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JUSTIFICATION J3T THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST.
HOMAns X. 4.
Ftr Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that ielieveth.
THE justification of a sinner before 'God, is a doctrine of high importance in the christian system. St. Paul attends to this subject in an especial manner in this epistle. For this purpose, he delineates the character of sinners, the inflexible justice of God, the holy and unchangeable nature of the divine law, the guilt of, and the punishment due to sin, and the fullness, utility and necessity of the atonement of Christ. He explains the nature of justification with great clearness, and enforces his exposition with much strength and beauty of argument. He shows that by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified, and how this comes to pass solely by the righteousness of Christ, and that those alone are the subjects of it who believe. The Apestle introduces this chapter by a most tender, affectionate, and fervent prayer for the salvation of Israel. He bears record to the warmth and greatness of their zeal, but that it was a blind, mistaken and delusive zeal, it was not according to knowledge. He testifies against their r T
%norance, and the pride and vanity of their mind. in looking^ for the favor of God by an imaginary righteousness of their own. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness and going about "to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted them"selves unto the righteousness of God." They understood not the strict justice of God, the evil of sin, nor the purity of the divine. law. They saw no necessity for the righteousness of Christ, but fondly conceived that a few ceremonial observances were abundantly sufficient to justify them before the most High. He points' out the design of Christ'* coming into the world, and draws the. character of those to whom. his atonement and righteousness* would be beneficial..
Allow me here to lay down a few propositions, which, I hopeywill tend to shed light upon this whole subject of justification^ and prepare the way for what may be said upon it.
First, The eternal Jehovah is immutable in his nature, his perfections, promises and threatenings, and irr all his ways.— Whatever aspects may take place in the view of created minds, respecting apparent changes in his dispensations and providence, yet one thing ought to be fixed in the faith of all christians, "that "he is the Lord who changeth not.'' Amidst the constant variations passing before us in this world, it is not a matter easily and stedfastly to believe. 'We are too apt to think God somewhat like ourselves, changeable and variable. But if the scriptures be true, and if creation exist,- however blind and changeable we poor fallen mortals may be, with Cod there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. This is a proposition necessary to be ingrafted on our minds, as a foundation to the whole business of the gospel justification of sinners.
Secondly, That the law in our text principally means the moral law, consisting in love to Gad and our neighbour, compre- . bending all the implications and deductions revealed in the scriptures. This law is holy, just and good ; it cannot, in the na»
fure of things, he abrogated, relaxed or altered. That which it absolutely perfet in justice, holiness and goodness, cannot be Changed more than the author of it. It is often said the law is a transcript of the divine attributes; if so, it must be as immutable and invariable as God himself. Hence the unchangeableness of the law must be held as an essential principle of the gospel plan of salvation*
Thirdly, It is impossible for any creature to be deemed and Considered just with God, unless in some way he stands right in the view of the law. There are two methods in which this may take place; by a righteousness of his own, or by the righteousness of another in which he is interested, and which, by a divine constitution, is made his. By the former, angels are just before Gnd, and in this way Adam and all his posterity would have been justified in the divine presence, had they maintained their innocence and original rectitude.. But by this no sinner can poslibly be justified. The law condemns him as a transgressor, and it is absolutely impossible he should ever be able to make satisfaction to it. The latter is by a sinners becoming interested in. the righteousness of Christ, and by a divine constitution this righteousness made his, which can only be by free grace on the part of God, and evangelical faith on the part of the sinner.
A Fourth proposition is, none of the natural descendants of Adam, none of the guilty and sinful children of men, by any 'Works, duties, and righteousness of their own, can justify themselves before God. For by the deeds of the law no flesh can bt justified.
Fifthly, That Jesus Christ assumed the human nature into a personal union with his divine nature, and in this character performed perfect obedienca to the law. That God executed upon him as the substitute of sinners, all the penalty of the law incurred by them ; that the ends, purposes, and intents of the law might be fulfilled; that the glory of God and the dignity of hi*
government might be magnified; and that a righteousrtess infinitely worthy, and perfectly adequate to all the demands and penalties of the law, might be provided for a lost world.
Sixthly, That God has an independent and sovereign right to fix the terms or conditions, to devise and reveal the way in which fallen man shall become a partaker of this righteousness. And this is every where declared in the gospel to be by faith alone. Therefore, all who are united to Christ by faith, become one with him in the covenant of grace. They are one body; he is the head, and they are the members. Hence Christ is theirs, his righteousness and all his benefits are theirs, and they arc Christ's.
These proposition? are all plainly founded on the scriptures, tend to the explication of the doctrine of justification, and to the illustration of our text, " For Christ is the end of the law "for righteousness to every one that believeth." Christ, by his obedience and sufferings, by his perfect conformity to the precept, and enduring the penal sanction of the law, established a righteousness which is the end, fulfillment or accomplishment of the law. But this righteousness is only to them that believe. Final unbelievers will receive no more benefit from it, than if it never had an existence.
Justification is a gracious act of God, whereb}' he pardons and accepts of sinners only on account of the righteousness of Christ, which is received by faith. "Christ was delivered for our offen"ces and raised again for our justification. The free gift is of "many offences unto justification. By the righteousness of one "the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."
The word justify, is used to express various and different ideas in the sacred oracles. It is used to designate a proud, boasting and self-glerious spirit. This was peculiarly characteristic of the Pharisees. Hence our Lord says to them, " Ye are they which *• justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts 4
"for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination ml "the sight of God." It is employed to declare a legal or self* righteous temper. The Jews went about to establish their own righteousness. They sought righteousness and justification by the law. But it is abundantly taken in an evangelical sense, to. express the mode of the sinner's acquittal from guilt and acceptance to divine favour. This is exhibited by a variety of phrases. Believers are said to he justified by Christ, 'by faith, by grace, freely, £tc. Thus St. Paul declares, " Knowing that a man is "not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus "Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might "be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the, "law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. *' Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that "is in Jesus Christ." We are said to be saved and justified by the righteousness of God. "But now the righteousness of Goi "without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and "the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith "of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe."
What shall be further said upon this subject to illustrate to us, "that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one "that believeth," shall be reduced to the few following observations.
First, We observe that a righteousness answerable to the nature and all the requisitions of the just and holy law of God, is absolutely aiid indispensably necessary for justification. The. moral or divine law requires perfect innocence, perfect and perpetual obedience. Any person compleatly conformed to the law in the temper of his heart, and never deviated from it in his life, is justified upon the footing of his own innocence and personal righteousness. "If, saith God, thou dost well, shalt thou not "be accepted!'' Thus speaks the Apostle in the verse succeeding our text. "For Moses describeth the righteousness which is "tif the law, that the man which doeth these things shall live blc