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on his ministry, he declared his errand to be, 'to seek and save that which was lost.' The self-righteous pharisees, who were whole in their own eyes, were most of them left to perish in their own deceivings, while publicans and harlots entered into the kingdom of God before them. Every encouragement was given to faith in the Redeemer. In answer to this the diseased were cured, and the guilty forgiven, whatever had been their former character. Those who embraced the Saviour from among the sect of the pharisees, and who were righteous in their own eyes, were brought to an open renunciation of every thing of this kind, and to sue for mercy among the chief of sinners. This was particularly the case of Saul of Tarsus, who counted all things but loss that he might win Christ, and be found in him; not having his own righteousness, which was of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.'*
When the apostles, commissioned by their Lord, went forth preaching the gospel to every creature, this was their errand. To the Jews they thus addressed themselves :
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins : and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.'* As to the gentiles, their address to them was in substance as follows : ‘Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.'!
In almost all the epistles, we find this great truth written in legible characters. It is almost the sole object of that to the Romans. To quote all the evidence from it, were to quote the epistle itself. I shall only observe, that there are some errors noted in that epistle, among
* Phil. iii, 8, 9.
+ Acts xiii. 38, 39.
| 2 Cor. V. 20, 21.
believers, and which were to be objects of forbearance : but justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ, to the renouncing of all dependence on the works of the law, is not represented as a question that divided believers, but as a principle of such importance as to distinguish believers from unbelievers. The gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith; but as it were by the works of the law; for they stumbled at that stumbling stone. Being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.'*
The disorders of the Corinthians were greater than those of any other of the primitive churches. This, with some who profess to believe this important truth in the present day, would have been thought a sufficient reason for withholding it in this instance, lest it should be abused: but Paul did not withhold it. Of him,' says he,' are yo in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.'+ He had found them sunk in vice and profligacy. Speaking of fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners; and such,' says he, were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.' I
The epistle to the Galatians, like that to the Romans, is principally composed of this doctrine. It is here considered of such importance as that the rejection of it 'perverted the gospel of Christ.' Those teachers who set themselves against it, and thereby troubled the churches, the apostle wished to have them 'cut off' from among them. And those professors of christianity, who gave into another system, he considered as ' fallen from grace,' or as having deserted the truth of the gospel ; and told them plainly, that Christ was become of no effect to them.'*
* Rom. ix. 30-32. X. 3.
t 1 Cor. i. 30, 31.
| 1 Cor, vi. 9–11.
The epistle to the Ephesians, the object of which seems to be to endear Christ, and the knowledge of him, enumerates the spiritual blessings with which God hath blessed us in him, and among these is his having made us "accepted in the Beloved.' And again, 'By grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.'
Similar observations might be made on almost all the remaining epistles. I shall content myself with only referring to a few passages in the margin,t and offering a few remarks on the apparent inconsistency of Paul and James on this subject. If the justification on which these sacred writers insist were the same, their doctrine would certainly wear every appearance of contradiction, inasmuch as that the one affirms we are justified by faith without the works of the law,' while the other insists that à man is justified by works, and not by faith only.' Yea, and what is more, each of them appeals to the case of Abraham, as an example of his doctrine. I But if the justification on which they severally insist be different, different things may be affirmed concerning each, without any contradiction. And this is manifestly the case. Paul discourses on the justification of the ungodly, or of sinners being accepted of God, which is by faith in the righteousness of Christ, without works. James, on the justification of the godly, or of a saint being approved of God, and which is by works. Abraham is said to have been justified by faith, when he first believed the promise, prior to his circumcision; but by works many years after it, his faith was made manifest, when he offered Isaac his son upon the altar. The one therefore relates to his acceptance with God as a sinner, the other to his being approved of God as a saint. Both together completed his character. He believed, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness :' he obeyed, and was called the friend of God.'
* Gal. i. 7. v. 4, 12.
+ Phil, iii. 7-9. I Tim. i. 9. Tit. iii. 447. 2 Pet. i. 1. 1 John ii. 1. Rev. xix. 8.
| Rom. iv. 1-6. James ii, 21-26.
Upon the whole, if these observations be just, we are, by this appellation given to the christian church, furnished with a criterion by which to judge of it. It is composed of such characters as, renouncing all dependence upon their own righteousness, rely only upon the righteousness of Christ for acceptance with God; while at the same time their faith is not a dead inoperative opinion, but a vital principle productive of good works.
We also see the justice with which divines have insisted on the importance of this great article of faith. It was with good reason that Luther, in particular, considered it as a kind of corner stone in the Reformation. Those reformed communities, whether national or congregational, which have relinquished this principle in their confessions of faith, or which, retaining it in their confessions, yet renounce or neglect it in their ordinary ministrations, have with it lost the spirit and power of true religion.
DOCTRINE OF IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS DEFENDED,
Against the exceptions of a Correspondent, in 1799.
I AGREE with your correspondent, Christopher, that “a manly and christian avowal of our sentiments tends to the discovery and establishment of truth;” to which also “I devoutly wish that all our differences may verge.” But if I thought that “difference of opinion," or as I should call it, the imbibing of opposite religious principles, was any otherwise “unavoidable in the present state," than as every other species of sinful imperfection is so, I should consider the attainment of truth as an object of no importance; and all our labours to rectify our own and each others' errors, as so many attempts to subvert the order of nature. It were absurd to attempt to reduce to uniformity the natural differences of men's tastes and features: and if differences in religion be of the same kind, as your correspondent seems to think, it were equally absurd to attempt to lessen them, or “devoutly to wish them to verge towards truth.”
But really, sir, I feel at a loss how to enter upon a defence: and this because I cannot perceive that any thing I have advanced is the object of your correspondent's attack. It is true, he begins by expressing his disapprobation of Imputed righteousness: but I am not the inventor of that doctrine, or of the terms by which it is expressed. If there be any thing objectionable in either, it is the apostle Paul that must be accountable for it, who in the fourth chapter of his epistle to the Romans has repeatedly used the very language, at which your correspondent has taken offence. If the objection had been made to any explanation of the doctrine which I had given, I should have considered myself as called upon to reply: but as what is alleged is against imputation itself, I have no concern in the business. It is on Paul that Christopher has made his attack, and he and Paul must settle the matter.
It is true, he has explicitly stated the notion of imputation to which he objects, which he says is this—“To ascribe that to a man which he has not, whereby he is considered righteous, or a good man.” But this is as foreign from any thing I have advanced, as darkness is from light. To have answered me, he should have collected my ideas of the subject: if there were none to collect, there could be nothing to answer. I have no notion