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XVI - THE TRUTH PLEADED FARTHER CONFIRMED BY TESTIMONIES OF SCRIPTURE. — JEREMIAH 23:6
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Testimonies of Scripture confirming the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ — Jeremiah 23:6, explained and indicated That which we now proceed unto, is the consideration of those express testimonies of Scripture which are given unto the truth pleaded for, and especially of those places where the doctrine of the justification of sinners is expressly and designedly handled. From them it is that we must learn the truth, and into them must our faith be resolved; unto whose authority all the arguing and objections of men must give place. By them is more light conveyed into the understandings of believers than by the most subtile disputations. And it is a thing not without scandal, to see among Protestants whole books written about justification, wherein scarce one testimony of Scripture is produced, unless it be to find out evasions from the force of them. And, in particular, whereas the apostle Paul has most fully and expressly (as he had the greatest occasion so to do) declared and vindicated the doctrine of evangelical justification, not a few, in what they write about it, are so far from declaring their thoughts and faith concerning it out of his writings, as that they begin to reflect upon them as obscure, and such as give occasion unto dangerous mistakes; and unless, as was said, to answer and except against them upon their own corrupt principles, seldom or never make mention of them; as though we were grown wiser than he, or that Spirit whereby he was inspired, guided, acted in all that he wrote. But there can be nothing more alien from the genius of Christian religion, than for us not to endeavor humbly to learn the mystery of the grace of God herein, in the declaration of it made by him. But the foundation of God stands sure, what course soever men shall be pleased to take into their profession of religion.
For the testimonies which I shall produce and insist upon, I desire the reader to observe, —
1. That they are but some of the many that might be pleaded unto the same purpose.
2. That those which have been, or yet shall be alleged, on particular occasions, I shall wholly omit; and such are most of them that are given unto this truth in the Old Testament.
3. That in the exposition of them I shall, with what diligence I can, attend, — First, Unto the analogy of faith; that is, the manifest scope and design of the revelation of the mind and will of God in the Scripture.
And that this is to exalt the freedom and riches of his own grace, the glory and excellency of Christ and his mediation; to discover the woeful, lost, forlorn condition of man by sin; to debase and depress every thing that is in and of ourselves, as to the attaining life, righteousness, and salvation; cannot be denied by any who have their sense exercised in the Scriptures.
Secondly, Unto the experience of them that do believe, with the condition of them who seek after justification by Jesus Christ. In other things I hope the best helps and rules of the interpretation of the Scripture shall not be neglected.
There is weight in this case deservedly laid on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as promised and given unto us, — namely, “The LORD our Righteousness,” Jeremiah 23:6. As the name Jehovah, being given and ascribed unto him, is a full indication of his divine person; so the addition of his being our righteousness, sufficiently declares that in and by him alone we have righteousness, or are made righteous. So was he typed by Melchizedek, as first the “King of righteousness,” then the “king of peace,” Hebrews 7:2; for by his righteousness alone have we peace with God. Some of the Socinians would evade this testimony, by observing, that righteousness in the Old Testament is urged sometimes for benignity, kindness, and mercy; and so they suppose it may be here. But the most of them, avoiding the palpable absurdity of this imagination, refer to the righteousness of God in the deliverance and vindication of his people. So Brenius briefly, “Ita vocatur quia Dominus per manum ejus judicium et justitiam faciet Israeli”. But these are evasions of bold men, who care not, so they may say somewhat, whether what they say be agreeable to the analogy of faith or the plain words of the Scripture. Bellarmine, who was more wary to give some appearance of truth unto his answers, first gives other reasons why he is called “The LORD our Righteousness;” and then, whether unawares or overpowered by the evidence of truth, grants that sense of the words which contains the whole of the cause we plead for. “Christ,” he says, “may be called ‘The LORD our Righteousness, ’ because he is the efficient cause of our righteousness;” — as God is said to be our “strength and salvation.” Again, “Christ is said to be our righteousness, as he is our wisdom, our redemption, and our peace; because he has redeemed us, and makes us wise and righteous, and reconciles us unto God.” And other reasons of the same nature are added by others. But not trusting to these expositions of the words, he adds, “Deinde dicitur Christus justitia nostra, quoniam satisfecit patri pro nobis, et eam satisfactionem ita nobis donat et communicat, cum nos justificat, ut nostra satisfactio et justitia dici possit”. And afterward, “Hoc modo non esset absurdum, si quis diceret nobis imputari Christi justitiam et merita, cum nobis donantur et applicantur, ad si nos ipsi Deo stisfecissimus”, De Justificat., lib. 2 cap. 10; — “Christ is said to be our righteousness because he has made satisfaction for us to the Father; and does so give and communicate that satisfaction unto us when he justifies us, that it may be said to be our satisfaction and righteousness. And in this sense it would not be absurd if any one should say that the righteousness of Christ and his merits are imputed unto us, as if we ourselves had satisfied God.” In this sense we say that Christ is “The LORD our Righteousness;” nor is there any thing of importance in the whole doctrine of justification that we own, which is not here granted by the cardinal, and that in terms which some among ourselves scruple at and oppose. I shall therefore look a little farther into this testimony, which has wrested so eminent a confession of the truth from so great an adversary. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise up unto David a righteous Branch;... and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The LORD our Righteousness,” Jeremiah 23:5,6. It is confessed among Christians that this is an illustrious renovation of the first promise concerning the incarnation of the Son of God, and our salvation by him. This promise was first given when we had lost our original righteousness, and were considered only as those who had sinned and come short of the glory of God. In this estate a righteousness was absolutely necessary, that we might be again accepted with God; for without a righteousness, yea, that which is perfect and complete, we never were so, nor ever can be so. In this estate it is promised that he shall be our “righteousness;” or, as the apostle expresses it, “the end of the law for righteousness to them that do believe.” That he is so, there can be no question; the whole inquiry is, how he is so? This (is, say the most sober and modest of our adversaries, because he is the efficient cause of our righteousness; that is, of our personal, inherent righteousness. But this righteousness may be considered either in itself, as it is an effect of God’s grace, and so it is good and holy, although it be not perfect and complete; or it may be considered as it is ours, inherent in us, accompanied with the remaining defilements of our nature. In that respect, as this righteousness is ours, the prophet affirms that, in the sight of God, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” Isaiah 64:6. “Kol tsidkoteinu” comprises our whole personal, inherent righteousness; and the Lord Christ cannot from hence be deminated “Yehovah Tsidkenu”, — “The LORD our Righteousness,” seeing it is all as filthy rags. It must therefore be a righteousness of another sort whence this denomination is taken, and on the account whereof this name is given him: wherefore he is our righteousness, as all our righteousnesses are in him. So the church, which confesses all her own righteousnesses to be as filthy rags, says, “In the LORD have I righteousness,” chap. 45:24, (which is expounded of Christ by the apostle, Romans 14:11;) “‘ach bayhovah li tsdakot”, — “Only in the LORD are my righteousnesses:” which two places the apostle expresses, Philippians 3:8,9, “That I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law” (in this case as filthy rags, “but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Hence it is added, “In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified,” Isaiah 45:25, — namely, because he is, in what he is, in what he was, and did, as given unto and for us, “our righteousness,” and our righteousness is all in him; which totally excludes our own personal, inherent righteousness from any interest in our justification, and ascribes it wholly unto the righteousness of Christ. And thus is that emphatical expression of the psalmist, “I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD” (for as unto holiness and obedience, all our spiritual strength is from him alone); “and I will make mention” “tsidkotcha levadecha”, Psalm 71:16, “of thy righteousness, of thine only.” The redoubling of the affix excludes all confidence and trusting in any thing but the righteousness of God alone. For this the apostle affirms to be the design of God in making Christ to be righteousness unto us, — namely, “that no flesh should glory in his presence; but that he that glorieth, should glory in the Lord,” 1 Corinthians 1:29,31. For it is by faith alone making mention, as unto our justification, of the righteousness of God, of his righteousness only, that excludes all boasting, Romans 3:27.
And, besides what shall be farther pleaded from particular testimonies, the Scripture does eminently declare how he is “The LORD our Righteousness,” — namely, in that he “makes an end of sin and reconciliation for iniquity, and brings in everlasting righteousness,” Daniel 9:24. For by these things is our justification completed, — namely, in satisfaction made for sin, the pardon of it in our reconciliation unto God, and the providing for us an everlasting righteousness. Therefore is he “The LORD our Righteousness,” and so rightly called. Wherefore, seeing we had lost original righteousness, and had none of our own remaining, and stood in need of a perfect, complete righteousness to procure our acceptance with God, and such a one as might exclude all occasion of boasting of any thing in ourselves, the Lord Christ being given and made unto us “The LORD our Righteousness,” in whom we have all our righteousness (our own, as it is ours, being as filthy rags in the sight of God); and this by making an end of sin, and reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in everlasting righteousness: it is by his righteousness, by his only, that we are justified in the sight of God, and do glory. This is the substance of what in this case we plead for; and thus it is delivered in Scripture, in a way bringing more light and spiritual sense into the minds of believers than those philosophical expressions and distinctions which vaunt themselves with a pretense of propriety and accuracy.