JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
Knowing that a man is not justified by the work of the law,but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in JesusChrist, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, andnot by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shallno flesh be justified. Galatians 2:16.
This last sentiment is expressed in the same terms, in thethird chapter of Romans. The subject of the present lecture, asI announced last week, is Justification by Faith. The order whichI propose to pursue in the discussion is this:
I. Show what justification by law, or legal justification is.II. Show that by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified.III. Show what gospel justification is. IV. Show what is the effectof gospel justification, or the state into which it brings a personthat is justified. V. Show that gospel justification is by faith.VI. Answer some inquiries which arise in many minds on this subject.
I. I am to show what legal justification is.
1. In its general legal sense it means not guilty. To justifyan individual in this sense, is to declare that he is not guiltyof any breach of the law. It is affirming that he has committedno crime. It is pronouncing him innocent.
2 More technically, it is a form of pleading to a charge ofcrime, where the individual who is charged admits the fact, butbrings forward an excuse, on which he claims that he had a rightto do as he did, or that he is not blameworthy. Thus, if a personis charged with murder, the plea of justification admits thathe killed the man, but alleges either that it was done in self-defenseand he had a right to kill him, or that it was by unavoidableaccident, and he could not help it. In either case, the plea ofjustification admits the fact, but denies the guilt, on the groundof a sufficient excuse.
II. I am to show that by the deeds of the law there shall noflesh be justified. And this is true under either form of justification.
1. Under the first, or general form of justification. In thscase, the burden of proof is on the accuser, who is held to provethe facts charged. And in this case, he only needs to prove thata crime has been committed once. If it is proved once, the individualis guilty. He cannot be justified, in this way, by the law. Heis found guilty. It is not available for him to urge that he hasdone more good than hurt, or that he has kept God's law longerthan he has broken it, but he must make it out that he has fulfilledevery jot and tittle of the law. Who can be justified by the lawin this way? No one.
2. Nor under the second, or technical form of justification.In this case, the burden of proof lies on him who makes the plea.When he pleads in justification he admits the fact alleged, andtherefore he must make good his excuse, or fail. There are twopoints to be regarded. The thing pleaded as an excuse must betrue, and it must be a good and sufficient excuse or justification,not a frivolous apology, or one that does not meet the case. Ifit is not true, or if it is insufficient, and especially if itreflects on the court or government, it is an infamous aggravationof his offense. You will see the bearing of this remark, by andby.
I will now mention some of the prominent reasons which sinnersare in the habit of pleading as a justification, and will showwhat is the true nature and bearing of these excuses, and thelight in which they stand before God. I have not time to nameall these pleas, but will only refer to two of each of the classesI have described, those which are good if true, and those whichare true but unavailing.
1. Sinners often plead their sinful nature, as a justification.
This excuse is a good one, if it is true. If it is true, asthey pretend, that God has given them a nature which is itselfsinful, and the necessary actings of their nature are sin, itis a good excuse for sin, and in the face of heaven and earth,and at the day of judgment, will be a good plea in justification.God must annihilate the reason of all the rational universe, befrethey will ever blame you for sin if God made you sin, or if hegave you a nature that is itself sinful. How can your nature besinful? What is sin? Sin is a transgression of the law. Thereis no other sin but this. Now, does the law say you must not havesuch a nature as you have? Nothing like it.
The fact is, this doctrine overlooks the distinction betweensin and the occasion of sin. The bodily appetites and constitutionalsusceptibilities of body and mind, when strongly excited, becomethe occasion of sin. So it was with Adam. No one will say thatAdam had a sinful nature. But he had, by his constitution, anappetite for food and a desire for knowledge. These were not sinful,but were as God made them, and were necessary to fit him to livein this world as a subject of God's moral government; but beingstrongly excited, as you know, led to prohibited indulgence, andthus became the occasions of his sinning against God. They wereinnocent in themselves, but he yielded to them in a sinful manner,and that was his sin. When the sinner talks about his sinful natureas a justification, he confounds these innocent appetites andsusceptibilities, with sin itself. By so doing, he in fact, chargesGod foolishly, and accuses him of giving him a sinful nature,when in fact his nature, in all its elements, is essential tomoral agency, and God has made it as well as it could be made,and perfectly adapted to the circumstances in which he lives inthis world. The truth is man's nature is all right, and is aswell fitted to love and obey God as to hate and disobey him. Sinner!the day is not fardistant, when it will be known whether thisis a good excuse or not. Then you will see whether you can faceyour Maker down in this way; and when he charges you with sin,turn round and throw the blame back upon him.
Do you inquire what influence Adam's sin has then had in producingthe sin of his posterity? I answer, it has subjected them to aggravatedtemptation, but has by no means rendered their nature in itselfsinful.
2 Another excuse coming under the same class, is inability.This also is a good excuse if it is true. If sinners are reallyunable to obey God, this is a good plea in justification. Whenyou are charged with sin, in not obeying the laws of God, youhave only to show, if you can, by good proof, that God has requiredwhat you were not able to perform, and the whole intelligent universewill resound with the verdict of "not guilty." If youhave not natural power to obey God, they must give this verdict,or cease to be reasonable beings. For it is a first law of reason,that no being has a right to do what he has no power to do.
Suppose God should require you to undo something which youhave done. This, every one will see, is a natural impossibility.Now, are you to blame for not doing it? God requires repentanceof past sins, and not that you should undo them. Now, supposeit was your duty, on the first of January, to warn a certain individual,who is now dead. Are you under obligation to warn that individual?No. That is an impossibility. All that God can now require is,that you should repent. It never can be your duty, now, to warnthat sinner. God may hold you responsible for not doing your dutyto him when it was in your power. But it would be absurd to makeit your duty to do what is not in your power to do. This pleabeing false, and throwing the blame of tyranny on God, is an infamousaggravation of the offense. If God requires you to do what youhave no power to do, it is tyranny. And what God requires is onpenalty of eternal death he threatens an infinite penalty fornot doing what you have no power to do, and so he is an infinitetyrant. This plea, then, charges God with infinite tyranny, andis not only insufficient for the sinner's justification, but isa horrible aggravation of his offense.
Let us vary the case a little, suppose God requires you torepent for not doing what you never had natural ability to do.You must either repent, then, of not doing what you had no naturalpower to do, or you mst go to hell. Now, you can neither repentof this, nor can he make you repent of it. What is repentance?It is to blame yourself and justify God. But if you had no power,you can do neither. It is a natural impossibility that a rationalbeing should ever blame himself for not doing what he is conscioushe had not power to do. Nor can you justify God. Until the lawsof mind are reversed, the verdict of all intelligent beings mustpronounce it infinite tyranny to require that which there is nopower to perform.
Suppose God should call you to account, and require you torepent for not flying. By what process can he make you blame yourselffor notflying, when you are conscious that you have no wings,and no power to fly? If he could cheat you into the belief thatyou had the power, and make you believe a lie, then you mightrepent. But that sort of a way is that for God to take with hiscreatures?
What do you mean, sinner, by bringing such an excuse? Do youmean to have it go, that you have never sinned? It is a strangecontradiction you make, when you admit that you ought to repent,and in the next breath say you have no power to repent. You oughtto take your ground, one way or the other. If you mean to relyon this excuse, come out with it in full, and take your groundbefore God's bar, and say, "Lord I am not going to repentat all I am not under any obligation to repent, for I have notpower to obey thy law, and therefore I plead not guilty absolutely,for I have never sinned!"
In which of these ways can any one of you be justified? Willyou, dare you, take ground on this excuse, and throw back theblame upon God?
3. Another excuse which sinners offer for their continued impenitenceis their wicked heart.
This excuse is true, but it is not sufficient. The first twothat I mentioned, you recollect, were good if they had been true,but they were false. This is true, but is no excuse. What is awicked heart? It is not the bodily organ which we call the heart,but the affection of the soul, the wicked dispsition, the wickedfeelings, the actings of the mind. If these will justify you,they will justify the devil himself. Has he not as wicked a heartas you have? Suppose you had committed murder, and you shouldbe put on trial and plead this plea. "It is true," youwould say, "I killed the man but then I have such a thirstfor blood, and such a hatred of mankind, that I cannot help committingmurder, whenever I have an opportunity." "Horrible!"the judge would exclaim, "Horrible! Let the gallows be setup immediately, and let this fellow be hung before I leave thebench; such a wretch ought not to live an hour. Such a plea! Why,that is the very reason he ought to be hung, if he has such athirst for blood, that no man is safe." Such is the sinner'splea of a wicked heart in justification of sin. "Out of thineown mouth will I condemn thee, thou wicked servant."
4. Another great excuse which people make is, the conduct ofChristians.
Ask many a man among your neighbors why he is not religious,and he will point you at once to the conduct of Christians ashis excuse. "These Christians," he will say, "areno better than anybody else; when see them live as they profess,I shall think it time for me to attend to religion." Thushe is hiding behind the sins of Christians. He shows that he knowshow Christians ought to live, and therefore he cannot plead thathe has sinned through ignorance. But what does it amount to asa ground of justification? I admit the fact that Christians behavevery badly, and do much that is entirely contrary to their profession.But is that a good excuse for you? So far from it, this is itselfone of the strongest reasons why you ought to be religious. Youknow so wellhow Christians ought to live, you are bound to showan example. If you had followed them ignorantly because you didnot know any better, and had fallen into sin in that way, it wouldbe a different case. But the plea, as it stands, shows that youknew they are wrong, which is the very reason why you ought tobe right, and exet a better influence than they do. Instead offollowing them, and doing wrong because they do, you ought tobreak off from them, and rebuke them, and pray for them, and tryto lead them in a better way. This excuse, then, is true in fact,but unavailing in justification. You only make it an excuse forcharging God foolishly, and instead of clearing you, it only addsto your dreadful, damning guilt. A fine plea this, to get behindsome deacon, or some elder in the church, and there shoot yourarrows of malice and caviling at God!
Who among you, then, can be justified by the law? Who has keptit? Who has got a good excuse for breaking it? Who dare go tothe bar of God on these pleas, and face his Maker with such apologies?
III. I am to show what gospel justification is.
1. Gospel justification is not the imputed righteousness ofJesus Christ.
Under the gospel, sinners are not justified by having the obedienceof Jesus Christ set down to their account, as if he had obeyedthe law for them, or in their stead. It is not an uncommon mistaketo suppose, that when sinners are justified under the gospel,they are accounted righteous in the eye of the law, by havingthe obedience or righteousness of Christ imputed to them. I havenot time to enter into an examination of this subject now. I canonly say this idea is absurd and impossible, for this reason,that Jesus Christ was bound to obey the law for himself, and couldno more perform works of supererogation, or obey on our account,than anybody else. Was it not his duty to love the Lord his God,with all his heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and to lovehis neighbor as himself? Certainly; and if he had not done so,it would have been sin. The only work of supererogation he couldperform was to submit to sufferings that were not deserved. Thisis called his obedience unto death, and this is set down to ouraccount. But if his obedience of the law is set down to our account,why are we called on to repent and obey the law ourselves? DoesGo exact double service, yes, triple service first to have thelaw obeyed by the surety for us,then that he must suffer the penaltyfor us, and then that we must repent and obey ourselves? No suchthing is demanded. It is not required that the obedience of anothershould be imputed to us. All we owe is perpetual obedience tothe law of benevolence. And for this there can be no substitute.If we fail of this, we must endure the penalty, or receive a freepardon.
2. Justification by faith does not mean that faith is acceptedas a substitute for personal holiness, or that by an arbitraryconstitution, faith is imputed to us instead of personal obedienceto the law.
Some suppose that justification is this, that the necessityof personal holiness is set aside, and that God arbitrarily dispenseswith the requirement of the law, and imputes faith as a substitute.But this is not the way, faith is accounted for just what it is,and not something else that it is not. Abraham's faith was imputedunto him for righteousness, because it was itself an act of righteousness,and because it worked by love, and thus produced holiness. Justifyingfaith is holiness, so far as it goes and produces holiness ofheart and life, and is imputed to the believer as holiness, notinstead of holiness.
Nor does justification by faith imply that a sinner is justifiedby faith without good works, or personal holiness.
Some suppose that justification by faith only, is with outany regard to good works, or holiness. They have understood thisfrom what Paul has said, where he insists so largely on justificationby faith. But it should be borne in mind that Paul was combatingthe error of the Jews, who expected to be justified by obeyingthe law. In opposition to this error, Paul insists on it thatjustification is by faith, without works of law. He does not meanthat good works are unnecessary to justification, but that worksof law are not good works, because they spring from legal considerations,from hope and fear, and not from faith that orks by love. Butinasmuch as a false theory had crept into the church on the otherside, James took up the matter, and showed them that they hadmisunderstood Paul. And to show this, he takes the case of Abrahamour father justified by words when he had offered Isaac his sonupon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, andby works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled,which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto himfor righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye seethen how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."This epistle was supposed to contradict Paul, and some of theancient churches rejected it on that account. But they overlookedthe fact that Paul was speaking of one kind of works, and Jamesof another. Paul was speaking of works performed from legal motives.But he has everywhere insisted on good works springing from faith,or the righteousness of faith, as indispensable to salvation.All that he denies is that works of law, or works grounded onlegal motives, have anything to do in the matter of justification.And James teaches the same thing, when he teaches that men arejustified, not by works nor by faith alone, but by faith togetherwith the works of faith: or as Paul expresses it, faith that worksby love. You will bear in mind that I am speaking of gospel justification,which is very different from legal justification.
4. Gospel justification, or justification by faith, consistsin pardon and acceptance with God.
When we say that men are justified by faith and holiness, wedo notmean that they are accepted on the ground of law, but thatthey are treated as if they were righteous, on account of theirfaith and works of faith. This is the method which God takes,in justifying a sinner. Not that faith is the foundation of justification.The foundation is in Christ. But this is the manner in which sinnersare pardoned, and accepted, and justified, that if they repent,believe, and become hol, their past sins shall be forgiven, forthe sake of Christ.
Here it will be seen how justification under the gospel differsfrom justification under the law. Legal justification is a declarationof actual innocence and freedom from blame. Gospel justificationis pardon and acceptance, as if he was righteous, but on othergrounds than his own obedience. When the apostle says, "Bydeeds of law shall no flesh be justified, he uses justificationas a lawyer, in a strictly legal sense." But when he speaksof justification by faith, he speaks not of legal justification,but of a person's being treated as if he were righteous.
IV. I will now proceed to show the effect of this method ofjustification; or the state into which it brings those who arejustified.
1. The first item to be observed is, that when an individualis pardoned, the penalty of the law is released. The first effectof a pardon is to arrest and set aside the execution of the penalty.It admits that the penalty was deserved, but sets it aside. Then,so far as punishment is concerned, the individual has no moreto fear from the law, than if he had never transgressed. He isentirely released. Those, then, who are justified by true faith,as soon as they are pardoned, need no more be influenced by fearor punishment. The penalty is as effectually set aside, as ifit had never been incurred.
2. The next effect of pardon is, to remove all the liabilitiesincurred in consequence of transgression, such as forfeiture ofgoods,or incapacity for being a witness, or holding any officeunder government. A real pardon removes all these, and restoresthe individual back to where he was before he transgressed. So,under the government of God, the pardoned sinner is restored tothe favor of God. He is brought back into a new relation, andstands before God and is treated by him, so far as the law isconcerned, as if he were innocent. It does not suppose or declareshim to be really innocent, but the pardon restores him to thesame state as if he were.
3. Another operation of pardon under God's government is thatthe individual is restored to sonship. In other words, it bringshim into such a relation to God, that he is received and treatedas really a child of God.
Suppose the son of a sovereign on the throne had committedmurder, and was convicted and condemned to die. A pardon, then,would not only deliver him from death, but restore him to hisplace in the family. God's children have all gone astray, andentered into the service of the devil; but the moment a pardonissues to them, they are brought back; they receive a spirit ofadoption, are sealed heirs of God, and restoredto all the privilegesof children of God.
4. Another thing effected by justification is to secure allneeded grace to rescue themselves fully out of the snare of thedevil, and all the innumerable entanglements in which they areinvolved by sin.
Beloved, if God were merely to pardon you, and then leave youto get out of sin as you could by yourselves, of what use wouldyour pardon be to you? None in the world. If a child runs awayfrom his father's house, and wanders in a forest, and falls intoa deep pit, and the father finds him and undertakes to save him;if he merely pardons him for running away, it will be of no useunless he lifts him up from the pit, and leads him out of theforest So in the scheme of redemption, whatever helps andaidsyou need, are all guaranteed, if you believe. If God undertakesto save you, he pledges all the light and grace and help thatare necessary to break the chains of Satan and the entanglementsof sin, and leads you back to your Father's house.
I know when individuals are first broken down under a senseof sin, and their hearts gush out with tenderness, they look overtheir past lives and feel condemned and see that it is all wrong,and then they break down at God's feet and give themselves awayto Jesus Christ; they rejoice greatly in the idea that they havedone with sin. But in a little time they begin to feel the pressureof old habits and former inflences, and they see so much to bedone before they overcome them all, that they often get discouragedand cry, "O, what shall I do, with so many enemies to meet,and so little strength of resolution or firmness of purpose toovercome them?" Let me tell you, beloved, that if God hasundertaken to save you, you have only to keep near to him, andhe will carry you through. You need not fear your enemies. Thoughthe heavens should thunder and the earth rock, and the elementsmelt, you need not tremble, nor fear for enemies without or enemieswithin. God is for you, and who can be against you? "Whois he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather thatis risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who alsomaketh intercession for us."
6. Justification enlists all the divine attributes in yourfavor, as much as if you had never sinned.
See that holy angel, sent on an errand of love to some distantpart of the universe. God's eye follows him, and if he sees himlikely to be injured in any way, all the divine attributes areenlisted at once to protect and sustain him. Just as absolutelyare they all pledged for you, if you are justified, to protect,and support, and save you. Notwithstanding you are not free fromremaining sin, and are so totally unworthy of God's love, yetif you are truly justified, the only wise and eternal God is pledgedfor your elevation. And shall you tremble and be faint-heartedwith such support?
If a human government pardons a criminal, it is then pledgedtoprotect him as a subject, as much as if he had never committeda crime. So it is when God justifies a sinner. The Apostle says,"Being justified by faith, we have peace with God."Henceforth God is on his side, and pledged as his faithful andeternal Friend.
Gospel justification differs from legal justification, in thisrespect: If the law justifies an individual, it holds no longerthan he remains innocent. As soon as he transgresses once, hisformer justification is of no more avail. But when the gospeljustifies a inner, it is not so; but "if any man sin, wehave an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."A new relation is now constituted, entirely peculiar. The sinneris now brought out from under the covenant of works, and placedunder the covenant of grace. He no longer retains God's favorby the tenure of absolute and sinless obedience. If he sins, now,he is not thrust back again under the law, but receives the benefitof the new covenant. If he is justified by faith, and so madea child of God, he receives the treatment of a child, and is corrected,and chastised, and humbled, and brought back again. "Thegifts and callings of God are without repentance." The meaningof that is not, that God calls and saves the sinner without hisrepenting, but that God never changes his mind when once he undertakesthe salvation of a soul
I know this is thought by some to be very dangerous doctrine,to teach that believers are perpetually justified because, saythey, it will embolden men to sin. Indeed. To tell a man thathas truly repented of sin, and heartily renounced sin, and sincerelydesires to be free from sin, that God will help him and certainlygive him the victory over sin, will embolden him to commit sin!Strange logic that! If this doctrine emboldens any man to commitsin, it only shows that he never did repent; that he never hatedsin, and never loved God for his own sake, but only feigned repentance,and if he loved God it was only a selfish love, because he thoughtGod was going to do him a favor. If he truly hated sin, the considerationthat notwithstanding all his unworthiness, God had received himas a child, and would give him a child's treatment, is the verything break him down and melt his heart in the most godly sorrow.O, how often has the child of God, melted in adoring wonder atthe goodness of God in using means to bring him back, insteadof sending him to hell, as he deserved! What consideration iscalculated to bring him lower in the dust, than the thought thatnotwithstanding all Godhad done for him, and the gracious helpGod was always ready to afford him, he should wander away again,when his name was written in the Lamb's book of life!
6. It secures the discipline of the covenant. God has pledgedhimself that if any who belong to Christ go astray, he will usethe discipline of the covenant, and bring them back. In the eighty-ninthpsalm, God says, putting David for Christ, "If his childrenforsake my law, and walk not in my judgments: if they break mystatutes, and keep not mycommandments; then will I visit theirtransgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Neverthelessmy loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffermy faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alterthe thing that is gone out of my lips."
Thus you see that professors of religion may always expectto be more readily visited with God's judgments, if they get outof the way, than the impenitent. The sinner may grow fat, andlive in riches, and have no bands in his death, all accordingto God's established principles of government. But let a childof God forsake his God, and go after riches or any other worldlyobject, and as certain as he is a child, God will smite him withhis rod. And when he is smitten and brought back, he will saywith the Psalmist,' It is good for me that I have been afflicted,that I might learn thy statutes. Before I was afflicted, I wentastray, but now have I kept thy word." Perhaps some of youhave known what it is to be afflicted in this way, and to feelthat it was good.
7. Another effect of gospel justification is, to insure sanctification.It not only insures all the means of sanctification, but the actualaccomplishment of the work, so that the individual who is trulyconverted, will surely persevere in obedience till he is fittedfor heaven and actually saved.
V. I am to show that this is justification by faith.
Faith is the medium by which the blessing is conveyed to thebeliever. The proof of this is in the Bible. The text declaresit exressly. "Knowing that a man is no justified by the worksof the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believedin Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ,and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shallno flesh he justified." The subject is too often treatedof in the New Testament to be necessary to go into a labored proof.It is manifest, from the necessity of the case, that if men aresaved at all, they must be justified in this way, and not by worksof law, for "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified."
VI. I will now answer several inquiries which may naturallyarise in your minds, growing out of this subject.
1. "Why is justification said to be by faith, rather thanby repentance, or love, or any other grace."
Answer. It is no where said that men are justified or savedfor faith, as the ground of their pardon, but only that they arejustified by faith, as the medium or instrument. If it is askedwhy faith is appointed as the instrument, rather than any otherexercise of the mind, the answer is, because of the nature andeffect of faith. No other exercise could be appointed. What isfaith? It is that confidence in God which leads us to love andobey him. We are therefore justified by faith because we are sanctifiedby faith. Faith is the appointed instrument of our justification,because it is the natural instrument of sanctification. It isthe instrument of bringing us back to obedience, and thereforeis designated as the means of obtaining the blessings of thatreturn. It isnot imputed to us, by an arbitrary act, for whatit is not, but for what it is, as the foundation of all real obedienceto God. This is the reason why faith is made the medium throughwhich pardon comes. It is simply set down to us for what it reallyis; because it first leads us to obey God, from a principle oflove to God.
We are forgiven our sins on account of Christ. It is our dutyto repent and obey God, and when we do so, this is imputed tous as what it s, holiness, or obedience to God. But for the forgivenessof our past sins, we must rely on Christ. And therefore justificationis said to be by faith in Jesus Christ.
2. The second query is of great importance: "What is justifyingfaith? What must I believe, in order to be saved?"
(1) Negatively, justifying faith does not consist in believingthat your sins are forgiven. If that were necessary, you wouldhave to believe it before it was done, or to believe a lie. Rememberyour sins are not forgiven until you believe. But if saving faithis believing that they are already forgiven, it is believing athing before it takes place, which is absurd. You cannot believeyour sins are forgiven, before you have the evidence that theyare forgiven; and you cannot have the evidence that they are forgivenuntil it is true that they are forgiven, and they cannot be forgivenuntil you exercise saving faith. Therefore saving faith must bebelieving something else.
(2) Nor does saving faith consist in believing that you shallbe saved at all. You have no right to believe that you shall besaved at all, until after you have exercised justifying or savingfaith.
(3) But justifying faith consists in believing the atonementof Christ, or believing the record which God has given of hisSon.
The correctness of this definition has been doubted by some;and I confess my own mind has undergone a change on this point.It is said that Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to himfor righteousness. But what did Abraham believe? He believed thathe should have a son. Was this all? By no means. But his faithincluded the great blessing that depended on that event, thatthe Messiah, the Savior of the world, should spring from him.This was the great subject of the Abrahamic covenant, and it dependedon his having a son. Of course, Abraham's faith included the "Desireof all Nations," and was faith in Christ. The apostle Paulhas showed this, at full length, in the third chapter of Galatians,that the sum of the covenant was,"In thee shall all nationsbe blessed." In verse 16, he says, "Now to Abraham andhis seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, asof many; but as of one: And to thy seed, which is Christ."
It is said that in the 11th of Hebrews, the saints are notall spoken of as having believed in Christ. But if you examinecarefully, you will find that in all cases, faith in Christ iseither included in what they believe, or fairly implied by it.Take the case of Abel. "By faith Abel offered unto God amore excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtainedwitnessthat he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by ithe being dead yet speaketh." Why was his sacrifice more excellent?Because, by offering the firstlings of his flock, he recognizedthe necessity of the atonement, and that "without the sheddingof blood there is no remission." Cain was a proud infidel,and offered the fruits of the ground, as a mere thank offering,for the blessings of Providence, without any admission that hewas a sinner, and needed an atonement, as the ground on whichhe could hope for pardon.
Some suppose that an individual might exercise justifying faithwhile denying, the divinity and atonement of Jesus Christ. I denythis. The whole sum and substance of revelation, like convergingrays, all center on Jesus Christ, his divinity and atonement.All that the prophets and other writers of the Old Testament sayabout salvation comes to him. The Old Testament and the New, allthe types and shadows, point to him. All the Old Testament saintswere saved by faith in him. Their faith terminated in the comingMessiah, as that of the New Testament saints did in the Messiahalready come. In the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians the apostlePaul shows what place he would assign to this doctrine: "ForI delivered unto you first of all that which I also received,how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day accordingto the scriptures." Mark that expresion, "first of all."It proves that Paul preached that Christ died for sinners, asthe "first," or primary doctrine of the gospel. Andso you will find it, from one end of the Bible to the other thatthe attention of men was directed to this new and living way,as the only way of salvation. This truth is the only truth thatcan sanctify men. They may believe a thousand other things, butthis is the great source of sanctification, "God in Christ,reconciling the world unto himself." And this alone can thereforebe justifying faith.
There may be many other acts of faith, that may be right andacceptable to God. But nothing is justifying faith but believingthe record that God has given of his Son. Simply believing whatGod has revealed on any point, is an act of faith; but justifyingfaith fastens on
Christ, takes hold of his atonement, and embraces him as theonly ground of pardon and salvation. There may be faith in prayer,the faith that is in exercise in offering up prevailing prayerto God. But that is not properly justifying faith.
3. "When are men justified?"
This is also an inquiry often made. I answer Just all soonas they believe in Christ, with the faith which worketh by love.Sinner, you need not go home from this meeting under the wrathof Almighty God. You may be justified here, on the spot, now,if you will only believe in Christ. Your pardon is ready, madeout and sealed with the broad seal of heaven; and the blank willbe filled up, and the gracious pardon delivered, as soon as byone act of faith, you receive Jesus Christ as he is offered inthe gospel.
4. "How can I know whether I am in a state of justificationor not?""
Answer. You can know it in no way, except by inference. Godhas not revealed it in the Scriptures, that you, or any otherindividuals, are justified; but he has set down the characteristicsof a justified person, and declared that all who have these characteristicsare justified.
(1.) Have you the witness of the Spirit? All who are justifiedhave this. They have intercurse with the Holy Ghost, he explainsthe Scriptures to them, and leads them to see their meaning, heleads them to the Son and to the Father; and reveals the Son inthem, and reveals the Father. Have you this? If you have, youare justified. If not, you are yet in your sins.
(2.) Have you the fruits of the Spirit? They are love, joy,peace, and so on. These are matters of human consciousness; haveyou them? If so, you are justified.
(3.) Have you peace with God? The apostle says, "Beingjustified by faith, we have peace with God." Christ saysto his disciples, "My peace I give unto you; not as the worldgiveth give I unto you." And again, "Come unto me, allye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."Do you find rest in Christ? Is your peace like a river, flowinggently through your son, and filling you with calm and heavenlydelight? Or do you feel a sense of condemnation before God?
Do you feel a sense of acceptance with God, of pardoned sin,of communion with God? This must be a matter of experience, ifit exists. Don't imagine you can be in a justified state, andyet have no evidence of it. You may have great peace in reality,filling your soul, and yet not draw the inference that you arejustified. I remember the time, when my mind was in a state ofsuch sweet peace, that it seemed to me as if all nature was listeningfor God to speak; but yet I was not aware that this was the peaceof God, or that it was evidence of my being in a justified state.I thought I had lost all my conviction, and actually undertookto bring back the sense of condemnation that I had before. I didnot draw the inference that I was justified, till after the loveof God was so shed abroad in my soul by the Holy Ghost, that Iwas compelled to cry out, "Lord, it is enough, I can bearno more." I do not believe it possible for the sense of condemnationto remain, where the act of pardon is already past.
(4.) Have you the spirit of adoption? If you are justified,you are also adopted, as one of God's dear children,and he hassent forth his Spirit into your heart, so that you naturally cry,"Abba, Father!" He seems to you just like a father,and you want to call him father. Do you know any thing of this?It is one thing to call God your father in heaven, and anotherthing to feel towards him as a father. This is one evidence ofa justified state, when God gives the spirit of adoption.
I. I would go around to all my dear hearers tonight, and askthem one by one, "Are you in a state of justification? Doyou honestly think you are justified?"
I have briefly run over the subject, and showed what justificationis not, and what it is, how you can be saved, and the evidencesof justification.
Have you it? Would you dare to die now? Suppose the loud thundersofthe last trumpet were now to shake the universe, and you shouldsee the Son of God coming to judgment are you ready? Could youlook up calmly and say. "Father, this is a solemn sight,but Christ has died, and God has justified me, and who is he thatshall condemn me?"
II. If you think you ever was justified, and yet have not atpresent the evidence of it, I want to make an inquiry. Are youunder the discipline of the covenant? If not, have you any reasonto believe you ever were justified? God's covenant with you, ifyou belong to Christ, is this "If they backslide, I willvisit their iniquity with the rod, and chasten them with stripes."Do you feel the stripes? Is God awakening your mind, and convictingyour conscience, is he smiting you? If not, where are the evidencesthat he is dealing with you as a son? If you are not walking withGod, and at the same time are not under chastisement, you cannothave any good reason to believe you are God's children.
III. Those of you who have evidence that you are justified,should maintain your relation to God, and live up to your realprivileges. This is immensely important. There is no virtue inbeing distrustful and unbelieving. It is important to your growthin grace. One reason why many Christians do not grw in grace is,that they are afraid to claim the privileges of God's childrenwhich belong to them. Rely upon it, beloved, this is no virtuoushumility, but criminal unbelief. If you have the evidence thatyou are justified, take the occasion from it to press forwardto holiness of heart, and come to God with all the boldness thatan angel would, and know how near you are to him. It is your dutyto do so. Why should you hold back? Why are you afraid to recognizethe covenant of grace, in its full extent? Here are the provisionsof your Father's house, all ready and free; and are you convertedand justified, and restored to his favor, and yet afraid to sitdown at your Father's table? Do not plead that you are so unworthy.
This is nothing but self-righteousness and unbelief. True,you are so unworthy. But if you are justified, that is no longera bar.
It is now your duty to take hold of the promises as belongingto you. Take any promise you can find in the Bible, that is applicable,and go with it to your Father, and plead it before him, believing.Do you think he will deny it? These exceeding great and preciouspromises were given you for this very purpose, that you may becomea partaker of the divine nature. Why then should you doubt? Comealong, beloved, come along up to the privileges that belong toyou, and take hold of the love, and peace, and joy, offered toyou in this holy gospel.
IV. If you are not in a state of justification, however muchyou have done, and prayed, and suffered, you are nothing. If youhave not believed in Christ, if you have not received and trustedin him, as he is set forth in the gospel, you are yet in a stateof condemnation and wrath. You may have been, for weeks and months,and even foryears, groaning with distress, but for all that, youare still in the gall of bitterness. Here you see the line drawn;the moment you pass this, you are in a state of justification.
Dear hearer, are you now in a state of wrath? Now believe inChrist. All your waiting and groaning will not brig you any nearer.Do you say you want more conviction? I tell you to come now toChrist. Do you say you must wait till you have prayed more? Whatis the use of praying in unbelief? Will the prayers of a condemnedrebel avail? Do you say you are so unworthy? But Christ died forsuch as you. He comes right to you now, on your seat. Where doyou sit? Where is that individual I am speaking to? Sinner, youneed not wait You need not go home in your sins, with that heavyload on your heart. Now is the day of salvation. Hear the wordof God. "If thou believe in thine heart in the Lord JesusChrist, and if thou confess with thy mouth that God raised himfrom the dead, thou shalt be saved."
Do you say, "What must I believe?" Believe just whatGod says of his Son; believe any of those great fundamental truthswhich God has revealed respecting the way of salvation, and restyour soul on it, and you shall be saved. Will you now trust JesusChrist to dispose of you? Have you confidence enough in Christto leave yourself with him, to dispose of your body and your soul,for time and eternity? Can you say
"Here, Lord, I give myself away; This all that I can do?"
Perhaps you are trying to pray yourself out of your difficultiesbefore coming to Christ. Sinner, it will do no good. Now, castyourself down at his feet, and leave your soul in his hands. Sayto him, "Lord, I give myself to thee, with all my powersof body and of mind; use me and dispose of me as thou wilt, forthine own glory; I know thou wilt do right, and that is all Idesire." Will you do it?
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