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"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:16, 36).
"Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent. This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:28-29, 40).
"If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do; he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth; because there is no truth in him. He that is of God, heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God" (John 8:24, 44, 47).
"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; And whosoever liveth, and believeth in Me, shall never die" (John 11:25, 26).
"To him give all the prophets witness, that through His name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43).
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:31).
"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Romans 4:5).
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Romans 10:4).
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16).
"Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 2:6).
"He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God" (1 John 5:10-13).
4. Present sanctification, in the sense of present full consecration to God, is another condition, not ground, of justification. Some theologians have made justification a condition of sanctification, instead of making sanctification a condition of justification. But this we shall see is an erroneous view of the subject. The mistake is founded in a misapprehension of the nature both of justification and of sanctification. To sanctify is to set apart, to consecrate to a particular use. To sanctify anything to God is to set apart to His service, to consecrate it to Him. To sanctify one's self is voluntarily to set one's self apart, to consecrate one's self to God. To be sanctified is to be set apart, to be consecrated to God. Sanctification is an act or state of being sanctified, or set apart to the service of God. It is a state of consecration to Him. This is present obedience to the moral law. It is the whole of present duty, and is implied in repentance, faith, regeneration, as we have abundantly seen. Sanctification is sometimes used to express a permanent state of obedience to God, or of consecration. In this sense it is not a condition of present justification, or of pardon and acceptance. But it is a condition of continued and permanent acceptance with God. It certainly cannot be true, that God accepts and justifies the sinner in his sins. The Bible everywhere represents justified persons as sanctified, and always expressly, or impliedly, conditionates justification upon sanctification, in the sense of present obedience to God. "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). This is but a specimen of the manner in which justified persons are spoken of in the Bible. Also, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1). They only are justified who walk after the Spirit. Should it e objected, as it may be, that the scripture often speaks of saints, or truly regenerate persons, as needing sanctification, and of sanctification as something that comes after regeneration, and as that which the saints are to aim at attaining, I answer, that when sanctification is thus spoken of, it is doubtless used in the higher sense already noticed; to wit, to denote a state of being settled, established in faith, rooted and grounded in love, being so confirmed in the faith and obedience of the gospel, as to hold on in the way steadfastly, unmovably, always abounding in the work of the Lord. This is doubtless a condition of permanent justification, as has been said, but not a condition of present justification. By sanctification being a condition of justification, the following things are intended:
(2.) That the repentant soul remains justified no longer than this full-hearted consecration continues. If he falls from his first love into the spirit of self-pleasing, he falls again into bondage to sin and to the law, is condemned, and must repent and do his "first work," must return to Christ, and renew his faith and love, as a condition of his salvation. This is the most express teaching of the Bible, as we shall fully see.
5. Perseverance in faith and obedience, or in consecration to God, is also an unalterable condition of justification, or of pardon and acceptance with God. By this language in this connection, you will of course understand me to mean, that perseverance in faith and obedience is a condition, not of present, but of final or ultimate acceptance and salvation. Those who hold that justification by imputed righteousness is a forensic proceeding, take a view of final or ultimate justification, according with their view of the nature of the transaction. With them, faith receives an imputed righteousness, and a judicial justification. The first act of faith, according to them, introduces the sinner into this relation, and obtains for him a perpetual justification. They maintain that after this first act of faith it is impossible for the sinner to come into condemnation; that, being once justified, he is always thereafter justified, whatever he may do; indeed that he is never justified by grace, as to sins that are past, upon condition that he ceases to sin; that Christ's righteousness is the ground, and that his own present obedience is not even a condition of his justification, so that, in fact, his own present or future obedience to the law of God is, in no case, and in no sense, a sine qua non of his justification, present or ultimate.
Now this is certainly another gospel from the one I am inculcating. It is not a difference merely upon some speculative or theoretic point. It is a point fundamental to the gospel and to salvation, if any one can be. Let us therefore see which of these is the true gospel. I object to this view of justification:
1. That it is antinomianism. Observe, they hold that upon the first exercise of faith, the soul enters into such a relation to Christ, that with respect to it the penalty of the divine law is for ever set aside, not only as it respects all past, but also as it respects all future acts of disobedience; so that sin does not thereafter bring the soul under the condemning sentence of the law of God. But a precept without a penalty is no law. Therefore, if the penalty is in their case permanently set aside or repealed, this is, and must be, a virtual repeal of the precept, for without a penalty it is only counsel, or advice, and no law.
2. But again: it is impossible that this view of justification should be true; for the moral law did not originate in the arbitrary will of God, and He cannot abrogate it either as to its precept or its penalty. He may for good and sufficient reasons dispense in certain cases with the execution of the penalty. But set it aside in such a sense, that sin would not incur it, or that the soul that sins shall not be condemned by it, he cannot it is naturally impossible! The law is as unalterable and unrepealable, both as to its precept and its penalty, as the nature of God. It cannot but be, in the very nature of things, that sin in any being, in any world, and at any time, will and must incur the penalty of the moral law. God may pardon as often as the soul sins, repents and believes, but to prevent real condemnation where there is sin, is not at the option of any being.
3. But again; I object to the view of justification in question, that it is of course inconsistent with forgiveness or pardon. If justified by imputed righteousness, why pardon him whom the law accounts as already and perpetually, and perfectly righteous? Certainly it were absurd and impossible for the law and the law-giver judicially to justify a person on the ground of the perfect obedience of His substitute, and at the same time pardon him who is thus regarded as perfectly righteous. Especially must this be true of all sin committed subsequently to the first and justifying act of faith. If when once the soul has believed, it can no more come into condemnation, it certainly can no more be forgiven. Forgiveness implies previous condemnation, and consists in setting aside the execution of an incurred penalty.
4. If the view of justification I am opposing be true, it is altogether out of place for one who has once believed, to ask for the pardon of sin. It is a downright insult to God, and apostasy from Christ. It amounts according to their view of justification, to a denial of perpetual justification by imputed righteousness, and to an acknowledgment of being condemned. It must therefore imply a falling from grace, to pray for pardon after the soul has once believed.
5. But this view of justification is at war with the whole Bible. This everywhere represents Christians as condemned when they sin teaches them to repent, confess, and pray for pardon to betake themselves afresh to Christ as their only hope. The Bible, in almost every variety or manner, represents perseverance in faith, and obedience to the end, as a condition of ultimate justification and final salvation. Let the following passages serve as examples of the manner in which the Bible represents this subject:
"But when the righteous turneth away from His righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned; in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die" (Ezek. 18:24).
"When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it" (Ezek. 33:13).
"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:27).
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
"We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor. 6:1).
"If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister" (Col. 1:23).
"Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 4:1, 11).
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10).
"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh, shall not be hurt of the second death. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it. And he that overcometh, and keepeth My words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers; even as I received of My Father" (Rev. 2:10, 16, 17, 26, 27).
Observe, I am not here calling in question the fact, that all true saints do persevere in faith and obedience to the end; but am showing that such perseverance is a condition of salvation, or ultimate justification. The subject of the perseverance of the saints will come under consideration in its proper place.
6. The view of justification which I am opposing is contradicted by the consciousness of the saints. I think I may safely affirm that the saints in all time are very conscious of condemnation when they fall into sin. This sense of condemnation may not subject them to the same kind and degree of fear which they experienced before regeneration, because of the confidence they have that God will pardon their sin. Nevertheless, until they repent, and by a renewed act of faith lay hold on pardon and fresh justification, their remorse, shame, and consciousness of condemnation, do in fact, if I am not much deceived, greatly exceed, as a general thing, the remorse, shame, and sense of condemnation experienced by the unrepentant. But if it be true, that the first act of faith brings the soul into a state of perpetual justification, so that it cannot fall into condemnation thereafter, do what it will, the experience of the saints contradicts facts, or, more strictly, their consciousness of condemnation is a delusion. They are not in fact condemned by the moral law as they conceive themselves to be.