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add to this, that our continuance in a justified state is by the same means by which we were first justified. It is true, believers (as well as others) are daily sinning, in thought, word, and deed; and there may therefore appear some difficulty in conceiving, how our once being justified by faith can secure to us a remission of future sins. It cannot be supposed that our sins are actually pardoned before they are committed, or our guilt cancelled before it was contracted. How then can one single justification stand us in stead, through a future scene of sin and guilt, and entitle us to eternal glory, notwithstanding a repeated forfeiture of the Divine favour, and notwithstanding our renewed deserts of God's wrath and displeasure? This deserves some particular consideration. I shall therefore endeavour, in a few words, to solve this difficulty, before I proceed distinctly to consider in what manner our justification is continued.
Let it then be observed, that as the meritorious procuring cause of our justification, with all its benefits of
grace here and glory hereafter, was at once completed, the body of Christ was offered once for all, and by his obedience unto death, he brought in everlasting righteousness; so the believer, upon his first being actually interested in the redemption by Christ, and receiving his righteousness, through faith, is at once unalterably acquitted from condemnation, reinstated in the paternal favour of God, and secured in such a continuing progress of grace and holiness, as will end in eternal glory. For by one offering Christ hath
perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” Heb. x. 14. As our Lord Jesus Christ, by bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, has finished transgression, made an end of sin, made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness, Dan. ix. 24; so
by “faith in him, we receive the forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified," Acts xxvi. 18, and are “complete in him," Col. ii. 10. “He therefore that believeth hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation ; but is passed from death to life,” John v. 24, and is “ blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ," Eph. i. 3.
But though our justification, as to the meritorious procuring cause of it, be at once perfected and completed; and by virtue of the immutability of God's counsel, the infinite merit of the righteousness imputed, the stability of the covenant of grace, and the faithfulness of the promises, the believer immutably remains a child of God, and an heir of eternal glory: he, nevertheless, by reason of his daily sins and imperfections, stands in daily need of a renewed application of the benefits of Christ's redemption to his soul, and in daily need of forgiveness.
But then it should be remembered, that this is not a secondary justification, distinct from the former, but the same renewed and confirmed. If the believer sins, he hath an Advocate with the Father, to make continual intercession for him, for renewed pardon and grace, and for a continuance of his justified state. “ He ever liveth to make intercession for them: who needeth not daily, as those high priests,” after the order of Aaron, “ to offer up
sacrifice for his own sins, and then for the people's; for this he did
once, when he offered up himself,” Heb. vii. 25. 27.
These things being premised, the question now recurs, By what means are believers continued in a justified state ? To which I answer, as before, By the same means by which they were at first brought into it. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, Rom, i. 17; that is, as a noted commentator expounds these words, the beginning, the continuance, and the consummation of our justification, is by faith. “ Now the just shall live by faith,” Heb. x. 38. Not only are the ungodly justified by faith; but the just, or those who are in a justified state, shall live by faith, shall obtain new supplies of pardoning and sanctifying grace through faith.
And thence the life which the believer lives in the flesh, is said to be by the faith of the Son of God, Gal. ii. 20. Let any
serious christian consider what refuge he can betake himself to, in order to quiet the accusations of his conscience for sin committed, and to obtain renewed pardon of his frequent transgressions and constant imperfections. Dare he venture into the presence of God, and challenge pardon on account of his own sincere obedience? Will he plead before the Eternal Majesty, the milder terms of this imaginary) new law of grace, and tell the Almighty, this easy condition was purchased for him by the blood of Christ; that his own works should justify him; that he sincerely desires and endeavours to obey God, and therefore pleads the benefit of that new covenant of works; and entreats pardon and acceptance for his sincere obedience, according to the tenour of it? If this be an article of our creed, why should it not be likewise an article of our devotion ? But yet, I think, the patrons of this scheme cannot be so hardy as to plead it before the throne of God. And I may venture to say, that every sensible, humble christian, will use a quite contrary argument in prayer for pardon and acceptance with God. Such a man will find no plea to make at the throne of grace, but the infinite merits of the glorious Redeemer, with the boundless riches of God's free mercy in Christ. He can find no other source of continuing peace and hope , but an humble trust and
confidence in the merit and righteousness of Christ, He durst not plead his own attainments before God, nor trust in them, as justly recommending and entitling him to his favour; but repairs, by faith, immediately to the righteousness of Christ alone, for renewed pardon and acceptance. Thus you see, that as the scriptures propose a way very different from that of our own obedience, for the continuance of our justification, so the children of God have a quite contrary refuge for
peace and pardon; and it would even shock a christian ear, to hear any devotions exactly adjusted and proportioned to these principles. It is therefore evident, that all pretences of this kind should be rejected, by those who would not be finally ashamed of their hope.
That we may have a further view of the absurdity of this distinction, let us consider a little how this scheme will hang together, and see whether it will not necessarily destroy itself.
The patrons of this distinction do so much honour to the scriptures, which every where attribute our justification to faith, as to allow, that our first justification is by faith alone. But what are we to understand by that faith by which this first justification is obtained ? The papists tell us, that it is an infusion of a new principle of grace and charity. The socinians and arminians (at least some of them) teach, that it is an assent to the gospel revelation, which justifies as it is an act of our own, and an instance of obedience to the Divine command. Some of our more modern refiners
this scheme choose to define this faith, by which we obtain our first justification, to be a receiving Christ as our Lord and Saviour; and tell us, that a submitting to his government has as great a hand in our justification, as our relying upon his merit, or hoping for salvation on account of what he has done and suffered for us. I think, all of them agree in this, that faith justifies as it is an assent to the truth of the gospel, and an entrance upon a life of obedience. None of them suppose this first justification to be our acceptance with God, as righteous, by the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Now, then, what room is there for this distinction ? Is not faith, in this consideration of it, as much an act of obedience as any other point of conformity to the Divine command, which we are capable of? and is it not supposed to justify us, as it is our subjection to the new law of grace, and as it is our first act of obedience? What then do they mean, by telling us of a first justification by faith alone, and of a secondary justification by works ; when they really intend, that the beginning, the progress, and the conclusion of our justification is by obedience only? This may easily be brought to a short and determinate issue. Either faith does justify us as it is a work of ours, and an act of obedience; or it justifies us as it is the means of our receiving Christ's righteousness, and having the same actually applied to us, for our justification and acceptance with God. There is no other way in which we can be supposed to be justified by faith. All the distinctions that the most exuberant fancies of men can light upon, are reducible to one of these two. Now, if the latter of these be assumed, the controversy is ended : we have a righteousness to plead that is sufficiently perfect, and that will stand us in stead ; there is no need of our new obedience, in order to make up its defects, and procure a secondary justification. But if the former of these be assured, then our first justification is as truly by works as the second,