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How to exercise Faith about Pardon of Sin and Justification. The practice of faith about our justification, is hindered by so many unhappy controversies and heresies, that what to do with them here in our way, not very easy to determine. Should I omit the mention of them, I leave most that I write for, either under that disease itself, or the danger of it, which may frustrate all the rest which I must say: for the errors hereabout are swarming in most quarters of the land, and are like to come to the ears of most that are studious of these matters : so that an antidote to most, and a vomit to the rest, is become a matter of necessity, to the success of all our practical directions.
And yet many cannot endure to be troubled with difficulties, who are slothful, and must have nothing set before them that will cost them much study; and many peaceable Christians love not any thing that soundeth like controyersy or strife (as others that are sons of contention relish nothing else). But averseness must give place to necessity. If the leprosy arise, the priest must search it, and the physician' must do his best to cure it, notwithstanding their natural averseness to it. Though I may be as averse to write against errors, as the reader is to read what I write, we must both blame that which causeth the necessity, but not therefore deny our necessary duty : but yet I will so far gratify them that need no more, as to put the more practical directions first, that they may pass by the heap of errors after, if their own judgments prevail not against their unwillingness.
Direct. 1. Understand well what need you have of par'don of sin, and justification, by reason of your guilt, and of God's law and justice, and the everlasting punishment which is legally your due.'
1. It must be a sensible, awakening, practical knowledge of our own great necessity, which must teach us to value Christ as a Saviour, and to come to him in that empty, sick and weary plight, as is necessary in those who will make use of him for their supply and cure ; Matt. ix. 12. xi. 28, 29. A superficial, speculative knowledge of our
sin and misery, will prepare us but for a superficial opinionative faith in Christ, as the remedy; but a true sense of both, will teach us to think of him as a Saviour indeed.
2. Original sin, and actual, the wickedness both of the heart and life, even all our particular sins of omission and commission, and all their circumstances and aggravations, are the first reason of our great necessity of pardon : and therefore it cannot but be a duty to lay them to heart as particularly as we can, to make that necessity, and Christ's redemption the better understood ; Acts ii.37. xxii. 8, 9,&c.
3. The wrath of God, and the miseries of this life, and the everlasting miseries of the damned in hell, being the due effects or punishment of sin, are the second cause of our necessity of pardon : and therefore these also must be thought on seriously, by him that will seriously believe in Christ.
4. The law of God which we have broken, maketh this punishment our due ; Rom. iii. v. vii. And the justice of God is engaged to secure his own honour, in the honour of his law and government.
Direct. 2. Understand well what Christ is and doth, for the justification of a sinner, and how (not one only) but all the parts of his office are exercised hereunto.'
In the dignity of his person, and perfect original holiness of his natures, divine and human, he is fitly qualified for his work of our justification and salvation.
His undertaking (which is but the Divine decree) did from eternity lay the foundation of all, but did not actually justify any.
His promise, (Gen. iii. 15.) and his new relation to man thereupon, did that to the fathers in some degree, which his after-incarnation and performance, and his relation thereupon, doth now to us.
His perfect obedience to the law; yea, to that law of mediation also peculiar to himself (which he performed neither as priest, or prophet, or king, but as a subject) was the meritorious cause of that covenant and grace which justifieth us, and so of our justification. And that which is the meritorious cause here, is also usually called the material, as it is that matter or thing which meriteth our justification; and so is called our righteousness itself.
As he was a sacrifice for sin, he answered the ends of
the law which we violated, and which condemned us, as well as if we had been all punished according to the sense of the law: and therefore did thereby satisfy the Law-giver: and thereby also merited our pardon and justification ; so that his obedience as such, and his sacrifice (or whole humiliation) as satisfactory by answering the ends of the law, are conjunctly the meritorious cause of our justification.
His new covenant (which in baptism, is made mutual by our expressed consent) is a general gift or act of oblivion, or pardon, given freely to all mankind, on condition they will believe and consent to it, or accept it; so that it is God's pardoning and adopting instrument: and all are pardoned by it conditionally; and every penitent believer actually and really. And this covenant or gift is the effect of the aforesaid merit of Christ, both founded and sealed by his blood.
As he mérited this as a mediating subject and sacrifice, so as our High Priest he offered this sacrifice of himself to God.
And as our King, he being the Law-giver to the church, did make this covenant as his law of gracé, describing the terms of life and death : and being the Judge of the world, doth by his sentence justify and condemn men, as believers or unbelievers, according to this covenant: and also executeth his sentence accordingly (partly in this life, but fully in the life to come).
As our Teacher, and the Prophet, or Angel of the Covenant, he doth declare it as the Father's will, and promulgate and proclaim this covenant and conditional pardon and justification to the world, and send out his ambassadors with it to beseech men in his name to be reconciled to God, and to declare, yea, and by sacramental investiture, to seal and deliver a pardon and actual justification to believers when they consent.
And as our Mediating High Priest now in the heavens, he presenteth our necessity, and his own righteousness and sacrifice as his merits, for the continual communication of all this grace, by himself, as the Head of the church, and administrator of the covenant.
So that Christ doth justify us both as a subject meriting, as a sacrifice meriting, as a Priest offering that sacrifice; as
a King actually making the justifying law, or enacting 'a general pardon; as a King sententially and executively justifying; as a Prophet or Angel of the Covenant promulgating it; as King, and Prophet, and Priest, delivering a sealed pardon by his messengers; and as the Priest, Head and Administrator communicating this with the rest of his benefits. By which you may see in what respects Christ must be believed in to justification, if justifying faith werę (as it is not) only the receiving him as our justifier : it would not be the receiving him as in one part of his office only.'
Direct. 3. •Understand rightly how far it is that the righteousness of Christ himself is made ours, or imputed to us, and how far not.'
There are most vehement controversies to this day, about the imputation of Christ's righteousness; in which I know not well which of the extremes are in the greater error, those that plead for it in the mistaken sense, or those that plead against it in the sober and right sense : but I make no doubt but they are both of them damnable, as plainly subverting the foundation of our faith. And yet I do not think that they will prove actually damning to the authors, because I believe that they misunderstand their adversaries, and do not well understand themselves ; and that they digest not, and practise not what they plead for, but digest and practise that truth which they doctrinally subvert, not knowing the contrariety; which if they knew they would renounce the error, and not the truth. And I think that many a one that thus contradicteth fundamentals,
may be saved.
Some there be (besides the Antinomians) that hold that Christ did perfectly obey and satisfy, (not in the natural, but) in the civil or legal person of each sinner that is elect (representing and bearing as many distinct persons as are elect), so fully as that God doth repute every elect person (or say others, every believer) to be one that in law sense, did perfectly obey and satisfy justice himself; and so imputeth Christ's righteousness and satisfaction to us, as that which was reputatively or legally of our own performance, and so is ours, not only in its effects, but in itself.
Others seeing the pernicious consequences of this opinion, deny all imputed righteousness of Christ to us, and write many reproachful volumes against it (as you may see
in Thorndike's last Works, and Dr. Gell, and Parker, against the Assembly, and abundance more).
The truth is, Christ merited and satisfied for us in the person
of Mediator: but this Mediator was the Head and root of all believers, and the second Adam, the Fountain of spiritual life; and the Surety of the new covenant, (Heb. vii, 22. 1 Cor. xv. 24; 25.) and did all this in the nature of man, and for the sake and benefit of man; suffering, that we might not suffer damnation, but not obeying that we might not obey ; but suffering and obeying that our sinful imperfection of obedience might not be our ruin, and our perfect obedience might not be necessary to our own justification or salvation, but that God might for the sake and merit of this his perfect obedience and satisfaction, forgive all our sins, and adopt us for his sons, and give us his Holy Spirit, and glorify us for ever; so that Christ's righteousness,
both obediential and satisfactory, is ours in the effects of it in themselves, and ours relatively for these effects, so far as to be purposely given for us to that end; but not ours in itself simply, or as if we were reputed the legal performers ourselves, or might be said in law sense, or by Divine estimation or imputation, to have ourselves in and by Christ fulfilled the law, and suffered for our not fulfilling it (which is a contradiction).
As he that both hy a price, and by some meritorious act, doth redeem a captive, or purchase pardon for a traitor, doth give the money and merit in itself to the prince, and not to the captive or traitor himself. (He never saw it, nor ever had propriety in the thing itself;) But the deliverance is the prisoner's, and not the prince's; and therefore it is given to the prisoner, as to the effects, though not in itself; in that it was given for him.
And because Christ suffered what we should have suffered (as to the value), to save us from suffering, and our sins were not the cause of our guilt or punishment, and so the remote cause of the sufferings of Christ (his own sponsion being the nearer cause), therefore it may be said truly, that Christ did not only suffer for our benefit, but in our stead or place; and in a larger and less strict and proper sense, that he suffered in the person of a sinner, and as one to whom our sins were imputed ; meaning no more but that