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cerned is; What is that righteousness whereby, and wherewith, a believing sinner is justified before God; or whereon he is accepted with God, hath his sins pardoned, is received into grace and favour, and hath a title given him unto the heavenly inheritance. I shall no otherwise propose this inquiry, as knowing that it contains the substance of what convinced sinners do look after in and by the gospel.
And herein it is agreed by all, the Socinians only excepted, that the procatarctical or procuring cause of the pardon of our sins and acceptance with God, is the satisfaction and merit of Christ. Howbeit it cannot be denied, but that some retaining the names of them, do seem to renounce or disbelieve the things themselves. But we need not to take any notice thereof, until they are free more plainly to express their minds. But as concerning the righteousness itself inquired after, there seems to be a difference among them, who yet all deny it to be the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us. For those of the Roman church plainly say, that upon the infusion of a habit of grace, with the expulsion of sin and the renovation of our natures thereby, which they call the first justification, we are actually justified before God, by our own works of righteousness. Hereon they dispute about the merit and satisfactoriness of those works, with their condignity of the reward of eternal life. Others, as the Socinians, openly disclaim all merit in our works; only some, out of reverence as I suppose, unto the antiquity of the word, and under the shelter of the ambiguity of its signification, have faintly attempted an accommodation with it. But in the substance of what they assert unto this purpose, to the best of my understanding they are all agreed. For what the Papists call * Justitia Operum,' the righteousness of works, they call a personal, inherent, evangelical righteousness, whereof we have spoken before. And whereas the Papists say, that this righteousness of works is not absolutely perfect, nor in itself able to justify us in the sight of God, but owes all its worth and dignity unto this purpose unto the merit of Christ, they affirm that this evangelical righteousness is the condition whereon we enjoy the benefits of the righteousness of Christ, in the pardon of our sins, and the acceptance of our persons before God. But as unto those who will ac
knowledge no other righteousness wherewith we are justified before God, the meaning is the same, whether we say that on the condition of this righteousness we are made partakers of the benefits of the righteousness of Christ; or that it is the righteousness of Christ which makes this righteousness of ours accepted with God.. But these things must afterward more particularly be inquired into.
3. The third inquiry wherein there is not an agreement in this matter is, upon a supposition of a necessity, that he who is to be justified, should one way or other be interested in the righteousness of Christ, what it is that on our part is required thereunto. This some say to be faith alone, others faith and works also, and that in the same kind of necessity and use. That whose consideration we at present undertake, is the second thing proposed. And indeed, herein lies the substance of the whole controversy about our justification before God, upon the determination and stating whereof, the determination of all other incident questions doth depend.
This therefore is that which herein I affirm. The righteousness of Christ (in his obedience and suffering for us) imputed unto believers, as they are united unto him by his Spirit, is that righteousness whereon they are justified before God, on the account whereof their sins are pardoned, and a right is granted them unto the heavenly inheritance.
This position is such as wherein the substance of that doctrine in this important article of evangelical truth which we plead for, is plainly and fully expressed. And I have chosen the rather thus to express it, because it is that thesis wherein the learned Davenant laid down that common doctrine of the reformed churches whose defence he undertook. This is the shield of truth in the whole cause of Justification, which whilst it is preserved safe, we need not trouble ourselves about the differences that are among learned men, about the most proper stating and declaration of some lesser concernments of it. This is the refuge, the only refuge of distressed consciences, wherein they may find rest and peace.
For the confirmation of this assertion, I shall do these three things: 1. Reflect on what is needful unto the explanation of it.
2. Answer the most important general
objections against it. 3. Prove the truth of it by arguments and testimonies of the holy Scripture.
As to the first of these, or what is necessary unto the explanation of this assertion, it hath been sufficiently spoken unto in our foregoing discourses. The heads of some things only shall at present be called over.
1. The foundation of the imputation asserted, is union. Hereof there are many grounds and causes as hath been declared. But that which we have immediate respect unto as the foundation of this imputation, is that whereby the Lord Christ and believers do actually coalesce into one mystical person. This by the Holy Spirit inhabiting in him as the head of the church in all fulness, and in all believers according to their measure, whereby they became members of his mystical body. That there is such a union between Christ and believers, is the faith of the Catholic church, and hath been so in all ages. Those who seem in our days to deny it or question it, either know not what they say, or their minds are influenced by their doctrine, who deny the divine persons of the Son, and of the Spirit. Upon supposition of this union, reason will grant the imputation pleaded for to be reasonable; at least, that there is such a peculiar ground for it, as is not to be exemplified in any things natural or political among men.
2. The nature of imputation hath been fully spoken unto before, and thereunto I refer the reader for the understanding of what is intended thereby.
3. That which is imputed is the righteousness of Christ; and briefly I understand hereby, his whole obedience unto God in all that he did and suffered for the church. This I say is imputed unto believers, so as to become their only righteousness before God unto the justification of life.
If beyond these things any expressions have been made use of in the explanation of this truth, wbich have given occasion unto any differences or contests, although they may be true and defensible against objections, yet shall not I concern myself in them. The substance of the truth as laid down, is that whose defence I have undertaken, and where that is granted or consented unto, I will not contend with any about their way and methods of its declaration, nor defend the terms and expressions that have by any been made
use of therein. For instance; some have said, that what Christ did and suffered, is so imputed unto us, as that we are judged and esteemed in the sight of God to have done or suffered ourselves in him. This I shall not concern myself in. For although it may have a sound sense given unto it, and is used by some of the ancients, yet because offence is taken at it, and the substance of the truth we plead for is better otherwise expressed, it ought not to be contended about. For we do not say, that God judgeth or esteemeth that we did and suffered in our own persons what Christ did and suffered, but only that he did it and suffered it in our stead. Hereon God makes a grant and donation of it unto believers upon their believing, unto their justification before him. And the like may be said of many other expressions of the like nature.
These things being premised, I proceed unto the consideration of the general objections that are urged against the imputation we plead for. And I shall insist only on some of the principal of them, and whereinto all others may be resolved; for it were endless to go over all that any man's invention can suggest unto him of this kind. And some general considerations we must take along with us herein. As,
1. The doctrine of justification is a part, yea, an eminent part of the mystery of the gospel. It is no marvel, therefore, if it be not so exposed unto the common notions of reason, as some would have it to be. There is more required unto the true spiritual understanding of such mysteries; yea, unless we intend to renounce the gospel, it must be asserted, that reason as it is corrupted, and the mind of man destitute of divine supernatural revelation, do dislike every such truth, and rise up in enmity against it. So the Scripture directly affirms, Rom. viii. 7. 1 Cor. ii. 14.
2. Hence are the minds and inventions of men wonderful fertile in coining objections against evangelical truths, and raising cavils against them. Seldom to this purpose do they want an endless number of sophistical objections, which because they know no better, they themselves judge insoluble. For carnal reason being once set at liberty under the false notion of truth, to act itself freely and boldly against spi. ritual mysteries, is subtle in its arguings, and pregnant in its invention of them. How endless, for instance, are the so
phisms of the Socinians against the doctrine of the Trinity, and how do they triumph in them as unanswerable. Under the shelter of them they despise the force of the most evident testimonies of the Scripture, and those multiplied on all occasions. In like manner they deal with the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, as the Pelagians of old did with that of his grace. Wherefore, he that will be startled at the appearance of subtle or plausible objections, against any gospel mysteries that are plainly revealed, and sufficiently attested in the Scripture, is not likely to come unto much stability in his profession of them.
3. The most of the objections which are levied against the truth in this cause, do arise from the want of a due comprehension of the order of the work of God's grace, and of our compliance therewithal in a way of duty as was before observed. For they consist in opposing those things one to another as inconsistent, which, in their proper place and order, are not only consistent, but mutually subservient unto one another; and are found so in the experience of them that truly believe. Instances hereof have been given before, and others will immediately occur. Taking the consideration of these things with us, we may see as the rise, so of what force the objections are.
4. Let it be considered that the objections which are made use of against the truth we assert, are all of them taken from certain consequences, which, as it is supposed, will ensue on the admission of it. And as this is the only expedient to perpetuate controversies, and make them endless, so to my best observation I never yet met with any one, but that to give an appearance of force unto the absurdity of the consequences from whence he argues, he framed his suppositions, or the state of the question, unto the disadvantage of them whom he opposed ; a course of proceeding which I wonder good men are not either weary, or ashamed of.
1. It is objected, That the imputation of the righteousness of Christ doth overthrow all remission of sins on the part of God. This is pleaded for by Socinus, De Servator. lib. iv. cap. 2–4. and by others it is also made use of. A confident charge this seems to them who steadfastly believe that without this imputation, there could be no remission of sin. But they say, That he who hath a righteousness