Images de page

tiones Hesiod. And what is more suitable than by the mammon of unrighteousness, Luke xvi. 9. to understand not the true riches, such as the spiritual and heavenly are, for ver. 11. the unrighteous mammon is opposed to the true riches. Is not that signification of the word clear from 1 John i. 9. " if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins:" that is, faithful and true? For, who will say that God owes the pardon of sins in justice, without any mixture of grace to him that confesseth them? So also in the place just quoted; God is not unrighteous, that is, deceives not in his gracious promises by which he has adjudged a reward of grace, to our labours of love. The celebrated Iac. Altingius gives us an excellent commentary on this place as follows: "the obligation to the reward depends on the truth of the promiser, who is a debtor to himself, that what he was once pleased, in the promise, to determine the consequence of the work and reward, might always please him in the performance: thus the just and righteous God forgives the sins of the penitent, 1 John i. 9. is the justifier of him that believeth," Rom. iii. 26. And a little after : "every consideration of merit therefore is at an end but a debt remains, which justice will have discharged in respect of what God has promised; who, on account of his truth, which is without repentance, or unchangeable, is debtor to himself to perform his promises," Rom. iii. 3, 4. Deut. vii. 9. This is the justice meant in this place, and God is denied to be unrighteous to forget good works; though he has decreed and promised, out of mere grace and mercy, that recompence: all this is judicious, solid and orthodox.

LXX. This manifestation of mere justice is not more strongly concluded from that day being called the day of the righteous judgment, Rom. ii. 5. For, 1st, It is there called the day of wrath. And yet wrath will not be exercised only, without a manifestation of mercy. 2dly, Even in the justification of a sinner, in this world, there is a declaration of the righteousness of God, Rom. iii. 25; where notwithstanding, as Paul expressly affirms ver. 24. and all own, grace has the principal place : so also here grace reigneth thro' righteousness unto eternal life, Rom. v. 21. 3dly, As God will justly inflict punishments on the impenitent, so in like manner, agreeably to his justice, he will distribute rewards, and shew grace to the godly, as we explained sect. 68. Justice and grace are here not to be opposed but joined together.

LXXI. What is asserted Rom. ii. 11, viz. that with God there is no respect of persons, its still less sufficient to confirm this opinion. For because God does all things without


respect of persons, does it follow that he exercises no grace? When Peter took notice of the piety and faith of Cornelius, and said of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of per. sons, Acts x. 34. did he ever intend by these words to deny that grace was shewn to Cornelius? A non-respect of persons excludes, indeed, injustice, and the consideration of these things which ought to have no place in judgment; but it no ways excludes grace and mercy. These things have been so often confuted that there is no occasion to consider them again.

LXXII. It is a new opinion, and an extraordinary postula. tum, to say, that the works of those who are to be justified, and according to which they shall be judged, will be "perfect, yea most perfect, that nothing may derogate from the righteousness of the judgment of that day." It is a certain truth, that the persons then to be justified, will be perfect : 1st, In Christ, on account of his most perfect righteousness imputed to them, Col. ii. 10. 2dly, In themselves, being then perfectly sanctified: For they who died before that time are called just men made perfect, Heb. xii 23; and they who shall at that day be alive shall be changed, 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. and doubtless obtain perfect holiness by that change which the others obtained at death. But that the works which they performed in this life, can then be said to be most perfect, is neither consonant with scripture nor reason.

LXXIII. The scripture declares, that the works which were done by believers in this life, were not without blemish; because they who performed them had the old man still remaining, who mixed and tainted them with some corruption of his own, Rom. vii. 22, 23, 24. Gal. v. 15: This is without dispute. But the scripture no where says, that these works shall appear otherwise at the last judgment, than they did in this life; nay, it asserts the contrary, when it testifies, that every one shall be judged according to that be hath done in his body, 2 Cor. v. 10; but it is certain that the things done in the body were imperfect. It is also contrary to reason, to say that actions which were imperfect while they were performing, and actually existing, should be declared to be perfect when they were no more; and perfect not only in the estimation of God the judge, but also by, I know not, what sanctification, really perfecting them when they had no further existence. No doubt habits, which are holy when first infused, are perfected by a further sanctification; but that actions which were imperfect while they ex

isted, should become perfect, after they have ceased to be, is inconceivable.

LXXIV. Seeing what we are taught in scripture concer ning the perfection of believers by a progressive sanctification and the death of the body, regards their persons, about the perfection of which there is no dispute, it is erroneous to apply it to their antecedent works. That God refines those works like gold, purging away all their tin and dross, so as to be altogether pure in his eyes, is an unscriptural fancy. The passages, Isa. i. 25. Zech. xiii. 9. Mal. iii. 3. do not treat of works but of persons, nor speak of their absolute perfection, nor have a reference to the day of the last judgment, but relate to the condition of the present life, as will plainly appear to any who will peruse them; and can therefore with no probability be wrested to this sense.

LXXV. Indeed the good works of those who die in the Lord are said to follow them, Rev. xiv. 13. but they are such as they were performed here; and they follow, not in themselves, but in their fruits and effects; in so far as God, in regard of their good works, does good to the pious even after death. For this end it is not requisite that they be perfect; it is sufficient that they be performed in faith, and by the spirit of Christ. I do not remember that the scripture says, that good works shall rise with them. They who speak thus, mean no more, at least they ought to mean no more by that phrase but that in the resurrection of the just, the pious shall rejoice in the gratuitous reward of their holiness. It is said indeed that he, who hath begun a good work in believers, "will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," Phil. i. 6. But by a good work is there meant the communication of the grace of Christ revealed in the gospel, as appears from ver. 5. which God perfects in certain degrees, till the finishing hand is put to it at the last day. There is nothing in that passage relating to the perfection of our actions, which are already over and gone.

LXXVI. In the last place, if good works are there to appear perfect, there can be no reason why they should not be meritorious. For that is certainly meritorious which satisfies every demand of the law; if merit is to be ascribed to such a work, which when a man does, he is to live therein, according to the law of the covenant of works. It is not required to meritorious works, in the sense now in debate, that they are not due and properly our own, that is, that they are done in our own strength without the grace of God. For the papists themselves readily acknowledged, that there are no such me


ritorious works. But by those meritorious works, which are the present subject of dispute, are understood such actions, on performing which one has a right to life. But the only or at least the principal reason, why our works are not meritorious, is what the catechism assigns, because they are imperfect and stained with sin.

LXXVII. Nor will the righteousness of the judgment of that day be in the least diminished, though the works of believers, by which they shall be judged, are imperfect. For, they will not be mentioned as the causes of their right to claim the reward, to which perfection is requisite; but as effects and signs of grace, and of union with Christ, and of a living faith, and of justification by faith, and of a right to life for which their unfeigned sincerity is sufficient. We therefore conclude, that the justification in the next world is not to be so very much distinguished from the justification in this world.

LXXVIII. As this doctrine of free justification, on account of the righteousness of Christ, apprehended by faith alone, is founded on clear testimonies of scripture; so it proves itself to every pious conscience, by its most excellent uses and fruits.

LXXIX. Ist. It tends much to display the glory of God, whose most exalted perfections shine forth with an eminent hustre in this matter. It sets forth the infinite goodness of God, by which he was inclined to procure salvation freely for lost and miserable man," to the praise of the glory of his grace," Eph. i. 6. It displays also the strictest justice, by which he would not forgive even the smallest offence, but on condition of the sufficient engagement, or full satisfaction of the mediator," that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus," Rom. iii. 26. It shews further the unsearchable wisdom of the deity, which found out a way, for the exercise of the most gracious act of mercy, without injury to his strictest justice and infallible truth, which threatened death to the sinner: justice demanded that the soul that sinned should die, Rom. i. 32. Truth had pronounced, * cursed is he that continueth not in all things," Deut xxviii. 26. Goodness, in the mean time, was inclined to adjudge life


Q62. Why cannot our good works be righteousness, or some part of righteousness before God?

A. Because that righteousness, which must stand before the judgment of God, must be in all points perfect and agreeable to the law of God. But our works, even the best of them, are imperfect in this life, and defiled with sin.

to some sinners, but by no other way than what become the majesty of the most holy God Here wisdom interposed, saying, "I will fully satisfy my goodness, and say to mine elect, I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, Isa. xliii. 25. Nor shall you, my justice and my truth, have any cause of complaint, because full satisfaction shall be made to you by a mediator." Hence the incredible philanthrophy of the Lord Jesus shineth forth, who. tho' Lord of all, was made subject to the law, not to the obedience of it only, but also to the curse; "made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor.

V. 21.

LXXX. Ought not the pious soul, who is deeply engaged in the devout meditation of these things, to break out into the praises of a justifying God, and sing with the church, Mich. vii. 17. " who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth inquity, and passeth by transgression! "O! the purity of that 'holiness, which chose rather to punish the sins of the elect in his only begotten Son, than suffer them to go unpunished! 'O! the abyss of his love to the world, for which he spared not his dearest Son, in order to spare sinners! O! the depth ❝ of the riches of unsearchable wisdom, by which he exercises 'mercy towards the penitent guilty, without any stain to the ⚫ honour of the most impartial judge! O! the treasures of love in Christ, whereby he became a curse for us, in order to deliver us therefrom." How becoming the justified soul, who is ready to dissolve in the sense of this love, with full exultation to sing a new song, a song of mutual return of love to a justifying God?

LXXXI. 2dly, This doctrine is likewise calculated for the humility of the sinner, from whom it cuts off all boasting, that the glory may remain unstained to God alone. "What hast 'thou, O man, to boast of? What, wherewith thou canst stand 'before the tribunal of God? Good works? But all thy right⚫eousnesses are as filthy rags, Isa. lxiv. 6. If thou leanest on them, they are, Pope Adrian VI himself being judge, like the staff of a reed which shall break, and pierce thy leaning hand. Perhaps thou wilt boast of thy faith, as if by the ex⚫cellency of that thou canst please God. But even that is like a shaken and shattered reed, to which thou canst not safely trust; and whatever it be, it is the gift of God, Phil. i. 29. • Thou hast received; why dost thou glory as if thou hadst 'not received? 1 Cor. iv. 7. Thou hast nothing of thine ' own to present to God.' Indeed thou hast a great deal of thine own, but it is either sin, or at least what is stained with Vol. I.

3 H


« PrécédentContinuer »