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the doctrine of justification was fully declared, stated, and vindicated by the apostle Paul in a peculiar manner.
And he doth it especially by affirming and proving that we have the righteousness whereby and wherewith we are justified by imputation; or that our justification consists in the nonimputation of sin, and the imputation of righteousness.
But yet, although the first recorded instance of justification, and which was so recorded, that it might be an example and represent the justification of all that should be justified unto the end of the world, is expressed by imputation, and righteousness imputed, and the doctrine of it in that great case, wherein the eternal welfare of the church of the Jews, or their ruin was concerned, is so expressed by the apostle ; yet is it so fallen out in our days that nothing in religion is more maligned, more reproached, more despised, than the imputation of righteousness unto us, or an imputed righteousness. A putative righteousness, the shadow of a dream, a fancy, a mummery, an imagination, say some among
An opinion, 'fæda, execranda, pernitiosa, detestanda,' saith Socinus. And opposition ariseth unto it every day from great variety of principles. For those by whom it is opposed and rejected can by no means agree what to set up in the place of it.
However, the weight and importance of this doctrine is on all hands acknowledged, whether it be true or false. It is not a dispute about notions, terms, and speculations, wherein Christian practice is little or not at all concerned (of which nature many are needlessly contended about), but such as hath an immediate influence into our whole present duty, with our eternal welfare or ruin. Those by whom this imputation of righteousness is rejected, do affirm, that the faith and doctrine of it, do overthrow the necessity of gospel obedience, of personal righteousness, and good works, bringing in antinomianism, and libertinism in life. Hereon it must of necessity be destructive of salvation, in those who believe it, and conform their practice thereunto. And those on the other hand by whom it is believed, seeing they judge it impossible that any man should be justified before God any other way, but by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, do accordingly judge, that without it none can be saved. Hence a learned man of late concludes his discourse concerning it. “Hactenus de imputatione justitiæ Christi, sine qua nemo unquam aut salvatus est, aut salvari queat.' Justificat. Paulin. cap. 8. “Thus far of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, without which no man was ever saved, nor can any so be.' They do not think nor judge, that all those are excluded from salvation, who cannot apprehend, or do deny the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, as by them declared. But they judge that they are so, unto whom that righteousness is not really imputed; nor can they do otherwise, whilst they make it the foundation of all their own acceptation with God and eternal salvation. These things greatly differ. To believe the doctrine of it, or not to believe it, as thus or thus explained, is one thing ; and to enjoy the thing,or not enjoy it, is another. I no way doubt, but that many men do receive more grace from God, than they understand or will own; and have a greater efficacy of it in them, than they will believe. Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which in opinion they deny to be imputed. For the faith of it is included in that general assent which they give unto the truth of the gospel, and such an adherence unto Christ may ensue thereon, as that their mistake of the way whereby they are saved by him, shall not defraud them of a real interest therein. And for my part, I must say, that notwithstanding all the disputes that I see and read about justification (some whereof are full of offence and scandal), I do not believe but that the authors of them (if they be not Socinians throughout, denying the whole merit and satisfaction of Christ), do really trust unto the mediation of Christ for the pardon of their sins, and acceptance with God, and not unto their own works or obedience. Nor will I believe the contrary, until they expressly declare it. Of the objection on the other hand, concerning the danger of the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, in reference unto the necessity of holiness, and works of righteousness, we must treat afterward,
The judgment of the reformed churches herein is known unto all, and must be confessed, unless we intend by vain cavils to increase and perpetuate contentions. Especially the church of England is in her doctrine express as unto the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, both active and passive, as it is usually distinguished. This hath been of late so fully manifested out of her authentic writings, that is, the articles of religion, and books of homilies, and other writings publicly authorized, that it is altogether needless to give any farther demonstration of it. Those who pretend themselves to be otherwise minded, are such as I will not contend withal. For to what purpose is it to dispute with men who will deny the sun to shine, when they cannot bear the heat of its beams. Wherefore in what I have to offer on this subject, I shall not in the least depart from the ancient doctrine of the church of England; yea, I have no design but to declare and vindicate it, as God shall enable.
There are indeed sundry differences among persons learned, sober, and orthodox (if that term displease not), in the way and manner of the explication of the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, who yet all of them agree in the substance of it, in all those things wherein the grace of God, the honour of Christ, and the peace of the souls of men are principally concerned. As far as it is possible for me, I shall avoid the concerning of myself at present, in these differences. For unto what purpose is it to contend about them, whilst the substance of the doctrine itself is openly opposed and rejected ? why should we debate about the order and beautifying of the rooms in a house, whilst fire is set unto the whole? when that is well quenched, we may return to the consideration of the best means for the disposal and use of the several parts of it.
There are two grand parties by whom the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is opposed, namely, the Papists and the Socinians. But they proceed on different principles, and unto different ends. The design of the one is to exalt their own merits, of the other, to destroy the merit of Christ. But besides these who trade in company, we have many interlopers, who coming in on their hand, do make bold to borrow from both, as they see occasion. We shall have to do with them all in our progress; not with the
and manner of their expressing themselves, but the opinions of all of them so far as they are opposite unto the truth. For it is that
which wise men despise and good men bewail, to see persons pretending unto religion and piety, to cavil at expressions, to contend about words, to endeavour the fastening of opinions on men which they own not, and thereon mutually to revile one another, publishing all to the world, as some great achievement or victory. This is not the way to teach the truths of the gospel, nor to promote the edification of the church. But in general, the importance of the cause to be pleaded, the greatness of the opposition that is made unto the truth, and the high concernment of the souls of believers, to be rightly instructed in it, do call for a renewed declaration and vindication of it. And what I shall attempt unto this purpose, I do it under this persuasion, that the life and continuance of any church on the one hand, and its apostacy or ruin on the other, do depend in an eminent manner on the preservation or rejection of the truth in this article of religion ; (and I shall add) as it hath been professed, received, and believed in the church of England in former days.
The first thing we are to consider is the meaning of these words to impute' and 'imputation. For from a mere plain declaration hereof, it will appear that sundry things charged on a supposition of the imputation we plead for, are vain and groundless, or the charge itself is so.
avn The word first used to this purpose, signifies 'to think, to esteem, to judge, or to‘refer' a thing or matter unto any; 'to impute,' or 'to be imputed' for good or evil. See Lev. vii. 18. xvii. 4. And Psal. cvi. 31. np73h vnni 'and it was counted, reckoned, imputed, unto him for righteousness.' To judge or esteem this or that good or evil, to belong unto him, to be his. The LXX. express it by loyisw and doyi oual; as do the writers of the New Testament also. And these are rendered, by reputare, imputare, acceptum ferre, tribuere, assignare, ascribere. But there is a different signification among these words ; in particular, to be reputed righteous, and to have righteousness imputed, differ, as cause and effect. For that any man be reputed righteous, that is, be judged or esteemed so to be, there must be a real foundation of that reputation, or it is a mistake, and not a right judgment; as a man may be reputed to be wise, who is a fool, or reputed to be rich, who is a beggar, Wherefore he that
is reputed righteous, must either have a righteousness of his own, or another antecedently imputed unto him, as the foundation of that reputation. Wherefore to impute righteousness unto one that hath none of his own, is not to repute him to be righteous, who is indeed unrighteous, but it is to communicate a righteousness unto him, that he may rightly and justly be esteemed, judged, or reputed righteous.
• Imputare,' is a word that the Latin tongue owns in the sense wherein it is used by divines. Optime de pessimis meruisti, ad quos pervenerit incorrupta rerum fides, magno authori suo imputata. Senec. ad Mart. And Plin. lib. 18. cap. i. In his apology for the earth our common parent,
nostris eam criminibus urgemus, culpamque nostram illi imputamus.'
In their sense, to impute any thing unto another, is if it be evil, to charge it on him, to burden him with it; so saith Pliny, we impute our own faults to the earth, or charge them upon it. If it be good, it is to ascribe it unto him as his own, whether originally it were so or no; 'magno authori imputata.' Vasquez, in Thom. 22. tom. ii. disp. 132. attempts the sense of the word, but confounds it with reputare.' Imputare aut reputare quidquam alicui, est idem atque inter ea quæ sunt ipsius, et ad eum pertinent, connumerare et recensere.' This is ‘reputare' properly, ‘imputare' includes an act antecedent unto this accounting or esteeming a thing to belong unto any person.
But whereas that may be imputed unto us which is really our own antecedently unto that imputation, the word must needs have a double sense, as it hath in the instances given out of Latin authors now mentioned. And,
1. To impute unto us that which was really ours, antecedently unto that imputation, includes two things in it: 1. An acknowledgment or judgment, that the thing so imputed is really and truly ours, or in us. He that imputes wisdom or learning unto any man, doth in the first place acknowledge him to be wise or learned. 2. A dealing with them according unto it, whether it be good or evil. So when upon a trial a man is acquitted because he is found righteous; first he is judged and esteemed righteous, and then dealt with as a righteous person; his righteousness is imputed unto him. See this exemplified', Gen. xxx. 33.