« PreviousContinue »
Justification by Faith alone.
ROMANS IV. 5.
BUT TO HIM THAT WORKETH NOT, BUT BELIEVETH ON
HIM THAT JUSTIFIETH THE UNGODLY, HIS FAITH IS COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
The following things may be noted in this verse: 1. That justification respects a man as ungodly : This is evi. dent by those words.....that justifieth the ungodly : Which words cannot imply less, than that God, in the act of justification has no regard to any thing in the person justified, as godliness, or any goodness in him ; but that nextly or immediately before this act, God beholds him only as an ungodly or wicked creature ; so that godliness in the person to be justi. fied is not so antecedent to his justification as to be the ground of it. When it is said that God justifies the ungodly, it is as absurd to suppose that our godliness, taken as some goodness in us, is the ground of our justification, as when it is said that Christ gave sight to the blind, to suppose that sight was prior Vol. VII.
to, and the ground of that act of mercy in Christ ; or as, if it should be said, that such an one by his bounty has made a poor man rich, to suppose that it was the wealth of this poor man that was the ground of this bounty towards him, and was the price by which it was procured.
2. It appears that by him that worketh not, in this verse, is not meant only one that does not conform to the ceremonial law, because he that worketh not, and the ungodly, are evidently synonymous expressions, or what signify the same ; it appears by the manner of their connexion : If it be not so, to what purpose is the latter expression, the ungodly, brought in? The context gives no other occasion for it, but only to show, that the grace of the gospel appears, in that God, in justification, has no regard to any godliness of ours. The foregoing verse is, “ Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt."
In that verse it is evident that gospel grace, consists in the reward's being given without works ; and in this verse which immediately follows it, and in sense is connected with it, it is evident that gospel grace consists in a man's being justified that is ungodly ; by which it is most plain, that by him that worketh not, and him that is ungodly, are meant the same thing ; and that therefore not only works of the ceremonial law are excluded in this business of justification, but works of morality and godliness.
3. It is evident in the words, that by that faith, that is here spoken of, by which we are justified, is not meant the same thing as a course of obedience or righteousness, by the expresa sion by which this faith is here denoted, viz. believing on him that justifies the ungodly. They that oppose the Solifidians, as they call them, do greatly insist on it, that we should take the words of scripture concerning this doctrine in their most natural and obvious meaning ; and how do they cry out, of our clouding this doctrine with obscure metaphors, and unintelligible figures of speech ? But is this to interpret scripture according to its most obvious meaning, when the scripture speaks of our believing on him that justifies the ungodly, or the breakers of his law, to say, that the meaning of it is performing a course of obcdience to his law, and avoiding the breaches of
it ? Believing on God as a justifier, certainly is a different thing from submitting to God as a lawgiver ; especially a be. lieving on him as a justifier of the ungodly or rebels against the lawgiver.
4. It is evident that the subject of justification is looked upon as destitute of any righteousness in himself, by that expres, sion, it is counted or imputed to him for righteousness. The phrase, as the apostle uses it here, and in the context, mani. festly imports, that God, of his sovereign grace, is pleased, in his dealings with the sinner, to take and regard that which indeed is not righteousness, and in one that has no righteousness, so, that the consequence shall be the same as if he had righteousness ; (which may be from the respect that it bears to some thing that is indeed righteous.) It is plain that this is the force of the expression in the preceding verses. In the last verse but one, it is manifest that the apostle lays the stress of his argument for the free grace of God, from that text that he cites out of the Old Testament about Abraham, on that word counted, or imputed, and that this is the thing that he supposed God to shew his grace in, viz. in his counting something for righteousness, in his consequential dealings with Abraham, that was no righteousness in itself. And in the next verse which immediately precedes the text, “ Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt," the word there translated reckoned, is the same that in the other verses is rendered imputed, and counted ; and it is as much as if the apostle had said, “ As to him that works there is no need of any gracious reckoning or counting it for righteousness, and causing the reward to follow as if it were a righteousness; for if he has works, he has that which is a righteousness in itself, to which the reward properly belongs.” This is further evident by the words that follow, verse 6. “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” What can here be meant by imputing righteousness without works; but imputing righteousness to him that has none of his own? Verse 7,8. S “Saying, blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and