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therefore only add, after my hearty prayers that your hope inay be built upon a sure foundation, that I am, with great respect,
WHEREIN THE NOTION OF A FIRST JUSTIFICATION BY
FAITH, AND A SECONDARY JUSTIFICATION BY SINCERE OBEDIENCE, IS DISCUSSED AND CONFUTED.
Sir, You must conclude I have spent my time but idly, if I should be 66 unacquainted with your author's meaning, and not fully understand in what sense he supposes our sincere obedience to be the condition of our justification.” It is scarcely possible that he should, with any appearance of plausibility, offer any thing new in defence of these principles, or that has not been often advanced, and often refuted, long before either I were born. And in particular, what you now propose is but the old popish doctrine new vamped, which has been repeatedly answered by all our old protestant writers.
You tell me, “ Your author acknowledges, that our first justification is by faith alone; that is, God accepts us as being meet probationers for salvation upon our hearty assent to the truth of the gospel, and our being heartily willing to take Christ's yoke upon us, and obey him: and this is the justification of which
the apostle Paul speaks, that it is by faith without the works of the law. But our secondary justification, or continued title to the favour of God, is by our works, or by a course of sincere obedience to the gospel. Of this the apostle James speaks, when he tells us, that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only."
You cannot be insensible, sir, that this plea is utterly inconsistent with the evasions before offered. We are therefore now to hear no more of
former distinctions, that the apostle Paul refers to legal and not evangelical works, when he excludes all works from having any part in our justification. We are to hear no more of the apostle's referring to the ceremonial law, when he opposes the law to grace, and tells us, that “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” You now acknowledge, that the justification of which the apostle Paul speaks is by faith alone. All other pleas for the scheme, which I oppose, must consequently be given up, and it must be put upon this single issue. I shall now, therefore, proceed to consider, whether this foundation will bear the weight which you are putting upon it.
It is worthy of consideration, that there is nothing of this new doctrine, of a first and secondary justification, to be found in the scriptures. I look upon
it an arbitrary distinction, coined to serve a purpose, and to help out a tottering scheme, which could no other way be supported. The apostle Paul, it is true, speaks of our justification in one respect, and the apostle James in another, as I have formerly observed to you: but each of them retain one invariable view of their subject, and continue the same idea of the justification about which they treat. There is not a word spoken by either of them, of a first and second, of an original
the most one, shall many
and additional justification. Indeed the scriptures know nothing at all of this distinction. The children of God learn nothing of it from their own experience. And you must pardon me, sir, if I must demand some better foundation of my eternal hope, than the subtile inventions of such men, who would establish and vindicate their principles by new and unscriptural doctrines of religion, which have no foundation at all but their own teeming imagination.
This is the common source of all the errors which obtain among us. Men of learning and parts, sufficiently apprehensive of their own capacities, instead of humbly subjecting their reason to the wisdom of God in his word, are first for forming schemes which appear to them most reasonable; these they take for principles; and then they must force some construction or other upon opposite texts of scripture, and invent some arbitrary distinctions, to obviate the difficulties that lie in their way. This is plainly the case before us. It does not look reasonable to the papists, to the socinians, to the arminians, and to the neonomians, that our obedience should be wholly excluded as a part in our justification. It is true, the scripture does, in multitudes of most plain and familiar expressions, in the most express and strongest language, utterly exclude it. But there must be one unnatural construction, or another, forced upon these texts of scripture, to make them consistent with their scheme; which they take for a postulatum, whatever is said in the scripture to the contrary. When this refuge fails, the present distinction is coined to support the sinking cause. It were a sufficient answer to all these pretences, to say, “ The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. And he that seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”
But I have this further objection against the distinction you mention, that it is not only a human device, without any appearance of scripture warrant ; but it is utterly inconsistent with the scripture doctrine of justification. There is so much ascribed, in the scripture, to what they call our first justification, as leaves no possible room for a second. I have observed something of this to you, upon another occasion, in a former letter ; and you must bear with me, if you here meet with some repetition, in order to set the present case in a true and proper light. By virtue of the righteousness imputed to us and received through faith, we have a free pardon of all our sins. “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin," Rom. iv. 5–7. By virtue of this justification we are freed from the wrath of God, and actually reconciled to him. “ Much more then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life,” Rom. v. 9, 10. By this justification we are made righteous in the sight of God. “By the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of
be made righteous,” Rom. v. 18, 19. By this justification we have the adoption of children. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,
even to them that believe on his name," John i. 12. By this justification, we have the spirit of adoption, peace with God, and a joyful prospect of our eternal inheritance. “ Therefore being justified by faith, we have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” Rom. v. 1, 2. By this justification, we are sanctified, and receive needful supplies of grace. “By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," Heb. x. 10.
“For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ," Rom. v. 17. By this justification, we are secured of perseverance in grace, against all charges, accusations, persecutions, and malignant endeavours of hell and earth to the contrary.
“ Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect ? It is God that justifieth.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ?” Rom. viii. 33. 35. And, in a word, by this justification we are entitled to, and shall finally be possessed of eternal glory, “Whom he justified, them he also glorified," Řom. viii. 30.
And now, sir, what is there left for your secondary justification to do? We have God himself, pardon, peace, with all the benefits, comforts, and privileges of the children of God in this life, and eternal glory hereafter, bestowed upon us, or made ver to us, in consequence of what you call the first justification. Your secondary justification must therefore be a mere imaginary thing, an unaccountable fiction; which hath as little foundation in the nature of things as it has in the word of God.