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unto grace habitually inherent, but unto the effects of it in duties of obedience, as in the places mentioned. “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. The latter words give the reason of the former, or their being esteemed righteous before God. And he that doeth righteousness is righteous;' the denomination is from doing. And Bellarmine, endeavouring to prove that it is habitual not actual righteousness, which is as he speaks, the formal cause of our justification before God, could not produce one testimony of Scripture wherein any one is denominated righteous from habitual righteousness. De Justificat. lib. ii. cap. 15. But is forced to attempt the proof of it with this absurd argument, namely, that we are justified by the sacraments, which do not work in us actual but habitual righteousness.' And this is sufficient to discover the insufficiency of a pretence for any interest of our own righteousness from this denomination of being righteous thereby, seeing it hath not respect unto that which is the principal part thereof.
3. This inherent righteousness, taking it for that which is habitual and actual, is the same with our sanctification; neither is there any difference between them, only they are diverse names of the same thing. For our sanctification is the inherent renovation of our natures, exerting and acting itself in newness of life, or obedience unto God in Christ, and works of righteousness. But sanctification and justification are in the Scripture perpetually distinguished, whatever respect of causality the one of them may have unto the other. And those who do confound them, as the Papists do, do not so much dispute about the nature of justification, as endeavour to prove that indeed there is no such thing as justification at all. For that which would serve most to enforce it, namely, the pardon of sin, they place in the exclusion and extinction of it, by the infusion of inherent grace, which doth not belong unto justification.
4. By this inherent personal righteousness, we may be said several ways to be justified. As, (1.) In our own consciences, inasmuch as it is an evidence in us and unto us, of our participation of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, and of our acceptance with him, which hath no small influence into our peace. So speaks the apostle ; Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world,' 2 Cor. i. 12. who yet disclaims any confidence therein as unto his justification before God. For, saith he, although I know nothing by myself, yet am I not thereby justified;' 1 Cor. iv. 4. (2.) Hereby may we be said to be justified before men;' that is, acquitted of evils laid unto our charge, and approved as righteous and unblamable. For, the state of things is so in the world, as that the professors of the gospel ever were and ever will be, evil spoken of as evil doers. The rule given them to acquit themselves, so as that at length they may be acquitted and justified by all that are not absolutely blinded and hardened in wickedness, is that of a holy and fruitful walking, in abounding in good works; 1 Pet. ii. 12. iii. 16. And so is it with respect unto the church, that we be not judged dead, barren professors, but such as have been made partakers of the like precious faith with others. “Shew me thy faith by thy works;' James ii. Wherefore, (3.) This righteousness is pleadable unto our justification against all the charges of Satan, who is the great accuser of the bre. thren, of all that believe. Whether he manage his charge privately in our consciences, which is as it were before God, as he charged Job, or by his instruments in all manner of reproaches and calumnies, whereof some in this age have had experience in an eminent manner, this righteousness is pleadable unto our justification.
On a supposition of these things, wherein our personal righteousness is allowed its proper place and use (as shall afterward be more fully declared), 1 do not understand that there is an evangelical justification whereby believers are by and on the account of this personal inherent righteousness justified in the sight of God; nor doth the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto our absolute justification before him depend thereon. For,
1. None have this personal righteousness but they are antecedently justified in the sight of God. It is wholly the obedience of faith, proceeding from true and saving faith in God by Jesus Christ. For as it was said before, works before faith, are as by general consent excluded from any interest in our justification, and we have proved that they are
neither conditions of it, dispositions unto it, nor preparations for it properly so called. But every true believer is immediately justified on his believing. Nor is there any moment of time wherein a man is a true believer, according as faith is required in the gospel, and yet not be justified. For as he is thereby united unto Christ, which is the foundation of our justification by him, so the whole Scripture testifieth, that he that believes is justified; or that there is an infallible connexion in the ordination of God between true faith and justification. Wherefore this personal righteousness cannot be the condition of our justification before God, seeing it is consequential thereunto. What may be pleaded in exception hereunto from the supposition of a second justification, or differing causes of the beginning and continuation of justification, hath been already disproved.
2. Justification before God is a freedom and absolution from a charge before God, at least it is contained therein. And the instrument of this charge must either be the law or the gospel. But neither the law nor the gospel, do before God, or in the sight of God, charge true believers with unbelief, hypocrisy, or the like. For who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect,' who are once justified before him? Such a charge may be laid against them by Satan, by the church, sometimes on mistake, by the world, as it was in the case of Job, against which this righteousness is pleadable. But what is charged immediately before God, is charged by God himself, either by the law or the gospel; and the judgment of God is according unto truth. If this charge be by the law, by the law we must be justified. But the plea of sinceré obedience will not justify us by the law. That admits of none in satisfaction unto its demands, but that which is complete and perfect. And where the gospel lays any thing unto the charge of any persons before God, there can be no justification before God, unless we shall allow the gospel to be the instrument of a false charge. For what should justify him whom the gospel condemns ? And if it be a justification by the gospel from the charge of the law, it renders the death of Christ of no effect. And a justification without a charge, is not to be supposed.
3. Such a justification as that pretended, is altogether needless and useless. This may easily be evinced from what the Scripture asserts unto our justification in the sight of God by faith in the blood of Christ. But this hath been spoken to before on another occasion. Let that be considered, and it will quickly appear, that there is no place nor use for this new justification upon our personal righteousness, whether it be supposed antecedent and subordinate thereunto, or consequential and perfective thereof.
4. This pretended evangelical justification hath not the nature of any justification that is mentioned in the Scripture ; that is, neither that by the law, nor that provided in the gospel. Justification by the law is this; “The man that doth the works of it shall live in them. This it doth not pretend unto. And as unto evangelical justification, it is every way contrary unto it. For therein the charge against the person to be justified is true ; namely, that he hath sinned, and is come short of the glory of God. In this it is false, namely, that a believer, is an unbeliever; a sincere person, an hypocrite; one fruitful in good works, altogether barren. And this false charge is supposed to be exhibited in the name of God, and before him. Our acquitment in true evangelical justification is by absolution or pardon of sin; here by a vindication of our own righteousness. There the plea of the person to be justified is, guilty; all the world is become guilty before God; but here the plea of the person on his trial is, not guilty; whereon the proofs and evidences of innocency and righteousness do ensue : but this is a plea which the law will not admit, and which the gospel disclaims.
5. If we are justified before God on our own personal righteousness, and pronounced righteous by him on the account thereof, then God enters into judgment with us on something in ourselves, and acquits us thereon. For justification is a juridical act in and of that judgment of God which is according unto truth. But that God should enter into judgment with us, and justify us with respect unto what he judgeth on, or our personal righteousness, the psalmist doth not believe, Psal. cxxx. 2, 3. cxliii. 2. nor did the publican, Luke xviii.
6. This personal righteousness of ours cannot be said to be a subordinate righteousness, and subservient unto our justification by faith in the blood of Christ. For therein God justifieth the ungodly, and imputeth righteousness
unto him that worketh not. And besides it is expressly excluded from any consideration in our justification; Eph.ii.7,8.
7. This personal inherent righteousness wherewith we are said to be justified with this evangelical justification, is our own righteousness. Personal righteousness, and our own righteousness, are expressions equivalent. But our own righteousness is not the material cause of any justification before God. For, 1. It is unmeet so to be; Isa. liv. 6. 2. It is directly opposed unto that righteousness whereby we are justified, as inconsistent with it unto that end; Phil. iii. 9. Rom. x. 3, 4.
It will be said that our own righteousness is the righteousness of the law; but this personal righteousness is evangelical. But, 1. It will be hard to prove, that our personal righteousness is any other but our own righteousness; and our own righteousness is expressly rejected from any interest in our justification, in the places quoted. 2. That righteousness which is evangelical in respect of its efficient cause, its motives and some especial ends, is legal in respect of the formal reason of it, and our obligation unto it. For there is no instance of duty belonging unto it, but in general we are obliged unto its performance by virtue of the first commandment, to take the Lord for our God. Acknowledging therein his essential verity and sovereign authority; we are obliged to believe all that he shall reveal, and to obey in all that he shall command. 3. The good works rejected from any interest in our justification, are those whereunto we are created in Christ Jesus ;' Eph. ii. 8, 9. the works of righteousness which we have done,' Tit. iii. 5. wherein the Gentiles are concerned, who never sought for righteousness by the works of the law; Rom. ix. 30. But it will yet be said that these things are evident in themselves. God doth require an evangelical righteousness in all that do believe. This Christ is not, nor is it the righteousness of Christ. He may be said to be our legal righteousness, but our evangelical righteousness he is not. And so far as we are righteous with any righteousness, so far we are justified by it. For according unto this evangelical righteousness, we must be tried ; if we have it we shall be acquitted, and if we have it not, we shall be condemned. There is therefore a justification according unto it.