Images de page

had said that the Corinthians were washed, that is, delivered from the power of sin, he more particularly shews wherein that washing consisteth. Now the power of sin over man is twofold. 1st, That it compels him to the servile works of wickedness. dly, That it condemns him. The dominion is destroyed by sanctification: the power of condemning, by justification. Both these are bestowed on the Elect in the name of the Lord Jesus; that is on account of his merits, and by his authority and will; and by the spirit of our God, who is the author of sanctification, and sweetly insinuates the sentence of justification into the minds of believers. Both these benefits are sealed in Baptism, to the washing of which there is here an evident allusion. Nor should it offend us, that sanctification is here put before justification; a diligent enquirer cannot but know that the Scripture does not always exactly observe that order, as that things first in time are set in the first place. Thus even Peter puts vocation before election, 2 Pet. i. 10. Besides justification consists of various articles, as we will shew more distinctly in its place.

III. However, I cannot conceal that there are two places in which the term justify may seem to denote something more than a mere declaration of righteousness, though that be also included. The first is, Isa. liii. 11. "by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many." It is indeed true that our Lord Jesus Christ is constituted judge by the Father, and consequently empowered to absolve his Elect who were given him but here he is not represented as a judge pronouncing sentence, but as the cause which, both by merit and efficacy, brings and gives to his own people that righteousness on account of which they may be absolved at the bar of God: and the unusual construction of the word with the article of the dative case calls for our notice. It is therefore the same as if the Prophet had said, be will make a righteousness unto many, that which he himself performed as the cause of righteousness, he will communicate to many and thus dixi bis righteousness will redound to many, and unto justification of life, as the Apostle speaks, Rom. v. 18. which I would have to be compared with this passage.

XIV. The other testimony I hinted at is, Dan. xii. 3. where the faithful preachers of the Gospel are said to be jus-tifying many. None doubts that it belongs to the office of the ministers of the Gospel to publish, in the name of God, absolution from sin to the contrite in heart. But the compass of their function is much more extensive, namely, that by their preaching, example, and prayers, they may bring as


many as possible to such a state as remission of sins may be preached, and that with special application unto them, who by faith and repentance are reconciled unto God, and are diligent in the practice of holiness. The ministry of reconciliation with which they were entrusted comprizes all this. They who are diligent in the performance of these things, are said to justify many, because they stir them up to repentance, which is the beginning of righteousness or holiness; to faith, whereby they lay hold on the righteousness of Christ, on account of which they may be pardoned; to the practice of a holy life, which when they prove by their works, they may obtain fuller assurance of their justification by the ministers in the name of God.

XV. We have been the fuller on the signification of this word justify, that, at the same time, we might shew the force of various testimonies of Scripture, nothing being more pleasant and useful than the study of this. But when treating of justification we shall always take that term in the declaraWhich being observed once for all, let us now address ourselves to the more distinct examination of the thing itself.

tive sense.

XVI. The declaration of God concerning men either regards some of their particular actions, or their whole state. The actions of men are considered, either in relation to the rule of the divine will, or in comparison with the actions of others, whether more or less evil. God pronounces absolutely on actions, when he declares them either evil condemning man in them; as Nathan said to David in the name of God, 2 Sam. xii. 9. "thou hast despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight:" or good, justifying a man in them; in which sense David, having his eyes intent on the justice of his cause against his enemies, prays, Psal. vii. 8. judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me." Thus God justified Job when he declared that he "spoke of him the thing which is right." Job xlii. 8.

[ocr errors]

XVII. The example of Phinehas is here very memorable, Psal. cvi. 30, 31. "then stood up Phinehas and executed judgment; and so the plague was stayed. And that was accounted unto him for righteousness, unto all generations for ever more." The fact of Phinehas was thus: Zimri, one of the princes of the tribe of Simeon brought into his tent, with an incredible impudence, Cozbi a daughter of the king of Midian, in the sight of the princes of his people, with an intent to pollute her and himself with whoredom; while Mo



ses, with the whole congregation, stood in tears, at the door of the tabernacle, to deprecate the vengeance of God already broke out. Phinehas, son of Eleazar, the High Priest, and himself a Priest, could not bear this sight; but being inflained with a mighty zeal, and moved with the indignity of the action, rushed from amidst the congregation, and taking up a javelin, thrust them both through in the very act of their whoredom.

XVIII. There were many things in this action which, to outward appearance, were faulty. Ist, Phinehas was a priest whom it did not become to imbrue his hands in human blood. For if it brought guilt on a priest, to be expiated by sacrifice, to have touched a dead body, much more to have made a living man a dead carcase. 2dly, He was none of the judges of Israel, whom Moses, at the command of God himself, deputed to punish the guilty, by hanging them up before the Lord, Numb. xxv. 4, 5. 3dly, He did not observe the due order or course of justice, because he began with the execution. 4thly, The whole seemed to breath an enraged passion of mind, rather than a zeal tempered with due lenity. For these reasons, Phinehas might be thought to have been guilty of a horrid murder; and on that account, to have forfeited the honour of the priesthood.

XIX. But it is plain, it appeared otherwise in the sight of God, who pronounced the action right, commending this zeal of his, and declaring, that he was so pleased with it, that therefore he averted his great wrath from the children of Israel. And Phinehas was so far from being divested of the priesthood on that account, that on the contrary, God adjudged to him and his seed after him a perpetual priesthood, by a covenant of peace that was to last for ever, Numb. xxv. 11, 12, 13. And this is what David sings," it was counted unto him for righteousness," that is, it was judged that he had acted in a due and regular manner, and was therefore more worthy of praise and reward, than of blame and punishment.


XX. And as this man was justified in that absolutely, so others are justified in their actions, comparatively, or when compared with the actions of others which are far worse. this sense it is said, Jer. iii. 117" the backsliding Israel hath justified hereself more than treacherous Judah." That is, by her works hath shewed herself more righteous and innocent, professing according to the sentiments of her heart, and not acting so hypocritically and deceitfully, as the prevaricating and dissembling Judah, who would appear, as if she was converted to me, while in the mean time, she profanes my name.

In like


manner, Ezek. xvi. 31." thou hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done." Thou hast behaved in such a manner, that in comparison of thee, they may seem to be innocent.

XXI. Thus much for the declaration of God concerning the actions of men. On the other hand, his declaration as to their state is of several kinds. For either God considers them as they are in themselves, according to inherent qualities, either vitious through corrupt nature, or holy and laudable, through reforming grace; or as they are reputed in Christ the surety.

XXII. God can neither consider nor declare men to be otherwise than as they really are. For his judgment is according to truth," Rom. ii. 2. and therefore they, who are still under the dominion of sin, and walk with delight, according to their depraved lusts, are judged and declared by God to be unregenerate, wicked and slaves of the devil, as they really are; for, "by no means does he clear the guilty, Exod. xxxiv. 7. but they who are regenerated by his grace, created anew after his image, and heartily give themselves up to the practice of sincere holiness, are by him absolved from the sin of profaneness, impiety and hypocrisy, and are no longer looked upon as dead in sins, slaves to the devil, children of the world; but as true belivers, his own children, restored to his image, and endowed with his life. It was thus he justified his servant Job, declaring, "that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and esheweth evil, Job i. 8.

XXIII. And this is still the case of all believers. The devil indeed, who is the accuser of the brethren, frequently charges them with hypocrisy before God, as if they did not serve him in sincerity; and he not only thus accuses them before God, but he also disquiets their conscience, as if all their faith and piety were only a mask and outward shew, by which they have hitherto imposed not only on others, but also on themselves. In order to calm the consciences of believers, when thus shaken by the false accuser, they have need to be absolved from this accusation, and justified from this false testimony before God; which God also daily does, assuring the elect of the sincerity of their conversion, by the testimony of his spirit, and thereby shewing, that "the praise of a true Jew is of him," Rom. ii. 29. This justification is indeed very different from that other, of which we shall presently treat, wherein the person is absolved from sins, whereof he is really guilty, and which are forgiven him on Christ's account. In this we are


speaking of he is acquitted of sins, which he is not chargeable with, and is declared not to have committed.

XXIV. The foundation of this justification can be nothing but inherent holiness and righteousness. For, as it is a declaration concerning a man, as he his in himself: by the regenerating and sanctifying grace of God, so it ought to have for its foundation, that which is found in man himself: He that doth righteousness is righteous, says John, 1 John iii. 7. and Peter says, Acts x. 34, 35. "of a truth, I perceive, that in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with God." And Luke in the name of God, gives this testimony to the parents of John the Baptist, that they were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," Luke i. 6. But yet inherent righteousness is not the foundation of this justification, from its own worthiness, or because it is a holiness exactly commensurate with the rule of the law, but because it is the work of the Holy Spirit in the Elect, which God cannot but acknowledge and delight in as his own, and because the failings with which it is always stained in this world are forgiven for Christ's sake.

[ocr errors]


XXV. In this sense we think the apostle James speaks of justification in that much controverted passage, Jam. ii. 21. 24. where he declares, that " Abraham was not justified by faith only, but also by works," and insists npon it, that every man ought to be justified in this manner. For the scope of the apostle is to shew, that it is not sufficient for a Christian to boast of the remission of his sins, which indeed is obtained by faith only, but then it must be a living faith on Christ; but that besides he ought to labour after holiness, that being justified by faith only, that is acquitted from the sins he had been guilty of, on account of Christ's satisfaction, apprehended by faith, he may likewise be justified by his works, that is, declared to be truly regenerated, believing and holy; behaving as becomes those who are regenerated, believing and holy. Thus our father Abraham behaved, who having been before now justified by faith only, that is, obtained the remission of his sins, was afterwards also justified by his works. For, when he offered up his son to God, then God said to him, "now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me," Gen. xxii. 12. And James insists upon it, that this last justification is so necessary to believers, that, if it be wanting, the first ought to be accounted only vain and imaginary.

XXVI. These things are evident from Scripture: but least any after the manner of the world should ridicule this, I in


« PrécédentContinuer »