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have performed a single good work, but have been an enemy to God, according to J. J.'s hypothesis. But the truth is, he had been a believer in God, and a true worshipper of him for many years, at the time when he is said to believe in God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. * Here then is an account of one who had walked with God for a series of years, 'working not, but believing on him that justifieth the ungodly;' a clear proof that by 'working not,' the apostle did not mean a wicked inaction, but a renunciation of works as the ground of acceptance with God.
David also,' continues the apostle, 'describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Of whom speaketh the psalmist, in this thirty-second psalm; of himself, or of some other man. Of himself as is manifest from the whole psalm. It is one of those penitential songs, which he penned after his fall and recovery. The third and fourth verses describe the state of his mind after he had sinned, and before he had repented. The 'blessedness' of which he speaks is a blessedness arising from free forgiveness. Hence the apostle, in the text under consideration, very properly puts this gloss upon his words : David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputėth righteousness without works.' David did not say it was without works :' he said nothing about works; but he described the blessedness of him who possessed a free forgiveness, which was the same thing. Paul supposed that David' worked not; but had he never performed a 'good work' at the period referred to? Was he at that time an enemy to God? J. J.'s hypothesis requires that it should have been so: but it was not so. Let the reader judge whether the cases of Abraham and David be not decisive, and whether they ought not to decide the controversy, as to the meaning of the passage in question.
* Gen. xv. 6. xii. 1-3. Heb. xi. 8.
I had supposed that when a sinner is justified, he is not an enemy to God, seeing he is a believer. J. J. attempts, it should seem, to invalidate this argument by so explaining faith as that it shall include in it nothing inconsistent with enmity to God. I cannot but remark the unpleasant situation of the writer, in this part of his work. With bim it seems a very difficult thing to determine, what the apostle means by that faith which is counted for righteousness. “If it were to be considered as a work, he supposes it would overturn the whole reasoning of the verse." If it were considered as a work, performed to furnish a ground of justification, it would; but not else. That saith is a work, we are expressly taught by one who perfectly understood its nature.* But that we are justified by it as a work, or as a part of moral obedience, J. J. knows I utterly deny. But if it be not counted for righteousness as a work, " it must mean either Christ the object of faith, or a spiritual illumination of the understanding, in which the mind is totally passive." That it does not mean the former, one should think is evident, in that it is called believing. 'He that believeth, his faith, or believing, is counted for righteousness. And if it means the latter, it will go to confound what the scriptures elsewhere distinguish. Spiritual blindness is represented as an obstacle to believing, and spiritual illumination as that which presedes it.+ But faith in this passage “must” mean this or that. Perhaps it must, in order to comport with J. J.'s hypothesis: and this spiritual light or discernment must also be supposed to have nothing spiritual in it, or it will be equally inconsistent with a state of enmity to God as believing. But let him seriously consider, whether that hypothesis which requires such forced and far-fetched interpretations of scripture to support it, can be any part of “evangelical truth.”
To me it appears a plain and easy matter to ascertain the meaning of faith, in the passage referred to. It is believing; and this believing is counted for righteousness; not as a work, but as the prescribed means of interesting us in the righteousness of Christ. Thus it was common for Christ to say to diseased people, whom he had healed, 'thy faith hath saved thee.' Did he mean by this to make a Saviour of faith? No: faith did not cause, nor so much as co-operate in these cures, which were accomplished only by his own power: but it was the prescribed means by which they became interested in the exercise of that power. I use the term interest as I do that of justification, not for what we may have in the secret purpose of God, but for that part or portion which we have in spiritual blessings, according to the revealed will or promise of God in the scriptures. The healing efficacy proceeded from Christ, and not from fajth; yet without faith they would not have been healed, and the same may be said of justification.
* John vi. 28, 29:
+ 2 Cor. iv, 4. Sohn yi. 40.
ON THE NATURE OF IMPUTATION.
In Reply to Ignotus.
I CORDIALLY agree with your correspondent, on the necessary connection between the doctrine of Christ's divinity, and justification by the imputation of his righteousness. But the first of the two grounds on which he rests it, I would seriously entreat him to reconsider. He represents the imputation of righteousness as consisting in a “transfer of surplus virtue;" and as every creature, however exalted, owes its all to God, it can have none to spare for the use of others. But if this be the nature of imputation, how are we to understand it in the case of the first Adam? If instead of transgressing the divine precept, he had faithfully obeyed it, there is every reason to conclude that his posterity, instead of being exposed to sin and death, as they now are, would have been confirmed in a state of holiness and happiness; that is, his obedience would have been imputed to them, as is now his disobedience. ? Yet in this case there would have been no “surplus" of obedience, or any thing done by our first parent beyond what was his duty to do. From hence, I conceive, it is clear that the imputation of righteousness consists not in the transfer of overplus of virtue; and that divinity' is not necessarily, and in all cases, connected with it.
I shall not here take upon me to decide, whether Christ's obedience to the Father was necessary on his own account. Whether it was or not, makes nothing as to his being qualified to accomplish our salvation. The imputation of righteousness, as the scriptures represent it, appears to me to be this :—God for wise and holy ends, blessed one, or many, in reward of the obedience of another, to whom they are related ; in a manner as though it were performed by themselves. Thus, if the first Adam had continued obedient, God would have expressed his approbation of his conduct, not only by confirming him, but his posterity after him, in a state of holiness and happiness. And thus the obedience unto death, yielded by the second Adam, is represented as that with which God is so well pleased, that in reward of it, he not only exalted Him far above all principality and power, but bestowed full, free, and eternal salvation on all those who believe in him, how great soever had been their transgressions.
But it may be said, if this be the idea which the scriptures give us of the imputation of righteousness, and it be applicable to the first as well as the second Adam; whence arises the necessity of the Divinity of Christ, in order that his righteousness should be imputed to us? I do not suppose that it was necessary to imputation itself, but rather to its being available to the justification of the ungodly. Imputed righteousness may take place, whether it be that of a mere man, or of one who is both God and man: but the righteousness of a mere creature would not avail for the pardon and justification of rebellious men.
There is an important difference between the supposed imputation of the righteousness of the first Adam, and that of the second. God's promising to bless the sinless posterity of the former, by confirming them in a state of holiness and happiness, had nothing in it which could clash with any of his perfections. He might thus have blessed them, without any previous obedience being performed on their behalf, as it appears that he actually did the elect angels. His promising to bless the children, in reward of the obedience of the parent, was, that while he expressed his love to both, he might also express his love of righteousness. But in receiving rebellious sinners to favour, there required a proviso for the security of his honour, that he might appear to be what he was–Just, as well as the Justifier. It became him, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect, through sufferings.' The glory of the divine character must not be tarnished. That for the sake of which we are pardoned and justified therefore, be it what it may, must at least be equivalent, as to its influence on moral government, to justice having taken its natural course. Hence arises the necessity of the Deity of Christ, in order to our justification. Though the obedience of a mere creature might be the medium of conveying blessedness to his sinless posterity, yet none but that of a divine person could accomplish the salvation of sinners : because the obedience of a mere creature could not have done such honorr to the divine law, as should have been equal to the dishonour which it had received from us : nor could the sufferings of any one that was not God have expressed the divine displeasure against sin in so striking and impressive a manner, as if every transgressor had received his just recompense of reward. But admitting the Redeemer to be divine, all is plain and easy. Hence