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upon them, unless they had received some new enforcement, which of late they have not done. That which for the most part we have now to do withal, are rather sophistical cavils from supposed absurd consequences, than real theological arguments. And some of those who would walk with most wariness between the imputation of the righteousness of Christ and justification by our own works, either are in such a slippery place, that they seem sometimes to be on the one side, sometimes on the other, or else to express themselves with so much caution as it is very difficult to apprehend their minds. I shall not therefore for the future dare to say, that this or that is any man's opinion, though it appear unto me so to be as clear and evident as words can express it, but that this or that opinion, let it be maintained by whom it will, I approve or disapprove, this I shall dare to say. And I will say also, that the declination that hath been from the common doctrine of justification before God, on the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, doth daily proceed towards a direct assertion of justification by works. Nor indeed hath it where to rest, until it comes unto that bottom. And this is more clearly seen in the objections which they make against the truth, than in what they plead in defence of their own opinions. For herein they speak as yet warily, and with a pretence of accuracy in avoiding extremes: but in the other, or their objections, they make use of none but what are easily resolved into a supposition of justification by works in the grossest sense of it. To insist on all particulars were endless, and as was said, most of those of any importance have already occasionally been spoken unto. There are therefore only two things which are generally pleaded by all sorts of persons, Papists, Socinians, and others, with whom here we have to do, that I shall take notice of. The first and fountain of all other is, that the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ doth render our personal righteousness needless, and overthrows all necessity of a holy life. The other is, that the apostle James, in his Epistle, doth plainly ascribe our justification unto works, and what he affirms there, is inconsistent with that sense of those many other testimonies of Scripture which we plead for.
For the first of these, although those who oppose the
truth we contend for, do proceed on various different and contradictory principles among themselves as to what they exalt in opposition unto it, yet do they all agree in a vehement urging of it. For those of the church of Rome who renewed this charge, invented of old by others, it must be acknowledged by all sober men, that as managed by them, it is an open calumny. For the wisest of them, and those of whom it is hard to conceive, but that they knew the contrary, as Bellarmine, Vasquez, Suarez, do openly aver that Protestant writers deny all inherent righteousness (Bellarmine excepts Bucer and Chemnitius); that they maintain that men may be saved, although they live in all manner of sin, that there is no more required of them, but that they believe that their sins are forgiven, and that whilst they do so, although they give themselves up unto the most sensual vices and abominations, they may be assured of their salvation.
Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.
So will men out of a perverse zeal to promote their own interest in the religion they profess, wilfully give up themselves unto the worst of evils, such as false accusation and open calumny, and of no other nature are these assertions, which none of the writings or preachings of those who are so charged, did ever give the least countenance unto. Whether the forging and promulgation of such impudent falsehoods, be an expedient to obtain justification by works in the sight of God, they who continue in them had best to consider. For my part I say again, as I suppose I have said already, that it is all one to me what religion men are of, who can justify themselves in such courses and proceedings. And for those among ourselves who are pleased to make use of this objection, they either know what the doctrine is which they would oppose, or they do not. If they do not, the wise man tells them, that he who answereth a matter before he hear it, it is folly and shame unto him.' If they do understand it, it is evident that they use not sincerity, but artifices, and false pretences for advantage, in their handling of sacred things, which is scandalous to religion. Socinus fiercely manageth this charge against the doctrine of the reformed churches, De Servat. par. 4. cap. 1. And he made it the foundation whereon, and the reason why, he opposeth
the doctrine of the imputation of the satisfaction of Christ, if any such satisfaction should be allowed, which yet he peremptorily denies. And he hath written a treatise unto the same purpose defended by Schlichtingius against Meisnerus. And he takes the same honest course herein, that others did before him. For he chargeth it on the divines of the Protestant churches, that they taught that God justifieth the ungodly, not only those that are so, and whilst they are so, but although they continue so; that they required no inherent righteousness or holiness in any, nor could do so on their principles, seeing the imputed righteousness of Christ is sufficient for them, although they live in sin, are not washed nor cleansed, nor do give up themselves unto the ways of duty and obedience unto God whereby he may be pleased, and so bring in libertinism and antinomianism into the church. And he thinks it a sufficient confutation of this doctrine to allege against it that neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, &c. shall inherit the kingdom of God.' And these are some of those ways which have rendered the management of controversies in religion scandalous and abominable, such as no wise or good man will meddle withal, unless compelled for the necessary service of the church. For these things are openly false, and made use of with a shameful dishonesty to promote a corrupt design and end. When I find men at this kind of work, I have very little concernment in what they say afterward, be it true or false. Their rule and measure is what serves their own end, or what may promote the design and interest wherein they are engaged, be it right or wrong. And as for this man there is not any article in religion (the principal whereof are rejected by him) on whose account he doth with more confidence adjudge us unto eternal ruin, than he doth on this of the satisfaction of Christ and the imputation of it unto them that do believe. So much darkness is there remaining on the minds of the most of men; so many inveterate prejudices on various occasions are they pestered withal, especially if not under the conduct of the same enlightening spirit, that some will confidently condemn others unto eternal flames, for those things whereon they place on infallible grounds, their hopes of eternal blessedness, and know that they love God and live unto him on their account. But this wretched ad
vantage of condemning all them to hell who dissent from them, is greedily laid hold of by all sorts of persons. For they thereby secretly secure their own whole party in persuasion of eternal salvation, be they otherwise what they will. For if the want of that faith which they profess will certainly damn men whatever else they be, and how good soever their lives be, many will easily suffer themselves to be deceived with a foolish sophism, that then that faith which they profess will assuredly save them, be their lives what they please, considering how it falls in with their inclinations. And hereby they may happen also to frighten poor simple people into a compliance with them, whilst they peremptorily denounce damnation against them unless they do so. And none, for the most part, are more fierce in the denunciation of the condemnatory sentence against others for not believing as they do, than those who so live as that if there be any truth in the Scripture, it is not possible they should be saved themselves. For my part, I believe that as to Christians in outward profession, all unregenerate unbelievers, who obey not the gospel, shall be damned, be they of what religion they will, and none else; for all that are born again, do truly believe and obey the gospel, shall be saved, be they of what religion they will, as unto the differences that are at this day among Christians. That way wherein these things are most effectually promoted, is, in the first place, to be embraced by every one that takes care of his own salvation. If they are in any way or church obstructed, that church or way is so far as it doth obstruct them to be forsaken. And if there be any way of profession, or any visible church state wherein any thing or things absolutely destructive of, or inconsistent with, these things are made necessary unto the professors of it, in that way, and by virtue of it, no salvation is to be obtained. In other things every man is to walk according unto the light of his own mind, for whatever is not of faith is sin. But I return from this digression occasioned by the fierceness of him with whom we have to do.
For the objection itself, that hath fallen under so perverse a management, so far as it hath any pretence of sobriety in it, is this and no other: 'If God justify the ungodly merely by his grace through faith in Christ Jesus, so as that works of obedience are not antecedently necessary unto
justification before God, nor are any part of that righteousness whereon any are so justified, then are they no way necessary, but men may be justified and saved without them.' For it is said that there is no connexion between faith unto justification, as by us asserted, and the necessity of holiness, righteousness, or obedience, but that we are by grace set at liberty to live as we list, yea, in all manner of sin, and yet be secured of salvation. For if we are made righteous with the righteousness of another, we have no need of any righteousness of our own. And it were well if many of those who make use of this plea, would endeavour by some other way also to evidence their esteem of these things; for to dispute for the necessity of holiness, and live in the neglect of it, is uncomely.
I shall be brief in the answer that here shall be returned unto this objection, for indeed it is sufficiently answered or obviated in what hath been before discoursed concerning the nature of that faith whereby we are justified, and the continuation of the moral law in its force, as a rule of obedience unto all believers. An unprejudiced consideration of what hath been proposed on these heads will evidently manifest the iniquity of this charge, and how not the least countenance is given unto it by the doctrine pleaded for. Besides, I must acquaint the reader, that some while since I have published an entire discourse concerning the nature and necessity of gospel holiness, with the grounds and reasons thereof, in compliance with the doctrine of justification that hath now been declared. Nor do I see it necessary to add any thing thereunto, nor do I doubt, but that the perusal of it will abundantly detect the vanity of this charge; Dispensat. of the Holy Spirit, book 5. Some few things may be spoken on the present occasion.
1. It is not pleaded that all who do profess or have in former ages professed this doctrine, have exemplified it in a holy and fruitful conversation. Many, it is to be feared, have been found amongst them who have lived and died in sin. Neither do I know but that some have abused this doctrine to countenance themselves in their sins, and neglect of duty. The best of holy things or truths cannot be secured from abuse, so long as the sophistry of the old serpent hath an influence on the lusts and depraved minds of men. So was