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teousnefs, until he believed the free abfolute promise of God to give him a numerous offspring, who fhould possess the land of Canaan; and to give him Isaac, with whom he was to establish his covenant in all points ; particularly, that “in “his feed all the nations of the earth “ should be bleffed.” But this happened many hundred years before the law of Moses; and even a considerable time before circumcision was instituted; and consequently was prior to his offering up his fon, when the Apostle James fays “he was "justified by his works;" which can mean no more, than that by this trial he fhowed himfelf to be not only a true, but a strong, believer: for Moses says expressly, that he was justified before that time; for he says, “ he believed God, and it was “ imputed to him for righteousness.”
I cannot help being of opinion, that this text might have been easier and better understood, had lefs, or even nothing at all, been faid about it; in which case, it is very likely, most people would have been fatisfied with what lies very plain in the words, that on Abraham's believing the free sovereign grant God had made him,
' he he was treated in all respects as a righteous person, or, in other words, justified from all things which were or could be charged against him to infer his condemnation. But as things now stand, it is necessary we should know what righteouisness is ; what the imputing for righteoul nefs means; and what it was which is said to have been imputed to Abraham for that purpose.
Righteousness and godliness are two words, which, when attributed to man, are promiscuously used in the sacred writings to denote the whole of religion, and all the duties belonging to religion. The substance and matter of both is precisely the same. But godliness' is an absolute term; whereas righteousness is relative, and respects judicial procedure in fome court designed for the administration of justice. That which we are most concerned in, is the judgement given, or to be given, by the great Sovereign of heaven and earth., Righteousness, or justice, is one of his most essential attributes; and the mea-. sure or rule by which his judgement proceeds, is his own perfect wisdom. Hence we find his righteousness applied in a very
extensive manner, not only to what we call justice, rewarding and punishing according to the merits or demerits of the party tried; but even to acts of mercy and grace, and whatever measures perfect wifdom chuses to follow; for wisdom and justice, where both are perfect, can never take different fides.
Righteousness, I mean the word, has, I believe, a double import: it has its name from right; and denotes, either one who does what is right, or one who has a right some privilege or other : and the Apostle John has taught us, that these two always go together, 1 John iii. 7. It must be fo; for though we read of God's justifying the ungodly yet he is no where said to justify the unrighteous. But we are expressly enough told of two different kinds of righteousness, viz, the righteousness of God, and one's own righteousness, Rom. iv. 3. We read likewife of the righteousness of faith, or which is by faith, and the righteousness of the law, or which is by works of law: and these stand opposed and contrary one to the other. And whatever some learned men have thought fit to say against imputation, • Vol. III.
we we read oftener than once of “God's im“ puting righteousness without works.”
Much noise has been made in all the ages of the world, and never more than in this age, about the rule of right ; for such a rule it is agreed there must be, a standard by which mens works are to be adjusted. The wisest of the Heathen philosophers were greatly at a loss in this respect. They agreed pretty unanimously, that the mind of the Sovereign of the universe was the only just rule; but how to get at it, they were quite 'at a loss; and indeed could do no more but guess : for they knew nothing of the eternal fitness of things which our moderns make such a flourish about; while, in truth, they neither know, nor can know, any more about it, than their predecessors, except what they borrow from the revelation they have in their hands. This renders them absolutely inexcusable; for therein we have the righteousness God by faith revealed, with the utmost degree of evidence. All are concluded under sin; and it must be the highest pitch of infolence and folly to expect even so much as pardon, and much less eternal life, in any other way than by a sovereignly free grant
and gift from the supreme and only proprietor of life. And when he has been: graciously pleased to make such a gift in his Son Jesus Christ, the only right thing : a sinner can do, is, to flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before him; and thus to lay hold op eternal life, in a conversation such as becomes the gospel of Christ, under the direction of hi Spirit, which we have the fullest assurance God will give to those who ask him; especially when we find all attempts that can be made any other way are no less than direct acts of rebellion, and the highest insult that can be offered to God and his blessed Son; and the folly is but little inferior to the insolence, unless they could overcome omnipotence, and force eternal life out of the hand of the Almighty.
By this faint sketch of the order which the great Sovereign of the universe, and fole proprietor of life, has established, for conveying fpiritual and eternal life to mankind dead in trespasses and sins, and which has been in force ever since sin entered into the world, any one may be able to form a tolerable judgement of the imputation which Mofes and the Apostle .. .; Z 2