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Justification by Faith

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    I

    Text.—“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1.JBF 1.1

    No apology could be in place for writing or speaking on the subject of justification by faith. Lying at the very foundation of Christian experience-the substratum of the work of the gospel on the human heart-it can never be dwelt upon too much. And when all has been said that human tongues can say, or that human minds can conceive, the whole truth on this great theme will not have been told.JBF 1.2

    Justice, as defined by Webster, is the quality of being just; rendering to every man his due; conformity to right and obligation. Righteousness has the same signification; for the quality of being right, is Tightness or righteousness.JBF 1.3

    And these words have two applications; or, justification, or righteousness, is of two kinds. One, the righteousness which is by complete obedience. This is referred to by Paul in Romans 2:13, “The doors of the law shall be justified.” Unfortunately for man, as the apostle proceeds to prove, there are no doers of right, and “therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified.” Chap. 3:20. But this does not destroy the principle that complete obedience to the law would result in justification. The Scriptures say, “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” No one would for a moment deny that if man had done his whole duty he would have stood justified before God; for there would have existed no ground for his condemnation. This would have been justification, by works, which it is now impossible for man to reach, as all have gone, and in our fallen condition, all do go astray.JBF 1.4

    The other kind of justification, or righteousness, and that which is the subject of the apostle’s argument in this letter to the Romans, is “the treating of sinful man as though he were righteous;” vindicating or defending. This form of justification is, as is well stated by Hooker, “without us, which we have by imputation.” This, again, is identical with the righteousness of faith; that is, we are accounted righteous by reason of what some one does for us, and not by reason of our works or obedience.JBF 2.1

    A question has been raised on Romans 4:5. “Does God justify the ungodly? And if so, is not Universalism true?” A little consideration of the subject of the argument is sufficient to solve this apparent difficulty. It is an argument based upon the fact that all have sinned; that all are ungodly. The subject is, justification by faith, not of works. This kind of justification is for the ungodly alone; the righteous would not need it. So Jesus said he came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance; the righteous would need no repentance. But the object or condition of this justification must not be lost sight of. It is not that the ungodly may remain ungodly, or be saved in their ungodliness, but that they may be saved from their sins, or be made the righteousness of God in Christ. Matthew 1:21; 2 Corinthians 5:21.JBF 2.2

    Another question naturally arises on verse 7, regarding the distinction between righteousness and goodness. It has mostly been supposed to refer to some distinctions, somewhat fanciful, held by the Jews. But the distinction is real, and is often recognized. Dr. Clarke mentions four classes into which the Jews divided mankind. The just were those who render to every man his due; the good, those who are magnanimous or benevolent. Probably “the young man” who came to Christ, see Matthew 19:16-22, was a just man in this sense; certainly he was not good in the sense of being benevolent. Scott, on this text, says the just man is one of strict integrity; the good, one of extensive philanthropy; which amounts to the same thing. Chalmers says the righteous or just man is one who is simply in a state of innocence; the good, one who is engaged in benevolence. The same idea runs through all.JBF 3.1

    Doubtless we have all seen illustrations of this distinction in actual life. We have seen men of integrity, just in the payment of every demand, even to a farthing. They would pay every cent and exact every cent. They would boast that they had never wronged any man, but rendered to every man his full due. As far as the calls of the needy and the suffering were concerned, it was enough for them to know that they had not caused any one to suffer, and they felt no responsibility in their behalf. Disinterested benevolence was a quality to which they were utter strangers. In one sense their characters were commendable; in another sense they were detestable.JBF 3.2

    Or we may instance the judge who has the highest regard for justice; he will mete it to the evil-doer to the fullest extent of the law. To maintain the law and to defend the Government is the ruling motive of his life. But of mercy he knows nothing; the kindlier feelings of his nature have never been developed. On the bench, all are ready to commend his justice; in every-day life, no one calls him good.JBF 4.1

    We have now brought to notice these two kinds of justification. One of one’s self, by obedience. This we should term justification in fact, or justification absolute. With this we have nothing to do in this examination; man has effectually and entirely forfeited it. The other, justification by faith; effected for the transgressor of law by one who does for him what he cannot do for himself. This is not absolute in the sense in which the other kind is, for it is a righteousness (1) by imputation, not by desert; (2) it is conditional.JBF 4.2

    This brings us to notice a most important truth; to consider a most important relation. Justification by faith is not a final procedure; it looks to something beyond itself to be accomplished in the future. And it is an important factor in the accomplishment of that something. To demonstrate this we must notice another distinction, to wit; that justification is to be distinguished from salvation. Many seem to lose sight of this distinction, and thereby fall into grievous and very dangerous errors.JBF 4.3

    “I am saved,” is a common expression with a certain class of professed Christians. While there is a sense in which it ought to be true, and we would charitably hope it is true in many cases, we confidently say it is not true in the sense intended by many who use it. It is frequently used by those who make it a shield from exhortations to further examination of the truth of God and of their own hope of eternal life. In such cases it is sadly abused. We may be saved from sin here. And the sufficiency of this salvation is based, very often, on the purity of our intentions; for no one is completely and perfectly saved from sin unless he is fully acquainted with the will of God, and completely and perfectly fulfills it. Every one must admit that we are absolutely saved from sin just as far as we have light on the truth of God’s word in regard to our duty, and follow it, and no farther. To say that we are absolutely and completely saved from sin because we have no consciousness of sin would be to deny the existence of sins of ignorance, of which the Scriptures so largely speak. See Leviticus 4, entire, and Numbers 15:22-29. Sins of ignorance are not so heinous in the sight of the Lord as sins of presumption; but they are sins, of which the Lord requires repentance and of which we need forgiveness.JBF 5.1

    When once urging upon an intelligent lady, and we believe an honest one, the necessity of examining a question of duty, a truth of the Bible with which she was not acquainted, and enforcing the duty by the solemnity of the coming Judgment and the necessity of a thorough preparation for that day, she made but one answer, and persisted in it: “I am saved; I have given my case to Jesus and he has saved me.” We could awaken her from her delusion, for such we held it to be, only by asking her if she thought her probation was ended. This aroused her to a new train of thought and to a reconsideration of her position.JBF 6.1

    Salvation is two-fold. 1. Salvation from sin. This is a progressive work of Christian life. Some mistake and think the work is finished because they feel that they love the way of truth, and have no desire or disposition to sin. But, as before noticed, they may sin ignorantly, and do things which are offensive to God because they are not fully instructed in the right. When these sins come to their knowledge they must repent; and if they refuse or neglect to repent of them, they stand as indorsing thorn, and then their relation is changed and they must be counted sins of presumption. And there is place for continuance of this work of increasing in knowledge and reforming in life until we become as perfect in knowledge as our circumstances will permit. This is growth in grace, without which the believer either remains a babe in the Christian life, or degenerates into a fixed state of formality; for no one has a complete knowledge of truth and duty when first he submits himself to God. It is incumbent upon him to grow up into it.JBF 6.2

    2. There is a final salvation which is brought unto us at the appearing of Christ; of which, salvation from sin (or justification and growth in grace) is the necessary prerequisite. Of this salvation the Scriptures make very frequent mention. The Saviour said: “He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13; the same in chap. 10:22, and Mark 13:13. This salvation comes after that which is called “the end.” Paul said to his brethren; “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” Romans 13:11. Waiving all question as to “the time” to which he referred, we notice that this salvation did not come to them when they believed. It is a future salvation to the believer.JBF 7.1

    And Peter speaks to those who were “begotten again unto a lively hope,” and who “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:5. The time of the revelation of this salvation is so clearly brought to view in verses 9-13 that we copy them in full:—JBF 7.2

    “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which “are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”JBF 7.3

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