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Testimonies out of the Epistles of Paul the apostle — His design in the third, fourth and fifth chapters to the Romans — That design explained at large, and applied to the present argument
That the way and manner of our justification before God, with all the causes and means of it, are designedly declared by the apostle in 307the Epistle to the Romans, chap. iii., iv., v., as also vindicated from objections, so as to render his discourse thereon the proper seat of this doctrine, and whence it is principally to be learned, cannot modestly be denied. The late exceptions of some, that this doctrine of justification by faith without works is found only in the writings of St Paul, and that his writings are obscure and intricate, are both false and scandalous to Christian religion, so as that, in this place, we shall not afford them the least consideration. He wrote ὑπὸ Πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενος, — as he was “moved by the Holy Ghost.” And as all the matter delivered by him was sacred truth, which immediately requires our faith and obedience, so the way and manner wherein he declared it was such as the Holy Ghost judged most expedient for the edification of the church. And as he said himself with confidence, that if the gospel which he preached, and as it was preached by him, though accounted by them foolishness, was hid, so as that they could not understand nor comprehend the mystery of it, it was “hid unto them that are lost;” so we may say, that if what he delivers in particular concerning our justification before God seems obscure, difficult, or perplexed unto us, it is from our prejudices, corrupt affections, or weakness of understanding at best, not able to comprehend the glory of this mystery of the grace of God in Christ, and not from any defect in his way and manner of the revelation of it. Rejecting, therefore, all such perverse insinuations, in a due sense of our own weakness, and acknowledgment that at best we know but in part, we shall humbly inquire into the blessed revelation of this great mystery of the justification of a sinner before God, as by him declared in those chapters of his glorious Epistle to the Romans; and I shall do it with all briefness possible, so as not, on this occasion, to repeat what has been already spoken, or to anticipate what may be spoken in place more convenient.
The first thing he does is to prove all men to be under sin, and to be guilty before God. This he gives as the conclusion of his preceding discourse, from chap. i. 18, or what he had evidently evinced thereby, chap. iii. 19, 23. Hereon an inquiry does arise, how any of them come to be justified before God? And whereas justification is a sentence upon the consideration of a righteousness, his grand inquiry is, what that righteousness is, on the consideration whereof a man may be so justified? And concerning this, he affirms expressly that it is not the righteousness of the law, nor of the works of it; whereby what he does intend has been in part before declared, and will be farther manifested in the process of our discourse. Wherefore, in general, he declares that the righteousness whereby we are justified is the righteousness of God, in opposition unto any righteousness of our own, chap. i. 17; iii. 21, 22. And he describes this righteousness 308of God by three properties:— 1. That it is χωρὶς νόμου, — “without the law,” verse 21; separated in all its concerns from the law; not attainable by it, nor any works of it, which they have no influence into. It is neither our obedience unto the law, nor attainable thereby. Nor can any expression more separate and exclude the works of obedience unto the law from any concernment in it than this does. Wherefore, whatever is, or can be, performed by ourselves in obedience unto the law, is rejected from any interest in this righteousness of God, or the procurement of it to be made ours. 2. That yet it “is witnessed unto by the law,” verse 21: “The law and the prophets.”
The apostle, by this distinction of the books of the Old Testament into “the law and the prophets,” manifests that by the “law” he understands the books of Moses. And in them testimony is given unto this righteousness of God four ways:—
(1.) By a declaration of the causes of the necessity of it unto our justification. This is done in the account given of our apostasy from God, of the loss of his image, and the state of sin that ensued thereon; for hereby an end was put unto all possibility and hope of acceptance with God by our own personal righteousness. By the entrance of sin our own righteousness went out of the world; so that there must be another righteousness prepared and approved of God, and called “the righteousness of God,” in opposition unto our own, or all relation of love and favour between God and man must cease forever.
(2.) In the way of recovery from this state, generally declared in the first promise of the blessed seed, by whom this righteousness of God was to be wrought and introduced; for he alone was “to make an end of sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,” צֶדֶק עֹלָמִים, Dan. ix. 24; that righteousness of God that should be the means of the justification of the church in all ages, and under all dispensations.
(3.) By stopping up the way unto any other righteousness, through the threatenings of the law, and that curse which every transgression of it was attended withal. Hereby it was plainly and fully declared that there must be such a righteousness provided for our justification before men as would answer and remove that curse.
(4.) In the prefiguration and representation of that only way and means whereby this righteousness of God was to be wrought. This it did in all its sacrifices, especially in the great anniversary sacrifice on the day of expiation, wherein all the sins of the church were laid on the head of the sacrifice, and so carried away.
3. He describes it by the only way of our participation of it, the only means on our part of the communication of it unto us. And this is by faith alone: “The righteousness of God which is by the 309faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference,” Rom. iii. 22. Faith in Christ Jesus is so the only way and means whereby this righteousness of God comes upon us, or is communicated unto us, that it is so unto all that have this faith, and only unto them; and that without difference on the consideration of any thing else besides. And although faith, taken absolutely, may be used in various senses, yet, as thus specified and limited, the faith of Christ Jesus, or, as he calls it, “the faith that is in me,” Acts xxvi. 18, it can intend nothing but the reception of him, and trust in him, as the ordinance of God for righteousness and salvation.
This description of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, which the apostle asserts as the only means and cause of our justification before God, with the only way of its participation and communication unto us, by the faith of Christ Jesus, fully confirms the truth we plead for. For if the righteousness wherewith we must be justified before God be not our own, but the righteousness of God, as these things are directly opposed, Phil. iii. 9; and the only way whereby it comes upon us, or we are made partakers of it, is by the faith of Jesus Christ; then our own personal, inherent righteousness or obedience has no interest in our justification before God: which argument is insoluble, nor is the force of it to be waived by any distinctions whatever, if we keep our hearts unto a due reverence of the authority of God in his word.
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