real imputation thereby. “Nec enim ut per Christi justitiam justificemur, opus est ut illius justitia, nostra fiat justitia; sed sufficit ut Christi justitia sit causa nostræ justificationis; et hactenus possumus tibi concedere, Christi justitiam esse nostram justitiam, quatenus nostrum in bonum justitiamque redundat; verum tu proprie nostram, id est, nobis attributam ascriptamque intelligis,” says Schlichtingius, Disp. pro Socin. ad Meisner. p. 250. And it is not pleasing to see some among ourselves with so great confidence take up the sense and words of these men in their disputations against the Protestant doctrine in this cause; that is, the doctrine of the church of England.
That the righteousness of Christ is imputed unto us as unto its effects, has this sound sense in it, — namely, that the effects of it are made ours by reason of that imputation. It is so imputed, so reckoned unto us of God, as that he really communicates all the effects of it unto us. But to say the righteousness of Christ is not imputed unto us, only its effects are so, is really to overthrow all imputation; for (as we shall see) the effects of the righteousness of Christ cannot be said properly to be imputed unto us; and if his righteousness itself be not so, imputation has no place herein, nor can it be understood why the apostle should so frequently assert it as he does, Rom. iv. And therefore the Socinians, who expressly oppose the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and plead for a participation of its effects or benefits only, do wisely deny any such kind of righteousness of Christ, — namely, of satisfaction and merit (or that the righteousness of Christ, as wrought by him, was either satisfactory or meritorious), — as alone may be imputed unto us. For it will readily be granted, that what alone they allow the righteousness of Christ to consist in cannot be imputed unto us, whatever benefit we may have by it. But I do not understand how those who grant the righteousness of Christ to consist principally in his satisfaction for us, or in our stead, can conceive of an imputation of the effects thereof unto us, without an imputation of the thing itself; seeing it is for that, as made ours, that we partake of the benefits of it. But, from the description of imputation and the instances of it, it appears that there can be no imputation of any thing unless the thing itself be imputed; nor any 175participation of the effects of any thing but what is grounded on the imputation of the thing itself. Wherefore, in our particular case, no imputation of the righteousness of Christ is allowed, unless we grant itself to be imputed; nor can we have any participation of the effects of it but on the supposition and foundation of that imputation. The impertinent cavils that some of late have collected from the Papists and Socinians, — that if it be so, then are we as righteous as Christ himself, that we have redeemed the world and satisfied for the sins of others, that the pardon of sin is impossible and personal righteousness needless, — shall afterward be spoken unto, so far as they deserve.
All that we aim to demonstrate is, only, that either the righteousness of Christ itself is imputed unto us, or there is no imputation in the matter of our justification; which, whether there be or no, is another question, afterward to be spoken unto. For, as was said, the effects of the righteousness of Christ cannot be said properly to be imputed unto us. For instance, pardon of sin is a great effect of the righteousness of Christ. Our sins are pardoned on the account thereof. God for Christ’s sake, forgives us all our sins. But the pardon of sin cannot be said to be imputed unto us, nor is so. Adoption, justification, peace with God, all grace and glory, are effects of the righteousness of Christ; but that these things are not imputed unto us, nor can be so, is evident from their nature. But we are made partakers of them all upon the account of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, and no otherwise.
Thus much may suffice to be spoken of the nature of imputation of the righteousness of Christ; the grounds, reasons, and causes whereof, we shall in the next place inquire into. And I doubt not but we shall find, in our inquiry, that it is no such figment as some, ignorant of these things, do imagine; but, on the contrary, an important truth immixed with the most fundamental principles of the mystery of the gospel, and inseparable from the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
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