For all have
sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His
grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ: whom God has set forth
to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness
for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to
declare, / say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the
justifier of him which believes in Jesus (Rom. 3:23-26).
The apostle having
confuted and overthrown all justification, either of Jew or Gentile, by works,
in the foregoing discourse, is now proving what he asserted (v. 21, 22): 'That
the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the
law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus
Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference,'
showing that now in the gospel times there is no difference between Jew and
Gentile, but that in the justification of both the righteousness of God
without the law is manifested. This he proves by showing what the gospel
teaches concerning the way of justification, for the gospel only reveals the
righteousness of God (Rom. 1:16, 17): 'I am not ashamed of the gospel of
Christ; for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.'
So the words are a
declaration of the gospel way of justification by the righteousness of God,
and that so clearly and fully, and the benefit spoken of so great and
glorious, being the first benefit that we receive by union with Christ and the
foundation of all other benefits, that my text is accounted to be evangelium
evangelii, a principal part of the written gospel, as briefly and yet
fully expressing this excellent point more than any other text.
Note in the words
particularly the subject declared and explained, namely, justification of
persons, or their being justified; and the meaning of it here is to be cleared
and freed from all ambiguities and misunderstanding. Justification signifies
'making just' as sanctification is 'making holy', glorification 'making
glorious'; but not making just by infusion of grace and holiness into a
person, as the Papists teach, confounding justification and sanctification
together, but making just in trial and judgement, by a radical sentence
discharging guilt, freeing from blame and accusation - approving, judging,
owning and pronouncing a person to be righteous. Use alters the signification.
It is a juridical word, or law term and has reference to trial and judgement:
'With me it is a very small thing, that I should be judged of you, or of man's
judgement; yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself, yet
am I not hereby justified: but He that judges me is the Lord' (1 Cor. 4:3, 4).
And it is so opposed to condemnation in judgement: 'If there be a controversy
between men, and they come into judgement, that the judges may judge them;
then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked' (Deut. 25:1).
And, 'By your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be
). And it is opposed both to accusation and condemnation: 'Who shall lay any
thing to the charge of God's elect? Who is he that condemns?' (Ram. 8:33, 34.)
And so 'if I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me' (Job
). 'I will maintain mine own ways before him . . . I have ordered my cause; I
know that I shall be justified ... Who is he that will plead with me?' (Job
13:15-19.) Here justification is plainly opposed to the accusation or fault.
And it is as plainly opposed to the passing sentence of condemnation: 'Do, and
judge your servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head,
and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness' (1
Kings 8:32). In this sense it is a sin to justify the wicked (Isa. 5:23
; Prov. ; Job 27:5). Actions must be existent already and brought to trial that they
may be justified (Job 33:32; Isa. 43:9, 26).
righteousness consists not in the intrinsic nature of an action, but in its
agreeableness to a rule of judgement, so that actions are called just and
righteousness by an extrinsical denomination with relation to God's rule of
judging. And this righteousness appears by trying the action according to the
rule, and by making an estimate of it; which estimate is either approving or
disapproving, justifying or condemning, finding it to be sin or no sin, or
breach of the law. So we may say of the righteousness of persons with
reference to such habits or actions. And because the righteousness of
righteous persons appears when they are brought to trial and judgement,
therefore they are said then to be in a special manner justified, as if they
were then made righteous, that is, when their righteousness is declared: as
Christ was said to be begotten the Son of God at the resurrection (Acts
13:33), because He was then declared to be the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). And in
the same sense we that are adopted at present are said to 'wait for our
adoption', that is, the manifestation of it (Rom. ). And thus even God is said to be justified, when we judge of His actions as
we ought to do and deem them to be righteous (Job. 32:2; Ps. 51:4; Luke 7:29), though nothing can be added to the infinite righteousness of God. And
wisdom is said to be 'justified of her children' (Matt.
In the text we have
the eight following things:
1. The persons
justified - (i) Sinners; (ii) Such sinners of all sorts that shall believe,
whether Jews or Gentiles.
2. The justifier, or
efficient cause -God.
3. The impulsive
cause - grace.
4. The means
effecting, or material cause - the redemption of Christ.
5. The formal cause
- the remission of sins.
6. The instrumental
cause - faith.
7. The time of
declaring - the present time.
8. The end -that God
may appear just.
therefore, will arise several useful observations, all tending to explain the
nature of justification, which shall be laid down and cleared out of the text
and confirmed particularly, and then I shall make use of them altogether.
I. They who are
justified are sinners, such who are come short of the glory of God, that is,
of God's approbation (John ); of God's image of holiness (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph.
1. The law condemns
all sinners and strikes them dead as with a thunderbolt (Rom.
), and adjudges them to shame, confusion and misery, instead of glory and
happiness, by the strict terms of it (
2:6-12), which none fulfils, neither can do (Rom. 8:7) - neither Jews nor
Gentiles. There is no hope, if free grace restore them not.
2. Christ came only
to save sinners and died for this end: 'When we were yet without strength, in
due time Christ died for the ungodly' (Rom. 5:6). And 'This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief' (1 Tim.
And God must be
believed on to salvation, as a God that 'justifies the ungodly'. He must
believe, as one that works not, on Him that justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5).
II. Sinners of all
sorts, without difference, whether Jews or Gentiles, that believe are the
subjects of this justification. This is the scope of the apostle, to show that
whereas Jews and Gentiles were universally condemned by the light and law of
nature, or the law written, so 'the righteousness of God is upon all them that
notwithstanding the Jews' privilege of the law, by reason of breaking the law
they had as much need of free justification as the Gentiles, and no worthiness
above the Gentiles by their works, but were rather greater sinners (Rom. 2:23,
24). And when there is equal need and worth, God might righteously justify one
as well as another (Rom.
2. God is the God of
the Gentiles as well as of the Jews (Rom. 3:29), as He promised (Rom. 4:9, 12, 13; Gal. 3:8;
; Zech. 14:9).
3. Abraham was
justified before he was circumcised, that he might be the father of those that
believe, though uncircumcised, that they might inherit the same blessing (Rom.
4. This will appear
further by showing that justification is only by faith and without dependence
upon the law, merely by the righteousness of another, and so Jews and Gentiles
are alike capable of it.
III. That the
justifier, or efficient cause of justification is God. It is an act of God
(Rom.8:33). It is God that justifies. He only can justify authoritatively and
1. Because He is the
lawgiver, and has power to save and destroy (James 4:12). This case concerns God's law, and can only be tried at His tribunal. He is
the judge of the world (Gen. 18:25). It is a small worthless thing to be
justified by man, or by ourselves merely (1 Cor. 4:3, 4).
2. To Him the debt
of suffering for sin and acting righteousness is owed and therefore He only
can give a discharge for payment, or a release of the debtor (Ps. 51:4; Mark
IV. 'God justifies
souls freely by His grace, freely by His grace.' One of these expressions had
been enough, but this redoubling it shows the importance of the truth, to
quicken our attention the more. Here is the impulsive cause of justification
and His free manner of bestowing it accordingly. And this signifies God's free
undeserved favour, in opposition to any works of our own righteousness whereby
it might be challenged as a debt to us: 'Now to him that works is the reward
not reckoned of grace, but of debt' (Rom. 4:4). 'If 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' (Rom. 11:6). 'By grace are you saved, through faith; and that not
of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast'
(Eph. 2:8, 9). 'Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not
according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was
given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. But is now made manifest by
the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Tim. 1:9, 10). Grace is mercy
and love showed freely, out of God's proper motion showing mercy, because He
will show mercy, and loving us, because He will love us (Rom. 9:15). And this
1. Because there was
not, nor is anything in us, but what might move God to condemn us, for we have
all sinned (Eph. 2:3; Ezek. 16:6).
2. Because God would
take away boasting and have His grace glorified and exalted in our salvation.
He will have all the praise and glory, though we have the blessedness. 'That
in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His
kindness towards us, through Christ Jesus' (Eph. 2:7, 9; Rom. 3:27).
V. 'God justifies
sinners through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God has set forth
to be a propitiation through faith in His blood.' This is the effecting means,
or material cause of our justification, namely, redemption and propitiation
through the blood of Christ, which is the righteousness of God treasured up in
By 'redemption' is
meant properly such a deliverance as is made by paying a price, and so the
words 'redeem' and 'redemption' are frequently used (Exod. 13:13; Num. 3: 48,
49, 51; Lev. 25:24, 51, 52; Jer. 32:7, 8; Neh. 5:8). From this proper
signification it is borrowed to signify a deliverance without price (Luke
21:28; Eph. 1:14; 4:30), or rather, by a metonymy of the cause, put for the
highest effect, the state of glory; so that the state of glory is called
'redemption', as being the completing and crowning effect of Christ's
redemption; therefore it is called the 'purchased possession'.
By a 'propitiation'
is meant that which appeases the wrath of God for sin and wins His favour. And
this propitiation of Christ is two ways typified: first, in the propitiatory
sacrifices, whose blood was shed; and, secondly , g propitiatory the mercy
seat, which was called the propitiation, because it covered the ark wherein
was the law, and the blood of the sacrifices for atonement was sprinkled by
the high priest before it. And this mercy-seat was a sign of God's
favourableness to a sinful people in residing among them (Heb. 9:5).
Now this doctrine
appears confirmed for these reasons:
1. Because Christ,
by the will of God, gave Himself a ransom for us to redeem us from sin and
punishment, wrath and curse. 'He gave Himself for us, to redeem us from all
). He gave Himself to death for us, was delivered for our offences; His death
was the price of our redemption, that we might be justified in God's sight.
God gave Him up to death, He spared Him not, that He might be made
righteousness. 'He gave His own life a ransom for many' (1 Cor.
2. God accepted this
price as a satisfaction to His justice, which He showed in raising Christ from
the dead and so accepting Him for all our sins: 'He was justified in the
Spirit' (1 Tim. 3:16), for us, 'raised for our justification' (Rom.
4:25). 'It is God that justifies: who is he that condemns? Is it Christ that died,
yea rather, that is risen from the dead' (Rom.
3. This redemption
is in Christ, as to the benefit of it, so that it cannot be had except we be
in Christ and have Christ; so the text expresses and shows that He is the
propitiation and, as such, He is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). We have
redemption and righteousness in Him (Eph. 1:7; 2 Cor.
), and therein our freedom from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Christ died that His seed might be justified (Isa. 53:10, 11) - those
that are in Him by spiritual regeneration (1 Cor. 4:15).
VI. 'The formal
cause of justification, or that wherein it consists, is the remission of sin,
that is, not only the guilt and punishment is removed, but the fault; because
it is a pardon grounded on justice, which clears the fault also. By Him we are
justified from all things that the law charges us with' (Acts 13:39). In men, subject to a law, there is no middle condition between not imputing
sin and imputing righteousness, and so these terms are used as equivalent:
'Through this man is preached the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that
believe are justified' (Acts 13:38, 39; Rom. 4:6-8; 2 Cor. 5:19, 21; Rom.
5:17). This is through the bloodshed of Christ (Eph. 1:7; Matt. 26:28).
VII. God justifies a
sinner through faith in Christ's blood. Faith is the instrumental cause of
receiving this benefit, faith in the blood of Christ.
1. This faith is a
believing on Christ, that we may be justified by Him: 'Knowing that a man is
not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; even
we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of
Christ, and not by the works of the law' (Gal. 2:16). We believe in Christ for
justification, out of a sense of our inability to obtain justification by
2. This faith does
not justify us as an act of righteousness, earning and procuring our
justification by the work of it, for this would have been justification by
works, as under the law, diametrically opposite to grace and free gift; which
excludes all consideration of any works of ours to be our righteousness, under
any denomination or diminutive terms whatever, whether you call it 'legal' or
'evangelical', though you reckon it no more than the payment of a peppercorn
(Rom. 11:6). Faith in this case is accounted a not-working (Rom. 4:5). And it
is not faith that stands instead of the righteousness of the law, but the
righteousness of Christ, which satisfies for what we ought to have done or
suffered, as has been shown.
3. God justifies by
faith, as the instrument by which we receive Christ and His righteousness, by
which we are justified properly; and we are justified by faith only
metonymically, by reason of the righteousness received by it; and to be
'justified by faith' and 'by Christ' is all one (Gal. 3:8; Rom. 5:19). By
faith we receive remission of sins (Acts 26:18; 10:43). Its effect is the reception of Justification, not the working it; as a man
may be said to be maintained by his hands, or nourished by his mouth, when
those do but receive that which nourishes - his food and drink. The cup is put
for the liquor in the cup (1 Cor., 27). See Romans
4. This faith is to
be understood exclusively to all our works for justification. We defend
against the Papists justification by faith only, and there is nothing more
fully expressed in Scripture phrase (Rom.
5. We must
understand faith in a full sense of receiving remission of the fault, as well
as of the punishment. We believe God accounts not the fault to us of the least
sin. And, where faith is said to be accounted for righteousness, it is because
of the object it receives (Rom.
4:5-8; 2 Cor. 5:19, 21). We believe Christ's righteousness is imputed to us as our sins are to
Him, or else we receive not remission of sins by believing; which is contrary
to charging us with sin and condemnation, which charging signifies imputing
sin (Rom. 8:33, 34). Together with the removal of the charge of sin, we
receive the gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:17). And this we have in the reception of Christ's redemption and bloodshed
(Eph. 1:7; Matt. 26:28).
VIII. That God, in
setting forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, aimed to
declare His righteousness now under the gospel, for the remission of sins that
are past as well as present - of those sins that were past and committed under
the Old Testament, which was God's time of forbearing in pardoning, long
before His justice was actually satisfied by Christ's atonement (Heb. 13:8;
Rev. 13: 8; Matt. 18:26). The ground of these pardons is now revealed by
Christ's coming (Isa. 51:5, 6; 56:1; Dan.
; 2 Tim. 1:9, 10), that those pardons may be no blemish to the justice of God
now satisfied (Exod. 34:7; Ps. 85:10).
1. By this
righteousness is meant that righteousness of God mentioned in the proposition
(Rom. 3:21, 22), of which the text is but a confirmation - namely, the
righteousness of God: not His essential righteousness, that which is an
essential property of God, but righteousness, which is upon all them that
believe - Christ's righteousness, which is the end of the law (Rom. 10:3, 4),
and therefore called 'God's righteousness', that which Christ wrought for us,
which is given to us and we receive by faith; that by which Christ answered
the law for us, by which as the price, He redeemed us; which is called 'God's
righteousness' because it is of God's working, and it only has God's
acceptance and approbation - as Christ is called the 'Lamb of God' because God
provided Him and accepts Him as an offering (John 1:29). Upon the like
account, Christ's kingdom is called the 'kingdom of God' because God's own
hand set it up, and maintains it, and rules it (Eph. 5:5). Christ, who became
obedient to death to work this righteousness, was God as well as man (Phil.
2:6, 8). And this is that righteousness of God here, and in other places: the
righteousness which is of God by faith (Phil. 3:9).
2. God aimed at
declaring in gospel times His righteousness in forgiving sins past, in the
time of God's forbearance under the Old Testament (Rom. 3:25), and also in
justifying those that believe in Christ at present, for it was by the
righteousness of the same Christ that sins were pardoned under the Old
Testament, as well as now (Heb. 13:8). Christ was the Lamb slain from the
foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8); only the righteousness was not actually
fulfilled and revealed then, but it was shadowed out then by the sacrifices,
ransoms, redemptions, etc. (Heb. 10:1-3, 9, 10). So this was a time of God's
forbearance, because He pardoned sins, as it were, without present payment and
satisfaction. He had patience and did not exact the debt, until Christ paid
all (Matt. 18:26
). But then God promised that He would reveal His righteousness in due time (Isa.
56:1; 51:5, 6; Ps. 98:2; Dan. ). And this He has done by the appearance of Christ (2 Tim.
IX. The end of this
manifestation is that God may appear just, in forgiving sins past as well as
present, and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus. Here the essential
property of God is exalted and appears glorious in justifying by the
forementioned righteousness of God.
1. As God justifies
freely by grace, He would appear in this way just in justifying sinners, for
it would be a blemish to God's justice to forgive without a satisfaction and
righteousness performed, and therefore, though He is gracious and merciful,
yet He will not clear the guilty (Exod. 34:7; Gen. 18:25; Exod. 23:7). And so
the saints of God concluded that God had a righteousness and redemption by
which He forgave sin, though it was not then revealed (Ps. 51:14; 130:7, 8;
143:1, 2). God would have justice and mercy to meet in our salvation (Ps.
2. God would have it
appear that He only is just, and therefore saves us, not by our own
righteousness, but by His, which is indeed the more exalted by our
unrighteousness occasionally, though God is not therefore unrighteous in
taking vengeance (Rom. 3:4, 5; Dan. 9:7).
3. God would appear
to be the only procurer and worker of our righteousness, and so our justifier
by way of procurement, as well as by way of judgement, and so He will justify
us by a righteousness of His own, and not by our own (Isa. 54:17; 45:22, 24,
25), that we may glory in the Lord only (1 Cor. 1:30, 31).
Use I. It serves
for instruction, by way of encouragement and consolation, that the great
happiness of those that are in Christ is that their sins are forgiven, and
they accounted just in the sight of the judge of the world through the
redemption that is by the blood of Christ; and this benefit contains all
blessedness of life and the consequences of it (Rom. 4:6). That man to whom
God imputes righteousness without works has a blessedness in it, and such an
extensive blessedness, in regard of the spiritual part, as Abraham had,
comprehending all spiritual blessings in Christ, for they which are of faith
are blessed with faithful Abraham (Gal. 3:9). For this righteousness, being
the fundamental blessing, is revealed from faith to faith; and they that are
by faith just, and justified through that righteousness, do live by faith,
always receiving it and receiving nourishment and comfort by it (Rom. 1:17).
1. They are
delivered from the charge of sin and fault before God (Rom.
, 34). tiV egkaledei: Who shall lay anything to their charge, or be suffered
to bring in at God's tribunal any indictment, charge or accusation against
them? It is God that justifies them, and Christ has died and rose again. They
are redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits to God and the Lamb. In
their mouth there is no guile, and they are without fault [amwmoi] before the
throne of God (Rev. 14:4, 5. See also Col. 1:22).
2. They are
delivered from all condemnation in sentence and execution, the curse and wrath
of God: 'Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse
for us' (Gal. ). 'Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come' (1. Thess. 1:10). 'You
have taken away all Your wrath: You have turned Yourself from the fierceness
of Your anger' (Ps. 85:3, see vv. 5, 6). The wrath of God is an unsupportable
burden and the foundation of all miseries, which foundation is razed and a
foundation of blessedness laid, by which we have peace with God and are fully
reconciled to God (Rom. 5:1, 2; 2 Cor. 5:18, 19). 'You that were sometime
alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has
reconciled, in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and
unblameable, and unreprovable in His sight' (Col. 1:21, 22). Now, where there
is no blame before God, there can be no wrath from God.
3. They have no need
to seek salvation by the works of the law, and so are delivered from a yoke
that cannot be borne, from endless observances that Pharisees and Papists have
heaped up; from continual frights, doubts, fears and terrors by the law (Acts
15:10; Rom. 8:15); from a wrath-working law (Rom. 4:15); from a
sin-irritating law (Rom. 6:5); from a killing law, a ministration of death
and condemnation (2 Cor. 3:6, 7, 9); Mount Sinai, which genders to bondage
4. Thus they are
delivered from a condemning conscience, which otherwise would still gnaw them
as a worm.
'If the blood of
bulls and of goats, and ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies
to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who
through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your
conscience from dead works to serve the living God?' (Heb. 9:14.) A guilty
conscience is a foul conscience, and it will make all services and duties dead
works, unfit for the service of the living God; it is the blood of Christ
applied by faith that takes off the foulness of guilt from the conscience;
therefore the blood of Christ has the only efficacy this way to take off the
conscience of sin (Heb. 10:1-4, etc.). Thus they come to have a good
conscience (1 Peter
), void of offence towards God Acts 24:16).
5. It is an
everlasting righteousness by which their standing in Christ is secured (Dan. 9:24). It is an eternal redemption that is obtained (Heb. 9:12), whereas by the
law those that were justified today typically might fall under condemnation so
far as to need another sacrifice for sin tomorrow, they had no real purgation
of conscience from sin by those sacrifices, and therefore could not have a
lasting delivery of their consciences from guilt by them. Here it is far
otherwise; here is an effectual, complete and perpetual redemption, reaching
the conscience of the sinner, and for the purging away all sins, present and
to come (1 John 1:7).
6. It is a
righteousness of infinite value, because it is the righteousness of one that
is God, and His Name is JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jer. 23:6; Heb.
7. God's grace and
justice are both engaged on our behalf in this righteousness. Justice is
terrible and seems to be against mercy and dreadful to natural people, but it
is otherwise to believers; it is pacified and appeased through this
righteousness; it is satisfied by Christ for our sins. Justice becomes our
friend, joins in with grace and, instead of pleading against us, it is
altogether for us, and it speaks contrary to what it speaks to sinners out of
Christ (Josh. 24:19, 20). We may also plead justice for forgiveness through
mercy in Christ (Rom.
8. We may be sure of
holiness and glory, delivery from the power and dominion of sin, as well as
the charge of it before God, and guilt in our consciences, for this was the
end of Christ's death (Titus 2:14; Rom. 6:6, 14; 8:3, 4, 30). 'Whom He
justified, them He also glorified.' The law was the strength of sin, for sin
had its title to rule in us by reason of the curse, and then Satan also rules;
but here is our deliverance from sin and Satan, yea, from death too (Heb.
2:14, 15; Hos. 13:14). And, by the same reason, we are raised by this
excellent righteousness to a better state than we had in Adam at first, for
Christ died that we might receive the adoption of sons, and the Spirit; that
we might be brought under a new covenant, and be set in the right way of
holiness, serving out of love (Gal. 3:14; 1 John 4:19; Gal. 4:5; Heb. 9:15;
Rom. 5: 11; Luke 1:74; Col. 2:13).
9. We may be sure,
hence, of a concurrence of all things for our good. All things shall work for
good through grace to bring us to glory, because God is for us, who is the
Creator and Governor of all things (Rom., 31, 33). God will never be wroth with us, nor rebuke us in anger any more (Isa.
54:9; Rom. 5:2, 5).
10. Hence we may
come before God without confusion of face, yea, with boldness to the throne of
grace in Christ's name (John 14:13, 14) and expect all good things from Him. 'In whom we have boldness and
access with confidence by the faith of Him' (Eph. 3:12). 'Let us draw near with full assurance of faith' (Heb., 23). Christ's blood pleads for us in heaven (Heb.
); and we may, and are to plead boldly a satisfaction on His account.
11. We live in those
times when this righteousness is fully revealed, and sin made an end of (Rom., 22). This is our happiness above those that lived before Christ's coming,
who were under types and shadows of this righteousness, whereas we have the
substance in its own light, and so we are not under the law, which they were
under as a schoolmaster. We are not servants, but sons, called to liberty
(Gal. 3:23, 26; 4:7; 5:13). The preaching the old covenant, as a church ordinance to be urged, now is
ceased; the law is not to be preached now in the same terms as Moses preached
it, for justification (Rom. 10:5-8; 2 Cor. 3:6, 7; Gal. 3:13, 24); it is
contrary in terms of faith, though it were subservient.
Use 11. For
examination whether we are in Christ and have received this justification by
faith with all our hearts.
1. Consider whether
you are made really sensible of sin and your condemnation by the law. This is
necessary to make us fly to Christ, and for this as one great end was the law
given (Gal. 3:22-14; Matt. 9:13; Acts 2:37). Without sense of sin, there will
be no prizing of Christ or desire of holiness, but rather abuse of grace to
carnal security and licentiousness. Those that were stung with the fiery
serpents looked up to the brazen serpent.
2. Do you trust only
on free mercy for justification in God's sight, renouncing all your works
whatever in this point, as not able to stand in them before God's exact
justice, crying mercy with the poor publican? Perfectionists and
self-righteous persons have no share in this matter (Luke, 14). Paul, notwithstanding all that the world might think he had to plead
for himself, 'counted all but dung, that he might win Christ, and be found in
Him, not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is
through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,' that
is, the redeeming and propitiating righteousness of Christ, by which he
desired only to be justified and which he believed in for that end, opposing
it to anything inherent in himself, which therefore he calls his own
righteousness (Phil. 3:6, 8, 9; Rom. 4:5).
3. Do you trust with
any confidence in Christ, not continuing in a mere suspense? In a way of mere
doubting, we can receive no good thing from God (James 1:6, 7). Mere doubting
will not loose the conscience from the guilt of sin (Heb. 10:22), but leaves the soul under terrors. Abraham's confidence is the example and
pattern of our justifying faith, that we should endeavour to come up to,
believing with a fullness of persuasion, in hope against hope (Rom. 4: 20,
24). Though a believing soul may be assaulted with many doubtings, yet it
fights against them and does not give up itself to the dominion of them (Ps.
42:11; Mark 9:24). It has always something contrary to them and striving with them.
4. Do you come to
Christ for remission of sins for the right end, namely, that you may be freed
from the dominion of sin before the living God (Heb. 9:14; Ps. 130; Titus
2:14; 1 Peter 2:24). If otherwise, you do not receive it for the right end and
do not desire really the favour and enjoyment of God and to be in friendship
5. Do you walk in
holiness and strive to evidence this justification by the fruits of faith in
good works? If otherwise, your faith is but a dead faith, for a true faith
purifies the heart (Acts 15:9). If Christ is yours, He will be sanctification
as well as righteousness (1 Cor.
It serves for exhortation to several duties.
To the wicked. It is dehortation to them from continuance in sin, under God's
wrath, running headlong to damnation; for here is a door of mercy opened to
them, a righteousness prepared that they may be freely accepted of God. Some
men are desperadoes: 'They have loved strangers, and after them they will go'
1. If you do, you
remain under the wrath of God (John 3:36), under the curse of the law, which,
like a flood, sweeps away all that are found out of this ark, the Lord Jesus
Christ (Ps. 11:5, 6).
2. Your condemnation
will be aggravated by refusing so great salvation (Heb. 2:3). You will have no
cloke for your sins, when you refuse mercy (John
If God justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5), what need I forsake ungodliness at all?
Answer. You cannot
seek justification truly, except you have a mind to live to God in friendship
with Him, for justification is God's way of taking us into friendship with Him
5:1, 2), and of reconciling us (2 Cor. 5:19). The use you are to make of it is to seek God's friendship by it, and the
enjoyment of Him. Why does a man seek a pardon, if he intends to go on in
rebellion and stand out in defiance to his prince? (1 Peter 2:24.) They seek
pardon in a mocking way, that intend not to return to obedience (Gal. 6:7, 8).
My sins are so great, that I have no encouragement to hope.
Christ's righteousness is for all sorts of sinners that believe, whether Jews
or Gentiles (and how great sinners were of both sorts!) (Rom. 1; 2; 3) and
even for those that killed and murdered the Lord of glory (Acts 2:23, 36; 1 Cor. 2:8), for the chief of the sinners (1 Tim.
1:15; Acts 16). 'Where sin abounds, grace super-abounds' (Rom. 5:20). Your sins are but the sins of a creature, but His righteousness is the
righteousness of God (John 6:37;
Rom. 10:3, 11, 13).
It exhorts those that have a mind to turn to God to turn the right way by
faith in Christ for justification. Let them not seek by works, as most in the
world do, and all are prone to do (Rom.
But how shall I get faith?
Answer. Faith is the
gift of God (Eph. 2:8), and by the gospel (Rom. 1:15
-17). Faith comes by hearing the gospel preached (Rom. 10:17), and that comes in working faith, not in word only, but in power (1 Thess.
1:5), beyond what can be done by natural or human attainment (John 6:63).
Therefore, if you have no beginning of it in you, your only way is to attend
to the gospel and to meditate on your sin and misery and Christ's excellency,
that so you may be inclined in your heart to believe (S. of S. 1:3; Gal. 2:16;
Ps. 9:10), for this is the way God uses to beget faith (Isa. 55: 3). But if
you have a desire and inclination to fly from yourself to Christ, in the bent
of your heart, so that you prefer Christ above all, then the Spirit has begun
and will carry on the work, so that now you may pray confidently for faith (S.
of S. 1:4; Luke 11:13; Mark 9:24).
But without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Heb.
If you have righteousness in Christ, God will make you holy, and this
confidence is the only way to get holiness, because of that righteousness
It exhorts them that are justified by faith.
1. To walk humbly,
as being nothing of themselves; to acknowledge themselves enemies to God by
nature, and acknowledge their sins in the greatness and heinousness of them,
that they are saved freely by the righteousness of another, not by their own -
yea, that they are so far fallen that the justice of God would have been
against them, if it had not been satisfied (Ps. 71:16; Rom. 3:27), but now
they see that Christ has satisfied, and His righteousness is above their sins
2. To praise and
glorify God through Christ for His grace. Oh, what abundant grace and love
appears in God's washing and cleansing us by His Son's blood! (Rev. 1:5; Gal. 2:20) and in making His Son sin and a curse for us! (Rom.
5:5, 8; 1 John 4:9, 10; 3:16; 2 Cor. 8:9). And what a glorious and excellent
righteousness has God given us in Christ! (Isa. 61:10.)
3. To walk
comfortably, upon the account of this righteousness (Isa. 40:1, 2). Triumph
over sin and affliction (Rom.
4. Hold fast this
way of justification, notwithstanding all the noise that is made in the world
against it, for the devil will strive to scare you out of it or steal it from
you, as he did from the Jews, from the Galatians, the Papists and many
Protestants (Gal. 1:6). And the apostle reckons it is by a spiritual
bewitchery. He will strive to get you to trust on works, and tell you it is
for the promoting of holiness, and to trust on works to get Christ, and to lay
works lowest in the foundation. If you lose this righteousness of Christ,
under any colour or pretence whatever, you lose all (Gal. 5:2, 3). Do not so
dishonour Christ as to think of procuring that by works which you have fully
in Christ. Think not that the gospel requires another justification to gain
this, for the gospel is no legal covenant, but a declaration of the
righteousness of faith and we, being justified, are heirs by adoption and
promise (Gal. 3:24-26; 4:7). This is the doctrine which glorifies God and
abases the creature, which is a great mark of its truth. Beware therefore of
carnal reason, which will go quite contrary, and make Christ's righteousness a
stumbling-stone to you (1 Peter 2:8; Rom;
Walk as one that enjoys the favour of God in Christ. Let Him have the honour
of it. Walk therefore in holiness, knowing by what price you are redeemed (1
Peter 1:17, 18; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; 1 Peter 1:5, 11; 1 Cor. 6:20). Love God that
has loved you first (1 John
Ps. 116:16). Believe that God will enable you for the practice of holiness
Particularly, walk in love to the saints; exercise forgiveness to your
enemies. Sense of your own sins and God's forgiving you will cause you to pity
and forgive others, else you cannot pray or trust for forgiveness of your own
sins upon reasonable grounds (Eph. 4:31, 32; Matt. 6:14, 15; 18:21). Desire
grace may be exalted on others, and wait patiently for the full declaration of
justification at the great day (Gal. 5:5; Acts 3:19), for here your
justification is known only by faith, but in outward things you are dealt with
as a sinner; then your righteousness shall appear openly and you shall be
dealt with according to it.