But how should man be just with God? - Job 9 chap. 2 verse.
Jehovah manifested himself to Moses, as the Lord God merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth: and in the New Testament he is called the God of all grace. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. That as sin reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. God is determined to glorify the unsearchable riches of his grace in the salvation of sinners. But how can that be done, without casting a cloud over the divine government, without diminishing the evil of sin, and without insulting divine justice, and bringing his most holy law to the greatest contempt? How can rebels against the government of heaven be forgiven consistently with the nature and requirements of the law? is a question that Gabriel could not answer. How a sinner might be justified, acquitted and considered blameless in the court of heaven? is a question that none, but the infinitely wise God could have answered. The light of nature and human reason, however excellent in themselves, are infinitely too short to be our directory in this all important inquiry. Divine revelation alone, should be our guide, our rule of faith, and practice: by this rule we ought to live, and by this rule we shall be judged at the last day.
In speaking from these words, we would notice
I. The nature of justification, and
II. The foundation of our justification,
1. But let us consider first, the nature of justification.
To justify is a public act of a judge. It is God that justifieth the ungodly. It is a forensic term, a word belonging to courts of judicature to proclaim one just, not liable to punishment. Notwithstanding that justification and remission of sins are immediately connected - yet there is a difference between them. Job could forgive his friends, but he could not justify them. Those whom God justifieth, are not only washed from all their sins, but are made priests and kings to reign with him forever; not only delivered from condemnation, but obtain eternal life; not only liberated from the curse of the law, but also receive the spirit of adoption; they are entitled to an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away; if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. God having prepared our surety, the throne of grace, and the law of the spirit of life and being clothed in the office of a judge, with all the majesty, and glory of his own name, he proclaims the sinner free from condemnation, and accepted in the beloved.
Justification implies two things. Not imputing sin, but the righteousness of Christ to the sinner. Even as David also describeth the righteousness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, that is without the works of the law. Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. In a court of justice, a man may either be justified or forgiven. Some have been proclaimed justified, not guilty of the crimes laid to their charge, by the jury, or the judge from the bench, being not wanting, but of full weight in the balance of the law, they were acquitted. Others have been forgiven in a court of justice,
though they were found guilty. Earthly courts of justice can go no farther. It is impossible for them to justify the guilty; but the court of justice of the law of the spirit of life is infinitely higher, and far more excellent than any earthly court. God is able in the same court, from the same throne, and by the same law, and also in the same sentence to proclaim full pardon to the guilty sinner, and his free justification through the redemption that is in Christ Jnsus. By virtue of the active and passive obedience, the death and resurrection of Christ, the sinner being united to him by faith, he is proclaimed righteous. He is justified on account of what he is in Christ; who bore our sins in his own body on the tree.
Imputed righteousness, reconciling atonement, and quickening spirit in the resurrection are the wonderful things of the gospel - infinitely above the hearing of the ear, the sight of the eye, and the imagination of the heart of man. The righteousness by which the sinner is justified is far more excellent than any other righteousness in heaven or on earth, among angels or men. - It is the righteousness of one - the second Adam. It's one righteousness. One pearl or one undivided piece of pure gold, to which all the members of Christ's mystical body are entitled. It is called the gift of righteousness. It is the gift of free grace in which the sinner can stand before God. It can never be mixed with the works of the law, nor with any of the operations of the Holy Spirit, in illuminating, quickening and sanctifying; nor with any of the graces of the spirit in the hearts of men, such as faith, hope, love, confidence, joy and consolation. It is like oil, always on the surface of the water. It was completely finished on the cross. Jesus is still carrying on his work, but he is not working out a justifying righteousness, since he exclaimed on the cross, it is
finished. All the sinner has in the work of justification is to put on this wedding garment. The law and the prophets, and the six witnesses, three in heaven and three upon earth bear record, or testify of this righteousness. It is the righteousness of God, received by faith, the foundation of the sinner's hope in life, in death, and at the day of judgment.
How cold is the doctrine of mere morality, leaving the poor sinner weltering in his own blood, and wallowing in the mire, without heat nor life; but the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, under the influence of the Holy Spirit warms the heart, quickens the souls, and makes carnal men to be heavealy minded. - Destitute of this truth, it is the country of frost and enow, where the sun never shines.
In the act of justification the sinner is proclaimed free from the curse of the law, and the threatenings of vindictive justice. The relationship between him and old Adam is annihilated, he is married to Christ the second Adam, and his sins are cast to the sea of oblivion, so that he never shall come to condemnation. There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.
2. We would notice the foundation of our justification before God.
This is a subject of the greatest importance; for if we build upon the sand, the whole superstructure will unavoidably fall, and great must be the fall thereof. The Jews being ignorant of God's righteousness went about establishing their own, and would not submit unto the righteousness of God which is of faith. Let us examine these two foundations, the righteousness which is of the law, and that which is of faith.
What sort of righteousness does the law demand as the ground of our acceptance with God? It must originate
in the heart. It must be aa long as the days of our life, without a broken link in the chain; for he that faileth in.one article is guilty of the whole. It must be as broad as to contain all your duties towards God, towards your neighbor, and yourself. It must be as high and as deep, as to contain all the powers of your minds, all the faculties of your souls, without the least imperfection in thought, word, or action. Your obedience to the demands of the law, must be personal, perfect, and perpetual; not one of its commandments can be violated without being obnoxious to the just, and awful wrath, and displeasure of the Lawgiver. The coin must he of pure gold; full measure, and full weight, and bearing the right and lawful stamp, before it can be accepted. - The language of the law, as proclaimed from Sinai's fiery pulpit is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Tliou shalt serve me only. Thou shalt remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness; and to sum up the whole, Thou shalt not covet, any thing that belongs to either God or man. You shall keep my statutes and my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them; but cursed is every man that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.
But the language of the righteousness which is of faith is, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. He that believeth shall not be confounded. Hear this report, - receive it cordially, - and reduce it to practice, that your souls might live. Though you have been guilty of violating the law; Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, for every one that believeth. Flee to him for refuge, who magnified the law, and made it honorable. Your consciences bear
witness against you, that you have not done these things; and there you are in the land of asking questions, full of that fear which hath torment. Who shall ascend to heaven, and bring salvation down from there for my guilty soul? Light from heaven is shining upon my conscience, in which I see that God is angry with me, and his wrath is continually dropping upon my conscience for my ungodliness. Who shall descend into the deep, to the land of darkness, and the region of the shadow of death, and return with the news that there is one ready, and able, to be the guilty sinner's friend! You know that you hare sinned against heaven, and in the sight of God. You see, as it were, a hand, writing against the plaster of the wall of the chamber of your consciences, the solemn and awful word, Tekel, - thou hast been weighed in the balance, and art found wanting. The sight of the dark mountains and the gloomy vale of Jordan, are terrific in their aspect. The horrors of the grave, and the very idea of the bottomless pit, where ths worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, fill your mind with fear and trembling. Sometimes you imagine that you hear the cries of the damned in hell, weeping and gnashing their teeth, and in the greatest torment and agony of mind, crying, we shall be tormented in this flame; and the smoke of their torments ascending forever and ever. These horrific feelings, like so many death wanants, must arrest you some time or other, if your consciences are not seared as with hot iron. In this gloomy and terrific vale of despair, the law leaves you to. die the death eternal; asking questions that it is not in the power of nonius to answer. But the righteousness which is of faith, removes your fears, and opens a door of hope for you in the valley of Achor. It is completely finished by Jesus on Calvary, and is exhibited in the gospel as a perfect righteousness. It is
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The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ has so abounded like a river overflowing its banks, and carrying away thousands of poor sinners, not to the dead sea, but to the sea of eternal life. Grace and works in the justification of sinners, can no more be mixed together than oil and water; for each of them belong to a different covenant. Jesus the captain of our salvation never engaged to repair the old vessel of the first covenant; but he is the Mediator of a better, and entirely new covenant, made upon better promises, to which the drowned crew of the first vessel are taken up and made alive, which the first covenant could not do. The law is holy, but we are unclean; the law is spiritual, but we are carnal; the law is just, but we are unjust; the law is good, but the very imaginations of our hearts are evil, and that continually. The law will not compromise matters with any one whatever, it is not relaxed, nor any of its rigid demands abated; as it has the same commanding power, so it has the same condemning power over all those who are destitute of a righteousness answerable to its demands.
Therefore we evidently see the utter impossibility of fallen man to be justified in the sight of God on the ground of his obedience to the demands of the law. - Were it possible, Christ must have died in vain, and the infinite wisdom of God must have been eternally envelo. pod in thick darkness. God will never have his es. sential glory, nor the glory of his works divided with idols; neither will he have the glory of his grace divided with men. The law and works answer one another exceedingly well. The law demands, the works of obedience, pay; works, give; the law, receives. Graee and faith also agree very well. Grace on the foundation of the atonement bestows blessings freely, without money and without price; and faith that has nothing to pay, receives
them cordially and thankfully. Grace by conferring such inestimable blessings upon the unworthy, obtains great praise and glory; and failh gets its living by receiving those blessings. God confers blessings upon sinners according to the riches of his grace; and sinners-receive according to the strength of their faith. Faith and the law cannot agree at all, for both of them are seeking and receiving ; neither can works and grace agree, for both of them get their living by giving. It was the God of grace in his infinite wisdom, appointed the surety by whom alone we can be justified. The iniquities of us all were laid on him. He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. He is the end of the law for righteousness, for every one that believeth. He who knew no sin was made a sin-offering for us, that wo might be made the righteousness of God in him. The righteousness of Christ is implied in his perfect obedience to the demands of the law, his sufferings and death, and resurrection from the grave on the third day, according to the scriptures. By the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. By the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous. The righteousness of one, and the obedience of one here, signifies the same thing. By the sufferings and death of Christ we are redeemed from the curse of the law, and the threatenings of vindictive justice; but that of itself could never constitute him as the foundation of our hope for justification before God, had it not been for his perfect obedience; for it is to the obedient, and only to the obedient, the law promises life. It is the man that doeth what the law demands shall live; but not the man who suftereth the penalties of the law; - so the
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every individual of the human race must stand before him; he is dividing the righteous from the wicked, as the shepherd is dividing the sheep from the goats; he is setting the wicked on the left hand, and pronounceth the most awfully just sentence upon them, Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. But the righteous are placed on hia right hand, to hear the joyful sound, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world. The books were opened and mercy presented the bundles that were left the other side of Jordon. They were all opened, and the register book was read, wherein all their acts of benevolence, and virtue were recorded. And justice examining the bundles, said, all right - here they are - thus it is written - I was an hungered and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me. The righteous answered, and said, those bundles must belong to some others; we know nothing of that. We recollect the narrow road, the straight gate, and the slough of Despond. We remember the heavy burden, that pressed so hard upon us, and how it fell oft our backs at the sight of the cross. We shall never forget the time, when the eyes of our minds were illuminated, to behold the evil of sin, the depravity of our nature, and the glory and excellency of our Redeemer. We felt and experienced his love shed abroad in our hearts. O! how sweetly and how powerfully it constrained us to love him, his cause, and ordinances: how we panted after communion, and fellowship with him, as the hart panteth after the water brooks. We recollect the time, when our stubborn wills were subdued in the day of his power; so that we are made willing, both to will and to do of
his own good pleasure. We remember the time when we obtained hope, in the merit of the infinite atonement of Christ, and felt the efficacy of his blood applied to our hearts, by the influences of the Holy Spirit of God: and a thousand other things, are as fresh in our memories now, as ever. But we do not recollect any thing about those bundles of good works. Where was it? - When saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee; or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in, or naked and clothed thee? We do not remember any more than the dead of ever visiting thee in sickness, or in prison, and ministering unto thee. - Surely these bundles cannot belong to us? Mercy replied, yes, verily they belong to you, your names are upon them; and besides they have not been out of my hands, since you left them on Jordan's stormy banks. And the king answered and said unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. If the righteous do not recognise their own good works: If they do not know the sheaves they have reaped, and the harvest they have sown in tears; it is not likely that they build their hopes upon them. Christ and him crucified, is the foundation of their hope, the object of their faith, and the centre of their affections. And from a principle of love to him, it is their strongest desire, and most earnest endeavor to live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present evil world. And with all their hearts, they say Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name, O Lord, be all the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
[From J. Davis, editor, Christmas Evans, Sermons on Various Subjects, Sermon IV, 1837, pp. 256-269. Document from Google Books on-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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