(Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism, Vol.1. part 24) The Justification of the Sinner Before God as the Benefit of Faith Lord's Day 23 Psalter No. 227 st. 2, 3 Read Psalm 32 Psalter No. 85 st. 1, 2 Psalter No. 232 st. 2, 3 Psalter No. 423 st. 7 Beloved, In the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, the Lord Jesus teaches the justification of the sinner before God, with the exclusion of all our works as grounds. The familiar parable, found in Luke 18, speaks of two people going up to the temple, which was built upon Mt. Zion, to which men therefore literally had to ascend. Thus already under the service of the shadows Israel was shown, that led in truth by the Holy Spirit, the Lord's people ascend by faith out of the state of their sin to the blessed fellowship of God in Christ. But not all those who went to the temple experienced that real ascending, any more than all churchgoers do under the new dispensation. The difference between the two men in the parable referred to, who were as unlike as life and death, clearly shows this. The one was a Pharisee, the other a publican; the one a man of honour, the other cursed by the people. The one is a man who stands on the street corners, prays audibly for the passerby to hear, and gives his alms publicly; and the other a publican, who had undertaken to pay a revenue to the Roman oppressors and demanded the tax to be repaid by his own people with usury. Is it any wonder that the publicans were despised and hated by the Jews, and that the Pharisees accused the Lord Jesus, saying, "He eats with publicans and sinners"? Who would care to associate with such people, traitors of their own nation? There could scarcely be a sharper contrast than the Lord Jesus drew in this parable. That contrast is also seen in their prayers. Have they not gone up to the temple to pray? But the Pharisee has nothing to pray, he thanks. Conscious of all his dignity, having a right to heaven because of his good works, he walks on to the front of the temple, close to the priests' court. There he spread forth his hands, raised his eyes to heaven, and stood and prayed thus with himself, "Oh God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." His "prayer" is finished. Poor man, who, blind for his deep fall in Adam, says, "I am not as other men are". Is he then not included in Adam's fall, although he pleads innocent of sins from which he was kept only by the common grace of God? Poor people, who do not need to ask the Lord for anything, but only to thank, as we hear, even from the pulpits, "Lord, our God, we thank Thee" for this and for that; while a humble petition is lacking. It is clear to all of us that when the discovery of sin by the Holy Spirit is lacking, we do not desire reconciliation and cleansing in the blood of Christ, nor can we pray, nor plead. Now look at that publican in the back of the temple. He could not stay away, but seeing his abominable sins, he dared not press forward to the priests' court. He cannot place himself with God's people. Oh, he who is acquainted with his own heart, knows the times when it is a wonder to him that he may take the lowest place in the house of God. With the publican he stands "afar off", and being ashamed before God and man, he cannot give thanks as the Pharisee; but due to the grief in his soul because of his sins, and the godly sorrow that works repentance not to be repented of, he smites upon his breast and cries out, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." Truly he differs much from the Pharisee. Oh, what a wonder that "the sparrow has found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God", that such guilty sinners find a place where they may pour out their complaint, and make supplication to their Judge. As the chief of sinners, the publican prays for grace. What was the result? That also shows the sharpest contrast between the above named churchgoers. "This man went to his house justified rather than the other", says Christ. This does not mean that the Pharisee also went home justified, but to a lesser degree. No, indeed, the Pharisee in his self-righteousness remained condemned before God. Scripture often speaks this way, for instance when it says, "Except your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees," which certainly does not mean that we must climb still higher in self-righteousness, but that the righteousness of the Pharisees cannot stand before God. Thus the Lord would also tell us in the parable of Luke 18 that the publican was justified, but the Pharisee was not. He was and remained condemned before God. How blessed then the publican was. "Justified," that means acquitted of all his sins, and reconciled with God, only because of the merits of Christ. Sinners are justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. We wish to speak more about the justification of the sinner before God in considering the twenty-third Lord's Day of our Heidelberg Catechism. Lord's Day 23 Q. 59: But what does it profit thee now that thou believest all this? A. That I am righteous in Christ, before God, and an heir of eternal life. Q. 60: How art thou righteous before God? A. Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart. Q. 61: Why sagest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only? A. Not that I am acceptable to God, on account of the worthiness of my faith; but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, is my righteousness before God; and that I cannot receive and apply the same to myself any other way than by faith only. In this twenty-third Lord's Day we have come then to the justification of the sinner, as the benefit of faith, and we are shown I. What that benefit is; II. How that benefit is obtained; III. What the relationship is between faith and that benefit. I True faith, according to the description given of it in the seventh Lord's Day, is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits. Very closely connected with that description of the essence of faith is the explanation of justification before God by faith of which Lord's Day Twenty-three speaks. For after the Catechism has discussed the main content of faith from question twenty-two to fifty-eight in the explanation of the Apostles' Creed, the question is asked, "What does it profit thee now that thou believest all this?" "All this" is that promised in the gospel, which the articles of our catholic and undoubted faith briefly teach us, for nothing of that which God promised us in the gospel can be missed, and true faith therefore embraces all the promises of God which are yea and Amen in Christ unto the glory of God. Those promises were already in eternity made to God's elect and to them alone in the Covenant of Redemption, and in the time of His good pleasure they are applied by the Holy Spirit and embraced by faith. No promises of salvation have been given for reprobates; those promises were not given to the natural seed of Abraham, but to his spiritual seed, that is, to the elect. Therefore they are the children of promise, as Isaac was (Gal. 4:28) and not Ishmael; they are Christ's, and hence "Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29). True faith is given to them, which therefore is called "the faith of God's elect" (Tit. 1:1), while God in His just judgment according to His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure has left those who are not elect in their wickedness and obduracy, and has decreed not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion, as the Synod of Dort confessed against the Remonstrants (Canons of Dort, First Head, art. 6 and 15). The reprobates are given over to their willful hardness, but by His Spirit and Word, Christ gathers those who were given Him by the Father and bestows upon them faith, by which they receive the benefit of which Lord's Day Twenty-three speaks. That benefit is not given then to the historical believer, to the almost Christian, as King Agrippa, nor to the temporary believer. Did Christ not speak of those sown upon stony places? They do not have the saving benefit of faith. "They are they, which when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13). Matthew 7:22, 23 also proves this. "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?' And then will I profess unto them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.'" Of Simon the sorcerer it is written that he believed also, and was baptized, and continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. But when he thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money, Peter not only with holy indignation refused Simon's money, but consigns him to perdition, and declares, "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God." In spite of his faith, Simon was in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. Hence it is absolutely insufficient to be baptized, and to cleave to God's servants, to join the true church, and to wonder at the work of God. With the historical, and even more, with the temporary believer we also find these matters, and these "believers" will perish forever, because they lack the true communion with Christ, which is obtained only by saving faith. We may want to comfort ourselves with salvation and claim to have made the good choice, as do hundreds in our superficial cold days, in which it seems almost immovably sure that every professor of the "Reformed doctrine" will be saved but the benefit of faith to justification of the soul is only for those who by God's grace embrace in true faith all that God has promised His people, and has commanded them to believe, as the Twelve Articles have taught us. It should lead us to a close self-examination whether we possess in principle that which the instructor shows us as the benefit of faith. That benefit is: "That I am righteous in Christ, before God, and an heir of eternal life." "Righteous before God"! No one is so by nature. We are all guilty before God: "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth might be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." Already sentenced by God's unimpeachable justice, we first see the light of day; even from the hour of our conception we are the objects of God's wrath. Nor can anyone become righteous by his own actions. However pious he may show himself, by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified before God. Cherubim and a flaming sword kept the way to the tree of life. He alone is righteous who has satisfied the spotless righteousness of God; one single sin made all mankind guilty unto eternal death, and from that sentence of condemnation, that is merited again with every breath we take, no one in heaven or on earth can redeem us, but One, namely Christ. Righteous before God is he who is hid in Christ. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." Justification is in Christ for by His sacrifice upon the cross He has given perfect satisfaction for the violated justice of His Father. On the grounds of that complete satisfaction, He as surety frees His people from guilt and punishment and grants them eternal life. For justification is a divine acquittal, as judges give in a court of justice. Hence justification and sanctification, although inseparably bound together, are to be distinguished from each other. The Roman Catholic Church confuses these two benefits of the covenant of grace, but the Word of God, upon which light was shed anew in the Reformation, tells us that justification is the sentence of God the Father as Judge; justification is the complete acquittal of God. For the judge must do one thing or the other: either condemn or acquit; by his judicial sentence he pronounces them either guilty or not guilty. Thus God pronounces His people perfectly free from all the guilt of sin and punishment in Christ, and acknowledges their right to life eternal; there is no partial justification. Justification is rooted in eternity. Before the foundation of the world the Lamb was slain, by virtue whereof the believers could enter into rest; also before Christ appeared in the flesh, since in eternity they stood righteous before God in the suretiship of the Mediator. For those who desire to read more about this doctrine we commend especially Comrie's letter on justification, which contains a clear argument against all Pelagian boasting of man's own powers and righteousness. In opposition to the Armenians, the fathers of Dort have maintained that the elect sinner is justified before he believes and is converted; he is justified as a sinner and not as a believer, thereby fully maintaining the righteousness of God. When Arminius affirmed before the States of Holland the tenet, that in justification God steps down from the strictness of His justice, and ascends His throne of grace, Gomarus answered very significantly that he would not dare to die with such an opinion, and thus appear before the judgment bar. Nay, no one can appear before God with such an opinion. So great, however, was the enmity of the Armenians against justification, that in their meeting held in Rotterdam on March 5, 1619, they decided never to unite with the Reformed until their doctrine, that man is justified while he is still wicked and that forgiveness of sins precedes conversion, was condemned and improved. So greatly were they offended that in their sight nothing was more false than the Biblical doctrine that believers are clothed with the righteousness of Christ and are granted remission of sins before they believe. But there must also be a justification before faith, as Voetius says so clearly in his Catechism. That justification before faith is (a) in eternity in the Covenant of Redemption and (b) in the resurrection of Christ. In Christ, God's people are chosen; in Christ by virtue of God's unchangeable covenant, they stand righteous before God from eternity. They were all in Christ when He suffered and died, when He was raised from the dead, and was justified in the Spirit. In Him they are glorified at the right hand of the Father. Herein lies the firm foundation of salvation. Whoever would lay the foundation in that which God's people experience, enjoy, or believe places salvation on loose ties and subjects justification to the assaults of Satan and the doubts of unbelief. Christ alone is out of Satan's reach; only in Him God's people are safe, and their justification is firm for ever and ever in Him. "It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us." But this is not the actual justification of which Brakel speaks; that takes place in time by faith in the soul of God's children. This justification in Christ in eternity and in the garden of Arimathaea must become ours by faith. By nature we are condemnable, lying under the judgment of God, and outside of Christ's sacrifice, until by grace God grants us the righteousness of Christ and by that imputation actually grants us the acquittal. Alas, many who held to the justification in Christ overlooked this. They said that having been justified in eternity, and therefore in a reconciled state with God, man was born thus. Could God then still be angry with them? That would be ascribing an inconsistency to God. Therefore those people who, bowed down under guilt and sin, acknowledged the greatness of their sin, and pleaded for mercy, were a thorn in their eyes. They considered the experience of God's saints as misguided piety; and then, oh dreadful thought, to be lost forever with a speculative faith without Christ. It has pleased God to give to His people here in this time and state the righteousness of Christ by faith. As long as we live outside of Christ, as the Ephesians formerly were without Christ (Eph. 2:12), we are in an unreconciled state with God, we are objects of His wrath, we have no hope of salvation, we are without God in the world, and we are heirs to eternal misery. We must labor to be in Christ by faith, if our guilt is to be atoned for, our soul to become justified and an heir of eternal life. That is the portion of all God's people, and they have the comfort of it inasmuch as they embrace such a benefit by faith. In this way the benefit of faith is the justification of the sinner before God. Now in the second place we will hear how that benefit is obtained. II Upon the question "How art thou righteous before God?" the Catechism answers, "Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ." This faith in Christ does not occur without experience in the soul and it is more than an agreement of conscience that the righteousness of Christ alone can cover our guilt before God. This is evident in that same answer where it speaks of the accusation of conscience, the worthlessness of our merits, the imputation of Christ's perfect satisfaction, and the acquittal before God. We will never embrace what Christ obtained for His elect by faith, without first experiencing our lost state. By nature we are blind to the judgment that rests upon us because of sin; we do not know our sins. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convince us of our state of misery. That conviction is often accompanied by very great distress so that the soul can truly say, "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me; I found trouble and sorrow." Yet we may never set great distress as a mark of saving conviction. Sometimes God chooses to lead His people beside the still waters, while the wicked feel the pangs of hell and severe gnawing of the conscience in the common conviction. Severe conviction is not in itself a mark of grace. Many have spent days and nights for a season in severe distress, wrought by the common conviction of the Holy Spirit, to whom it has happened according to the true proverb, "The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." To prove yourselves and others you will have to set up a better touchstone than a severe conviction. They who seek their strength in this are not only haughty Christians who grieve many of God's children, but they also mislead others and lay another foundation than that which is laid, namely Christ Jesus the Crucified. Therefore the Instructor does not speak of the severity of the distress experienced, but of the true conviction in which the sinner, summoned before the bar of God's justice, is accused by his own conscience. Because of sin God has become our Judge, and He makes His people understand this. In the true discovery of self, the sinner has to do with God. He sees himself before the justice of the Lord God. God demands full justice and perfect satisfaction up to the last degree. This brings the guilty sinner to seek earnestly for a means to escape the judgment. Oh, he goes from room to room; he promises the Lord to better himself; he forsakes the paths of sin and turns to the house of God and seeks the children of God. Yet with all this he still has fear about him. Yea, sometimes the rich invitation of the gospel impresses him; sometimes his soul can utter his complaint before God sincerely and he can beseech the Lord to save him. Sometimes his hope is lively, for he is still in the day of grace, and although he must agree that God would be just if He condemned him eternally, still the possibility of being saved is not yet cut off. But with all that, God's justice demands satisfaction, and instead of paying off even a penny, he increases his debt daily. Not only does the law curse him, but Satan upbraids him and his own conscience accuses him. There is no escape. Death stares him in the face; the avenger of blood is at his heels day and night. As all sinks away, the sinner cries out in distress while agreeing with God's judgment, "Is there any way by which we may escape that punishment, and be again received into favour?" It is there, where we can find no escape, where all our hope in man is taken away, that Christ, the heavenly Advocate is revealed to us, of Whom John writes, "We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous." Out of Him flows the comfort and hope of our soul; in Him is righteousness and redemption; upon Him the lost soul focuses his eye to be saved from the wrath of God. Just as a man summoned before an earthly judge consults with his advocate and is encouraged if the advocate has good expectations of his case, so God's people consult by faith with Christ and take courage because He teaches them about His mediatorial work, and convinces His people of His all-sufficiency to give perfect satisfaction for sin. He is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. Oh, that sweet conversation with Christ! How many comforting words flow from His lips in the promises that He applies to His people. And yet ... the justification of the sinner, the acquittal from guilt and punishment is not His work, but the work of the Father. Not the advocate, but the Judge acquits the accused person. Many souls for whom this is concealed are often in much strife; it is as if God's wrath still burns upon the soul and that God's justice will still condemn them. When they think of death, all that is in them trembles. The great question remains, "will they be able to meet God?" Their peace of heart shall proceed from their justification as Paul teaches clearly in Romans 5:1. In the course of time it seems that very few attain the full consciousness of faith, where God cuts them off in His tribunal and they receive in their heart a complete acquittal because of the satisfaction of Christ, and in the assurance of the Holy Spirit, that God will not be wrath with them, nor rebuke them. That is what the Instructor teaches us: God the Father, because of the satisfaction of Christ, acquits us so perfectly as if we "never had had nor committed any sin; yea, our claim upon Christ's satisfaction is as complete as if we had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ accomplished for us." In that obedience of Christ which becomes ours by faith, which completed the suffering demanded by the law to disarm the law from its curse, and also granted active obedience that gave a right to eternal life, lies the only ground for our justification, which places us in a state of reconciliation with God and causes us to cry out with adoration in the enjoyment of the actual liberty of God's children, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." God swears that He shall not be wrath with them nor rebuke them. My beloved, how great is the privilege of them who were justified before God before the bar of conscience, and through the assurance of the Holy Spirit might receive an eternal acquittal of the Father upon the ground of Christ's righteousness. That acquittal is for all God's people, not excluding those most concerned, an assured acquittal from eternal perdition, causing us to dwell in liberty, only as much as we receive this benefit with a believing heart. Therefore there is such a comfort for all God's people in the complete satisfaction by the death of Christ, and in the justification in His resurrection! However much the accuser of the brethren distresses them, and the law threatens, and conscience is as a troubled sea, one day God shall set their soul at liberty, for Christ did not shed His blood in vain. But it is the nature of that new life and is indispensable for the glorification of God and for the peace and rest of our soul, to obtain the conscious acquittal in Christ sealed by the Holy Ghost. We would urge all God's children to seriously endeavor to attain it. However, the ground of our being righteous before God is not because of our faith, or in the exercising of our faith, but only in "the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ, which God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin; yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart." The imputation therefore precedes the embracing by faith, although they cannot be separated. It is not that God's people accept the perfect satisfaction of Christ and go with that to the Father to receive an acquittal of sin and eternal judgment, but God applies the righteousness merited by Christ to His people, and then the acceptance by faith follows. That imputation takes place in regeneration. In the time of love God looks upon His people immediately in Christ, as reconciled with Him; in other words, applies Christ to them with all his merits, grants them the Holy Spirit in their heart which translates them out of the state of condemnation into the state of reconciliation with God. As we have discussed before, God's children have the comfort of this in the same measure as they embrace such a benefit with a believing heart by the work of the Holy Spirit. Faith therefore falls away entirely as the ground of justification. The Catechism indicates this in question 61 to which we would finally draw your attention a few minutes as we consider III the relationship between justification and faith. Question 61: "Why sayest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only? Upon that question the instructor first indicates the worthiness of faith, and then drops faith entirely as the ground of justification. "Not that I am acceptable to God, on account of the worthiness of my faith," says the instructor. Faith has great value. Without faith it is impossible to please God. "He that believeth not in Me, shall be damned," said the Lord Jesus. On the contrary, he that believeth on Him has everlasting life. However much value faith may have, it cannot be the ground for justification before God. In justification faith is passive; it does not work; it receives. It is compared to a hand, but not a hand that works, and merits, but one that receives and embraces. It receives Jesus and His satisfaction, righteousness and holiness. God's Word tells us so emphatically that God's elect are saved, not because of faith, but by and through faith. The ground upon which God the Father, Who maintains the violated righteousness of the Godhead, and to Whom the Son offered Himself, justifies the sinner, is not faith; but only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ, which by imputation of God only in His sovereign good pleasure, become the property of the soul. Faith adds nothing to the satisfaction of Christ, but embraces it, so that it becomes the property of the soul. We must give close attention to this lest we drift into Pelagian waters. Arminius laid the ground of justification in the work of faith, but Gomarus answered quite correctly, "That which is imperfect and defiled by sin is not our righteousness by which we are justified before God. Now it is certain that the faith of those that are justified is imperfect in this life, and defiled by sin. Therefore faith is not our righteousness by which we are justified." In justification God's people learn, if they are privileged to experience it in the court of conscience, to understand clearly that faith falls away, and only becomes active after the acquittal of the Father is applied to them in Christ and they may embrace it. They are not pleasing to God because of the worthiness of their faith, but only in Christ. His satisfaction, righteousness and holiness is their righteousness before God; that, and that alone, entirely and perfectly without any addition. What then is the relationship of justification to faith? How then does faith fit into justification? Only, as we have already remarked, as the hand that receives and accepts. Acquitted in eternity in the decrees of God; acquitted in the resurrection of Christ Who was raised for their justification, God's elect are actually justified by the imputation of Christ and His benefits to them, and they embrace that acquittal, glorying by faith and receiving the peace of God that passes all understanding and keeps the hearts and minds in Christ. Let us sing about this out of Psalter No. 232, 2 & 3 "His saving help is surely near To those His holy Name that fear; Thus glory dwells in all our land. Now heavenly truth unites with grace, And righteousness and peace embrace, In full accord they ever stand." Application There is then a justification in eternity in the decrees of God, and in the resurrection of Christ. The Reformers have clung tenaciously to this justification before faith against the Armenians. They did not thereby deny the necessity of a justification by faith. Among others, Comrie also took firm stand against those who denied it, and we must hold to the pure doctrine of God's testimony. With this doctrine the church of Christ, which is built upon the firm foundation of the apostles and prophets, stands or falls. I pray you, young and old, search the Scriptures, and the works of the Reformed theologians, so that you will not be carried away farther and farther from the true doctrine by the current of the time. Let it be your joy to tread firmly in the doctrine delivered unto us by the fathers. The worldling dances and seeks entertainment in the theaters and service of sin, but may we be given to remain with the Word of God, and to exercise our mind therein. Do not content your soul with an historical knowledge of the true doctrine. We must learn to know justification by faith experimentally. Let the Antinomian mock and be hardened in his wicked life, glorying in a justification before faith: one day he shall stand before the tribunal of God, and receive his sentence from Him Who judges righteously. Also against those who despise the experience of the saints and glory in their vain historical confidence in Christ, let us hold fast that we need to be justified by faith in this life. That justification by faith does not occur without our soul's knowledge. He who remains a stranger of it shall one day be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Oh, my unconverted hearer! May God bind upon your heart the necessity of being reconciled with Him on this side of the grave, before you shall stand before God's tribunal when your life is cut off and your soul shall already receive the judgment of the condemned, awaiting the great day of judgment, when Christ shall come again upon the clouds of heaven, and shall cast you with soul and body into hell. God's people are delivered from that judgment. They also have made themselves worthy of condemnation; they also are children of wrath by nature. But it has pleased the Lord to translate them out of the state of death into that of grace. There has come in their lives a moment that God prevailed over them, and according to the riches of His grace imputed the righteousness of Christ to them. Already in eternity they were comprehended in their Head, and justified in His mediation, as also in His resurrection from the dead. They lived on in their state of nature, not being reconciled with God, until the Lord entered the house of the strong man armed and spoiled his goods. They were actually comprehended in Christ, which was only possible because they were in Him before the foundation of the world. But God would have them understand by the exercise of faith what He has wrought in them. How necessary then is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, to cut us off from everything in which we would seek our ground outside of Christ. Do believe it that we must be justified as sinners, and that in God's tribunal all our soul's experiences have no value, and that we do not come there draped with many promises, but as condemnable sinners in Adam. Many speak of justification without having been thrust off from their own foundation; many, even of God's children, think they are justified because they were given to look upon Christ by faith and to find in Him their only Advocate in the court of heaven; but they have not received their acquittal from the Father. How then could they have been justified? Does not only the judge pronounce the sentence? It is very necessary, especially in these dark days in which spiritual benefits are not properly distinguished, to give careful attention to what God works in the justification of His people by faith, not to hurt the little ones in grace, but to make them long more earnestly for the benefits which God has given His people in Christ and of which He makes them conscious partakers by faith. Would not your heart long for that blessing, concerned people of God, being guilty before God's justice, you so often can find no ground to rest upon? Seek to know Christ by faith. Look for the acquittal of the Father. The assurances of an earthly advocate can be deceptive, but Christ, our heavenly Advocate never misleads us. May He cause you to glory in Him, "Thou, O Lord, hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling." Amen. (continued in part 25...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc1-24.txt .