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form the conditions imposed by God, and undertaken by us at our first justification: this enlarged on. III. Although justification chiefly signifies the first act of grace towards a Christian at his baptism, yet (according to analogy) every dispensation of pardon granted on repentance, may be styled justification: this topic enlarged on. According to each of these notions, all good Christians may be said to have been justified. Conclusion.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
IN order to the understanding of these words, I did formerly propound divers particulars to be considered and discussed: the first was, what that faith is by which Christians are said to be justified ? This I have dispatched : the next, what justification doth import 2 The which I shall now endeavor to explain; and I am concerned to perform it with the more care and diligence, because the right notion of this term hath in latter times been canvassed with so much vehemence of dissension and strife.
In former times, among the fathers and the schoolmen, there doth not appear to have been any difference or debate about it; because, as it seems, men commonly having the same apprehensions about the matters, to which the word is applicable, did not so much examine or regard the strict propriety of expression concerning them : consenting in things, they did not fall to cavil and contend about the exact meaning of words. They did indeed consider distinctly no such point of doctrine as that of justification, looking on that word as used incidentally in some places of Scripture, for expression of points more
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clearly expressed in other terms; wherefore they do not make much of the word, as some divines now do. But in the beginning of the Reformation, when the discovery of some great errors (from the corruption and ignorance of former times) crept into vogue, rendered all things the subjects of contention, and multiplied controversies, there did arise hot disputes about this point; and the right stating thereof seemed a matter of great importance; nor scarce was any controversy prosecuted with greater zeal and earnestness: whereas yet (so far as I can discern) about the real points of doctrine, whereto this word, according to any sense pretended, may relate, there hardly doth appear any material difference; and all the questions depending, chiefly seem to consist about the manner of expressing things, which all agree in ; or about the extent of the signification of words capable of larger or stricter acception: whence the debates about this point, among all sober and intelligent persons, might, as I conceive, easily be resolved or appeased, if men had a mind to agree, and did not love to wrangle; if at least a consent in believing the same things, although under some difference of expression, would content them, so as to forbear strife. To make good which observation, tending as well to the illustration of the whole matter, as to the stating and decision of the controversies about it, let us consider the several divine acts to which the term justification is, according to any sense pretended, applicable : I say divine acts; for that the justification we treat of is an act of God simple or compound (in some manner) respecting, or terminated on man, is evident, and will not, I suppose, be contested ; the words of St. Paul in several places so clearly declaring it; as in that, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect It is God that justifieth;’ and in that, ‘To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.' Now according to the tenor of Christian doctrine such acts are these. 1. God (in regard to the obedience performed to his will by his beloved Son, and to his intercession) is so reconciled to mankind, that unto every person who doth sincerely believe the gospel, and repenting of his former bad life, doth seriously
resolve thereafter to live according to it, he doth (on the solemn obsignation of that faith, and profession of that resolution in baptism) intirely remit all past offences, accepting his person, receiving him into favor; assuming him into the state of a loyal subject, a faithful servant, a dutiful son; and bestowing on him all the benefits and privileges suitable to such a state; according to those passages: ‘It behoved Christ to suffer—and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations:’ ‘Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins;’ and, ‘To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins;’ and, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their sins;’ and in other places innumerable. 2. As any person persisting in that sincere faith, and serious purpose of obedience, doth assuredly continue in that state of grace, and exemption from the guilt of sin; so in case that, out of human frailty, such a person doth fall into the commission of sin, God (in regard to the same performances and intercessions of his Son) doth, on the confession and repentance of such a person, remit his sin, and retain him in or restore him to favor; according to those sayings of St. John, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness;' and, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 3. To each person sincerely embracing the gospel, and con...tinuing in steadfast adherence thereto, God doth afford his Holy Spirit, as a principle productive of all inward sanctity and virtuous dispositions in his heart, enabling also and quickening him to discharge the conditions of faith and obedience required from him, and undertaken by him; that which is by some termed making a person just, infusion into his soul of righteousness, of grace, of virtuous habits; in the Scripture style it is called acting by the Spirit, bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost, renovation of the Holy Ghost, creation to good works, sanctification by the Spirit, &c., which phrases denote partly the collation of a principle enabling to perform good works, partly the design of religion tending to that performance. Now all these acts (as by the general consent of Christians, and according to the sense of the ancient Catholic church, so) by all considerable parties seeming to dissent, and so earnestly disputing about the point of justification, are acknowleged and ascribed unto God; but with which of them the act of justification is solely or chiefly coincident; whether it signifieth barely some one of them, or extendeth to more of them, or comprehendeth them all, (according to the constant meaning of the word in Scripture,) are questions coming under debate, and so eagerly prosecuted: of which questions whatever the true resolution be, it cannot methinks be of so great consequence as to cause any great anger or animosity in dissenters one toward another, seeing they all conspire in avowing the acts, whatever they be, meant by the word justification, although in other terms; seeing all the dispute is about the precise and adequate notion of the word justification: whence those questions might well be waived as unnecessary grounds of contention; and it might suffice to understand the points of doctrine which it relateth to in other terms, laying that aside as ambiguous and litigious. Yet because the understanding the rightest, or most probable notion of the word, may somewhat conduce to the interpretation of the Scriptures, and to clearing the matters couched in it, somewhat also to the satisfaction of persons considerate and peaceable, I shall employ some care faithfully (without partiality to any side) to search it out and declare it: in order whereto I shall propound some observations, seeming material. I. Whereas it were not hard to speak much, and criticise about the primitive sense of the word, and about its various acceptions both in holy Scripture and other writings, I do question whether doing that would be pertinent or conducible to our purpose of understanding its right notion here : for knowing the primitive sense of words can seldom or never determine their meaning any where, they often in common use declining from it; and the knowing variety of acceptions doth