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Of keeping the commandments of God, and of perfection of obedience — How attainable in this life.
The title of the sixteenth chapter in our catechist is, “Of keeping the commandments and having an eye to the reward; of perfection in virtue and godliness to be attained; and of departing from righteousness and faith.” What the man hath to offer on these several heads shall be considered in order. His first question is, —
Ques. Are the commandments possible to be kept?
1. I presume it is evident to every one at the first view that there is very little relation between the question and the answer thereunto suggested. The inquiry is of our strength and power; the answer speaks to the nature of the commands of God. It never 565came, sure, into the mind of any living that the meaning of this question, “Are the commandments possible to be kept?” is, “Is there an absolute impossibility, from the nature of the commands of God themselves, that they can be kept by any?” nor did ever any man say so, or can, without the greatest blasphemy against God. But the question is, what power there is in man to keep those commandments of God; which certainly the texts insisted on by Mr Biddle do not in the least give an answer unto.
2. He tells us not in what state or condition he supposes that person to be concerning whom the inquiry is made whether he can possibly keep the commandments of God or no, — whether he speaks of all men in general, or any man indefinitely, or restrainedly of believers. Nor, —
3. Doth he inform us what he intends by keeping the commands of God; whether an exact, perfect, and every way complete keeping of them, up to the highest degree of all things, in all things, circumstances, and concernments of them, or whether the keeping of them in a universal sincerity, accepted before God, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, be intended. Nor, —
4. What commandments they are which he chiefly respects, and under what consideration, — whether all the commands of the law of God as such, or whether the gospel commands of faith and love, which the places from whence he answers do respect. Nor, —
5. What he means by the impossibility of keeping God’s commands, which he intends to deny, — that which is absolutely so from the nature of the thing itself, or that which is so only in some respect, with reference to some certain state and condition of man.
When we know in what sense the question is proposed, we shall be enabled to return an answer thereunto; which he that hath proposed it here knew not how to do. In the meantime, to the thing itself intended, according to the light of the premised distinctions, we say, 1. That all the commandments of God, the whole law, is excellent, precious, not grievous in itself or its own nature, but admirably expressing the goodness, and kindness, and holiness of him that gave it, in relation to them to whom it was given, and can by no means be said, as from itself and upon its own account, to be impossible to be kept. Yet., —
2. No unregenerate man can possibly keep, that is, hath in himself a power to keep, any one of all the commandments of God, as to the matter required and the manner wherein it is required. This impossibility is not in the least relating to the nature of the law, but to the impotency and corruption of the person lying under it.
3. No man, though regenerate, can fulfil the law of God perfectly, or keep all the commandments of God, according to the original tenor of the law, in all the parts and degrees of it, nor did ever any 566man do so since sin entered into the world; for it is impossible that any regenerate man should keep the commandments of God as they are the tenor of the covenant of works. If this were otherwise, the law would not have been made weak by sin that it should not justify.
4. That it is impossible that any man, though regenerate, should by his own strength fulfil any one of the commands of God, seeing “without Christ we can do nothing,” and it is “God which worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
5. That to keep the commandments of God, not as [to] the tenor of the covenant of works, or in an absolute perfection of obedience and correspondency to the law, but sincerely and uprightly unto acceptation, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace and the obedience it requires, through the assistance of the Spirit and grace of God, is not only a thing possible, but easy, pleasant, and delightful.
Thus we say, —
(1.) That a person regenerate, by the assistance of the Spirit and grace of God, may keep the commandments of God, in yielding to him, in answer to them, that sincere obedience which in Jesus Christ, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, is required; yea, it is to him an easy and pleasant thing so to do.
(2.) That an unregenerate person should keep any one of God’s commandments as he ought is impossible, not from the nature of God’s commands, but from his own state and condition.
(3.) That a person, though regenerate, yet being so but in part, and carrying about with him a body of death, should keep the commands of God in a perfection of obedience, according to the law of the covenant of works, is impossible from the condition of a regenerate man, and not from the nature of God’s commands.
What is it, now, that Mr B. opposes? or what is that he asserts?
I suppose he declares his mind in his Lesser Catechism, chap. vii. ques. 1, where he proposes his question in the words of the ruler amongst the Jews, “What good shall a man do that he may have eternal life?” An answer of it follows in that of our Saviour, Matt. xix. 17–19, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The intendment of this inquiry must be the same with his that made it, as his argument in the whole is, or the answer of our Saviour is no way suited thereunto. Now, it is most evident that the inquiry was made according to the principles of the Pharisees, who expected justification by the works of the law, according to the tenor of a covenant of works; to which presumption of theirs our Saviour suits his answer, and seeing they sought to be justified and saved, as it were, by the works of the law, to the law he sends them. This, then, being Mr B.’s sense, wherein he affirms that it is possible to keep the commandments so as, for doing good and keeping them, to enter into life, I shall only remit him, as our Saviour did the 567Pharisee, to the law; but yet I shall withal pray that our merciful Lord would not leave him to the foolish choice of his own darkened heart, but in his due time, “by the blood of the covenant,” which yet he seems to despise, send him forth “out of the pit wherein is no water.”
Q. But though it be possible to keep the commandments, yet is it not enough if we desire and endeavour to keep them, although we actually keep them not? and doth not God accept the will for the deed?
A. 1 Cor. vii. 19; Matt. vii. 21, 24, 26; James i. 25; Rom. ii. 10; John xiii. 17; Luke xi. 28; 2 Cor. v. 10; Matt. xvi. 27; Rev. xxii. 12; Matt. xix. 17–19; in all which places there is mention of doing the will of God, of keeping the commandments of God.
The aim of this question is to take advantage of what hath been delivered by some, not as an ordinary rule for all men to walk by, but as an extraordinary relief for some in distress. When poor souls are bowed down under the sense of their own weakness and insufficiency for obedience, and the exceeding unsuitableness of their best performances to the spiritual and exact perfection of the law of God (things which the proud Pharisees of the world are unacquainted withal), to support them under their distress, they have been by some directed to the consideration of the sincerity that was in the obedience which they did yield, and guided to examine that by their desires and endeavours. Now, as this direction is not without a good foundation in the Scripture, Nehemiah describing the saints of God by this character, that they “desire to fear the name of God,” Neh. i. 11, and David everywhere professing this as an eminent property of a child of God, so they who gave it were very far from understanding such desires as may be pretended as a colour for sloth and negligence, to give countenance to the souls and consciences of men in a willing neglect of the performance of such duties as they are to press after; but such they intend as had adjoined to them, and accompanying of them, earnest, continual, sincere endeavours (as Mr B. acknowledgeth) to walk before God in all well-pleasing, though they could not attain to that perfection of obedience that is required. And in this case, though we make not application of the particular rule of accepting the will for the deed to the general case, yet we fear not to say that this is all the perfection which the best of the saints of God in this life attain to, and which, according to the tenor of that covenant wherein we now walk with God in Jesus Christ, is accepted. This is all the doing or keeping of the commandments that is intended in any of the places quoted by Mr B., unless that last, wherein our Saviour sends that proud Pharisee, according to his own principles, to the righteousness of the law which he followed after, but could not attain But of this more afterward. He farther argues:—
568Q. Though it be not only possible but also necessary to keep the commandments, yet is it lawful so to do that we may have a right ‘to eternal life and the heavenly inheritance? May we seek for honour, and glory, and immortality, by well-doing? Is it the tenor of the gospel that we should live uprightly in expectation of the hope hereafter? And, finally, ought we to suffer for the kingdom of God, and not, as some are pleased to mince that matter, from the kingdom of God? Where are the testimonies of Scripture to this purpose?
Ans. 1. In what sense it is possible to keep the commandments, in what not, hath been declared. 2. How it is necessary, or in what sense, or for what end, Mr B. hath not yet spoken, though he supposeth he hath; but we will take it for granted that it is necessary for us so to do, in that sense and for that end and purpose for which it is of us required. 3. To allow, then, the gentleman the advantage of his captious procedure by a multiplication of entangled queries, and to take them in that order wherein they lie:—
To the first, “Whether we may keep the commandments that we may have right to eternal life,” I say, — 1. Keeping of the commandments in the sense acknowledged may be looked on, in respect of eternal life, either as the cause procuring it or as the means conducing to it. 2. A right to eternal life may be considered in respect of the rise and constitution of it, or of the present evidence and last enjoyment of it. There is a twofold right to the kingdom of heaven, — a right of desert, according to the tenor of the covenant of works, and a right of promise, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace. I say, then, that it is not lawful, — that is, it is not the way, rule, and tenor of the gospel, — that we should do or keep the commandments, so that doing or keeping should be the cause procuring and obtaining an original right, as to the rise and constitution of it, or a right of desert, to eternal life. This is the perfect tenor of the covenant of works and righteousness of the law, “Do this, and live; if a man do the work of the law, he shall live thereby;” and, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;” which, if there be any gospel or new covenant confirmed in the blood of Christ, is antiquated as to its efficacy, and was [so,] ever since the entrance of sin into the world, as being ineffectual for the bringing of any soul unto God, Rom. viii. 3; Heb. viii. 11, 12. This, if it were needful, I might confirm with innumerable texts of Scripture, and the transcription of a good part of the epistles of Paul in particular. 3. The inheritance which is purchased for us by Christ, and is the gift of God, plainly excludes all such confidence in keeping the commandments as is pleaded for. For my part, I willingly ascribe to obedience any thing that hath a consistency (in reference to eternal life) with the full purchase of Christ and the free donation of God; and therefore I say, — 4. As a means appointed of God, as the way wherein we ought to walk, for the coming to and obtaining of the inheritance so fully purchased 569and freely given, for the evidencing of the right given us thereto by the blood of Christ, and giving actual admission to the enjoyment of the purchase, and to testify our free acceptation with God and adoption on that account, so we ought to do and keep the commandments, — that is, walk in holiness, without which none shall see God. This is all that is intended, Rev. xxii. 14. Christ speaks not there to unbelievers, showing what they must do to be justified and saved, but to redeemed, justified, and sanctified ones, showing them their way of admission and the means of it to the remaining privileges of the purchase made by his blood.
His next question is, “May we seek for honour, and glory, and immortality, by well-doing?” which words are taken from Rom. ii. 7.
I answer, The words there are used in a law sense, and are declarative of the righteousness of God in rewarding the keepers of the law of nature, or the moral law, according to the law of the covenant of works. This is evident from the whole design of the apostle in that place, which is to convince all men, Jews and Gentiles, of sin against the law, and of the impossibility of the obtaining the glory of God thereby. So, in particular, from verse 10, where salvation is annexed to works in the very terms wherein the righteousness of the law is expressed by Mr B. in the chapter of justification, and in direct opposition whereunto the apostle sets up the righteousness of the gospel, chap. i. 17, iii. 4. But yet, translate the words into a gospel sense; consider “well-doing” as the way appointed for us to walk in for the obtaining of the end mentioned, and consider “glory, and honour, and immortality,” as a reward of our obedience, purchased by Christ and freely promised of God on that account, and I say we may, we ought, “by patient continuing in well-doing, to seek for glory, and honour, and immortality;” that is, it is our duty to abide in the way and use of the means prescribed for the obtaining of the inheritance purchased and promised. But yet this with the limitations before in part mentioned; as, — 1. That of ourselves we can do no good; 2. That the ability we have to do good is purchased for us by Christ; 3. This is not so full in this life as that we can perfectly, to all degrees of perfection, do good or yield obedience to the law; 4. That which by grace we do yield and perform is not the cause procuring or meriting of that inheritance; which, 5. As the grace whereby we obey, is fully purchased for us by Christ, and freely bestowed upon us by God.
His next is, “Is it the tenor of the gospel that we should live uprightly in expectation of the hope hereafter?” Doubtless, neither shall I need to give any answer at all to this part of the inquiry but what lies in the words of the scripture produced for the proof of our catechist’s intention, “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and 570worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” Tit. ii. 11–13. Christ, the great God our Saviour, having promised an inheritance to us with himself, at his glorious appearance, raiseth up our hearts with a hope and expectation thereof; his grace, or the doctrine of it, teacheth us to perform all manner of holiness and righteousness all our days; and this is the tenor and law of the gospel, that so we do. But what this is to Mr B.’s purpose I know not.
His last attempt is upon the exposition of some (I know not whom) who have minced the doctrine so small, it seems, that he can find no relish in it. Saith he, “Finally, ought we to suffer for the kingdom of God, or from the kingdom of God?” His answer is, 2 Thess. i. 5, “That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.” I confess, “suffering from the kingdom of God” is something an uncouth expression, and those who have used it to the offence of this gentleman might have more commodiously delivered what they did intend; but “the kingdom of God” being sometimes taken for that rule of grace which Christ hath in the hearts of believers, and thereupon being said to be “within us,” and the word “from” denoting the principle of obedience in suffering, there is a truth in the expression, and that very consistent with “suffering for the kingdom of God,” which here is opposed unto it. To “suffer from the kingdom of God” is no more than to be enabled to suffer from a principle of grace within us, by which Christ bears rule in our hearts; and in this sense we say that no man can do or suffer any thing, so as it shall be acceptable unto God, but it must be from the kingdom of God; for they that are in the flesh cannot please God, even their sacrifices are an abomination to him. This is so far from hindering us as to suffering for the kingdom of God, that is, to endure persecution for the profession of the gospel (“for,” in the place of the apostle cited, denotes the procuring occasion, not final cause), that without it so we cannot do. And so the minced matter hath, I hope, a savoury relish recovered unto it again.
His next questions are, first, —
Q. Have you any examples of keeping the commandments under the law? What saith David of himself?
A. Ps. xviii. 20–24.
And secondly, —
Q. Have you any example under the gospel?
A. 1 John iii. 22, “Because we keep his commandments.”
All this trouble is Mr B. advantaged to make from the ambiguity of this expression of “keeping the commandments” We know full well what David saith of his obedience, and what he said of his sins; so that we know his keeping of the commandments was in respect of 571sincerity as to all the commandments of God and all the parts of them, but not as to his perfection in keeping all or any of them. And he who says, “We keep his commandments,” says also, “If we say we have no sin, we lie and deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” He adds:—
Q. Have you not examples of the choicest saints who obeyed God in hope of the reward, both before, under, and after the law?
To obey in hope of eternal life is either to yield obedience in hope of obtaining eternal life as a reward procured by or proportioned to that obedience, and so no saint of God since the fall of Adam did yield obedience to God, or ought to have so done; or, to obey in hope of eternal life is to carry along with us in our obedience a hope of the enjoyment of the promised inheritance in due time, and to be encouraged and strengthened in obeying thereby. Thus the saints of God walk with God in hope and obedience at this day, and they always did so from the beginning. They have hope in and with their obedience of that whereunto their obedience leads, which was purchased for them by Christ.
Q. Do not the Scriptures intimate that Christians may attain to perfection of virtue and godliness, and that it is the intention of God and Christ and his ministers to bring them to this pitch? Rehearse the texts to this effect.
A. Eph. i. 4, etc.
Not to make long work of that which is capable of a speedy despatch: By “virtue and godliness,” Mr B. understands that universal righteousness and holiness which the law requires; by “perfection” in it, an absolute, complete answerableness to the law in that righteousness and holiness, both as to the matter wherein they consist and the manner how they are to be performed; “that Christians may attain” expresses a power that is reducible into act. So that the “intention” of God and the ministers is not that they should be pressing on towards perfection, which it is confessed we are to do whilst we live in this world, but actually in this life to bring them to an enjoyment of it. In this sense we deny that any man in this life “may attain to perfection of virtue and godliness;” for, —
1. All our works are done out of faith, 1 Tim. i. 5, Gal. v. 6. Now, this faith is the faith of the forgiveness of sins by Christ, and that purifieth the heart, Acts xv. 8, 9; but the works that proceed from faith for the forgiveness of sins by Christ cannot be perfect absolutely in themselves, because in the very rise of them they expect perfection and completeness from another.
2. Such as is the cause, such is the effect; but the principle or cause of the saints’ obedience in this life is imperfect: so therefore is their obedience. That our sanctification is imperfect in this life, the apostle witnesseth, 2 Cor. iv. 16; 1 Cor. xiii. 9.
5723. Where there is flesh and Spirit there is not perfection, for the flesh is contrary to the Spirit, from whence our perfection must proceed, if we have any; but there is flesh and Spirit in all believers whilst they live in this world, Gal. v. 17; Rom. vii. 15.
4. They that are not without sin are not absolutely perfect, for to be perfect is to have no sin; but the saints in this life are not without sin, John i. 8, Matt. vi. 12, James iii. 2, Eccles. vii. 20, Isa. lxiv. 6. But to what end should I multiply arguments and testimonies to this purpose? If all the saints of God have acknowledged themselves sinners all their days, always deprecated the justice of God, and appealed to mercy in their trial before God, — if all our perfection be by the blood of Christ, and we are justified not by the works of the law but by grace, — this pharisaical figment may be rejected as the foolish imagination of men ignorant of the righteousness of God, and of him who is the end of the law for righteousness to them that do believe.
But take “perfection” as it is often used in the Scripture, and ascribed to men of whom yet many great and eminent failings axe recorded (which, certainly, were inconsistent with perfection absolutely considered), and so it denotes two things, — 1. Sincerity, in opposition to hypocrisy; and, 2. Universality as to all the parts of obedience, in opposition to partiality and halving with God. So we say perfection is not only attainable by the saints of God, but is in every one of them. But this is not such a perfection as consists in a point, which if it deflects from it ceases to be perfection, but such a condition as admits of several degrees, all lying in a tendency to that perfection spoken of; and the men of this perfection are said to be “perfect” or “upright” in the Scripture, Ps. xxxvii. 14, cxix. 1, etc.
Not, then, to insist on all the places mentioned by Mr B. in particular, they may all be referred to four heads:— 1. Such as mention an unblamableness before God in Christ, which argues a perfection in Christ, but only a sincerity in us; or, 2. Such as mention a perfection in “fieri,” but not in “facto esse,” as we speak, — a pressing towards perfection, but not a perfection obtained, or here obtainable; or, 3. A comparative perfection in respect of others; or, 4. A perfection of sincerity accompanied with universality of obedience, consistent with indwelling sin and many transgressions. The application of the several places mentioned to these rules is easy, and lies at hand for any that will take the pains to consider them. He proceeds:—
Q. If works be so necessary to salvation, as you have before showed from the Scripture, how cometh it to pass that Paul saith, “We are justified by faith without works?” Meant he to exclude all good works whatsoever, or only those of the law? How doth he explain himself?
A. Rom. iii. 28, “We are justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.”
573Ans. 1. How and in what sense works are necessary to salvation hath been declared, and therefore I remit the reader to its proper place.
2. A full handling of the doctrine of justification was waived before, and therefore I shall not here take it up, but content myself with a brief removal of Mr B.’s attempts to deface it. I say, then, —
3. That Paul is very troublesome to all the Pharisees of this age; who therefore turn themselves a thousand ways to escape the authority of the word and truth of God, by him fully declared and vindicated against their forefathers, labouring to fortify themselves with distinctions, which, as they suppose, but falsely, their predecessors were ignorant of. Paul then, this Paul, denies all works, all works whatsoever, to have any share in our justification before God, as the matter of our righteousness or the cause of our justification; for, —
(1.) He excludes all works of the law, as is confessed. The works of the law are the works that the law requires. Now, there is no work whatever that is good or acceptable to God but it is required by the law; so that in excluding works of the law, he excludes all works whatever.
(2.) He expressly excludes all works done by virtue of grace and after calling, which, if any, should be exempted from being works of the law; for though the law requires them, yet they are not done from a principle, nor to an end of the law. These Paul excludes expressly, Eph. ii. 8–10, “By grace are ye saved; … not of works.” What works? Those which “we are created unto in Christ Jesus.”
(3.) All works that are works are excluded expressly, and set in opposition to grace in this business: Rom. xi. 6, “If it be by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace: but if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work;” and chap. iv. 3–5.
(4.) All works are excluded that take off from the absolute freedom of the justification of sinners by the redemption that is in Christ, Rom. iii. 20–28. Now, this is not peculiar to any one sort of works, or to any one work more than to another, as might be demonstrated; but this is not a place for so great a work as the thorough handling of this doctrine requires. He adds:—
Q. Can you make it appear from elsewhere that Paul intended to exclude from justification only the perfect works of the law, which leave no place for either grace or faith, and not such works as include both; and that by a justifying faith he meant a working faith, and such a one as is accompanied with righteousness?
574Ans. 1. Still Paul and his doctrine trouble the man, as they did his predecessors. That Paul excluded all works, of what sort soever, from our justification, as precedaneous causes or conditions thereof, was before declared. Mr B. would only have it that the perfect works of the law only are excluded, when, if any works take place in our justification with God, those only may be admitted; for certainly if we are justified or pronounced righteous for our works, it must be for the works that are perfect, or else the judgment of God is not according to truth. Those only, it seems, are excluded that only may be accepted, and imperfect works are substituted as the matter of a perfect righteousness, without which none shall stand in the presence of God. But, —
2. There is not one text of Scripture mentioned by Mr B. whence he aims to evince his intention but expressly denies what he asserts, and sets all works whatever in opposition to grace, and excludes them all from any place in our justification before God! so that the man seems to have been infatuated by his pharisaism to give direction for his own condemnation. Let the places be considered by the reader.
3. The grace mentioned as the cause of our justification is not the grace of God bringing forth good works in us, — which stand thereupon in opposition to the works of the law, as done in the strength of the law, — but the free favour and grace of God towards us in Christ Jesus, which excludes all works of ours whatever, as is undeniably manifest, Rom. iv. 4, xi. 5, 6.
4. It is true, justifying faith is a living faith, purging the heart, working by love, and bringing forth fruits of obedience; but that its fruits of love and good works have any causal influence into our justification is most false. We are justified freely by grace, in opposition to all fruits of faith whatever which God hath ordained us to bring forth. That faith whereby we are justified will never be without works; yet we are not justified by the works of it, but freely, by the blood of Christ. How and in what sense we are justified by faith itself, what part, office, and place, it hath in our justification, its consistency in its due place and office with Christ’s being our righteousness, and its receiving of remission of sins, which is said to be our blessedness, shall elsewhere, God assisting, be manifested.
What, then, hath Mr B. yet remaining to plead in this business The old abused refuge of opposing James to Paul is fixed on. This is the beaten plea of Papists, Socinians, and Arminians. Saith he:—
Q. What answer, then, would you give to a man who, wresting the words of Paul in certain places of his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, should bear you in hand that all good works whatever are excluded from justification and salvation, and that it is enough only to believe?
A. James ii. 20–26.
575Ans. 1. He that shall exclude good works from salvation, so as not to be the way and means appointed of God wherein we ought to walk who seek and expect salvation from God, and affirm that it is enough to believe, though a man bring forth no fruits of faith or good works, if he pretend to be of that persuasion on the account of any thing delivered by Paul in the Epistles to the Romans or Galatians, doth wrest the words and sense of Paul, and is well confuted by that passage mentioned out of James.
But he that, excluding all works from justification in the sense declared, and affirming that it is by faith only without works, affirms that the truth and sincerity of that faith, with its efficacy in its own kind for our justification, is evinced by works, and the man’s acceptation with God thereon justified by them, doth not wrest the words nor sense of Paul, and speaks to the intendment of James.
2. Paul instructs us at large how sinners come to be justified before God; and this is his professed design in his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. James, professedly exhorting believers to good works, demands of them how they will acquit themselves before God and man to be justified, and affirms that this cannot be done but by works. Paul tells us what justification is; James describes justifying faith by its effects. But of this also elsewhere. To all this he subjoins:—
Q. I would know of you who is a just or righteous man? Is it not such a one as apprehendeth and applieth Christ’s righteousness to himself, or at most desires to do righteously? Is not he accepted of God?
Ans. 1. He to whom “God imputeth righteousness” is righteous. This he doth “to him who worketh not, but believeth on him who justifieth the ungodly,” Rom. iv. 5–7. There is, then, a righteousness without the works of the law, Phil. iii. 9. To “apprehend and apply Christ’s righteousness to ourselves” are expressions of believing unto justification which the Scripture will warrant, John i. 12; 1 Cor. i. 30. He that believeth so as to have Christ made righteousness to him, to have righteousness imputed to him, to be freely justified by the redemption that is in the blood of Jesus, he is just. And this state and condition, as was said, is obtained by applying the righteousness of Christ to ourselves, — that is, by receiving him and his righteousness by faith, as tendered unto us in the offer and promises of the gospel.
Of “desiring to do righteously,” and what is intended by that expression, I have spoken before. But, —
2. There is a twofold righteousness, — a righteousness imputed, whereby we are justified, and a righteousness inherent, whereby we are sanctified. These Mr B. would oppose, and from the assertion of the one argue to the destruction of the other, though they sweetly 576and eminently comply in our communion with God. The other righteousness was before evinced. Even our sanctification also is called our righteousness, and we are said to be just in that respect:—
(1.) Because our faith and interest in Christ are justified thereby to be true, and such as will abide the fiery trial.
(2.) Because all the acts of it are fruits of righteousness, Rom. vi. 19–22.
(3.) Because it stands in opposition to all unrighteousness, and he that doth not bring forth the fruit of it is unrighteous.
(4.) With men, and before them, it is all our righteousness. And of this do the places mentioned by Mr B. treat, without the least contradiction or colour of it to the imputed righteousness of Christ, wherewith we are righteous before God.
The intendment of the last query in this chapter is to prove the apostasy of saints, or that true believers may fall away totally and finally from grace. I suppose it will not be expected of me that I should enter here into a particular consideration of the places by him produced, having lately at large gone through the consideration of the whole doctrine opposed,519519 Doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance Explained and Confirmed, vol. xi. wherein not only the texts here quoted by Mr B., but many others, set off by the management of an able head and dexterous hand, are at large considered; thither therefore I refer the reader.
It might perhaps have been expected, that having insisted so largely as I have done upon some other heads of the doctrine of the gospel corrupted by Mr B. and his companions, I should not thus briefly have passed over this important article of faith, concerning justification; but besides my weariness of the work before me, I have for a defensative farther to plead, 1. That this doctrine is of late become the subject of very many polemical discourses, to what advantage of truth time will show, and I am not willing to add oil to that fire. 2. That if the Lord will, and I live, I intend to do something purposely for the vindication and clearing of the whole doctrine itself, and therefore am not willing occasionally to anticipate here what must in another order and method be insisted on; to which, for a close, I add a desire, that if any be willing to contend with me about this matter, he would forbear exceptions against these extemporary animadversions until the whole of my thoughts lie before him, unless he be of the persons principally concerned in this whole discourse, of whom I have no reason to desire that respect or candor.
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