Justification By An Imputed
R I G H T E O U S N E S S
No Way To Heaven But By Jesus Christ Part 1
I. By justification with God, we stand clear, quit, free, or in a
saved condition, in the approbation of His holy law.
II. By justification with men, we stand clear and quit from just
ground of reprehension with them. All by the imputation of the righteousness
of Jesus Christ, in which we have faith working by love.
By JOHN BUNYAN
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JUSTIFICATION is to be diversly taken in the scripture. Sometimes
it is taken for the justification of persons. Sometimes for the justification of
actions. And sometimes for the justification of the person and action too. It is
taken for the justification of persons, and that,
(1.) As to justification with God; or,
(2.) As to justification with men.
As to justification with God, that is, when a man stands clear, quit, free, or, in
a saved condition before him, in the approbation of his holy law.
As to justification with men, that is, when a man stands clear and quit from just
ground of reprehension with them. Justification also is to be taken with reference
to actions; and that may be when they are considered,
As flowing from true faith; or,
Because the act done fulfils some transient law.
(1.) As actions flow from faith, so they are justified, because done before God in,
and made complete through, the perfections of Jesus Christ, 1 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 13:15;
(2.) As by the doing of the act some transient law is fulfilled; as when Jehu executed
judgment upon the house of Ahab "Thou hast done well," said God to him,
"in executing that which is righteous in mine eyes, and hast done to the house
of Ahab all that was in mine heart," 2 Kings 10:30.
As to such acts, God may or may not look at the qualification of those that do them;
and it is clear that he had not respect to any good that was in Jehu, in the justifying
of this action; nor could he, for Jehu stuck close yet to the sins of Jeroboam, but
"took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel," 2 Kings 10:29,
I might hence also shew you, that a man may be justified even then when his action
is condemned; also that a man may be in a state of condemnation, when his action
may be justified. But with these distinctions I will not take up time, my intention
being to treat of justification, as it sets a man free or quit from sin, the curse
and condemnation of the law in the sight of God, in order to eternal salvation.
And that I may with the more clearness handle this point before you, I will lay down
and speak to this proposition
That there is no other way for sinners to be justified from the curse of the law
in the sight of God, than by the imputation of that righteousness long ago performed
by, and still residing with, the person of Jesus Christ.
The terms of this proposition are easy; yet if it will help, I will speak a word
or two for explication.
(1.) By a sinner, I mean one that has transgressed the law; for "sin is the
transgression of the law," 1 John 3:4.
(2.) By the curse of the law, I mean that sentence, judgment, or condemnation which
the law pronounceth against the transgressor, Gal. 3:10.
(3.) By justifying righteousness, I mean that which stands in the doing and suffering
of Christ when he was in the world; Rom. 5:19.
(4.) By the residing of this righteousness in Christ's person, I mean, it still abides
with him as to the action, though the benefit is bestowed upon those that are his.
(5.) By the imputation of it to us, I mean God's making of it ours by an act of his
grace, that we by it might be secured from the curse of the law.
(6.) When I say there is no other way to be justified, I cast away to that end the
law, and all the works of the law as done by us.
Thus I have opened the terms of the proposition.
Now the two first, to wit, What sin and the curse is, stand clear in all men's sight,
unless they be atheists, or desperately heretical. I shall therefore in few words,
clear the other four.
First, Therefore justifying righteousness is the doing and suffering of Christ when
he was in the world. This is clear, because we are said to be "justified by
his obedience," Rom. 5:19; by his obedience to the law. Hence he is said again
to be the end of the law for that very thing "Christ is the end of the law for
righteousness," &c., Rom. 10:4. The end, what is that? Why, the requirement
or demand of the law. But what is it? Why, righteousness, perfect righteousness,
Gal. 3:10. Perfect righteousness, what to do? That the soul concerned might stand
spotless in the sight of God, Rev. 1:5:Now this lies only in the doings and sufferings
of Christ; for "by his obedience many are made righteous"; wherefore as
to this Christ is the end of the law, that being found in that obedience, that becomes
to us sufficient for our justification. Hence, we are said to be made righteous by
his obedience; yea, and to be washed, purged, and justified by his blood, Heb. 9:14;
Rom. 5:18, 19.
Secondly, That this righteousness still resides in and with the person of Christ,
even then when we stand just before God thereby, is clear, for that we are said when
justified to be justified "in him" "In the Lord shall all the seed
of Israel be justified." And again; "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord
have I righteousness," &c. And again; "For him are ye in Christ Jesus,
who is made unto us of God righteousness," Isa. 45:24, 25; 1 Cor. 1:30.
Mark, the righteousness is still "in him," not "in us"; even
then when we are made partakers of the benefit of it, even as the wing and feathers
still abide in the hen when the chickens are covered, kept, and warmed thereby.
For as my doings, though my children are fed and clothed thereby, are still my doings,
not theirs, so the righteousness wherewith we stand just before God from the curse
still resides in Christ, not in us. Our sins when laid upon Christ were yet personally
ours, not his; so his righteousness when put upon us is yet personally his, not ours.
What is it, then? Why, "he was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that
we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. 5:21.
Thirdly, It is therefore of a justifying virtue only by imputation, or as God reckoneth
it to us; even as our sins made the Lord Jesus a sinner, nay, sin, by God's reckoning
of them to him.
It is absolutely necessary that this be known of us; for if the understanding be
muddy as to this, it is impossible that such should be sound in the faith; also in
temptation, that man will be at a loss that looketh for a righteousness for justification
in himself, when it is to be found nowhere but in Jesus Christ.
The apostle, who was his craftsmaster as to this, was always "looking to Jesus,"
that he "might be found in him" (Phil. 3:6-8), knowing that nowhere else
could peace or safety be had.
And indeed this is one of the greatest mysteries in the world, namely, that a righteousness
that resides with a person in heaven should justify me, a sinner, on earth.
Fourthly, Therefore the law and the works thereof, as to this must by us be cast
away; not only because they here are useless, but also they being retained are a
hindrance. That they are useless is evident, for that salvation comes by another
name, Acts 4:12. And that they are a hindrance, it is clear, for the very adhering
to the law, though it be but a little, or in a little part, prevents justification
by the righteousness of Christ, Rom. 9:31, 32.
What shall I say? As to this, the moral law is rejected, the ceremonial law is rejected,
and man's righteousness is rejected, for that they are here both weak and unprofitable,
Rom. 8:2, 3; Gal. 3:21; Heb. 10:1-12.
Now if all these and their works as to our justification are rejected, where but
in Christ is righteousness to be found?
Thus much, therefore, for the explication of the proposition, namely, that there
is no other way for sinners to be justified from the curse of the law in the sight
of God than by the imputation of that righteousness long ago performed by, and still
residing with, the person of Jesus Christ.
Now, from this proposition I draw these two positions
First, That men are justified from the curse of the law before God while sinners
Secondly, That this can be done by no other righteousness than that long ago performed
by, and residing with, the person of Jesus Christ.
Let us, then, now enter into the consideration of the first of these, namely, That
men are justified from the curse of the law before God while sinners in themselves.
This I shall manifest,
By touching upon the mysterious acts of our redemption.
By giving of you plain texts which discover it; and,
By reasons drawn from the texts.
For the first of these; to wit, the mysterious act of our redemption: and that I
shall speak to under these two heads
I shall shew you what that is; and,
How we are concerned therein.
That which I call, and that rightly, the mysterious act of our redemption, is Christ's
sufferings as a common, though a particular person and as a sinner, though always
That he suffered as a common person is true. By common, I mean a public person, or
one that presents the body of mankind in himself. This a multitude of scriptures
bear witness to, especially that fifth chapter to the Rom., where by the apostle
he is set before us as the head of all the elect, even as Adam was once head of all
the world. Thus he lived, and thus he died; and this was a mysterious act.
And that he should die as a sinner, when yet himself did "no sin, nor had any
guile found in his mouth," made this act more mysterious, 1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22;
3:18. That he died as a sinner is plain "He hath made him to be sin. And the
Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all," Isaiah, 53. That, then, as to his
own person he was completely sinless is also as truly manifest, and that by a multitude
Now, I say, that Christ Jesus should be thus considered, and thus die, was the great
mystery of God. Hence Paul tells us, that when he preached "Christ crucified,"
he preached not only the "wisdom of God," but the "wisdom of God in
a mystery," even his "hidden wisdom," for, indeed, this wisdom is
hidden, and kept close from the "fowls of the air," 1 Cor. 1:23; 2:7, 8;
Job 28:20, 21.
It is also so mysterious, that it goes beyond the reach of all men, except those
to whom an understanding is given of God to apprehend it, 1 John 5:20.
That one particular man should represent all the elect in himself, and that the most
righteous should die as a sinner, yea, as a sinner by the hand of a just and holy
God, is a mystery of the greatest depth.
Secondly , And now I come to shew you how the elect are concerned therein; that is,
in this mysterious act of this most blessed One; and this will make this act yet
more mysterious to you.
Now, then, we will speak of this first, as to how Christ prepared himself thus mysteriously
He took hold of our nature. I say, he took hold of us , by taking upon him flesh
and blood. The Son of God therefore, took not upon him a particular person, though
he took to him a human body and soul; but that which he took was, as I may call it,
a lump of the common nature of man, and by that, hold of the whole elect seed of
Abraham; Heb. 2:16, "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but
he took on him the seed of Abraham."
Hence he, in a mystery, became us, and was counted as all the men that were or should
be saved. And this is the reason why we are said to do , when only Jesus Christ did
do . As for instance
First, When Jesus Christ fulfilled the righteousness of the law, it is said it was
fulfilled in us, because indeed fulfilled in our nature: "For what the law could
not do, in that it was weak through the flesh; God sending his own Son in the likeness
of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness
of the law might be fulfilled in us," &c. But because none should appropriate
this unto themselves that have not had passed upon them a work of conversion, therefore
he adds, "Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." For there
being a union between head and members, though things may be done by the head, and
that for the members, the things are counted to the members, as if not done only
by the head. The "righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us"; and that
truly, because fulfilled in that common nature which the Son of God took of the Virgin.
Wherefore, in this sense we are said to do what only was done by him; even as the
client doth by his lawyer, when his lawyer personates him; the client is said to
do, when it is the lawyer only that does; and to overcome by doing, when it is the
lawyer that overcomes; the reason is, because the lawyer does in the client's name.
How much more then may it be said we do, when only Christ does; since he does what
he does, not in our name only, but in our nature too; "for the law of the spirit
of life in Christ (not in me) has set me free from the law of sin and death,"
Rom. 8:1-3; he doing in his common flesh what could not be done in my particular
person, that so I might have the righteousness of the law fulfilled in me, my flesh
assumed by Christ; though impossible to be done, because of the weakness of my person.
The reason of all this is, because we are said to be in him in his doing, in him
by our flesh, and also by the election of God. So, then, as all men sinned when Adam
fell, so all the elect did righteousness when Christ wrought and fulfilled the law;
for "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
Secondly, As we are said to do by Christ, so we are said to suffer by him, to suffer
with him. "I am crucified with Christ," said Paul. And again; "Forasmuch,
then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the
same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin," 1 Pet.
4:1, 2. Mark how the apostle seems to change the person. First he says, it is Christ
that suffered; and that is true; but then he insinuates that it is us that suffered,
for the exhortation is to believers, "to walk in newness of life"; and
the argument is, because they have suffered in the flesh: "For he that hath
suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest
of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God," Gal.
We then suffered when Christ suffered; we then suffered in his flesh and also our
"old man was crucified with him," Rom. 6:6; that is, in his crucifixion;
for when he hanged on the cross, all the elect hanged there in their common flesh
which he assumed, and because he suffered there as a public man.
Thirdly, As we are said to suffer with him, so we are said to die, to be dead with
him; with him, that is, by the dying of his body: "Now, if we be dead with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him," Rom. 6:8.
Wherefore he saith in other places, "Brethren, ye are become dead to the law
by the body of Christ"; for indeed we died then to it by him. To the law, that
is, the law now has nothing to do with us; for that it has already executed its curse
to the full upon us by its slaying of the body of Christ; for the body of Christ
was our flesh, upon it also was laid our sin. The law, too, spent that curse that
was due to us upon him when it condemned, killed, and cast him into the grave. Wherefore,
it having thus spent its whole curse upon him as standing in our stead, we are exempted
from its curse for ever; we are become dead to it by that body, Rom. 7:4; it has
done with us as to justifying righteousness. Nor need we fear its damning threats
any more; for by the death of this body we are freed from it, and are for ever now
coupled to a living Christ.
Fourthly , As we are said thus to be dead, so we are said also to rise again by him
"Thy dead men" (saith he to the Father) "shall live, together with
my dead body shall they arise." And again; "After two days he will revive
us, and in the third day we shall live in his sight," Isa. 26:19; Hos. 6:2.
Both these scriptures speak of the resurrection of Christ, of the resurrection of
his body on the third day; but behold, as we were said before to suffer and be dead
with him, so now we are said also to rise and live in God's sight by the resurrection
of his body; for, as was said, the flesh was ours; he took part of our flesh when
he came into the world; and in it he "suffered, died, and rose again,"
Heb. 2:14. We also were therefore counted by God in that God-man when he did this;
yea, he suffered, died, and rose as a common head.
Hence also the New Testament is full of this, saying, "If ye be dead with Christ."
"If ye be risen with Christ." And again; "He hath quickened us together
with him," Col. 2:20; 3:1; and 2:13.
"We are quickened together with him." "Quickened," and "quickened
together with him." The apostle hath words that cannot easily be shifted or
evaded. Christ then was quickened when he was raised from the dead. Nor is it proper
to say that he was ever quickened either before or since. This text also concludes
that we, to wit, the whole body of God's elect, were also quickened then, and made
to live with him together. True, we also are quickened personally by grace the day
in the which we are born unto God by the gospel; yet before that we are quickened
in our head; quickened when he was raised from the dead; quickened together with
Fifthly, Nor are we thus considered, to wit, as dying and rising, and so left. But
the apostle pursues his argument, and tells us that we also reap by him, as being
considered in him, the benefit which Christ received, both in order to his resurrection,
and the blessed effect thereof.
We received, by our thus being counted in him, that benefit which did precede his
rising from the dead; and what was that but the forgiveness of sins? For this stands
clear to reason, that if Christ had our sins charged upon him at his death, he then
must be discharged of them in order to his resurrection. Now, though it is not proper
to say they were forgiven to him, because they were purged from him by merit, yet
they may be said to be forgiven us, because we receive this benefit by grace.
And this, I say, was done precedent to his resurrection from the dead: "He hath
quickened us together with him, having forgiven us all trespasses." He could
not be "quickened" till we were "discharged"; because it was
not for himself, but for us, that he died. Hence we are said to be at that time,
as to our own personal estate, dead in our sins, even when we are "quickened
together with him," Col. 2:13.
Therefore both the "quickening" and "forgiveness" too, so far
as we are in this text concerned, is to him, as we are considered in him or to him,
with respect to us.
Having forgiven you all trespasses. For necessity so required; because else how was
it possible that the pains of death should be loosed in order to his rising, so long
as one sin stood still charged to him, as that for the commission of which God had
not received a plenary satisfaction? As therefore we suffered, died, and rose again
by him; so, in order to his so rising, he, as presenting of us in his person and
suffering, received for us remission of all our trespasses. A full discharge therefore
was, in and by Christ, received of God of all our sins before he arose from the dead;
as his resurrection truly declared; for "he was delivered for our offences,
and was raised again for our justification," Rom. 4:25.
This therefore is one of the privileges we receive by the rising again of our Lord;
for that we were in his flesh considered, yea, and in his death and suffering too.
By this means also we have now escaped death. "Knowing that Christ being raised
from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he
died, he died unto (or, for) sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God,"
Rom. 6:9, 10.
Now in all this, considering what has been said before, we that are of the elect
are privileged, for that we also are raised up by the rising of the body of Christ
from the dead. And thus the apostle bids us reckon "Likewise reckon also yourselves
to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ," Rom. 6:11.
Hence Christ says, "he is the resurrection and the life," for that all
his are safe in him, suffering, dying, and rising. He is the life, our life; yea,
so our life that by him the elect do live before God, even then when as to themselves
they yet are dead in their sins. Wherefore, hence it is that in time they partake
of quickening grace from this their head, to the making of them also live by faith,
in order to their living hereafter with him in glory; for if Christ lives, they cannot
die that were sharers with him in his resurrection. Hence they are said to "live,"
being "quickened together with him." Also, as sure as at his resurrection
they lived "by him," so sure at his coming shall they be gathered "to
him"; nay, from that day to this all that, as aforesaid, were in him at his
death and resurrection, are already, in the "fulness of the dispensation of
time," daily "gathering to him." For this he hath purposed, wherefore
none can disannul it "In the fulness of the dispensation of time, to gather
together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are in earth,
even in him," Eph. 1:9, 10.
To secure this the more to our faith that believe, as we are said to be "raised
up together with him," so we are said "to be made to sit together in heavenly
places in Christ Jesus"; Eph. 2:6. We died by him, we rose by him, and are together,
even all the elect set down together in "heavenly places in Christ Jesus";
for still even now he is on the right hand of God; he is to be considered as our
public man, our head, and so one in whom is concluded all the elect of God. We then
are by him already in heaven; in heaven, I say, by him; yea, set down there in our
places of glory by him. Hence the apostle, speaking of us again, saith, that as we
are predestinate, we are called, justified, and glorified; called, justified, glorified,
all is done, already done, as thus considered in Christ, Rom. 8:30. For that in his
public work there is nothing yet to do as to this. Is not he called? Is not he justified?
Is not he glorified? And are we not in him, in him, even as so considered?
Nor doth this doctrine hinder or forestal the doctrine of regeneration or conversion;
nay, it lays a foundation for it; for by this doctrine we gather assurance that Christ
will have his own; for if already they live in their head, what is that but a pledge
that they shall live in their persons with him? and, consequently, that to that end
they shall, in the times allotted for that end, be called to a state of faith, which
God has ordained shall precede and go before their personal enjoyment of glory.
Nor doth this hinder their partaking of the symbol of regeneration, and of their
other privileges to which they are called in the day of grace; yea, it lays a foundation
for all these things; for if I am dead with Christ, let me be like one dead with
him, even to all things to which Christ died when he hanged on the tree; and then
he died to sin, to the law, and to the rudiments of this world, Rom. 6:10; 7:4; Col.
And if I be risen with Christ, let me live, like one born from the dead, in newness
of life, and having my mind and affections on the things where Christ now sitteth
on the right hand of God. And indeed he professes in vain that talketh of these things,
and careth not to have them also answered in himself. This was the apostle's way,
namely, "To covet to know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship
of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death," Phil. 3:9-13.
And when we are thus, that thing is true both in him and us. Then as is the heavenly,
such are they that are heavenly; for he that saith he is in him, and by being in
him a partaker of these privileges by him, "ought himself so to walk, even as
he walked," 1 Cor. 15:48; 1 John 2:6, 8.
But to pass this digression, and to come to my argument, namely, that men are justified
from the curse of the law before God while sinners in themselves.
This is evident by what hath already been said; for if the justification of their
persons is by, in, and through Christ; then it is not by, in, and through their own
doings. Nor was Christ engaged in this work but of necessity, even because else there
had not been salvation for the elect. "Father" (saith he), "if it
be possible, let this cup pass from me," Matt. 26:39. If what be possible? Why,
that my elect may be saved, and I not spill my blood. Wherefore he saith again, Christ
ought to suffer. Christ must needs have suffered; for without shedding of blood is
no remission of sin, Luke 24:26; Acts 17:3; Heb. 9:22.
We will now come to the present state and condition of those that are justified;
I mean with respect to their own qualifications, and so prove the truth of this our
great position. And this I will do,
By giving of you plain texts that discover it, and that consequently prove our point.
And after that, by giving of you reasons drawn from the texts.
For the first of these.
First, "Speak not in thine heart" (no, not in thine heart) "after
that the Lord thy God hath cast out thine enemies before thee, saying, For my righteousness
do I possess the land... not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine
heart, dost thou go in to possess the land... Understand, therefore, that the Lord
thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness, for thou
art a stiff-necked people," Deut. 9:4-6.
In these words, very pat for our purpose, two things are worthy our consideration.
The people here spoken to were the people of God; and so by God himself are they
here twice acknowledged to be "The Lord thy God, the Lord thy God." So,
then, the righteousness here intended, is not the righteousness that is in the world,
but that which the people of God perform.
The righteousness here intended is not some, but all, and every whit of that the
church performs to God: "Say not in thine heart, after the Lord hath brought
thee in, it was for my righteousness." No, all thy righteousness, from Egypt
to Canaan, will not purchase Canaan for thee.
That this is true is evident, because it is thrice rejected "Not for thy righteousness,
not for thy righteousness, not for thy righteousness, dost thou possess the land."
Now if the righteousness of the people of God of old could not merit for them Canaan,
which was but a type of heaven, how can the righteousness of the world now obtain
heaven itself? I say again,
If godly men, as these were, could not by their works purchase the type of heaven,
then must the ungodly be justified, if ever they be justified from the curse and
sentence of the law, while sinners in themselves. The argument is clear; for if good
men by what they do cannot merit the less, bad men by what they do cannot merit
Secondly, "Remember me, O my God, for this; and wipe not out my good deeds that
I have done," Neh. 13:14.
These words were spoken by holy Nehemiah, and that at the end of all the good that
we read he did in the world. Also, the deeds here spoken of were deeds done for God,
for his people, for his house, and for the offices thereof.
Yet godly Nehemiah durst not stand before God in these, nor yet suffer them to stand
to his judgment by the law; but prays to God to be merciful both to him and them,
and to spare him "according to the multitude of his mercy," verse 22.
God blots out no good but for the sake of sin; and forasmuch as this man prays God
would not blot out his, it is evident that he was conscious to himself that in his
good works were sin. Now, I say, if a good man's works are in danger of being overthrown
because there is in them a tang [taint] of sin, how can bad men think to stand just
before God in their works, which are in all parts, full of sin? Yea, if the works
of a sanctified man are blameworthy, how shall the works of a bad man set him clear
in the eyes of Divine justice?
Thirdly, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are
as filthy rags; and we do all fade away as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind,
have taken us away," Isa. 64:6.
In these words we have a relation both of persons and things.
Of persons. And they are a righteous people, a righteous people put all together
"We, we all are," &c.
The condition of this people, even of all of them, take them at the best, are, and
that by their own confession, "as an unclean thing."
Again the things here attending this people are their good things, put down under
this large character, "Righteousnesses, all our righteousnesses." These
expressions therefore comprehend all their religious duties, both before and after
faith too. But what are all these righteousnesses? Why they are all as "filthy
rags" when set before the justice of the law; yea, it is also confessed, and
that by these people, that their iniquities, notwithstanding all their righteousnesses,
like the wind, if grace prevent not, would "carry them away." This being
so, how is it possible for one that is in his sins to work himself into a spotless
condition by works done before faith, by works done by natural abilities? or to perform
a righteousness which is able to look God in the face, his law in the face, and to
demand and obtain the forgiveness of sins, and the life that is eternal? It cannot
be: "men must therefore be justified from the curse in the sight of God while
sinners in themselves, or not at all."
Fourthly, "There is not a just man upon the earth, that doth good, and sinneth
not," Eccles. 7:20; 1 Kings 8:46.
Although the words before are large, yet these seem far larger; there is not a man,
not a just man, not a just man upon the earth, that doth good, and sinneth not. Now,
if no good man, if no good man upon earth doth good, and sinneth not, then no good
man upon earth can set himself by his own actions justified in the sight of God,
for he has sin mixed with his good. How then shall a bad man, any bad man, the best
bad man upon earth, think to set himself by his best things just in the sight of
God? And if the tree makes the fruit either good or evil, then a bad tree (and a
bad man is a bad tree) can bring forth no good fruit (Matt. 7:16), how then shall
such an one do that that shall cleanse him from his sin, and set him as "spotless
before the face of God?"
Fifthly, "Hearken to me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness:
I bring near my righteousness," &c., Isa. 46:12, 13.
This call is general, and so proves, whatever men think of themselves that in the
judgment of God there is none at all righteous men, as men are from being so.
This general offer of righteousness, of the righteousness of God, declares that it
is in vain for men to think to be set just and righteous before God by any other
There is here also insinuated, that for him that thinks himself the worst, God has
prepared a righteousness, and therefore would not have him despair of life that sees
himself far from righteousness. From all these scriptures, therefore, it is manifest
that "men must be justified from the curse of the law in the sight of God while
sinners in themselves."
Sixthly , "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest," Matt. 11:28.
Here we have a labouring people, a people labouring for life; but by all their labour,
you see, they cannot ease themselves; their burden still remains upon them; they
yet are heavy laden. The load here is, doubtless guilt of sin, such as David had
when he said by reason thereof "he was not able to look up"; Psal. 38:3-5.
Hence, therefore, you have an experiment set before you, of those that are trying
what they can do for life; but behold, the more they stir, the more they sink under
the weight of the burden that lies upon them.
And the conclusion, to wit, Christ's call to them to come to him for rest declares
that, in his judgment, rest was not to be had elsewhere. And I think one may with
as much safety adhere to Christ's judgment as to any man's alive; wherefore "men
must be justified from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Seventhly, "There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth,
there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are
together become unprofitable; there is none that doth good, no, not one,"
These words have respect to a righteousness which is justified by the law; and they
conclude that none by his own performances is righteous with such a righteousness;
and it is concluded from five reasons
Because they are not good; for a man must be good before he doth good, and perfectly
good before he doth good and sinneth not.
Because they understand not. How then should they do good? for a man must know before
he does, else how should he divert himself to do?
Because they want a heart, they seek not after God according to the way of his own
They are all gone out of the way; how then can they walk therein?
They are together become unprofitable; what worth or value then can there be in any
of their doings?
These are the reasons by which he proveth that there is "none righteous, no,
not one." And the reasons are weighty; for by them he proves the tree is not
good; how then can it yield good fruit?
Now, as he concludes from these five reasons that not one indeed is righteous, so
he concludes by five more that none can do good to make him so
For that internally they are as an open sepulchre, as full of dead men's bones; their
minds and consciences are defiled; how then can sweet and good proceed from thence?
Rom. 13; Matt. 23:27; Tit. 1:15; Isa. 44:12; Jer 17:9.
Their throat is filled with this stink; all their vocal duties therefore smell thereof.
Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; how then can there be found one word
that should please God?
Their tongue, which should present their praise to God, has been used to work deceit;
how then, until it is made a new one, should it speak in righteousness?
The poison of asps is under their lips, therefore whatever comes from them, must
Thus, you see, he sets forth their internal part; which being a true report, as to
be sure it is, it is impossible that any good should so much as be framed in such
an inward part, or come clean out of such a throat by such a tongue through such
lips as these, Rom. 3:11-14.
And yet this is not all: he also proves, and that by five reasons more, that it is
not possible they should do good
"Their feet are swift to shed blood," verse 15. This implies an inclination,
an inward inclination to evil courses; a quickness of motion to do evil, but a backwardness
to do good.
"Destruction and misery are in their ways," verse 16. Take "ways"
for their "doings," and in the best of them destruction lurks, and misery
yet follows them at the heels.
"The way of peace they have not known," verse 17; that is far above out
of their sight. Wherefore the labour of these foolish ones will weary every one of
them, because "they know not the way that goes to the city."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes," verse 18. How then can they
do anything with that godly reverence of his holy Majesty that is and must be essential
to every good work? for to do things, but not in God's fear, to what will it amount?
will it avail?
All this while they are under a law that calls for works that are perfectly good,
that will accept of none but what are perfectly good, and that will certainly condemn
them because they neither are nor can be perfectly good: "For whatsoever things
the law saith, it saith it to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be
stopped, and all the world become guilty before God," verse 19.
Thus you see that Paul here proves by fifteen reasons that none are, nor can be,
righteous before God by works that they can do; therefore "men must be justified
from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Eighthly, "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being
witnessed by the law and the prophets," &c., verse 21.
This text utterly excludes the law, what law? The law of works, the moral law (verse
27)and makes mention of another righteousness, even a righteousness of God; for the
righteousness of the law is the righteousness of men, "men's own righteousness,"
Now, if the law, as to a justifying righteousness, is rejected, then the very matter
upon and by which man should work is rejected; and if so, then he must be justified
by the righteousness of God, or not at all; for he must be justified by a righteousness
that is without the law; to wit, the righteousness of God. Now this righteousness
of God, whatever it is, to be sure it is not a righteousness that flows from men;
for that, as I said, is rejected, and the righteousness of God opposed unto it, being
called a righteousness that is without the law, without our personal obedience to
The righteousness of God, or a righteousness of God's completing, a righteousness
of God's bestowing, a righteousness that God also gives unto, and puts upon, all
them that believe (verse 22), a righteousness that stands in the works of Christ,
and that is imputed both by the grace and justice of God, Rom. 3:24-26.
Where, now, is room for man's righteousness, either in the whole, or as to any part
thereof? I say, where, as to justification with God?
Ninthly, "What shall we say, then, that Abraham our father, as pertaining to
the flesh, hath found?"
Now the apostle is at the root of the matter; for Abraham is counted the father of
the faithful; consequently the man whose way of attaining justification must needs
be exemplary to all the children of Abraham.
Now the question is, How Abraham found? how he found that which some of his children
sought and missed? Rom. 9:32 that is, how he found justifying righteousness; for
it was that which Israel sought, and attained not unto, Rom. 11:7.
"Did he find it (saith Paul) by the flesh?" or, as he was in the flesh?
or, by acts and works of the flesh? But what are they? Why, the next verse tells
you "they are the works of the law."
If Abraham was justified by works, that is, as pertaining to the flesh; for the works
of the law are none other but the best sort of the works of the flesh. And so Paul
calls all they that he had before his conversion to Christ: "If any other man
(saith he) thinketh he hath whereof he may trust in the flesh, I more." And
then he counteth up several of his privileges, to which he at last adjoineth the
righteousness of the moral law, saying, "Touching the righteousness which is
in the law, I was blameless," Phil. 3:4-6.
And it is proper to call the righteousness of the law the work of the flesh (2 Cor.
3:8), because it is the work of a man, of a man in the flesh; for the Holy Ghost
doth not attend the law, or the work thereof, as to this, in man, as man; that has
confined itself to another ministration, whose glorious name it bears.
I say, it is proper to call the works of the law the works of the flesh (James 3:10),
because they are done by that selfsame nature in and out of which comes all those
things that are more grossly so called, Gal. 5:19, 20, to wit, from the corrupt fountain
of fallen man's polluted nature.
This, saith he, was not the righteousness by which Abraham found justification with
God "For if Abraham was justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not
before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted
to him for righteousness," see Rom. 4:2-11. This "believing" is also
set in flat opposition to "works," and to the "law of works";
wherefore, upon pain of great contempt to God, it must not be reckoned as a work
to justify withal, but rather as that which receiveth and applieth that righteousness.
From all this, therefore, it is manifest "that men must be justified from the
curse of the law in the sight of God while sinners in themselves." But,
Tenthly, "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of
debt," Rom. 4:4.
These words do not only back what went before, as to the rejection of the law for
righteousness as to justification with God; but supposing the law was of force to
justify, life must not be admitted to come that way, because of the evil consequences
that will unavoidably flow therefrom.
First, By this means, grace, and justification by grace, would be rejected; and that
would be a foul business; it would not be reckoned of grace.
Secondly, By this, God would become the debtor, and so the underling; and so we in
this the more honourable. It would not be reckoned of grace, but of debt: and what
would follow from hence? Why,
By this we should frustrate the design of Heaven, which is, to justify us freely
by grace, through a redemption brought in by Christ, Rom. 3:24-26; Eph. 2:8-13.
By this we should make ourselves the saviours, and jostle Christ quite out of doors,
We should have heaven at our own disposal, as a debt, not by promise, and so not
be beholden to God for it, Gal. 3:18. It must, then, be of grace, not of works, for
the preventing of these evils. Again; it must not be of works, because if it should,
then God would be the debtor, and we the creditor. Now much blasphemy would flow
from hence; as,
First, God himself would not be his own to dispose of; for the inheritance being
God, as well as his kingdom, for so it is written, "Heirs of God," Rom.
8:17, himself, I say, must needs be our purchase.
Secondly, If so, then we have right to dispose of him, of his kingdom and glory,
and all; ("Be astonished, O heavens, at this!") for if he be ours by works,
then he is ours of debt; if he be ours of debt, then he is ours by purchase; and
then, again, if so, he is no longer his own, but ours, and at our disposal, &c.
Therefore, for these reasons, were there sufficiency in our personal works to justify
us, it would be even inconsistent with the being of God to suffer it.
So, then, "men are justified from the curse in the sight of God while sinners
Eleventhly, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth
the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness," Rom. 4:5.
These words shew how we must stand just in the sight of God from the curse of the
law, both as it respecteth justification itself, as also the instrument or means
that receiveth that righteousness which justifieth.
First, As for that righteousness that justifieth, it is not personal performances
in us; for the person here justified stands, in that respect, as one that worketh
not, as one that is ungodly.
Secondly, As it respecteth the instrument that receiveth it, that faith, as in the
point of justifying righteousness, will not work, but believe, but receive the works
and righteousness of another; for works and faith in this are set in opposition "He
doth not work, he doth believe," Gal. 3:12. He worketh not, but believeth on
him who justifieth us, ungodly. As Paul also saith in another place, "The law
is not of faith." And again; Works saith on this wise; faith, far different.
The law saith, Do this, and live. But the doctrine of faith saith, "If thou
shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that
God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth
unto righteousness," &c.,
Rom. 10:5, 10.
Objection: But faith is counted for righteousness.
Answer: True; but yet consider, that by faith we do oft understand the doctrine of
remission of sins, as well as the act of believing.
But again; faith when it hath received the Lord Jesus, it hath done that which pleaseth
God; therefore, the very act of believing is the most noble in the world; believing
sets the crown upon the head of grace; it sets its seal to the truth of the sufficiency
of the righteousness of Christ (John 3:33), and giveth all the glory to God; and
therefore it is a righteous act: but Christ himself he is the "Righteousness
that justifieth," Rom. 4:20.
Besides, faith is a relative act, and hath its relation as such: its relation is
the righteousness that justifieth, which is therefore called the righteousness of
faith, or that with which faith hath to do, Rom. 10:6. Separate these two, and justification
cannot be, because faith now wants his righteousness. And hence it is you have so
often such sayings as these "He that believeth in me, he that believeth on him,
believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," John 6:35-40. Faith,
then, as separate from Christ, doth nothing; nothing neither with God nor man; because
it wants its relative object, but let it go to the Lord Jesus; let it behold him
as dying, &c., and it fetches righteousness, and life, and peace out of the virtue
of his blood, &c., Acts 10:29, 31, 33; or rather, sees it there as sufficient
for me to stand just thereby in the sight of Eternal Justice: "For him hath
God set forth to be a propitiation through faith (belief) in his blood, with intent
to justify him that believeth in Jesus," Rom. 3:25, 26.
Twelfthly, "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man to whom
God imputeth righteousness without works," Rom. 4:6.
Did our adversaries understand this one text, they would not so boldly affirm, as
they do, that the words, "impute, imputed, imputeth, imputing," &c.,
are not used in scripture but to express men really and personally to be that which
is imputed unto them; for men are not really and personally faith, yet faith is imputed
to men; nay, they are not really and personally sin, nor really and personally righteousness,
yet these are imputed to men: so, then, both good things and bad may sometimes be
imputed to men, yet themselves be really and personally neither.
But to come to the point: what righteousness hath that man that hath no works? Doubtless
none of his own; yet God imputeth righteousness to him. Yea, what works of that man
doth God impute to him that he yet justifies as ungodly?
Further, He that hath works as to justification from the curse before God, not one
of them is regarded of God; so, then, it mattereth not whether thou hast righteousness
of thine own or none.
"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works."
Man's blessedness, then, the blessedness of justification from the curse in the sight
of God, lieth not in good works done by us, either before or after faith received,
but in a righteousness which God imputeth without works; as we work not, as we are
ungodly. "Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sin is
covered," verse 7. To forgive and to cover are acts of mercy, not the cause
of our merit. Besides, where sin is real, there can be no perfect righteousness;
but the way of justification must be through perfect righteousness, therefore by
another than our own, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin,"
The first cause, then, of justification before God dependeth upon the will of God,
who will justify because he will; therefore the meritorious cause must also be of
his own providing, else his will cannot herein be absolute; for if justification
depend upon our personal performances, then not upon the will of God. He may not
have mercy upon whom he will, but on whom man's righteousness will give him leave,
Rom. 9:15, 18. But his will, not ours, must rule here; therefore his righteousness,
and his only. So, then, "men are justified from the curse in the sight of God
while sinners in themselves."
Having passed over these few scriptures, I shall come to particular instances of
persons who have been justified; and shall briefly touch their qualifications in
the act of God's justifying them.
First, By the Old Testament types.
Secondly, By the New.
First, By the Old.
"And unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and
clothed them," Gen. 3:21.
In the beginning of this chapter you find these two persons reasoning with the serpent,
the effect of which discourse was, "They take of the forbidden fruit, and so
break the command of God," verses 7-15. This done, they hide themselves, and
cover their nakedness with aprons. But God finds out their sin, from the highest
branch even to the roots thereof.
What followeth? Not one precept by which they should by works obtain the favour of
God, but the promise of a Saviour; of which promise this 21st verse is a mystical
interpretation: "The Lord God made them coats of skins, and clothed them,"
First, That these coats were made, not before, but after they had made themselves
aprons; a plain proof their aprons were not sufficient to hide their shame from the
sight of God.
Secondly, These coats were made, not of Adam's inherent righteousness, for that was
lost before by sin, but of the skins of the slain lambs, types of the death of Christ,
and of the righteousness brought in thereby "By whose stripes we are healed,"
Thirdly, This is further manifest; for the coats, God made them; and for the persons,
God clothed them therewith; to shew that as the righteousness by which we must stand
just before God from the curse is a righteousness of Christ's performing, not of
theirs; so he, not they, must put it on them also, for of God we are in Christ, and
of God his righteousness is made ours, 1 Cor. 1:30.
But, I say, if you would see their antecedent qualifications, you find them under
Rebellion, in breaking God's command; hypocrisy, in seeking how to hide their faults
from God. Expound this by gospel language, and then it shews "that men are justified
from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Secondly, "The Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering," Gen. 4:4.
By these words we find the person first accepted, "The Lord had respect unto
Abel." And indeed, where the person is not first accepted, the offering will
not be pleasing; the altar sanctifies the gift, and the temple sanctifieth the gold,
Matt. 23:16-21; so the person, the condition of the person, is that which makes the
offering either pleasing or despising. In the epistle to the Hebrews it is said,
"By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which
he obtained witness that he was righteous," Heb. 11:4. Righteous before he offered
his gift, as his sacrifice testified; for God accepted of it.
By faith he offered. Wherefore faith was precedent, or before he offered. Now faith
hath to do with God through Christ; not with him through our works of righteousness.
Besides, Abel was righteous before he offered, before he did do good, otherwise God
would not have testified of his gift. "By faith he obtained witness that he
was righteous," for God approved of his gifts. Now faith, I say, as to our standing
quit before the Father, respects the promise of forgiveness of sins through the undertaking
of the Lord Jesus. Wherefore Abel's faith as to justifying righteousness before God
looked not forward to what should be done by himself, but back to the promise of
the seed of the woman, that was to destroy the power of hell, "and to redeem
them that were under the law," Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4, 5. By this faith he shrouds
himself under the promise of victory, and the merits of the Lord Jesus. Now being
there, God finds him righteous; and being righteous, "he offered to God a more
excellent sacrifice than his brother"; for Cain's person was not first accepted
through the righteousness of faith going before, although he seemed foremost as to
personal acts of righteousness, Gen. 4. Abel therefore was righteous before he did
good works, but that could not be but alone through that respect God had to him for
the sake of the Messias promised before, Gen. 3:15. But the Lord's so respecting
Abel presupposeth that at that time he stood in himself by the law a sinner, otherwise
he needed not to be respected for and upon the account of another. Yea, Abel also,
forasmuch as he acted faith before he offered sacrifice, must thereby entirely respect
the promise, which promise was not grounded upon a condition of works to be found
in Abel, but in and for the sake of the seed of the woman, which is Christ, Gal.
4:4; which promise he believed, and so took it for granted that this Christ should
break the serpent's head, that is, destroy by himself the works of the devil; to
wit, sin, death, the curse, and hell. By this faith he stood before God righteous,
because he had put on Christ; and being thus, he offered; by which act of faith God
declared he was pleased with him, because he accepted of his sacrifice.
Thirdly, "And the Lord said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger,"
Gen. 25:23. These words, after Paul's exposition, are to be understood of justification
in the sight of God, according to the purpose and decree of electing love, which
had so determined long before that one of these children should be received to eternal
grace; but mark, not by works of righteousness which they should do, but "before
they had done either good or evil"; otherwise "the purpose of God"
according to election, not of works, but of him that calleth, "could not stand,"
but fall in pieces, Rom. 9:10-12. But none are received into eternal mercy but such
as are just before the Lord by a righteousness that is complete; and Jacob having
done no good, could by no means have that of his own, and therefore it must be by
some other righteousness, "and so himself be justified from the curse in the
sight of God while a sinner in himself."
Fourthly, The same may be said concerning Solomon, whom the Lord loved with special
love as soon as born into the world (2 Sam. 12:24, 25), which he also confirmed with
signal characters. "He sent (saith the Holy Ghost) by the hand of Nathan the
prophet, and he called his name Jedidiah, because the Lord loved him." Was this
love of God extended to him because of his personal virtues? No, verily; for he was
yet an infant. He was justified then in the sight of God from the curse by another
than his own righteousness.
Fifthly, "And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood,
I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou
wast in thy blood, Live," Ezek. 16:6. The state of this people you have in the
former verses described, both as to their rise and practice in the world, verses
(1.) As to their rise. Their original was the same with Canaan, the men of God's
curse, Gen. 9:25. Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; the same with
other carnal men, Rom. 3:9. "Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite."
(2.) Their condition, that is shewed us by this emblem
They had not been washed in water. 2. They had not been swaddled. 3. They had not
been salted. 4. They brought filth with them into the world. 5. They lay polluted
in their cradle. 6. They were without strength to help themselves. Thus they appear
and come by generation.
Again, as to their practice
They polluted themselves in their own blood. 2. They so continued till God passed
by "And when I passed by thee, I saw thee polluted in thine own blood"in
thy blood, in thy blood; it is doubled. Thus we see they were polluted born, they
continued in their blood till the day that the Lord looked upon them; polluted, I
say, to the loathing of their persons, &c. Now this was the time of love "And
when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee
when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood,
Quest. But how could a holy God say, live, to such a sinful people?
Answer: Though they had nought but sin, yet he had love and righteousness. He had,
1) Love to pity them; 2) Righteousness to cover them: "Now when I passed by
thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love," Ezek. 16:8.
What follows? 1) "I spread my skirt over thee"; and, 2) "Covered thy
nakedness"; yea, 3) "I sware unto thee"; and, 4) "Entered into
covenant with thee"; and, 5) "Thou becamest mine." My love pitied
thee; my skirt covered thee. Thus God delivered them from the curse in his sight.
"Then I washed thee with water (after thou wast justified); yea, I thoroughly
washed away thy blood from thee, and anointed thee with oil," verse 9. Sanctification,
then, is consequential, justification goes before the Holy Ghost by this scripture
setteth forth to the life, free grace to the sons of men while they themselves are
sinners. I say, while they are unwashed, unswaddled, unsalted, but bloody sinners;
for by these words, "not washed, not salted, not swaddled," he setteth
forth their unsanctified state; yea, they were not only unsanctified, but also cast
out, without pity, to the loathing of their persons; yea, "no eye pitied them,
to do any of these things for them"; no eye but his whose glorious grace is
unsearchable; no eye but his who could look and love; all others looked and loathed;
but blessed be God that hath passed by us in that day that we wallowed in our own
blood; and blessed be God for the skirt of his glorious righteousness wherewith he
covered us when we lay before him naked in blood. It was when we were in our blood
that he loved us; when we were in our blood he said, Live. Therefore, "men are
justified from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Sixthly, "Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and stood before the angel,"
The standing of Joshua here is as men used to stand that were arraigned before a
judge. "Joshua stood before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his
right hand to resist him," verse 1. The same posture as Judas stood in when
he was to be condemned "Set thou (saith David) a wicked man over him, and let
Satan stand at his right hand," Ps. 109:6-8. Thus therefore Joshua stood. Now
Joshua was clothed (not with righteousness, but) with filthy rags! Sin upon him,
and Satan by him, and this before the angel! What must he do now? Go away? No; there
he must stand. Can he speak for himself? Not a word; guilt had made him dumb, Isa.
53:12. Had he no place clean? No; he was clothed with filthy garments.
But his lot was to stand before Jesus Christ, that maketh intercession for transgressors
"And the Lord said unto Satan, the Lord rebuke thee, Satan; even the Lord that
hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee," Zech. 3:2. Thus Christ saveth from present
condemnation those that be still in their sin and blood.
But is he now quit? No; he standeth yet in filthy garments; neither can he, by aught
that is in him, or done by him, clear himself from him. How then? Why, the Lord clothes
him with change of raiment: the iniquities were his own, the raiment was the Lord's
"This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is
of me, saith the Lord." We will not here discourse of Joshua's sin, what it
was, or when committed; it is enough to our purpose that he was clothed with filthy
garments, and that the Lord made a change with him by causing his iniquity to pass
from him, and by clothing him with change of raiment. But what had Joshua antecedent
to this glorious and heavenly clothing? The devil at his right hand to resist him,
and himself in filthy garments "Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments,
and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake to those that stood before
him saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold,
I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change
of raiment," verses 3, 4.
But to pass the Old Testament types, and to come to the New.
First, "And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with
the devil prayed him that he might go with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but
saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things God hath done
for thee, and hath had compassion on thee," Mark 5:18, 19.
The present state of this man is sufficiently declared in these particulars
He was possessed with a devil; with devils, with many; with a whole legion, which
some say is six thousand, or thereabouts.
These devils had so the mastery of him as to drive him from place to place into the
wilderness among the mountains, and so to dwell in the tombs among the dead,
He was out of his wits; he would cut his flesh, break his chains, nay, "no man
could tame him," Mark 5:7.
When he saw Jesus, the devil in him, as being lord and governor there, cried out
against the Lord Jesus. In all this what qualification shews itself as precedent
to justification? None but such as devils work, or as rank Bedlams have. Yet this
poor man was dispossessed, taken into God's compassion, and was bid to shew it to
the world "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath
done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee"; which last words, because they
are added over and above his being dispossessed of the devils, I understand to be
the fruit of electing love "I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion,"
which blesseth us with the mercy of a justifying righteousness; and all this, as
by this is manifest, without the least precedent qualification of ours.
Secondly, "And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both,"
The occasion of these words was, for that the Pharisee murmured against the woman
that washed Jesus' feet, because "she was a sinner," (verse 37); for so
said the Pharisee, and so saith the Holy Ghost; but saith Christ, Simon, I will ask
thee a question "A certain man had two debtors. The one owed him five hundred
pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave
them both," verse 38.
Hence I gather these conclusions
That men that are wedded to their own righteousness understand not the doctrine of
the forgiveness of sins. This is manifested by the poor Pharisee; he objected against
the woman because she was a sinner.
Let Pharisees murmur still, yet Christ hath pity and mercy for sinners.
Yet Jesus doth not usually manifest mercy until the sinner hath nothing to pay "And
when they had nothing to pay, he frankly (or freely, or heartily) forgave them both."
If they had nothing to pay, then they were sinners; but he forgiveth no man but with
respect to a righteousness; therefore that righteousness must be another's; for in
the very act of mercy they are found sinners. They had nothing but debt, nothing
but sin, nothing to pay: "Then they were justified freely by grace, through
that redemption that is in Jesus Christ." So, then, "men are justified
from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Thirdly, "And when he saw their faith, he said unto the man, Thy sins are forgiven
thee," Luke 5:20.
This man had not righteousness to stand just before God withal, for his sins as yet
remained unforgiven; wherefore, seeing guilt remained until Christ remitted him,
he was discharged while ungodly.
And observe it, the faith here mentioned is not to be reckoned so much the man's,
as the faith of them that brought him; neither did it reach to the forgiveness of
sins, but to the miracle of healing; yet this man in this condition had his sins
But again; set the case the faith was only his (as it was not), and that it reached
to the doctrine of forgiveness, yet it did it without respect to righteousness in
himself; for guilt lay still upon him, he had now his sins forgiven him.
But this act of grace was a surprisal; it was unlooked for: "I am found of them
that sought me not," Isa. 65. They came for one thing, he gave them another;
they came for a cure upon his body, but, to their amazement, he cured first his soul:
"Thy sins are forgiven thee."
Besides, to have his sins forgiven betokeneth an act of grace; but grace and works
as to this are opposite, Rom. 11:6; therefore "men are justified from the curse
in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Fourthly, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no
more worthy to be called thy son," Luke 15:21.
What this man was, is sufficiently declared in verse 13, &c. As first, a riotous
spender of allof time, talent, body, and soul.
He added to this his rebellion great contempt of his father's house, he joined himself
to a stranger, and became an associate with swine, verses 15, 17.
At last, indeed, he came to himself. But then observe, 1) He sought not justification
by personal performances of his own; 2) Neither did he mitigate his wickedness; 3)
Nor excuse himself before his father, but first resolveth to confess his sin; and
coming to his Father, did confess it, and, that with aggravating circumstances: "I
have sinned against heaven; I have sinned against thee; I am no more worthy to be
called thy son," verse 18. Now what he said was true or false; if true, then
he had not righteousness; if false, he could not stand just in the sight of his father
by virtue of his own performances. And, indeed, the sequel of the parable clears
it. His father said to his servant, "Bring forth the best robe," the justifying
righteousness, "and put it upon him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on
his feet," verse 22. This best robe, then, being in the father's house, was
not in the prodigal's heart; neither stayed the father for further qualifications,
but put it upon him as he was, surrounded with sin and oppressed with guilt. Therefore
"men are justified from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Fifthly, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,"
The occasion of these words was, for that the Pharisees murmured because "Jesus
was gone to be a guest to one that was a sinner," yea, a sinner of the publicans,
and these words are most fitly applied to the case in hand. For though Zaccheus climbed
the tree, yet Jesus Christ found him first, and called him down by his name; adding
withal, "For today I must abide at thy house"; which being opened by verse
9, is as much as to say, I am come to be thy salvation. Now this being believed by
Zaccheus, he made haste and came down, and "received him joyfully." And
not only so, but to declare to all the simplicity of his faith, and that he unfeignedly
accepted of this word of salvation, he said unto the Lord, and that before all present,
"Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken
anything from any man by false accusation (a supposition intimating an affirmative),
I restore him fourfold." This being thus, Christ doubleth his comfort, saying
to him also, and that before the people, "This day is salvation come to this
house." Then, by adding the next words, he expounds the whole of the matter,
"For I am come to seek and save that which was lost"to seek it till I find
it, to save it when I find it. He finds them that sought him not, Rom. 10:20; and,
as in the case of Zaccheus, behold me! to a people that asked not after him. So,
then, seeing Jesus findeth this publican first, preaching salvation to him before
he came down from the tree, it is evident he received this as he was a sinner; from
which faith flowed his following words and works as a consequence.
Sixthly, "Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, This day shalt thou
be with me in paradise," Luke 23:43.
This was spoken to the thief upon the cross, who had lived in wickedness all his
days; neither had he so much as truly repented, no, not till he came to die; nay,
when he first was hanged he then fell to railing on Christ. For though Luke leaves
it out, beginning but at his conversion; yet by Matthew's relating the whole tragedy,
we find him at first as bad as the other, Matt. 27:44. This man, then, had no moral
righteousness, for he had lived in the breach of the law of God. Indeed, by faith
he believed Christ to be King, and that when dying with him. But what was this to
a personal performing the commandments? or of restoring what he had oft taken away?
Yea, he confesseth his death to be just for his sin; and so leaning upon the mediation
of Christ he goeth out of the world. Now he that truly confesseth and acknowledgeth
his sin, acknowledgeth also the curse to be due thereto from the righteous hand of
God. So, then, where the curse of God is due, that man wanteth righteousness. Besides,
he that makes to another for help, hath by that condemned his own (had he any) of
utter insufficiency. But all these did this poor creature; wherefore he must stand
"just from the law in the sight of God while sinful in himself."
Seventhly, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Acts 9:6. What wilt thou
have me to do? Ignorance is here set forth to the full. He hitherto knew not Jesus,
neither what he would have him to do; yet a mighty man for the law of works, and
for zeal towards God according to that. Thus you see that he neither knew that Christ
was Lord, nor what was his mind and will "I did it ignorantly, in unbelief,"
1 Tim. 1:13-15. I did not know him; I did not believe he was to save us; I thought
I must be saved by living righteously, by keeping the law of God. This thought kept
me ignorant of Jesus, and of justification from the curse by him. Poor Saul! how
many fellows hast thou yet alive!every man zealous of the law of works, yet none
of them know the law of grace; each of them seeking for life by doing the law, when
life is to be had by nought but believing in Jesus Christ.
Eighthly, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,"
A little before, we find Paul and Silas in the stocks for preaching of Jesus Christ;
in the stocks in the inward prison by the hands of a sturdy jailor; but at midnight,
while Paul and his companion sang praises to God, the foundations of the prison shook,
and every man's bands were loosed. Now the jailor being awakened by the noise of
this shaking, and supposing he had lost his prisoners, drew his sword, with intent
to kill himself; "But Paul cried out, Do thyself no harm, for we are all here.
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before
Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
In all this relation here is not aught that can justify the jailor. For, His whole
life was idolatry, cruelty, and enmity to God. Yea, Even now, while the earthquake
shook the prison, he had murder in his heart, yea, and in his intentions too; murder,
I say, and that of a high nature, even to have killed his own body and soul at once.
When he began to shake under the fears of everlasting burnings, yet then his heart
was wrapped up in ignorance as to the way of salvation by Jesus Christ: "What
must I do to be saved?" He knew not what, no, not he. His condition, then, was
this: he neither had righteousness to save him, nor knew he how to get it. Now, what
was Paul's answer? Why, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (look for righteousness
in Christ), and then thou shalt be saved." This, then, still holdeth true, "men
are justified from the curse in the sight of God whilst sinners in themselves."
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