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quires. Righteousness is the qualification of the person to be justified; justification, the act of him that justifies. A man's legal honesty in his trial is not the sentence of the judge pronouncing him so to be, to all ends and purposes of that honesty. But to his question Mr B. answers from Rom. x, 5, “The righteousness which is of the law;" and Phil. üi. 9, “The righteousness which is of God by faith.”
It is true, there is this twofold righteousness that men may be partakers of,--a righteousness consisting in exact, perfect, and complete obedience yielded to the law, which God required of man under the covenant of works; and the righteousness which is of God by faith, of which afterward. Answerable hereunto there is, hath been, or may be, a twofold justification ;-the one consisting in God's declaration of him who performs all that he requires in the law to be just and righteous, and his acceptation of him according to the promise of life which he annexed to the obedience which of man he did require; and the other answers that righteousness which shall afterward be described. Now, though these two righteousnesses agree in their general end, which is acceptation with God, and a reward from him according to his promise, yet in their own natures, causes, and manner of attaining, they are altogether inconsistent and destructive of each other, so that it is utterly impossible they should ever meet in and upon the same person.
For the description of the first, Mr B. gives it in answer to this question:
Q. How is the righteousness which is of the law described
A. Rom. x. 5, “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them.”
This description is full and complete. “The doing of the things of the law," or all the things the law requireth, to this end, that a man may “live by them," or a "keeping of the commandments” that we may “enter into life," makes up this righteousness of the law; and whatsoever any man doth or may do that is required by the law of God (as believing, trusting in him, and the like), to this end, that he may live thereby, that it may be his righteousness towards God, that thereupon he may be justified, it belongs to this righteousness of the law here described by Moses. I say, whatever is performed by man in obedience to any law of God, to this end, that a man may live thereby, and that it may be the matter of his righteousness, it be longs to the righteousness here described. And of this we may have some use in the consideration of Mr B.'s ensuing queries. He adds:
Q. What speaketh the righteousness which is of faith?
A. Rom. x. 8, 9, “ 'The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that 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.”
The object of justifying faith, namely, Jesus Christ as dying and rising again from the dead, to the obtaining of eternal redemption and bringing in everlasting righteousness, is in these words described. And this is that which the righteousness of faith is said to speak, because Christ dying and rising is our righteousness. He is made so to us of God, and being under the consideration of his death and resurrection received of us by faith, we are justified.
His next question is:
Q. In the justification of a believer, is the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, or is his own faith counted for righteousness?
4. Rom. iv. 5, “ His faith is counted for righteousness.”
What Mr B. intends by faith, and what by accounting of it for righteousness, we know full well. The justification he intends by these expressions is the plain old pharisaical justification, and no other, as shall elsewhere be abundantly manifested. For the present, I shall only say that Mr B. doth most ignorantly oppose the imputing of the righteousness of Christ to us, and the accounting of our faith for righteousness, as inconsistent. It is the accounting of our faith for righteousness and the righteousness of works that is opposed by the apostle. The righteousness of faith and the righteousness of Christ are every way one and the same;—the one denoting that whereby we receive it and are made partakers of it; the other, that which is received and whereby we are justified. And, indeed, there is a perfect inconsistency between the apostle's intention in this expression, "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness," taken with his explication of it, that we are made partakers of the righteousness of Christ by faith, and therein he is made righteousness to them that believe, and Mr B.'s interpretation of it, which is (as shall be farther manifested), “To him that worketh, and believes on him that justifies the righteous, his obedience is his righteousness.” But of this elsewhere.
The next question and answer are about Abraham and his justification; which being but an instance exemplifying what was spoken before, I shall not need to insist thereon. Of his believing on God only, our believing on Christ, which is also mentioned, I have spoken already, and shall not trouble the reader with repetition thereof.
But he farther argues:
Q. Doth not God justify men because of the full price Christ paid to him in their stead, so that he abated nothing of his right, in that one drop of Christ's blood was sufficient to satisfy for a thousand worlds? If not, how are they saved ?
A. Rom. ii. 24, “ Being justified freely,” Eph. i. 7.
That Christ did pay a full price or ransom for us, that he did stand in our stead, that he was not abated any jot of the penalty of the law that was due to sinners, that on this account we are fully
acquitted, and that the forgiveness of our sins is by the redemption that is in his blood, have been already fully and at large evinced. Let Mr B., if he please, attempt to evert what hath been spoken to
The expression about “one drop of Christ's blood” is a fancy or imagination of idle monks, men ignorant of the righteousness of God and of the whole nature of the mediation which our blessed Saviour undertook, wherein they have not the least communion. The close of the chapter is,
Q. Did not Christ merit eternal life and purchase the kingdom of heaven for
A. Rom. vi. 23, “ The gift of God is eternal life.” Luke xii. 32, “ It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Eternal life is the gift of God, in opposition to any merit of ours, and in respect of his designation of him who is eternal life to be our mediator and purchaser of it; yet that Christ did not therefore obtain by his blood for us eternal redemption, Heb. ix. 12, that he did not purchase us to himself, Tit. ii. 14, or that the merit of Christ for us and the free grace of God unto us are inconsistent, our catechist attempts not to prove. Of the reconciliation of God's purpose and good pleasure, mentioned Luke xii. 32, with the satisfaction and merit of the Mediator, I have spoken also at large already.
I have thus briefly passed through this chapter, although it treateth of one of the most important heads of our religion, because the Lord assisting) I intend the full handling of the doctrine opposed in it in a treatise just to that purpose, (vol. v.]
Of keeping the commandments of God, and of perfection of obedience—How
attainable in this life.
THE title of the sixteenth chapter in our catechist is, “ Of keeping the commandments and having an eye to the reward; of perfection in virtue and godliness to be attained; and of departing from righteousness and faith.” What the man hath to offer on these several heads shall be considered in order. His first question is,
Ques. Are the commandments possible to be kept?
Ans. 1 John v. 3, “ His commandments are not grievous.” Matt. xi. 30, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
1. I presume it is evident to every one at the first view that there is very little relation between the question and the answer thereunto suggested. The inquiry is of our strength and power; the answer speaks to the nature of the commands of God. It never
came, sure, into the mind of any living that the meaning of this question, “ Are the commandments possible to be kept?” is, “Is there an absolute impossibility, from the nature of the commands of God themselves, that they can be kept by any?” nor did ever any man say so, or can, without the greatest blasphemy against God. But the question is, what power there is in man to keep those commandments of God; which certainly the texts insisted on by Mr Biddle do not in the least give an answer unto.
2. He tells us not in what state or condition he supposes that person to be concerning whom the inquiry is made whether he can possibly keep the commandments of God or no,-whether he speaks of all men in general, or any man indefinitely, or restrainedly of believers. Nor,
3. Doth he inform us what he intends by keeping the commands of God; whether an exact, perfect, and every way complete keeping of them, up to the highest degree of all things, in all things, circumstances, and concernments of them, or whether the keeping of them in a universal sincerity, accepted before God, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, be intended. Nor,
4. What commandments they are which he chiefly respects, and under what consideration,--whether all the commands of the law of God as such, or whether the gospel commands of faith and love, which the places from whence he answers do respect. Nor,
5. What he means by the impossibility of keeping God's commands, which he intends to deny,—that which is absolutely so from the nature of the thing itself, or that which is so only in some respect, with reference to some certain state and condition of man.
When we know in what sense the question is proposed, we shall be enabled to return an answer thereunto; which he that hath proposed it here knew not how to do. In the meantime, to the thing itself intended, according to the light of the premised distinctions, we say, 1. That all the commandments of God, the whole law, is excellent, precious, not grievous in itself or its own nature, but admirably expressing the goodness, and kindness, and holiness of him that gave it, in relation to them to whom it was given, and can by no means be said, as from itself and upon its own account, to be impossible to be kept. Yet, —
2. No unregenerate man can possibly keep, that is, hath in himself a power to keep, any one of all the commandments of God, as to the matter required and the manner wherein it is required. This impossibility is not in the least relating to the nature of the law, but to the impotency and corruption of the person lying under it.
3. No man, though regenerate, can fulfil the law of God perfectly, or keep all the commandments of God, according to the original tenor of the law, in all the parts and degrees of it, nor did ever any
man do so since sin entered into the world; for it is impossible that any regenerate man should keep the commandments of God as they are the tenor of the covenant of works. If this were otherwise, the law would not have been made weak by sin that it should not justify.
4. That it is impossible that any man, though regenerate, should by his own strength fulfil any one of the commands of God, seeing “ without Christ we can do nothing," and it is “God which worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
5. That to keep the commandments of God, not as [to] the tenor of the covenant of works, or in an absolute perfection of obedience and correspondency to the law, but sincerely and uprightly unto acceptation, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace and the obedience it requires, through the assistance of the Spirit and grace of God, is not only a thing possible, but easy, pleasant, and delightful.
Thus we say,
(1.) That a person regenerate, by the assistance of the Spirit and grace of God, may keep the commandments of God, in yielding to him, in answer to them, that sincere obedience which in Jesus Christ, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, is required; yea, it
, is to him an easy and pleasant thing so to do.
(2.) That an unregenerate person should keep any one of God's commandments as he ought is impossible, not from the nature of God's commands, but from his own state and condition.
(3.) That a person, though regenerate, yet being so but in part, and carrying about with him a body of death, should keep the commands of God in a perfection of obedience, according to the law of the covenant of works, is impossible from the condition of a regenerate man, and not from the nature of God's commands.
What is it, now, that Mr B. opposes? or what is that he asserts?
I suppose he declares his mind in his Lesser Catechism, chap. vii. ques. 1, where he proposes his question in the words of the ruler amongst the Jews, “What good shall a man do that he may have eternal life?” An answer of it follows in that of our Saviour, Matt. xix. 17-19, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The intendment of this inquiry must be the same with his that made it, as his argument in the whole is, or the answer of our Saviour is no way suited thereunto. Now, it is most evident that the inquiry was made according to the principles of the Pharisees, who expected justification by the works of the law, according to the tenor of a covenant of works; to which presumption of theirs our Saviour suits his answer, and seeing they sought to be justified and saved, as it were, by the works of the law, to the law he sends them. This, then, being Mr B.'s sense, wherein he affirms that it is possible to keep the commandments so as, for doing good and keeping them, to enter into life, I shall only remit him, as our Saviour did the