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than justified persons. For this is the effect of the sacrifice of Christ applied unto the souls of believers, as the apostle declares, Heb. x. 1-4. 10. 14. that it doth take away conscience, condemning the sinner for sin, with respect unto the curse of the law; but it doth not take away conscience, condemning sin in the sinner, which on all considerations of God and themselves, of the law and the gospel, requires repentance on the part of the sinner, and actual pardon on the part of God.
Whereas, therefore, one essential part of justification consisteth in the pardon of our sins, and sins cannot be actually pardoned before they are actually committed, our present inquiry is, whereon the continuation of our justification doth depend, notwithstanding the interveniency of sin after we are justified, whereby such sins are actually pardoned, and our persons are continued in a state of acceptation with God, and have their right unto life and glory uninterrupted. Justification is at once complete, in the imputation of a perfect righteousness, the grant of a right and title unto the heavenly inheritance, the actual pardon of all past sins, and the virtual pardon of future sins; but how or by what means, on what terms and conditions, this state is continued unto those who are once justified, whereby the righteousness is everlasting, their title to life and glory indefeasable, and all their sins are actually pardoned, is to be inquired.
For answer unto this inquiry, I say, 1. . It is God that justifieth,'and therefore, the continuation of our justification is his act also. And this on his part depends on the inmutability of his counsel, the unchangeableness of the everlasting covenant, which is ordered in all things and sure,' the faithfulness of his promises, the efficacy of his grace, his complacency in the propitiation of Christ, with the power of his intercession, and the irrevocable grant of the Holy Ghost unto them that do believe; which things are not of our present inquiry.
2. Some say that on our part the continuation of this state of our justification, depends on the condition of good works, that is, that they are of the same consideration and use with faith itself herein. In our justification itself there is, they will grant, somewhat peculiar unto faith ; but as unto the continuation of our justification, faith and works have the same influence into it. Yea, some seem to ascribe it distinctly unto works in an especial manner, with this only proviso, that they be done in faith. For my part I cannot understand that the continuation of our justification hath any other dependencies, than hath our justification itself. As faith alone is required unto the one, so faith alone is required unto the other, although its operations and effects in the discharge of its duty and office in justification, and the continuation of it are diverse, nor can it otherwise be. To clear this assertion two things are to be observed.
1. That the continuation of our justification is the continuation of the imputation of righteousness and the pardon of sins. I do still suppose the imputation of righteousness to concur unto our justification, although we have not yet examined what righteousness it is that is imputed. But that God in our justification imputeth righteousness unto us, is so expressly affirmed by the apostle, as that it must not be called in question. Now the first act of God in the imputation of righteousness cannot be repeated. And the actual pardon of sin after justification, is an effect and consequent of that imputation of righteousness. 'If any man sin, there is a propitiation; deliver him, I have found a ransom.' Wherefore unto this actual pardon, there is nothing required, but the application of that righteousness which is the cause of it, and this is done by faith only.
2. The continuation of our justification, is before God, or in the sight of God no less than our absolute justification is. We speak not of the sense and evidence of it unto our own souls unto peace with God; nor of the evidencing and manifestation of it unto others by its effects; but of the continuance of it in the sight of God. Whatever therefore is the means, condition, or cause hereof, is pleadable before God, and ought to be pleaded unto that purpose. So then the inquiry is,
What it is that when a justified person is guilty of sin (as guilty he is more or less every day), and his conscience is pressed with a sense thereof, as that only thing which can endanger or intercept his justified estate, his favour with God, and title unto glory, he betakes himself unto, or ought so to do, for the continuance of his state, and pardon of his sins, what he pleadeth unto that purpose, and what is available thereunto. That this is not his own obedience, his personal righteousness, or fulfilling the condition of the new covenant, is evident, from (1.) The experience of believers themselves; (2.) Testimony of Scripture; and (3.) The example of them whose cases are recorded therein.
1. Let the experience of them that do believe be inquired into; for their consciences are continually exercised herein. What is it that they betake themselves unto, what is it that they plead with God, for the continuance of the pardon of their sins, and the acceptance of their persons before him ? Is it any thing but sovereign grace and mercy, through the blood of Christ? Are not all the arguments which they plead unto this end, taken from the topics, of the name of God, his mercy, grace, faithfulness, tender compassion, covenant and promises, all manifested, and exercised in and through the Lord Christ and his mediation alone? Do they pot herein place their only trust and confidence for this end, that their sins may be pardoned, and their persons, though every way unworthy in themselves, be accepted with God? Doth any other thought enter into their hearts? Do they plead their own righteousness, obedience and duties to this purpose ? Do they leave the prayer of the publican, and betake themselves unto that of the Pharisee? And is it not of faith alone, which is that grace whereby they apply them. selves unto the mercy or grace of God through the mediation of Christ? It is true that faith herein, worketh and acteth itself in and by godly sorrow, repentance, humiliation, self-judging, and abhorrency, fervency in prayer and supplications, with an humble waiting for an answer of peace from God, with engagements unto renewed obedience. But it is faith alone that makes applications unto grace in the blood of Christ, for the continuation of our justified estate, expressing itself in those other ways and effects mentioned, from none of which a believing soul doth expect the mercy aimed at.
2. The Scripture expressly doth declare this to be the only way of the continuation of our justification. 1 John ii. 1, 2. “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous ; and he is the propitiation for our sins.' It is required of those that are justified, that they sin not; it is their duty not to sin; but yet it is not so required of them, as that if in any thing they fail of their duty they should immediately lose the privilege of their justification. Wherefore, on a supposition of sin, if any man sin (as there is no man that liveth and sinneth not), what way is prescribed for such persons to take, what are they to apply themselves unto, that their sin may be pardoned, and their acceptance with God continued ; that is, for the continuation of their justification? The course in this case directed unto by the apostle, is none other but the application of our souls by faith unto the Lord Christ, as our advocate with the Father, on the account of the propitiation that he hath made for our sins. Under the consideration of this double act of his sacerdotal office, his oblation and intercession, he is the object of our faith in our absolute justification, and so he is as unto the continuation of it. So our whole progress in our justified estate in all the degrees of it is ascribed unto faith alone.
It is no part of our inquiry, what God requireth of them that are justified. There is no grace, no duty for the substance of them, nor for the manner of their performance, that are required either by the law or the gospel, but they are obliged unto them. Where they are omitted, we acknowledge that the guilt of sin is contracted, and that attended with such aggravations, as some will not own or allow to be confessed unto God himself. Hence, in particular, the faith and grace of believers, do constantly and deeply exercise themselves in godly sorrow, repentance, humiliation for sin, and confession of it before God, upon their apprehensions of its guilt. And these duties are so far necessary unto the continuation of our justification, as that a justified estate cannot consist with the sins and vices that are opposite unto them. So the apostle affirms, that if we live after the flesh, we shall die;' Rom viü. 13. He that doth not carefully avoid falling into the fire or water, or other things immediately destructive of life natural, cannot live. But these are not the things whereon life doth depend. Nor have the best of our duties any other respect unto the continuation of our justification, but only as in them we are preserved from those things which are contrary unto it, and destructive of it. But the sole question is upon what the continuation of our justification doth depend, not concerning what duties are required of us, in the way of our obedience. If this be that which is intended in this position, the continuation of our justification depends on our own obedience and good works, or that our own obedience and good works are the condition of the continuation of our justification, namely, that God doth indispensably require good works and obedience in all that are justified, so that a justified estate is inconsistent with the neglect of them ; it is readily granted, and I shall never contend with any about the way whereby they choose to express the conceptions of their minds. But if it be inquired what it is whereby we immediately concur in a way of duty unto the continuation of our justified estate, that is, the pardon of our sins and acceptance with God, we say it is faith alone. For the 'just shall live by faith ;' Rom. i. 17. And as the apostle applies this divine testimony to prove our first or absolute justification to be by faith alone ; so doth he also apply it unto the continuation of our justification, as that which is by the same means only, Heb. x. 38, 39. Now the just shall live by faith : but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them that draw back unto perdition : but of them that believe, unto the saving of the soul.' The drawing back to perdition includes the loss of a justified estate really so or in profession. In opposition thereunto the apostle placeth believing unto the saving of the soul;' that is, unto the continuation of justification unto the end. And herein it is, that the just live by faith, and the loss of this life can only be by unbelief. So the ‘ life which we now live in the flesh, is by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for us;' Gal. ii. 20. The life which we now lead in the flesh, is the continuation of our justification, a life of righteousness and acceptation with God, in opposition unto a life by the works of the law, as the next words declare ; ver. 21. I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness came by the law, then is Christ dead in vain;' and this life is by faith in Christ, as he loved us, and gave himself for us, that is, as he was a propitiation for our sins. This then is the only way, means, and cause on our part of the preservation of this ife, of the continuance of our justification; and herein are we kept by the power of God through