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JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
AUTHOR: Unknown
PUBLISHED ON: April 9, 2003
DOC SOURCE: CCN
PUBLISHED IN: Sermons

SERMON V

JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the
ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness – ROM iv. 5.

How a sinner may be justified before God, the Lord and Judge of all,
is a question of no common importance to every child of man. It
contains the foundation of all our hope, inasmuch as while we are at
enmity with God there can be no true peace, no solid joy, either in
time or in eternity. What peace can there be, while our own heart
condemns us, and much more, He that is ‘greater than our heart, and
knoweth all things’? What solid joy either in this world or that to
come, while ‘the wrath of God abideth on us’?

2. And yet how little hath this important question been understood?
What confused notions have many had concerning it! Indeed, not only
confused, but often utterly false; contrary to the truth, as light to
darkness; notions absolutely inconsistent with the oracles of God, and
with the whole analogy of faith. And hence, erring concerning the very
foundation, they could not possibly build thereon; at least, not ‘gold,
silver, or precious stones,’ which would endure when tried as by fire;
but only ‘hay and stubble,’ neither acceptable to God, nor profitable
to man.

3. In order to do justice, as far as in me lies, to the vast importance
of the subject, to save those that seek the truth in sincerity from
‘vain jangling and strife of words,’ to clear the confusedness of
thought into which so many have already been led thereby, and to give
them true and just conceptions of this great mystery of godliness. I
shall endeavour to show, –

1. WHAT IS THIS GENERAL GROUND OF THIS WHOLE DOCTRINE OF
JUSTIFICATION;

Il. WHAT JUSTIFICATION IS;

III. WHO THEY ARE THAT ARE JUSTIFIED; AND,

IV. ON WHAT TERMS THEY ARE JUSTIFIED.

1. I am first to show, what is the general ground of this whole
doctrine of justification. I. In the image of God was man made; holy
as He that created him is holy; merciful as the Author of all is
merciful; perfect as his Father in heaven is perfect. As God is love,
so man, dwelling in love, dwelt in God, and God in him. God made him
to be an ‘image of His own eternity,’ an incorruptible picture of the
God of glory. He was accordingly pure, as God is pure from every spot
of sin. He knew not evil in any kind or degree but was inwardly and
outwardly sinless and undefiled. He ‘loved the Lord his God with all
his heart, and with all his mind, and soul, and strength.’

2. To man, thus upright and perfect, God gave a perfect law to which
He required full and perfect obedience. He required full obedience in
every point, and this to be performed without any intermission, from
the moment man became a living soul till the time of his trial should
be ended. No allowance was made for any falling short. As, indeed,
there was no need of any; man being altogether equal to the task
assigned, and thoroughly furnished for every good word and work.

3. To the entire law of love which was written in his heart (against
which, perhaps, he could not sin directly), it seemed good to the
sovereign wisdom of God to superadd one positive law: ‘Thou shalt not
eat of the fruit of the tree that groweth in the midst of the garden’;
annexing that penalty thereto, ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof
thou shalt surely die.’

4. Such then was the state of man in Paradise. By the free unmerited
love of God, he was holy and happy: he knew, loved, enjoyed God, which
is, in substance, life everlasting. And in this life of love he was to
continue for ever, if he continued to obey God in all things; but if
he disobeyed Him in any, he was to forfeit all. ‘In that day.’ said
God, ‘thou shalt surely die.’

5. Man did disobey God. He ‘ate of the tree, of which God commanded
him, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it.’ And in that day he was
condemned by the righteous judgement of God. Then also the sentence,
whereof he was warned before, began to take place upon him. For the
moment he tasted that fruit, he died. His soul died, was separated from
God, separate from whom the soul has no more life than the body has
when separate from the soul. His body, likewise, became corruptible and
mortal, so that death then took hold on this also. And being already
dead in spirit, dead to God, dead in sin, he hastened on to death
everlasting; to the destruction both of body and soul, in the fire
never to be quenched.

6. Thus ‘by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. And
so death passed upon all men,’ as being contained in him who was the
common father and representative of us all. Thus, ‘through the offence
of one,’ all are dead, dead to God, dead in sin, dwelling in a
corruptible, mortal body, shortly to be dissolved, and under the
sentence of death eternal. For as ‘by one man’s disobedience’ all ‘were
made sinners’; so, by that offence of one ‘judgement came upon all men
to condemnation’ (Rom. v. 12, etc. ).

7. In this state we were, even all mankind, when ‘God so loved the
world, that He gave His only begotten Son, to the end we might not
perish, but have everlasting life.’ In the fullness of time He was made
man, another common Head of mankind, a second general Parent and
Representative of the whole human race. And as such it was that ‘He
bore our griefs,’ ‘the Lord laying upon Him the iniquities of us all.’
Then was He ‘wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our
iniquities.’ ‘He made His soul an offering for sin’: He poured out His
blood for the transgressors: He ‘bare our sins in His own body on the
tree,’ that by His stripes we might be healed: and by that one oblation
of Himself, once offered, He hath redeemed me and all mankind having
thereby ‘made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice and
satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.’

8. In consideration of this, that the Son of God hath ‘tasted death for
every man,’ God hath now ‘reconciled the world to Himself, not imputing
to them their’ former ‘trespasses.’ And thus, ‘as by the offence of one
judgement came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the
righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto
justification.’ So that, for the sake of His well-beloved Son, of what
He hath done and suffered for us, God now vouchsafes, on one only
condition (which Himself also enables us to perform), both to remit the
punishment due to our sins, to reinstate us in His favour, and to
restore our dead souls to spiritual life, as the earnest of life
eternal.

9. This, therefore, is the general ground of the whole doctrine of
justification. By the sin of the first Adam, who was not only the
father, but likewise the representative, of us all, we all fell short
of the favour of God; we all became children of wrath; or, as the
Apostle expresses it, ‘judgement came upon all men to condemnation.’
Even so, by the sacrifice for sin made by the second Adam, as the
Representative of us all, God is so far reconciled to all the world,
that He hath given them a new covenant; the plain condition whereof
being once fulfilled, ‘there is no more condemnation’ for us, but ‘we
are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in
Jesus Christ.’

II. 1. But what is it to be justified? What is justification? This was
the second thing which I proposed to show. And it is evident, from what
has been already observed, that it is not the being made actually just
and righteous. This is sanctification; which is, indeed, in some
degree, the immediate fruit of justification, but, nevertheless, is a
distinct gift of God, and of a totally different nature. The one
implies, what God does for us through His Son; the other, what He works
in us by His Spirit. So that, although some rare instances may be
found, wherein the term justified or justification is used in so wide
a sense as to include sanctification also; yet, in general use, they
are sufficiently distinguished from each other, both by St. Paul and
the other inspired writers.

2. Neither is that far-fetched conceit, that justification is the
clearing us from accusation, particularly that of Satan, easily
proveable from any clear text of holy writ. In the whole scriptural
account of this matter, as above laid down, neither that accuser nor
his accusation appears to be at all taken in. It cannot indeed be
denied, that he is the ‘accuser’ of men, emphatically so called. But
it does in no wise appear, that the great Apostle hath any reference
to this, more or less, in all that he hath written touching
justification, either to the Romans or the Galatians.

3. It is also far easier to take for granted, than to prove from any
dear scripture testimony, that justification is the clearing us from
the accusation brought against us by the law: at least, if this forced,
unnatural way of speaking mean either more or less than this, that
whereas we have transgressed the law of God, and thereby deserved the
damnation of hell, God does not inflict on those who are justified the
punishment which they had deserved.

4 Least of all does justification imply, that God is deceived in those
whom He justifies; that He thinks them to be what, in fact, they are
not; that He accounts them to be otherwise than they are. It does by
no means imply, that God judges concerning us contrary to the real
nature of things; that He esteems us better than we really are, or
believes us righteous when we are unrighteous. Surely no. The judgement
of the all-wise God is always according to truth. Neither can it ever
consist with His unerring wisdom, to think that I am innocent, to judge
that I am righteous or holy, because another is so. He can no more, in
this manner, confound me with Christ, than with David or Abraham. Let
any man, to whom God hath given understanding weigh this without
prejudice; and he cannot but perceive, that such a notion of
justification is neither reconcileable to reason nor Scripture.

5. The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the
forgiveness of sins. It is that act of God the Father, whereby, for the
sake of the propitiation made by the blood of His Son, He ‘showeth
forth His righteousness’ (or mercy) ‘by the remission of the sins that
are past.’ This is the easy, natural account of it given by St. Paul,
throughout this whole epistle. So he explains it himself, more
particularly in this, and in the following chapter. Thus, in the next
verses but one to the text, ‘Blessed are they,’ saith he, ‘whose
iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: blessed is the man
to whom the Lord will not impute sin.’ To him that is justified or
forgiven, God ‘will not impute sin’ to his condemnation. He will not
condemn him on that account, either in this world or in that which is
to come. His sins, all his past sins, in thought, word, and deed, are
covered, are blotted out, shall not be remembered or mentioned against
him, any more than if they had not been. God will not inflict on that
sinner what he deserved to suffer, because the Son of His love hath
suffered for him. And from the time we are ‘accepted through the
Beloved,’ ‘reconciled to God through His blood,’ He loves, and blesses,
and watches over us for good, even as if we had never sinned.

Indeed the Apostle in one place seems to extend the meaning of the word
much farther, where he says, ‘Not the hearers of the law, but the doers
of the law, shall be justified.’ Here he appears to refer our
justification to the sentence of the great day. And so our Lord Himself
unquestionably doth. when He says, ‘By thy words thou shalt be
justified’: proving thereby that ‘for every idle word men shall speak,
they shall give an account in the day of judgement’; but perhaps we can
hardly produce another instance of St. Paul’s using the word in that
distant sense. In the general tenor of his writings, it is evident he
doth not; and least of all in the text before us, which undeniably
speaks, not of those who have already ‘finished their course,’ but of
those who are now just setting out: just beginning to ‘run the race
which is set before them.’

III. 1. But this is the third thing which was to be considered, namely,
Who are they that are justified? And the Apostle tells us expressly,
the ungodly: ‘He’ (that is, God) ‘justifieth the ungodly’ the ungodly
of every kind and degree; and none but the ungodly. As ‘they that are
righteous need no repentance,’ so they need no forgiveness. It is only
sinners that have any occasion for pardon: it is sin alone which admits
of being forgiven. Forgiveness, therefore, has an immediate reference
to sin, and, in this respect, to nothing else. It is our
unrighteousness to which the pardoning God is merciful: it is our
iniquity which He ‘remembereth no more.’

2. This seems not to be at all considered by those who so vehemently
contend that a man must be sanctified, that is, holy, before he can be
justified; especially by such of them as affirm, that universal
holiness or obedience must precede justification. (Unless they mean
that justification at the last day, which is wholly out of the present
question.) So far from it, that the very supposition is not only flatly
impossible (for where there is no love of God, there is no holiness,
and there is no love of God but from a sense of His loving us), but
also grossly, intrinsically absurd, contradictory to itself. For it is
not a saint but a sinner that is forgiven, and under the notion of a
sinner. God justifieth not the godly, but the ungodly; not those that
are holy already, but the unholy. Upon what condition He doeth this,
will be considered quickly: but whatever it is, it cannot be holiness.
To assert this, is to say the Lamb of God takes away only those sins
which were taken away before.

3. Does then the Good Shepherd seek and save only those that are found
already? No. He seeks and saves that which is lost. He pardons those
who need His pardoning mercy. He saves from the guilt of sin (and, at
the same time, from the power) sinners of every kind, of every degree;
men who, till then, were altogether ungodly; in whom the love of the
Father was not; and, consequently, in whom dwelt no good thing, no good
or truly Christian temper; but all such as were evil and abominable –
pride, anger, love of the world, the genuine fruits of that carnal mind
which is ‘enmity against God.’

4. These who are sick, the burden of whose sins is intolerable, are
they that need a Physician; these who are guilty, who groan under the
wrath of God, are they that need a pardon. These who are condemned
already, not only by God, but also by their own conscience, as by a
thousand witnesses, of all their ungodliness, both in thought, and word
and work, cry aloud for him that ‘justifieth the ungodly,’ through the
redemption that is in Jesus, – the ungodly, and ‘him that worketh not’;
that worketh not, before he is justified, any thing that is good, that
is truly virtuous or holy, but only evil continually. For his heart is
necessarily, essentially evil, till the love of God is shed abroad
therein. And while the tree is corrupt, so are the fruits; ‘for an evil
tree cannot bring forth good fruit.’

5. If it be objected, ‘Nay, but a man, before he is justified, may feed
the hungry, or clothe the naked; and these are good works,’ – the
answer is easy: He may do these, even before he is justified; and these
are, in one sense, ‘good works’ – they are ‘good and profitable to
men.’ But it does not follow, that they are, strictly speaking, good
in themselves, or good in the sight of God. All truly good works (to
use the words of our Church) follow after justification; and they are
therefore good and ‘acceptable to God in Christ,’ because they ‘spring
out of a true and living faith.’ By a parity of reason, all works done
before justification are not good: in the Christian sense, forasmuch
as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ (though from some kind of
faith in God they may spring); ‘yea rather, for that they are not done
as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not’ (how
strange soever it may appear to some) ‘but they have the nature of
sin.’

6. Perhaps those who doubt of this have not duly considered the weighty
reason which is here assigned, why no works done before justification
can be truly and properly good. The argument plainly runs thus:-

No works are good, which are not done as God hath willed and commanded
them to be done:

But no works done before justification are done as God hath willed and
commanded them to be done:

Therefore, no works done before justification are good.

The first proposition is self-evident; and the second – that no works
done before justification are done as God hath willed and commanded
them to be done – will appear equally plain and undeniable, if we only
consider, God hath willed and commanded, that all our works should be
done in charity (*!en agape!*), in love, in that love to God which
produces love to all mankind. But none of our works can be done in this
love, while the love of the Father (of God as our Father) is not in us;
and this love cannot be in us till we receive the ‘Spirit of adoption,
crying in our hearts, Abba, Father.’ If, therefore, God doth not
justify the ungodly: and him that (in this sense) worketh not: then
hath Christ died in vain; then, notwithstanding His death, can no flesh
living be justified.

IV, 1. But on what terms, then, is he justified, who is altogether
ungodly: and till that time worketh not? In one alone, which is faith:
he believeth in Him that justifieth the ungodly.’ And ‘he that
believeth is not condemned’; yea, he is ‘passed from death unto life.’
‘For the righteousness’ (or mercy), ‘of God is by faith of Jesus Christ
unto all and upon all them that believe: whom God hath set forth for
a propitiation, through faith in His blood; that He might be just, and’
(consistently with His justice) ‘the justifier of him which believeth
in Jesus’; ‘therefore, we conclude, that a man is justified by faith,
without the deeds of the law’; without previous obedience to the moral
law, which, indeed, he could not, till now, perform. That it is the
moral law, and that alone, which is here intended, appears evidently
from the words that follow: ‘Do we then make void the law through
faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.’ What law do we establish
by faith? Not the ritual law: not the ceremonial law of Moses. In no
wise; but the great, unchangeable law of love, the holy love of God and
of our neighbour.

2. Faith in general is a divine, supernatural *!elegXos!*, evidence or
conviction: ‘of things not seen,’ not discoverable by our bodily
senses, as being either past, future, or spiritual. Justifying faith
implies, not only a divine evidence or conviction that ‘God was in
Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself,’ but a sure trust and
confidence that Christ died for my sins, that He loved me, and gave
Himself for me. And at what time soever a sinner thus believes, be it
in early childhood, in the strength of his years, or when he is old and
hoary-headed, God justifieth that ungodly one: God, for the sake of His
Son, pardoneth and absolveth him who had in him, till then, no good
thing. Repentance, indeed, God had given him before; but that
repentance was neither more nor less than a deep sense of the want of
all good, and the presence of all evil. And whatever good he hath, or
doeth, from that hour, when he first believes in God through Christ,
faith does not find, but bring. This is the fruit of faith. First the
tree is good, and then the fruit is good also.

3. I cannot describe the nature of this faith better than in the words
of our own Church: ‘The only instrument of salvation’ (whereof
justification is one branch) ‘is faith; that is, a sure trust and
confidence that God both hath and will forgive our sins, that He hath
accepted us again into His favour, for the merits of Christ’s death and
passion. But here we must take heed that we do not halt with God
through an inconstant, wavering faith: Peter, coming to Christ upon the
water, because he fainted in faith, was in danger of drowning; so we,
if we begin to waver or doubt, it is to be feared that we shall sink
as Peter did, not into the water, but into the bottomless pit of
hell-fire’ (Second Sermon on the Passion).

‘Therefore, have a sure and constant faith, not only that the death of
Christ is available for all the world, but that He hath made a full and
sufficient sacrifice for thee, a perfect cleansing of thy sins, so that
thou mayest say, with the Apostle, He loved thee, and gave Himself for
thee. For this is to make Christ thine own, and to apply His merits
unto thyself’ (Sermon on the Sacrament. First Part).

4. By affirming that this faith is the term or condition of
justification: I mean, first, that there is no justification without
it. ‘He that believeth not is condemned already’ – and so long as he
believeth not, that condemnation cannot be removed, but ‘the wrath of
God abideth on him.’ As ‘there is no other name given under heaven’
than that of Jesus of Nazareth, no other merit whereby a condemned
sinner can ever be saved from the guilt of sin, so there is no other
way of obtaining a share in His merit, than by faith in His name. So
that as long as we are without this faith, we are ‘strangers to the
covenant of promise,’ we are ‘aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,
and without God in the world.’ Whatsoever virtues (so called) a man may
have – I speak of those unto whom the gospel is preached: for ‘what
have I to do to judge them that are without?’ – whatsoever good works
(so accounted) he may do, it profiteth not; he is still a ‘child of
wrath!’, still under the curse, till he believes in Jesus.

5. Faith, therefore, is the necessary condition of justification yea,
and the only necessary condition thereof. This is the second point
carefully to be observed; that, the very moment God giveth faith (for
it is the gift of God) to the ‘ungodly’ that ‘worketh not,’ that ‘faith
is counted to him for righteousness.’ He hath no righteousness at all,
antecedent to this; not so much as negative righteousness, or
innocence. But ‘faith is imputed to hin~ hor righteousness the very
moment that he believeth. Not that God (as was observed before)
thinketh him to be what he is not. But as ‘He made Christ to be sin for
us,’ that is, treated Him as a sinner, punishing Him for our sins, so
He counteth us righteous, from the time we believe in Him: that is, He
doth not punish us for our sins: yea, treats us as though we were
guiltless and righteous.

6. Surely the difficulty of assenting to this proposition, that ‘faith
is the only condition of justification,’ must arise from not
understanding it. We mean thereby thus much, that it is the only thing
without which none is justified; the only thing that is immediately,
indispensably, absolutely requisite in order to pardon. As, on the one
hand, though a man should have everything else without faith, yet he
cannot be justified; so, on the other, though he be supposed to want
everything else, yet if he hath faith, he cannot but be justified. For
suppose a sinner of any kind or degree, in a full sense of his total
ungodliness, of his utter inability to think, speak, or do good, and
his absolute meetness for hell-fire; suppose, I say, this sinner,
helpless and hopeless, casts himself wholly on the mercy of God in
Christ (which indeed he cannot do but by the grace of God), who can
doubt but he is forgiven in that moment? Who will affirm that any more
is indispensably required, before that sinner can be justified?

Now, if there ever was one such instance from the beginning of the
world (and have there not been, and are there not, ten thousand times
ten thousand?), it plainly follows, that faith is, in the above sense,
the sole condition of justification.

7. It does not become poor, guilty, sinful worms, who receive
whatsoever blessings they enjoy (from the least drop of water that
cools our tongue, to the immense riches of glory in eternity), of
grace, of mere favour, and not of debt, to ask of God the reasons of
His conduct. It is not meet for us to call Him in question, ‘who giveth
account to none of His ways’; to demand, Why didst Thou make faith the
condition, the only condition, of justification? Wherefore didst Thou
decree, He that believeth: and he only, shall be saved? This is the
very point on which St. Paul so strongly insists in the ninth chapter
of this Epistle, viz. that the terms of pardon and acceptance must
depend, not on us, but on Him that calleth us: that there is no
unrighteousness with God: in fixing His own terms, not according to
ours, but His own good pleasure; who may justly say, ‘I will have mercy
on whom I will have mercy’, namely, on him who believeth in Jesus. ‘So
then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth,’ to choose
the condition on which he shall find acceptance, ‘but of God that
showeth mercy’; that accepteth none at all, but of His own free love,
His unmerited goodness. ‘Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have
mercy,’ viz. on those who believe on the Son of His love; ‘and whom He
will,’ that is, those who believe not, ‘He hardeneth,’ leaves at last
to the hardness of their hearts.

8. One reason, however, we may humbly conceive, of God’s fixing this
condition of justification, ‘If thou believest in the Lord Jesus
Christ, thou shalt be saved,’ was to hide pride from man. Pride had
already destroyed the very angels of God, had cast down ‘a third part
of he stars of heaven.’ It was likewise in great measure owing to this,
when the tempter said, ‘Ye shall be as gods,’ that Adam fell from his
own steadfastness, and brought sin and death into the world. It was
therefore an instance of wisdom worthy of God, to appoint such a
condition of reconciliation for him and all his posterity, as might
effectually humble, might abase them to the dust. And such is faith.
It is peculiarly fitted for this end: for he that cometh unto God by
this faith must fix his eye singly on his own wickedness, on his guilt
and helplessness, without having the least regard to any supposed good
in himself, to any virtue or righteousness whatsoever. He must come as
a mere sinner, inwardly and outwardly, self-destroyed and
self-condemned, bringing nothing to God but ungodliness only, pleading
nothing of his own but sin and misery. Thus it is, and thus alone, when
his mouth is stopped: and he stands utterly guilty before God, that he
can look unto Jesus: as the whole and sole propitiation for his sins.
Thus only can he be found in Him: and receive the ‘righteousness which
is of God by faith.’

9. Thou ungodly one, who hearest or readest these words! thou vile,
helpless, miserable sinner! I charge thee before God the Judge of all,
go straight unto Him, with all thy ungodliness. Take heed thou destroy
not thy own soul by pleading thy righteousness, more or less. Go as
altogether ungodly, guilty, lost, destroyed, deserving and dropping
into hell; and thou shalt then find favour in His sight, and know that
He justifieth the ungodly. As such thou shalt be brought unto the blood
of sprinkling: as an undone, helpless, damned sinner. Thus look unto
Jesus! There is the Lamb of God: who taketh away thy sins! Plead thou
no works, no righteousness of thine own! no humility, contrition,
sincerity! In no wise. That were, in very deed, to deny the Lord that
bought thee. No: plead thou singly the blood of the covenant, the
ransom paid for thy proud, stubborn, sinful soul. Who art thou, that
now seest and feelest both thine inward and outward ungodliness? Thou
art the man! I want thee for my Lord! I challenge thee for a child of
God by faith! The Lord hath need of thee. Thou who feelest thou art
just fit for hell, art just fit to advance His glory; the glory of His
free grace, justifying the ungodly and him that worketh not. O come
quickly! Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou, even thou, art reconciled
to God.

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