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§ 6. Proof of the Doctrine.

That the Protestant doctrine as above stated is the doctrine of the word of God appears from the following considerations: —

1. The word δικαιόω, as has been shown, means to declare δίκαιος. No one can be truthfully pronounced δίκαιος to whom δικαιοσύνη cannot rightfully be ascribed. The sinner (ex vi verbi) has no righteousness of his own. God, therefore, imputes to him a righteousness which is not his own. The righteousness thus imputed is declared to be the righteousness of God, of Christ, the righteousness which is by faith. This is almost in so many words the declaration of the Bible on the subject. As the question, What is the method of justification? is a Biblical question, it must be decided exegetically, and not by arguments drawn from assumed principles of reason. We are not at liberty to say that the righteousness of one man cannot be imputed to another; that this would involve a mistake or absurdity; that God’s justice does not demand a righteousness such as the law prescribes, as the condition of justification; that He may pardon and save as a father without any consideration, unless it be that of repentance; that it is inconsistent with his grace that the demands of justice should be met before justification is granted; that this view of justification makes it a sham, a calling a man just, when he is not just etc. All this amounts to nothing. It all pertains to that wisdom which is foolishness with God. All we have to do is to determine, (1.) What is the meaning of the word to justify as used in Scripture? (2.) On what ground does the Bible affirm that God pronounces the ungodly to be just? If the answer to these questions be what the Church in all ages, and especially the Church of the Reformation has given, then we should rest satisfied. The Apostle in express terms says that God imputes righteousness to 151the sinner. (Rom. iv. 6, 24.) By righteousness every one admits is meant that which makes a man righteous, that which the law demands. It does not consist in the sinner’s own obedience, or moral excellence, for it is said to be “without works;” and it is declared that no man can be justified on the ground of his own character or conduct. Neither does this righteousness consist in faith; for it is “of faith,” “through faith,” “by faith.” We are never said to be justified on account of faith. Neither is it a righteousness, or form of moral excellence springing from faith, or of which faith is the source or proximate cause; because it is declared to be the righteousness of God; a righteousness which is revealed; which is offered; which must be accepted as a gift. (Rom. v. 17.) It is declared to be the righteousness of Christ; his obedience. (Rom. v. 19.) It is, therefore, the righteousness of Christ, his perfect obedience in doing and suffering the will of God, which is imputed to the believer, and on the ground of which the believer, although in himself ungodly, is pronounced righteous, and therefore free from the curse of the law and entitled to eternal life.

The Apostle’s Argument.

2. All the points above stated are not only clearly affirmed by the Apostle but they are also set forth in logical order, and elaborately sustained and vindicated in the Epistle to the Romans. The Apostle begins with the declaration that the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation.” It is not thus divinely efficacious because of the purity of its moral precepts; nor because it brings immortality to light; nor because it sets before us the perfect example of our Lord Jesus Christ; nor because it assures us of the love of God; nor because of the elevating, sanctifying, life-giving influence by which it is attended. There is something preliminary to all this. The first and indispensable requisite to salvation is that men should be righteous before God. They are under his wrath and curse. Until justice is satisfied, until God is reconciled, there is no possibility of any moral influence being of any avail. Therefore the Apostle says that the power of the Gospel is due to the fact that “therein is the righteousness of God revealed.” This cannot mean the goodness of God, for such is not the meaning of the word. It cannot in this connection mean his justice, because it is a righteousness which is “of faith;” because the justice of God is revealed from heaven and to all men; because the revelation of justice terrifies and drives away from God; because what is here called the righteousness of God, is 152elsewhere contrasted with our “own righteousness” (Rom. x. 8; Phil. iii. 9); and because it is declared to be the righteousness of Christ (Rom. v. 18), which is (Rom. v. 19) explained by his “obedience,” and in Romans v. 9 and elsewhere declared to be “his blood.” This righteousness of Christ is the righteousness of God, because Christ is God; because God has provided, revealed, and offers it; and because it avails before God as a sufficient ground on which He can declare the believing sinner righteous. Herein lies the saving power of the Gospel. The question, How shall man be just with God? had been sounding in the ears of men from the beginning. It never had been answered. Yet it must be answered or there can be no hope of salvation. It is answered in the Gospel, and therefore the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; i.e., to every one, whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free, good or bad, who, instead of going about to establish his own righteousness, submits himself in joyful confidence to the righteousness which his God and Saviour Jesus Christ has wrought out for sinners, and which is freely offered to them in the Gospel without money and without price.

This is Paul’s theme, which he proceeds to unfold and establish, as has been already stated under a previous head. He begins by asserting, as indisputably true from the revelation of God in the constitution of our nature, that God is just, that He will punish sin; that He cannot pronounce him righteous who is not righteous. He then shows from experience and from Scripture, first as regards the Gentiles, then as regards the Jews, that there is none righteous, no not one; that the whole world is guilty before God. There is therefore no difference, since all have sinned.

Since the righteousness which the law requires cannot be found in the sinner nor be rendered by him, God has revealed another righteousness (Rom. iii. 21); “the righteousness of God,” granted to every one who believes. Men are not justified for what they are or for what they do, but for what Christ has done for them. God has set Him forth as a propitiation for sin, in order that He might be just and yet the justifier of them that believe.

The Apostle teaches that such has been the method of justification from the beginning. It was witnessed by the law and the prophets. There had never, since the fall, been any other way of justification possible for men. As God justified Abraham because he believed in the promise of redemption through the Messiah; so He justifies those now who believe in the fulfilment 153of that promise. (Rom. iv. 3, 9, 24.) It was not Abraham’s believing state of mind that was taken for righteousness. It is not faith in the believer now; not faith as a virtue, or as a source of a new life, which renders us righteous. It is faith in a specific promise. Righteousness, says the Apostle, is imputed to us, “if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Rom. iv. 24.) Or, as he expresses it in Romans x. 9, “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 promise which Abraham believed, is the promise which we believe (Gal. iii. 14); and the relation of faith to justification, in his case, is precisely what it is in ours. He and we are justified simply because we trust in the Messiah for our salvation. Hence, as the Apostle says, the Scriptures are full of thanksgiving to God for gratuitous pardon, for free justification, for the imputation of righteousness to those who have no righteousness of their own. This method of justification, he goes on to show, is adapted to all mankind. God is not the God of the Jews only but also of the Gentiles. It secures peace and reconciliation with God. (Rom. v. 1-3.) It renders salvation certam, for if we are saved not by what we are in ourselves, but for what Christ has done for us, we may be sure that if we are “justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Rom. v. 9.) This method of justification, he further shows, and this only, secures sanctification, namely, holiness of heart and life. it is only those who are reconciled to God by the death of his Son, that are “saved by his life.” (v. 10.) This idea he expands and vindicates in the sixth and seventh chapters of this Epistle.

The Parallel between Adam and Christ.

3. Not content with this clear and formal statement of the truth that sinners can be justified only through the imputation of a righteousness not their own; and that the righteousness thus imputed is the righteousness (active and passive if that distinction be insisted upon) of the Lord Jesus Christ; he proceeds to illustrate this doctrine by drawing a parallel between Adam and Christ. The former, he says, was a type of the latter. There is an analogy between our relation to Adam and our relation to Christ. We are so united to Adam that his first transgression was the ground of the sentence of condemnation being passed on all mankind, and on account of that condemnation we derive from him a corrupt nature so that all mankind descending from him 154by ordinary generation, come into the world in a state of spiritual death. In like manner we are so united to Christ, when we believe, that his obedience is the ground on which a sentence of justification passes upon all thus in Him, and in consequence of that sentence they derive from Him a new, holy, divine, and imperishable principle of spiritual life. These truths are expressed in explicit terms. “The judgment was by one (offence) to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.” (Rom. v. 16.) “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (v. 18, 19.) These two great truths, namely, the imputation of Adam’s sin and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, have graven themselves on the consciousness of the Church universal. They have been reviled, misrepresented, and denounced by theologians, but they have stood their ground in the faith of God’s people, just as the primary truths of reason have ever retained control over the mass of men, in spite of all the speculations of philosophers. It is not meant that the truths just mentioned have always been expressed in the terms just given; but the truths themselves have been, and still are held by the people of God, wherever found, among the Greeks, Latins, or Protestants. The fact that the race fell in Adam; that the evils which come upon us on account of his transgression are penal; and that men are born in a state of sin and condemnation, are outstanding facts of Scripture and experience, and are avowed every time the sacrament of baptism is administered to an infant. No less universal is the conviction of the other great truth. It is implied in every act of saving faith which includes trust in what Christ has done for us as the ground of our acceptance with God, as opposed to anything done by us or wrought in us. As a single proof of the hold which this conviction has on the Christian consciousness, reference may be made to the ancient direction for the visitation of the sick, attributed to Anselm, but of doubtful authorship: “Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved, but by the death of Christ? The sick man answereth, Yes. Then let it be said unto him, Go to, then, and whilst thy soul abideth in thee, put all thy confidence in this death alone, place thy trust in no other thing, commit thyself wholly to this death, cover thyself wholly with this alone, cast thyself wholly on this death, wrap 155thyself wholly in this death. And if God would judge them, say, Lord, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and thy judgment, and otherwise I will not contend, or enter into judgment with thee. And if He shall say unto thee, that thou art a sinner, say, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and my sins. If He shall say unto thee, that thou hast deserved damnation, say, Lord, I put the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and all my sins; and I offer his merits for my own, which I should have, and have not. If He say that He is angry with thee: say, Lord, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and thy anger.”171171See “The General Considerations,” prefixed by Owen to his work on Justification.

Such being the real and only foundation of a sinner’s hope towards God, it is of the last importance that it should not only be practically held by the people, but that it should also be clearly presented and maintained by the clergy. It is not what we do or are, but solely what Christ is and has done that can avail for our justification before the bar of God.

Other Passages teaching the same Doctrine.

4. This doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; or, in other words, that his righteousness is the judicial ground of the believer’s justification, is not only formally and argumentatively presented as in the passages cited, but it is constantly asserted or implied in the word of God. The Apostle argues, in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, that every assertion or promise of gratuitous forgiveness of sin to be found in the Scriptures involves this doctrine. He proceeds on the assumption that God is just; that He demands a righteousness of those whom He justifies. If they have no righteousness of their own, one on just grounds must be imputed to them. If, therefore, He forgives sin, it must be that sin is covered, that justice has been satisfied. “David, also,” he says, “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.” (Rom. iv. 6-8.) Not to impute sin implies the imputation of righteousness.

In Romans v. 9, we are said to be “justified by his blood.” In Romans iii. 25, God is said to have set Him forth as a propitiation for sin, that He might be just in justifying the ungodly. As to justify does not mean to pardon, but judicially to pronounce 156righteous, this passage distinctly asserts that the work of Christ is the ground on which the sentence of justification is passed. In Romans x. 3, 4, he says of the Jews, “They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” It can hardly be questioned that the word (δικαιοσύνη) righteousness must have the same meaning in both members of the first of these verses. If a man’s “own righteousness” is that which would render him righteous, then “the righteousness of God,” in this connection, must be a justifying righteousness. It is called the righteousness of God, because, as said before, He is its author. It is the righteousness of Christ. It is provided, offered, and accepted of God. Here then are two righteousnesses; the one human, the other divine; the one valueless, the other infinitely meritorious. The folly of the Jews, and of thousands since their day, consists in refusing the latter and trusting to the former. This folly the Apostle makes apparent in the fourth verse. The Jews acted under the assumption that the law as a covenant, that is, as prescribing the conditions of salvation, was still in force, that men were still bound to satisfy its demands by their personal obedience in order to be saved, whereas Christ had made an end of the law. He had abolished it as a covenant, in order that men might be justified by faith. Christ, however, has thus made an end of the law, not by merely setting it aside, but by satisfying its demands. He delivers us from its curse, not by mere pardon, but by being made a curse for us. (Gal. iii. 13.) He redeems us from the law by being made under it (Gal. iv. 4, 5), and fulfilling all righteousness.

In Philippians iii. 8, 9, the Apostle says, he “suffered the loss of all things,” that he might be found in Christ, not having his “own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Here again one’s own righteousness is contrasted with that which is of God. The word must have the same sense in both members. What Paul trusted to, was not his own righteousness, not his own subjective goodness, but a righteousness provided for him and received by faith. De Wette (no Augustinian) on this passage says, the righteousness of God here means,” a righteousness received from God (graciously imputed) on condition of faith” (“die von Gott empfangene (aus Gnaden zugerechnete) Gerechtigkeit um des Glaubenswillen.”)


The Apostle says (1 Cor. i. 30), Christ of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” In this enumeration sanctification and righteousness are distinguished. The one renders us holy; the other renders us just, i.e., satisfies the demands of justice. As Christ is to us the source of inward spiritual life, so He is the giver of that righteousness which secures our justification. Justification is not referred to sanctification as its proximate cause and ground. On the contrary, the gift of righteousness precedes that of sanctification. We are justified in order that we may be sanctified. The point here, however, is that righteousness is distinguished from anything and everything in us which can recommend us to the favour of God. We are accepted, justified, and saved, not for what we are, but for what He has done in our behalf. God “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. v. 21.) As Christ was not made sin in a moral sense; so we are not (in justification) made righteousness in a moral sense. As He was made sin in that He “bare our sins;” so we are made righteousness in that we bear his righteousness. Our sins were the judicial ground of his humiliation under the law and of all his sufferings; so his righteousness is the judicial ground of our justification. In other words, as our sins were imputed to Him; so his righteousness is imputed to us. If imputation of sin did not render Him morally corrupt; the imputation of righteousness does not make us holy or morally good.

Argument from the General Teachings of the Bible.

5. It is unnecessary to dwell upon particular passages in support of a doctrine which pervades the whole Scriptures. The question is, What is the ground of the pardon of sin and of the acceptance of the believe as righteous (in the forensic or judicial sense of the word), in the sight of God? Is it anything we do, anything experienced by us, or wrought in us; or, is it what Christ has done for us? The whole revelation of God concerning the method of salvation shows that it is the latter and not the former. In the first place, this is plain from what the Scriptures teach of the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son. That there was such covenant cannot be denied if the meaning of the words be once agreed upon. It is plain from Scripture that Christ came into the world to do a certain work, on a certain condition. The promise made to Him 158was that a multitude whom no man can number, of the fallen race of man, should be saved. This included the promise that they should be justified, sanctified, and made partakers of eternal life. The very nature of this transaction involves the idea of vicarious substitution. It assumes that what He was to do was to be the ground of the justification, sanctification, and salvation of his people.

In the second place this is involved in the nature of the work which He came to perform. He was to assume our nature, to be born of a woman, to take part of flesh and blood with all their infirmities, yet without sin. He was to take his place among sinners; be made subject to the law which they are bound to obey, and to endure the curse which they had incurred. If this be so, then what He did is the ground of our salvation from first to last; of our pardon, of our reconciliation with God, of the acceptance of our persons, of the indwelling of the Spirit, of our being transformed into His image, and of our admission into heaven. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory,” has, therefore, been the spontaneous language of every believer from the beginning until now.

In the third place, the manner in which Christ was to execute the work assigned as described in the prophets, and the way in which it was actually accomplished as described by Himself and by his Apostles, prove that what He did and suffered is the ground of our salvation. He says that He came “to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. xx. 28.) “There is one God,” says the Apostle, “and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all.” (1 Tim. ii. 5, 6.) The deliverance effected by a ransom has no reference to the character or conduct of the redeemed. Its effects are due exclusively to the ransom paid. It is, therefore, to deny that Christ was a ransom, that we are redeemed by his blood, to affirm that the proximate ground of our deliverance from the curse of the law and of our introduction into the liberty of the sons of God, is anything wrought in us or done by us. Again, from the beginning to the end of the Bible, Christ is represented as a sacrifice. From the first institution of sacrifices in the family of Adam; during the patriarchal period; in all the varied and costly ritual of the Mosaic law; in the predictions of the prophets; in the clear didactic statements of the New Testament, it is taught with a constancy, a solemnity, and an amplitude, which proves it to be a fundamental and vital element of the divine plan of redemption, 159that the Redeemer was to save his people by offering himself as a sacrifice unto God in their behalf. There is no one characteristic of the plan of salvation more deeply engraven on the hearts of Christians, which more effectually determines their inward spiritual life, which so much pervades their prayers and praises, or which is so directly the foundation of their hopes, as the sacrificial nature of the death of Christ. Strike from the Bible the doctrine of redemption by the blood of Christ, and what have we left? But if Christ saves us as a sacrifice, then it is what He does for us, his objective work, and nothing subjective, nothing in us, which is the ground of our salvation, and of all that salvation includes. For even our sanctification is due to his death. His blood cleanses from all sin. (1 John i. 7.) It cleanses from the guilt of sin by expiation; and secures inward sanctification by securing the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Again, the whole Bible is full of the idea of substitution. Christ took our place. He undertook to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. This is taught in every possible way. He bore our sins. He died for us and in our place. He was made under the law for us. He was made a curse for us. He was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The chastisement of our peace was laid on Him. Everything, therefore, which the Bible teaches of the method of salvation, is irreconcilable with the doctrine of subjective justification in all its forms. We are always and everywhere referred to something out of ourselves as the ground of our confidence toward God.

In the fourth place, the effects ascribed to the work of Christ, as before remarked, are such as do not flow from anything in the believer himself, but must be referred to what has been done for him. These effects are expiation of sin, propitiation, the gift and indwelling of the life-giving Spirit of God; redemption, or deliverance from all forms of evil; and a title to eternal life and actual participation in the exaltation, glory, and blessedness of the Son of God. It is out of all question that these wonderful effects should be referred to what we personally are; to our merit, to our holiness, to our participation of the life of Christ. In whatever sense these last words may be understood, they refer to what we personally are or become. His life in us is after all a form of our life. It constitutes our character. And it is self-evident to the conscience that our character is not, and cannot be the ground of our pardon, of God’s peculiar love, or of our eternal glory and blessedness in heaven.


In the fifth place, the condition on which our participation of the benefits of redemption is suspended, is inconsistent with any form of the doctrine of subjective justification. We are never said to be justified on account of faith, considered either as an act or as a principle, as an exercise or as a permanent state of the mind. Faith is never said to be the ground of justification Nor are we saved by faith as the source of holiness or of spiritual life in the soul, or as the organ of receiving the infused life of God. We are saved simply “by” faith, by receiving and resting upon Christ alone for salvation. The thing received is something out of ourselves. It is Christ, his righteousness, his obedience, the merit of his blood or death. We look to Him. We flee to Him. We lay hold on Him. We hide ourselves in Him. We are clothed in his righteousness. The Romanist indeed says, that an Ethiopian in a white robe does not become white. True, but a suit of armor gives security from the sword or spear, and that is what we need before attending to the state of our complexion. We need protection from the wrath of God in the first instance. The inward transformation of the soul into his likeness is provided for by other means.

In the sixth place and finally, the fact that we are saved by grace proves that the ground of salvation is not in ourselves. The grace of God, his love for the unlovely, for the guilty and polluted, is represented in the Bible as the most mysterious of the divine perfections. It was hidden in God. It could not be discovered by reason, neither was it revealed prior to the redemption of man. The specific object of the plan of salvation is the manifestation of this most wonderful, most attractive, and most glorious attribute of the divine nature. Everything connected with our salvation, says the Apostle, is intended for the “praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. i. 6.) God hath quickened us, he says, and raised us up, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in order “that in the ages to come, he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus.”

From their nature, grace and works are antithetical. The one excludes the other. What is of grace, is not of works. And by works in Scripture, in relation to this subject, is meant not individual acts only, but states of mind, anything and everything internal of which moral character can be predicated. When, therefore, it is said that salvation is of grace and not of works, it is thereby said that it is not founded upon anything in the believer 161himself. It was not any moral excellence in man, that determined God to interpose for his redemption, while He left the apostate angels to their fate. This was a matter of grace. To deny this, and to make the provision of a plan of salvation for man a matter of justice, is in such direct contradiction to everything in the Bible, that it hardly ever has been openly asserted. The gift of his Son for the redemption of man is ever represented as the most wonderful display of unmerited love. That some and not all men are actually saved, is expressly declared to be not of works, not on account of anything distinguishing favourably the one class from the other, but a matter of pure grace. When a sinner is pardoned and restored to the favour of God, this again is declared to be of grace. If of grace it is not founded upon anything in the sinner himself. Now as the Scriptures not only teach that the plan of salvation is thus gratuitous in its inception, execution, and application, but also insist upon this characteristic of the plan as of vital importance, and even go so far as to teach that unless we consent to be saved by grace, we cannot be saved at all, it of necessity follows that the doctrine of subjective justification is contrary to the whole spirit of the Bible. That doctrine in all its forms teaches that that which secures our acceptance with God, is something in ourselves, something which constitutes character. If so, then salvation is not of grace; and if not of grace, it is unattainable by sinners.

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