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the sons of God. Ye will not come unto me, "that ye might have life." And there is a wide difference between its being suitable that Christ's satisfaction and merits should be theirs who believe, because an interest in that satisfaction and merit is a fit reward of faith-or a suitable testimony of God's respect to the amiableness and excellency of that grace-and its being suitable that Christ's satisfaction and merits should be theirs, because Christ and they are so united, that in the eyes of the Judge they may be looked upon and taken as one.
Although, on account of faith in the believer, it is in the sight of God fit and congruous, both that he who believes should be looked upon as in Christ, and also as having an interest in his merits, in the way that has been now explained; yet it appears that this is very wide from a merit of congruity, or indeed any moral congruity at all to either. There is a two-fold fitness to
* The term here used, "moral congruity," is not happily chosen. Indeed our author, in the next sentence, professes himself to be at a loss what terms to use which may clearly convey the necessary distinction. By "moral?? congruity or fitness, he seems to mean personal perfection, or a perfection of state personally considered, without relation to a surety, or the righteousness which God has provided. But this is an acceptation of the term "moral" so unusual as to throw great perplexity into the argument. Beside, when contrasted with believing, it leads the reader to suppose that to believe is not a moral act. But the supposition that "believing with the heart unto righteousness" is not a moral act, as contradistinguished from a natural one, leads to an endless confusion of ideas. Surely, to believe God's testimony concerning his Son and his righteousness is, if any thing be, a moral act of obedience to divine authority. How then can it be called a natural fitness only, as contrasted with what is moral? Nor is the distinction at all necessary in order to avoid the apprehende i consequence of assigning to faith any merit of congruity. A few observations on this intricate subject may probably assist the reader in seeking scriptural and consistent notions.
1. Justification implies a charge, a plea, and a virtual declaration of approval.
2. The charge against Adam and all his posterity is two-fold, including a breach of covenant, or a failure in federal perfection; and also disobedience in transgressing a divine rule. These considerations are perfectly distinct in their nature. A rule may be momentarily transgressed for a long series of years, as it was by Adam, and constantly is by his rebellious descendants, but a federal failure was, from the nature of perfect righteousness, the very first act of delinquency.
3. No plea can be valid against a federal delinquency, as was the case in Adam, but a participation of a federal perfection. Nothing less can answer the charge, and nothing more is requisite. This averts condemnation, and entitles to a virtual approval in reference to that part of the charge.
4. No plea can be valid against disobedience to divine authority, or the rule of moral government, but a personal, voluntary, actual compliance with that authoritative rule of government; which we find by divine revelation to be, in reference to fallen man, submission to the righteousness of God; or, as differently expressed, believing on the Son of God, receiving him as the Lord our righteousness, &c.
5. No man has possessed a federal perfection, except by imputation, beside the first Adam while he obeyed without failure, and the second Adam when he had completed his work of humiliation. For no eminence of grace in a mere descendant of Adam could possibly attain to federal perfection, from the very nature of such perfection. Nor indeed can the perfect obedience of glorified saints rise higher than a conformity to the divine law as a rule; their federal perfection is
a state; I know not how to give them distinguishing names, otherwise than by calling the one a moral, and the other a natural fitness. A person has a moral fitness for a state, when his moral excellency commends him to it, or when his being put into such a good state is but a suitable testimony of regard to the moral ex
still derived from their union to Christ, and a consequent imputation, which implies a virtual approval. Hence,
6. The federal perfection of Messiah is the proper and sole ground of an actual interest in reconciliation and justification. In other words, the righteousness of Christ, his perfect obedience unto death as our substitute, is that alone on account of which we can stand before God with acceptance, in reference to the charge of a federal failure in Adam.
7. An actual interest in this federal perfection is obtained only by a vital or an effectual union to the Lord our righteousness. This is plain from scripture, and is perfectly rational. It is compared to the union of a vine and its branches, the head and members of the human body, &c. That a participation of nature between Christ and us, or an effectual union, is requisite for a ground of imputation, is evident, not only from scriptural comparisons, and the rational consistence of such an idea, but also from the fact of the Saviour's incarnation. Without this union to us, our sin could not have been imputed to him; and without a vital union, his righteousness could not be imputed to us. This is fairly and fully implied in many parts of scripture, as might be shewn if necessary. From hence it is plain, that union is the indispensible ground of imputation.
8. Whoever is the subject of a vital union to Christ, is in a justified state, as partaker of a federal perfection, prior to the performance of any moral duty whatever. But in order to explain and prove this, it is requisite to attend to the following particulars:
9. Union to Christ is of two kinds, on his part by his Spirit; and on our part by Faith, as explained in a preceding note. In the former, we are passive; and in the latter, we are active. In the one, he acts as a sovereign dispenser of benefits; in the other, we act as accountable creatures.
10. By the order both of nature and of time, the union begins with him, who is a quickening spirit; and that of faith is consequent upon the other, and is the proper effect of it.
11. By his uniting act, which may be termed effectual calling, the enmity of sin is destroyed in the soul, and the Spirit of Christ is imparted, which as occasion offers, will manifest itself as the spirit of faith, of love, &c. Hence,
12. To the soul thus in Christ, whether infant or adult, there is no condemnation arising from federal delinquency; for this charge is answered by the union on his part; and righteousness is imputed.
13. From the premises it follows, that the generally received theological maxim is perfectly just and plain, viz. that justification and regeneration are simultaneous. Union is the immediate cause of both; and because the one is a relative and the other a vital effect, there is no interference as to the order of time. Thus an union of a tree and a branch by ingrafture, is attended with two simultaneous effects, the one relative and the other vital; it is related to the tree as a branch, and at the same time partakes of the vital sap. The union, however, must precede both, as to nature and time.
14. But where two effects are both real, as distinguished from relative, the one must precede the other, both as to nature and time. Thus union precedes vitality, and this of necessity must precede vital acts; and regeneration, as the act of the Spirit of Christ, must necessarily precede believing, which is one mode by which a vital principle operates. For to suppose that the operation produces, or is prior to the principle, either in nature or in time, is a direct contradiction.
15. If the preceding steps of these remarks be thoroughly weighed, it will be found, that justification, according to scripture and just reasoning upon it, has for its foundation the federal perfection of Messiah, and takes place as the immediate
result of union to him.
16. But since this union is two-fold, the one as the effect of the other, that is,
cellency, or value, or amiableness of any of his qualifications or acts. A person has a natural fitness for a state, when it appears meet and condecent that he should be in such a state or circumstances, only from the natural concord or agreeableness there is between such qualifications and such circumstances; not because the qualifications are lovely or unlovely, but only because the
union by faith is the effect of union by the Spirit of Christ, and these, cause and effect, cannot possibly be simultaneous, there must necessarily be a two-fold justification as the result of the corresponding unions. Though in that union which is first in the order of nature and of time, the person, whether infant or adult, is passive; the result, however, is the imputation of righteousness, which is Messiah's federal perfection, and which entitles to life eternal. And by that union which is the effect of the other, and consequently posterior to it in the order both of nature and of time (and of which infants cannot be partakers) that is, by the union effected by believing, the result is the imputation of the same righteousness in circumstances totally different.
17. These two different circumstances, clearly perceived, will develope the seeming difficulty. In the first, the person, whether infant or adult, is the passive possessor of decreed benefits, union, righteousness and life; in the second circumstance, the adult person, as a free and accountable agent, is required to determine for himself on what to found his plea of acceptance with God. If he found his plea on his own obedience, past or intended, whether moral, ceremonial, or both; he shews at once both ignorance and rebellion. Ignorance, that he supposes it even possible for him, by his own obedience, to attain to that federal perfection which is justly required by the righteous Governor; and also in that he does not perceive the love and wisdom, the superabounding grace and wonderful mercy of God as a sovereign Benefactor in providing the needful remedy. Rebellion, in that he rejects the counsel of God, and resists, by obstinate unbelief, the divine authority requiring submission to this righteousness as the way to favour and life. Hence,
18. As all reasonings, expostulations, threats, promises and encouragements; all testimonies, declarations, appeals, inducements, and sanctions, are addressed to men as moral agents, with whom, in the business of accountability, it rests, what mode they will adopt for obtaining acceptance with God-whether by doing the work themselves, or by believing his testimony and receiving his gift-it fully accounts for justification by faith being the great point argued in the apostolic writings.
19. And it further appears, that justification by faith alone should be strenuously urged by all gospel ministers, while they have to do continually with persons whose inquiry is, "What shall we do to be saved?" To such as thus inquire after the way of salvation, who seek acceptance with God, who are about to choose for themselves "the way they will take," what answer can be given, in effect, but what is contained in the apostle's words? "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." The above statement not only agrees with these words, but also, as I humbly conceive, explains their import; and the embarrassment respecting the office and influence of faith in justification is removed, without expunging faith, or the act of believing, from the class of moral duties.
20. It may be objected, If there be any justification before believing, then an unbeliever may be justified; whereas the scripture saith, "He that believeth not is condemned already." This objection arises from a mistaken notion of the true meaning of such passages of scripture. Condemnation, in the real import of scripture, is levelled against the rejecters of Christ, or of the divine testimony, and these only, considered as free agents in seeking acceptance with God and final happiness. These, not believing in Christ, while prevailingly devoted to Moses or Mahomet, moral obedience or ceremonies, or indeed any other object whatever, reject in fact the testimony of God and his righteousness, and expose themselves to a double condemnation. They are condemned as being destitute of a perfect righteousness, and also for their actual disobedience to the divine authority. The sentence of the law is against them, both as a covenant and as a rule; and the gospel which they reject will be a witness to prove the wickedness of their heart. But this can
qualifications and the circumstances are like one another, or do in their nature suit and agree or unite one to another. And it is on this latter account only that God looks on it fit by a natural fitness, that he whose heart sincerely unites itself to Christ as his Saviour, should be looked upon as united to that Saviour, and so having an interest in him; and not from any moral fitness there
never take place in one who is vitally united to Christ. All allow that infants not believing are not to be ranked with unbelievers. To them no testimony is proposed, and therefore no testimony is rejected by them. Nor does any adult united to Christ reject the divine testimony, even before he believes. Let but the object of faith be presented to him, and his vital union secures the exercise of the living principle towards the proposed object in proportion as the terms are understood. A testimony not presented, or one presented in an unknown tongue, cannot be believed, notwithstanding the principle of faith. The existence of a principle does not necessarily imply its exercise, whether it be sense, reason or faith. Men are not necessarily conversant with the objects of sense, because they possess the senses requisite for these purposes; nor are they always exercising the powers of the mind, however essential these powers are to human nature. In like manner, not exercising faith is a very different thing from not possessing the principle. A vital union and the spirit of faith are inseparably and essentially connected; but a vital union and believing are connected secundum quid in certain circumstances. Without the circumstances of adult age, or a capacity of understanding, believing is impracticable. But how absurd would it be to say, that a sinner cannot be justified because he has not arrived at a certain advanced portion of understanding, or has not learned some language; as if a title to heaven depended on age, or knowing a language! And equaily absurd is it to suppose that Christ cannot effect a vital union because the sinner's voluntary consent to it is wanting; as if God's high sovereignty were bound by the human will! That God requires the sinner's consent, as a matter of obligation, is a solemn fact; but God has not laid himself under any obligation that he will never unite a soul to Christ for justification of life but by the sinner's previous consent. He has declared, however, that the continued unbeliever, who is properly a wilful rejecter of Christ and his righteousness, shall be condemned. Hence it is evident, that to make believing essential to a vital union, on the part of Christ, and to make the exercise of faith on a divine testimony essential to its existence, are erroneous conclusions, derogatory to gospel grace, and founded on wrong notions of moral government.
21. To make this, if possible, still more plain, the gospel finds men, as apostatized with Adam, in a state of condemnation; infants and adults alike are ander the condemnatory sentence which is the result of a breach of covenant. This evil can be removed, and a restoration to favour be effected, only by an act of sovereign grace, whereby Christ becomes united vitally to the soul. Without this vital union, there is, there can be no faith. This being the case, a vital union is formed before faith can have any ground of existence; and consequently a justification which is a necessary result of this union takes place. For to him who is thus in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation; but he is passed from death unto life, as an object of mere grace and mercy. In this respect, an adult and an infant are perfectly on a par, while justified and regenerated for the kingdom of God. But God, in the character of a moral Governor, has a further claim on every free agent; he exhibits to the view, and solicits, yea demands a voluntary compliance with the plan of mercy through the blessed Redeemer, who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. The regenerate person that is capable of acting for himself, as the subject of commands and invitations, complies; he becomes an active recipient of the appointed righteousness, which he now pleads in opposition to all charges presented against him. By faith or believing God's testimony, he makes his appeal, and by faith alone he is justified. An investigation of the rationale of Christian doctrines is not necessary for popular use, but may be peculiarly useful as a guard against inconsistencies, and a means of strengthening our attachment to those doctrines. W.
is between the excellency of such a qualification as faith, and such a glorious blessedness as the having an interest in Christ. God's bestowing Christ and his benefits on a soul in consequence of faith, out of regard only to the natural concord there is between such a qualification of a soul, and such an union with Christ, and interest in him, makes the case very widely different from what it would be, if he bestowed this from regard to any moral suitableness. For, in the former case, it is only from God's love of order that he bestows these things on the account of faith: in the latter, God doth it out of love to the grace of faith itself.— God will neither look on Christ's merits as ours, nor adjudge his benefits to us, till we be in Christ; nor will he look upon us as being in him, without an active unition of our hearts and souls to him; because he is a wise being, and delights in order and not in confusion, and that things should be together or asunder according to their nature; and his making such a constitution is a testimony of his love of order*. Whereas if it were out of regard to any moral fitness or suitableness between faith and such blessedness, it would be a testimony of his love to the act or qualification itself. The one supposes this divine constitution to be a manifestation of God's regard to the beauty of the act of faith: the other only supposes it to be a manifestation of his regard to the beauty of that order that there is in uniting those things that have a natural agreement and congruity, and unition of the one with the other. Indeed a moral suitableness or fitness to a state includes a natural; for, if there be a moral suitableness that a person should be in such a state, there is also a natural suitableness; but such a natural suitableness as I have described, by no means necessarily includes a moral.
This is plainly what our divines intend when they say, that faith does not justify as a work, or a righteousness, viz. that it does not justify as a part of our moral goodness or excellency, or that it does not justify as man was to have been justified by the covenant of works, which was, to have a title to eternal life given him of God, in testimony of his pleasedness with his works, or his regard to the inherent excellency and beauty of his obedience. And this is certainly what the apostle Paul means, when he so much insists
* This order, however, is a law to us, and compliance with it necessarily imports moral obedience; though the object received is the obedience of another. No one has room to expect success in his endeavours, but by complying with the divine requisition; and that requisition is, that we submit to the perfection of Messiah. And an act of submission to the righteousness of faith may well be an act of moral excellence, though that excellence has nothing meritorious on account of which a perfect righteousness should be imputed. A thing may have moral goodness without moral perfection. But in order to deny to faith the latter, it is not necessary to deprive it of the former. If we consistently maintain, that the moral excellence of faith constitutes no part of our justifying righteousness, it is all that the argument requires, in order to establish the conclusion intended. W. 47