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instead of death, glory for shame, and happiness for misery. For this reason the apostle with vehemence declares that to be the sole ground of his boasting and triumph, which others esteemed a cause of blushing ; “ God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Jesus Christ,” Gal. vi. 14. He rejects with extreme detestation the mention of any other thing, as the cause of his happiness and matter of his glory. The cross was a tree of death to Christ, and of life to us. The supreme wisdom is justified of its children.
IV. The satisfaction of divine justice by the sufferings of Christ, affords the strongest assurance to man, who is a guilty and suspicious creature, that God is most ready to pardon sin.
There is in the natural conscience, when opened by a piercing conviction of sin, such a quick sense of guilt and God's justice, that it can never have an entire confidence in his mercy till justice be atoned. From hence the convinced sinner is restlessly inquisitive how to find out the way of reconciliation with a righteous God. Thus he is represented inquiring by the prophet, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God ? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old ? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil ? Shall I give my first born for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul ?" Mic. vi. 6, 7. The scripture tells us, that some consumed their children to render their idols favourable to them. But all these means were ineffectual ; their most costly sacrifices were only food for the fire. Nay, instead of expiating their old, they committed new sins; and were so far from appeasing, that they inflamed the wrath of God by their cruel oblations. But in the gospel there is the most rational and easy way propounded for the satisfaction of God and the justification of man. " The righteousness of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or who shall descend into the deep ? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead :) but if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved,” Rom. x. 6, 7, 9. The apostle sets forth the anxiety of an awakened sinner; he is at a loss to find out a way to escape judgment; for things that are on the surface of the earth, or floating on the waters, are within our view, and may be obtained ; but those which are above our understanding
to discover, or power to obtain, are proverbially said to be in
the heavens above or in the deeps. And it is applied here • to the different ways of justification, by the law and by the
gospel. The law propounds life upon an impossible condition, but the gospel clearly reveals to us, that Christ hath performed what is necessary for our justification, and that by a lively and practical faith we shall have an interest in it. The Lord Jesus being ascended, hath given us a convincing proof that the propitiation for our sins is perfect ; for otherwise he had not been received into. God's sanctuary. Therefore to be under perplexities : how we may be justified, is to deny the value of his righteousness and the truth of his ascension. And “say not, Who shall descend into the deep,” to bear the torments of hell and expiate sin? This is to deny the virtue of his death, whereby he appeased God, and redeemed us from the wrath to come. In the law the condemning righteousness of God is made visible; in the gospel, his justifying righteousness is revealed," from faith to faith." And this is an infallible proof of its divine descent; for whereas all other religions either stupify conscience and harden it in carnal security, or terrify it by continual alarms of vengeance, the gospel alone hath discovered how God may show mercy to repenting sinners without injury to his justice. The heathens robbed one attribute to enrich another. Either they conceived God to be indulgent to their sins and easy to pardon, to the prejudice of his justice; or cruel and revengeful, to the dishonour of his goodness : but Christians are instructed how these are wonderfully reconciled and magnified in our redemption. From hence there is a divine calm in the conscience, and that "peace which passeth understanding." ,
. The soul is not only freed from the fear of God's anger, but hath a lively hope of his favour and love. This is expressed by the apostle, when he reckons among the privileges of believers, that they “are come to God the Judge of all, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel,” Heb. xii. 23. The apprehension of God as the Judge of the world, strikes the guilty:with fear and terror; but as he is sweetened by the Mediator, we may approach to him with confidence; for what sins are there which so entire a satisfaction doth no expiate ? What torments can they deserve, which his wounds and stripes have not removed ? God is just, as well as merciful, in justifying those who believe in
Jesus. It is not the quality of sins, but of sinners, that excepts them from pardon. Christ is the golden altar in heaven” for penitent believers to fly to, from whence God will never pluck any one to destroy him.
V. From hence we may learn how absolute a necessity there is for our coming to Christ for justification.
There are but two ways of appearing before the righteous and supreme Judge,-in innocence and sinless obedience, or by the righteousness of Christ. The one is by the law, the other by grace.
And these two can never be compounded; for he that pleads innocence, in that disclaims favour; and he that sues for favour, acknowledges guilt.
1. Now the first cannot be performed by us ; for entire obedience to the law supposes the integrity of our natures, there being a inoral impossibility that the faculties once corrupted should act regularly ; but man is stained with original sin from his conception. And the form of the law runs universally; Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,” Gal. iii. 10. In these scales, one evil work preponderates a thousand good. If a man were guilty but of one single error, his entire obedience afterwards could not save him ; for that being always due to the law, the payment of it cannot discount for the former debt. So that we cannot in any degree be justified by the law; for there is no middle between transgressing and not transgressing it. He that breaks one article in a covenant, cuts off his claim to any benefit by it.
Briefly, the law justifies only the perfect, and condemns without distincti all that are guilty; so that pretend justification by the works of it, is as unreasonable, as for a man to produce in court the bond which obliges him to his creditor, in testimony that he owes him nothing. Whoever presumes to appear before God's judgment-seat in his own righteousness shall be covered with confusion.
2. By the righteousness of Christ. This alone absolves from the guilt of sin, saves from hell, and can endure the trial of God's tribunal. This the apostle prized as his invaluable treasure, in comparison of which all other things are but dross and dung ; “ That I may win Christ and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” Phil. iii. 9. That which he ordained and rewarded in the person of our Redeemer,
he cannot but accept. Now this righteousness is meritoriously imputed only to believers; for depending solely upon the will of God as to its being and effects, it cannot possibly be reckoned to any for their benefit and advantage, but in that way which he hath appointed. The Lord Christ, who made satisfaction, tells us, that the benefit of it is communicated only through our believing; “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, should not perish,” John iii. 16. As all sins are mortal in respect of their guilt, but death is not actually inflicted for them upon account of the grace of the new covenant; so all sins are venial in respect of the satisfaction made by Christ, but they are not actually pardoned, till the performing of the condition to which pardon is annexed. Faith transfers the guilt from the sinner to the sacrifice. And this is not an act restrained to the understanding, but principally respects the will, by which we accept or refuse salvation. The nature of it is best expressed by the scripture phrase, “the receiving of Christ,” which respects the terms upon which God offers him in the gospel, to be our Prince and Saviour. The state of favour begins upon our consent to the new covenant. And how reasonable is the condition it requires ! How impossible is it to be otherwise ! God is reconcileable by the death of Christ, so that he may exercise mercy without injury to his justice and holiness : he is willing and desirous to be upon terms of amity with men, but cannot be actually reconciled till they accept of
for reconcilement is between two. Though God upon. the account of Chirst is made placable to the human nature, which he is not to the angelical in its lapsed state, and hath condescended so far as to offer conditions of peace to men, yet they are not reconciled at once. That Christ may become an effectual Mediator, there must be the consent of both parties. As God hath declared his by laying the punishment of our sins on Christ, so man gives his, by submitting to the law of faith. And the great end of preaching the gospel is, to overcome the obstinacy of men, and reconcile them to God and their happiness : “We are ambassadors for Christ; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God;" with this difference-Christ furnished the means, they only bring the message of reconciliation, 2 Cor. v. 20.
Now men are with difficulty wrought on to comply with the conditions of pardon by Christ.
(1.) Upon the account of a legal temper that universally inclines them to seek for justification by their own works. This is most suitable to the law and light of nature ; for the tenor of the first covenant was, Do and live. So that the way of gospel justification, as it is supernatural in its discovery, so in its contrariety to man's principles. Besides, as pride at first aspired to make man as God, so it tempts him to usurp the honour of Christ, to be his own Saviour. He is unwilling to stoop, that he may drink of the waters of life. Till the heart by the weight of its guilt is broken in pieces, and loses its former fashion and figure, it will not humbly comply with the offer of salvation for the merits of another. And it is very remarkable, that upon the first opening of the gospel, no evangelical doctrine was more disrelished by the Jews, than justification by imputed righteousness. The apostle gives this account of their opposition, that “being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they submitted not themselves to the righteousness of God,” Rom. x. 3. They were prepossessed with this principle, that life was to be obtained by their works, because the express condition of the law was so; and mistaking the end of its institution by Moses, they set the law against the promises ; for since the fall, the law was given, not absolutely to be a covenant of life, but with a design to prepare men for the gospel, that upon the sight of their guilt and the curse, they might have recourse to the Redeemer, and by faith embrace that satisfaction he hath made for them. 66 Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Rom. x. 4. From the example of the Jews we may see how men are naturally affected. And it is worthy of observation, that the reformation of religion took its rise by the same controversy with the papists, by which the gospel was first introduced into the world ; for, besides innumerable abuses crept into the church, the people were persuaded, that by purchasing indulgences they should be saved from the wrath of God. And when this darkness covered the face of the earth, the zeal of the first reformers broke forth ; who, to undeceive the world, clearly demonstrated from the scriptures, that justification is obtained alone by a lively and purifying faith in the blood of Christ—a strong proof that the same gospel which was first revealed by the apostles, was received by those excel