(Owen, Justification. part 3)

and not the curiosity of notions or subtlety of disputations, which
it is our duty to design. And, therefore, I shall, as much as I
possibly may, avoid all these philosophical terms and distinctions
wherewith this evangelical doctrine has been perplexed rather than
illustrated; for more weight is to be put on the steady guidance of
the mind and conscience of one believer, really exercised about the
foundation of his peace and acceptance with God, than on the
confutation of ten wrangling disputers.
     3. Now the inquiry, on what account, or for what cause and reason,
a man may be so acquitted or discharged of sin, and accepted with
God, as before declared, does necessarily issue in this:--"Whether
it be any thing in ourselves, as our faith and repentance, thee
renovation of our natures, inherent habits of grace, and actual
works of righteousness which we have done, or may do? Or whether it
be the obedience, righteousness, satisfaction, and merit of the Son
of God our mediator, and surety of the covenant, imputed unto us?"
One of these it must be,--namely, something that is our own, which,
whatever may be the influence of the grace of God unto it, or
causality of it, because wrought in and by us, is inherently our own
in a proper sense; or something which, being not our own, nor
inherent in us, nor wrought by us, is yet imputed unto us, for the
pardon of our sins and the acceptation of our persons as righteous,
or the making of us righteous in the sight of God. Neither are these
things capable of mixture or composition, Rom.11:6. Which of these
it is the duty, wisdom, and safety of a convinced sinner to rely
upon and trust unto, in his appearance before God, is the sum of our
present inquiry.
     4. The way whereby sinners do or ought to betake themselves unto
this relief, on supposition that it is the righteousness of Christ,
and how they come to be partakers of, or interested in, that which
is not inherently their own, unto as good benefit and as much
advantage as if it were their own, is of a distinct consideration.
And as this also is clearly determined in the Scripture, so it is
acknowledged in the experience of all them that do truly believe.
Neither are we in this matter much to regard the senses or arguing
of men who were never thoroughly convinced of sin, nor have ever in
their own persons "fled for refuge unto the hope set before them."
     5. These things, I say, are always to be attended unto, in our
whole disquisition into the nature of evangelical justification;
for, without a constant respect unto them, we shall quickly wander
into curious and perplexed questions, wherein the consciences of
guilty sinners are not concerned; and which, therefore, really
belong not unto the substance or truth of this doctrine, nor are to
be immixed therewith. It is alone the relief of those who are in
themselves "hupodikoi tooi Theoo",--guilty before, or obnoxious and
liable to, the judgment of God,--that we inquire after. That this is
not any thing in or of themselves, nor can so be,--that it is a
provision without them, made in infinite wisdom and grace by the
mediation of Christ, his obedience and death therein,--is secured in
the Scripture against all contradiction; and it is the fundamental
principle of the gospel, Matt.11:28.
     6. It is confessed that many things, for the declaration of the
truth, and the order of the dispensation of God's grace herein, are
necessary to be insisted on,--such are the nature of justifying
faith, the place and use of it in justification, and the causes of
the new covenant, the true notion of the mediation and suretiship of
Christ, and the like; which shall all of them be inquired into. But,
beyond what tends directly unto the guidance of the minds and
satisfaction of the souls of men, who seek after a stable and
abiding foundation of acceptance with God, we are not easily to be
drawn unless we are free to lose the benefit and comfort of this
most important evangelical truth in needless and unprofitable
contentions. And amongst many other miscarriages which men are
subject unto, whilst they are conversant about these things, this,
in an especial manner, is to be avoided.
     7. For the doctrine of justification is directive of Christian
practice, and in no other evangelical truth is the whole of our
obedience more concerned; for the foundation, reasons, and motives
of all our duty towards God are contained therein. Wherefore, in
order unto the due improvement of them ought it to be taught, and
not otherwise. That which alone we aim (or ought so to do) to learn
in it and by it, is how we may get and maintain peace with God, and
so to live unto him as to be accepted with him in what we do. To
satisfy the minds and consciences of men in these things, is this
doctrine to be taught. Wherefore, to carry it out of the
understandings of ordinary Christians, by speculative notions and
distinctions, is disserviceable unto the faith of the church; yea,
the mixing of evangelical revelations with philosophical notions has
been, in sundry ages, the poison of religion. Pretence of accuracy,
and artificial skill in teaching, is that which gives countenance
unto such a way of handling sacred things. But the spiritual
amplitude of divine truths is restrained hereby, whilst low, mean,
philosophical senses are imposed on them. And not only so, but
endless divisions and contentions are occasioned and perpetuated.
Hence, when any difference in religion is, in the pursuit of
controversies about it, brought into the old of metaphysical
respects and philosophical terms, whereof there is "polus nomos
entha kai entha"--sufficient provision for the supply of the
combatants on both sides,--the truth for the most part, as unto any
concernment of the souls of men therein, is utterly lost and buried
in the rubbish of senseless and unprofitable words. And thus, in
particular, those who seem to be well enough agreed in the whole
doctrine of justification, so far as the Scripture goes before them,
and the experience of believers keeps them company, when once they
engage into their philosophical definitions and distinctions, are at
such an irreconcilable variance among themselves, as if they were
agreed on no one thing that does concern it. For as men have various
apprehensions in coining such definitions as may be defensible
against objections, which most men aim at therein; so no proposition
can be so pain, (at least in "materia probabili,") but that a man
ordinarily versed in pedagogical terms and metaphysical notions, may
multiply distinctions on every word of it.
     8. Hence, there has been a pretence and appearance of twenty
several opinions among Protestants about justification, as
Bellarmine and Vasguez, and others of the Papists, charge it against
them out of Osiander, when the faith of them all was one and the
same, Bellar., lib 5 cap. l; Vasq. in 1, 2, quest. 113, disp. 202;
whereof we shall speak elsewhere. When men are once advanced into
that field of disputation, which is all overgrown with thorns of
subtleties, perplexed notions, and futilous terms of art, they
consider principally how they may entangle others in it, scarce at
all how they may get out of it themselves. And in this posture they
oftentimes utterly forget the business which they are about,
especially in this matter of justification,--namely, how a guilty
sinner may come to obtain favour and acceptance with God. And not
only so, but I doubt they oftentimes dispute themselves beyond what
they can well abide by, when they return home unto a sedate
meditation of the state of things between God and their souls. And I
cannot much value their notions and sentiments of this matter, who
object and answer themselves out of a sense of their own appearance
before God; much less theirs who evidence an open inconformity unto
the grace and truth of this doctrine in their hearts and lives.
     9. Wherefore, we do but trouble the faith of Christians, and the
peace of the true church of God, whilst we dispute about
expressions, terms, and notions, when the substance of the doctrine
intended may be declared and believed, without the knowledge,
understanding, or use of any of them. Such are all those in whose
subtle management the captious art of wrangling does principally
consist. A diligent attendance unto the revelation made hereof in
the Scripture, and an examination of our own experience thereby, is
the sum of what is required of us for the right understanding of the
truth herein. And every true believer, who is taught of God, knows
how to put his whole trust in Christ alone, and the grace of God by
him, for mercy, righteousness, and glory, and not at all concern
himself with those loads of thorns and briers, which, under the
names of definitions, distinctions, accurate notions, in a number of
exotic pedagogical and philosophical terms, some pretend to
accommodate them withal.
     10. The Holy Ghost, in expressing the most eminent acts in our
justification, especially as unto our believing, or the acting of
that faith whereby we are justified, is pleased to make use of many
metaphorical expressions. For any to use them now in the same way,
and to the same purpose, is esteemed rude, undisciplinary, and even
ridiculous; but on what grounds? He that shall deny that there is
more spiritual sense and experience conveyed by them into the hearts
and minds of believers (which is the life and soul of teaching
things practical), than in the most accurate philosophical
expressions, is himself really ignorant of the whole truth in this
matter. The propriety of such expressions belongs and is confined
unto natural science; but spiritual truths are to be taught, "not in
the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost
teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual." God is wiser
than man; and the Holy Ghost knows better what are the most
expedient ways for the illumination of our minds with that knowledge
of evangelical truths which it is our duty to have and attain, than
the wisest of us all. And other knowledge of or skill in these
things, than what is required of us in a way of duty, is not to be
     It is, therefore, to no purpose to handle the mysteries of the
gospel as if Hilcot and Bricot, Thomas and Gabriel, with all the
Sententiarists, Summists, and Quodlibetarians of the old Roman
peripatetical school, were to be raked out of their graves to be our
guides. Especially will they be of no use unto us in this doctrine
of justification. For whereas they pertinaciously adhered unto the
philosophy of Aristotle, who knew nothing of any righteousness but
what is a habit inherent in ourselves, and the acts of it, they
wrested the whole doctrine of justification unto a compliance
wherewithal. So Pighius himself complained of them, Controv. 2,
"Dissimulate non possumus, hanc vel primam doctrinae Christianae
partem (de justificatione) obscuram magis quam illustratam a
scholasticis, spinosis plerisque quaestionibus, et definitionibus,
secundum quas nonnulli magno supercilio primam in omnibus
autoritatem arrogantes", etc.

Secondly, A due consideration of God, the Judge of all, necessary
unto the right stating and apprehension of the doctrine of
justification, Rom.8:33; Isa.43:25; 45:25; Ps.143:2; Rom.3:20--What
thoughts will be ingenerated hereby in the minds of men, Isa.33:14;
Micah 6:6,7; Isa.6:5--The plea of Job against his friends, and
before God, not the same, Job 40:3-5, 43:406--Directions for
visiting the sick given of old--Testimonies of Jerome and Ambrose--
Sense of men in their prayers, Dan.9:7,18; Ps.143:2, 130:3,4--
Paraphrase of Austin on that place--Prayer of Pelagius--Public

     Secondly, A due consideration of him with whom in this matter we
have to do, and that immediately, is necessary unto a right stating
of our thoughts about it. The Scripture expresses it emphatically,
that it is "God that justifieth," Rom.8:33; and he assumes it unto
himself as his prerogative to do what belongs thereunto. "I, even I,
am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and
will not remember thy sins," Isa.43:25. And it is hard, in my
apprehension, to suggest unto him any other reason or consideration
of the pardon of our sins, seeing he has taken it on him to do it
for his own sake; that is, "for the Lord's sake," Dan.9:17, in whom
"all the seed of Israel are justified," Isa.45:25. In his sight,
before his tribunal, it is that men are justified or condemned.
Ps.143:2, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy
sight shall no man living be justified." And the whole work of
justification, with all that belongs thereunto, is represented after
the manner of a juridical proceeding before God's tribunal; as we
shall see afterwards. "Therefore," says the apostle, "by the deeds
of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight," Rom.3:20.
However any man be justified in the sight of men or angels by his
own obedience, or deeds of the law, yet in his sight none can be so.
     Necessary it is unto any man who is to come unto a trial, in the
sentence whereof he is greatly concerned, duly to consider the judge
before whom he is to appear, and by whom his cause is finally to be
determined. And if we manage our disputes about justification
without continual regard unto him by whom we must be cast or
acquitted, we shall not rightly apprehend what our plea ought to be.
Wherefore the greatness, the majesty, the holiness, and sovereign
authority of God, are always to be present with us in a due sense of
them, when we inquire how we may be justified before him. Yet is it
hard to discern how the minds of some men are influenced by the
consideration of these things, in their fierce contests for the
interest of their own works in their justification: "Precibus aut
pretio ut in aliqua parte haereant." But the Scripture does
represent unto us what thoughts of him and of themselves, not only
sinners, but saints also, have had, and cannot but have, upon near
discoveries and effectual conceptions of God and his greatness.
Thoughts hereof ensuing on a sense of the guilt of sin, filled our
first parents with fear and shame, and put them on that foolish
attempt of hiding themselves from him. Nor is the wisdom of their
posterity one jot better under their convictions, without a
discovery of the promise. That alone makes sinners wise which
tenders them relief. At present, the generality of men are secure,
and do not much question but that they shall come off well enough,
one way or other, in the trial they are to undergo. And as such
persons are altogether indifferent what doctrine concerning
justification is taught and received; so for the most part, for
themselves, they incline unto that declaration of it which best
suits their own reason, as influenced with self-conceit and corrupt
affections. The sum whereof is, that what they cannot do themselves,
what is wanting that they may be saved, be it more or less, shall
one way or other be made up by Christ; either the use or the abuse
of which persuasion is the greatest fountain of sin in the world,
next unto the depravation of our nature. And whatever be, or may be,
pretended unto the contrary, persons not convinced of sin, not
humbled for it, are in all their ratiocinations about spiritual
things, under the conduct of principles so vitiated and corrupted.
See Matt.18:3,4. But when God is pleased by any means to manifest
his glory unto sinners, all their prefidences and contrivances do
issue in dreadful horror and distress. An account of their temper is
given us, Isa.33:14, "The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness
has surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the
devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?"
Nor is it thus only with some peculiar sort of sinners. The same
will be the thoughts of all guilty persons at some time or other.
For those who, through sensuality, security, or superstition, do
hide themselves from the vexation of them in this world, will not
fail to meet with them when their terror shall be increased, and
become remediless. Our "God is a consuming fire;" and men will one
day find how vain it is to set their briers and thorns against him
in battle array. And we may see what extravagant contrivances
convinced sinners will put themselves upon, under any real view of
the majesty and holiness of God, Mic.6:6,7, "Wherewith," says one of
them, "shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high
God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a
year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousand of rams, or with
ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first born for my
transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Neither
shall I ever think them meet to be contended withal about the
doctrine of justification who take no notice of these things, but
rather despise them.
     This is the proper effect of the conviction of sin, strengthened
and sharpened with the consideration of the terror of the Lord, who
is to judge concerning it. And this is that which, in the Papacy,
meeting with an ignorance of the righteousness of God, has produced
innumerable superstitious inventions for the appeasing of the
consciences of men who by any means fall under the disquietments of
such convictions. For they quickly see that nothing of the obedience
which God requires of them, as it is performed by them, will justify
them before this high and holy God. Wherefore they seek for shelter
in contrivances about things that he has not commanded, to try if
they can put a cheat upon their consciences, and find relief in
     Nor is it thus only with profligate sinners upon their
convictions; but the best of men, when they have had near and
efficacious representations of the greatness, holiness, and glory of
God, have been cast into the deepest self-abasement, and most
serious renunciation of all trust or confidence in themselves. So
the prophet Isaiah, upon his vision of the glory of the Holy One,
cried out, "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of
unclean lips," chap. 6:5;--nor was he relieved but by an evidence of
the free pardon of sin, verse 7. So holy Job, in all his contests
with his friends, who charged him with hypocrisy, and his being a
sinner guilty in a peculiar manner above other men, with assured
confidence and perseverance therein, justified his sincerity, his
faith and trust in God, against their whole charge, and every parcel
of it. And this he does with such a full satisfaction of his own
integrity, as that not only he insists at large on his vindication,
but frequently appeals unto God himself as unto the truth of his
plea; for he directly pursues that counsel, with great assurance,
which the apostle James so long after gives unto all believers. Nor
is the doctrine of that apostle more eminently exemplified in any
one instance throughout the whole Scripture than in him; for he
shows his faith by his works, and pleads his justification thereby.
As Job justified himself, and was justified by his works, so we
allow it the duty of every believer to be. His plea for
justification by works, in the sense wherein it is so, was the most
noble that ever was in the world, nor was ever any controversy
managed upon a greater occasion.
     At length this Job is called into the immediate presence of Gods
to plead his own cause; not now, as stated between him and his
friends, whether he were a hypocrite or no, or whether his faith or
trust in God was sincere; but as it was stated between God and him,
wherein he seemed to have made some undue assumptions on his own
behalf. The question was now reduced unto this,--on what grounds he
might or could be justified in the sight of God? To prepare his mind
unto a right judgment in this case, God manifests his glory unto
him, and instructs him in the greatness of his majesty and power.
And this he does by a multiplication of instances, because under our
temptations we are very slow in admitting right conceptions of God.
Here the holy man quickly acknowledged that the state of the case
was utterly altered. All his former pleas of faith, hope, and trust
in God, of sincerity in obedience, which with so much earnestness he
before insisted on, are now quite laid aside. He saw well enough
that they were not pleadable at the tribunal before which he now
appeared, so that God should enter into judgment with him thereon,
with respect unto his justification. Wherefore, in the deepest
self-abasement and abhorrence, he retakes himself unto sovereign
grace and mercy. For "then Job answered the LORDS and said, Behold,
I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my
mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I
will proceed no farther," Job 40:3-5. And again, "Hear, I beseech
thee, and I will speak; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto
me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye
seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself; and repent in dust and ashes,"
chap.42:4-6. Let any men place themselves in the condition wherein
now Job was,--in the immediate presence of God; let them attend unto
what he really speaks unto them in his word,--namely, what they will
answer unto the charge that he has against them, and what will be
their best plea before his tribunal, that they may be justified. I
do not believe that any man living has more encouraging grounds to
plead for an interest in his own faith and obedience, in his
justification before God, than Job had; although I suppose he had
not so much skill to manage a plea to that purpose, with scholastic
notions and distinctions, as the Jesuits have; but however we may be
harnessed with subtle arguments and solutions, I fear it will not be
safe for us to adventure farther upon God than he durst to do.
     There was of old a direction for the visitation of the sick,
composed, as they say, by Anselm, and published by Casparus
Ulenbergius, which expresses a better sense of these things than
some seem to be convinced of:--"Credisne te non posse salvari nisi
per mortem Christi? Respondet infirmus, 'Etiam". Tum dicit illi, Age
ergo dum superest in te anima, in hac sola morte fiduciam tuam
constitue; in nulla alia re fiduciam habe huic morti te totum
committe, hac sola te totum contege totum immisce te in hac morte,
in hac morte totum te involve. Et si Dominus te voluerit judicare,
dic, 'Domine, mortem Domini nostri Jesus Christi objicio inter me et
tuum judicium, aliter tecum non contendo'. Et si tibi eixerit quia
peccator es, dic, 'Mortem Domini nostri Jesus Christi pono inter me
et peccte mea'. Si dixerit tibi quot meruisti damnationem; dic,
'Domine, mortem Domini nostri Jesus Christi obtendo inter te et mala
merita mea, ipsiusque merita offero pro merito quod ego debuissem
habere nec habeo'. Si dixerit quod tibi est iratus, dic, 'Domine,
mortem Domini Jesu Christi oppono inter me et iram tuam;'"--that is,
"Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved but by the death of
Christ? The sick man answers, 'Yes,' then let it be said unto him,
Go to, then, and whilst thy soul abideth in thee, put all thy
confidence in this death alone, place thy trust in no other thing;
commit thyself wholly to this death, cover thyself wholly with this
alone, cast thyself wholly on this death, wrap thyself wholly in
this death. And if God would judge thee, say, 'Lord, I place the
death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and thy judgment; and
otherwise I will not contend or enter into judgment with thee.' And
if he shall say unto thee that thou art a sinner, say, 'I place the
death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and my sins.' If he shall
say unto thee that thou hast deserved damnation, say, 'Lord, I put
the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and all my sins; and
I offer his merits for my own, which I should have, and have not.'
If he say that he is angry with thee, say, 'Lord, I place the death
of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and thy anger.'" Those who gave
these directions seem to have been sensible of what it is to appear
before the tribunal of God, and how unsafe it will be for us there
to insist on any thing in ourselves. Hence are the words of the same
Anselm in his Meditations: "Conscientia mea meruit damnation, et
poenitentia mea non sufficit ad satisfactionem; set certum est quod
misericordia tua superat omnem offensionem;"--"My conscience has
deserved damnation, and my repentance is not sufficient for
satisfaction; but most certain it is that thy mercy aboundeth above
all offense." And this seems to me a better direction than those
more lately given by some of the Roman church;--such as the prayer
suggested unto a sick man by Johan. Polandus, lib. Methodus in
adjuvandis morientibus: "Domine Jesus, conjunge, obsecro, obsequium
meum cum omnibus quae tu egisti, et pssus s ex tam perfecta
charitate et obedientia. Et cum divitiis satisfactionum et meritorum
dilectionis, patri aeterno, illud offere digneris." Or that of a
greater author, Antidot. Animae, fol. 17, "Tu hinc o rosea martyrum
turba offer pro me nunc et in hora mortis mee, merita, fidelitatum,
constantiae, et pretiosi sanguinis, cum sanguine agni immaculati,
pro omnium salute effusi." Jerome, long before Anselm, spake to the
same purpose: "Cum dies judicii aut dormitionis advenerit, omnes
manus dissolventur; quibus dicitur in alio loco, confortamini manus
dissolutae; dissolventur autem manus, quia nullum opus dignum Dei
justitia reperiatur, et non justificabitur in conspectu ejus omnis
vivens, unde propheta dicit in psalmo, 'Si iniquitates attends
Domine, quis sustinebit'", lib. 6 in Isa.13:6,7; --"When the day of
judgment or of death shall come, all hands will be dissolved" (that
is, faint or fall down); "unto which it is said in another place,
'Be strengthened, ye hands that hang down.' But all hands shall be
melted down" (that is, all men's strength and confidence shall fail
them), "because no works shall be found which can answer the
righteousness of God; for no flesh shall be justified in his sight.
Whence the prophet says in the psalm, 'If thou, LORD, shouldest mark
iniquity, who should stand?" "And Ambrose, to the same purpose:
"Nemo ergo sibi arroget, nemo de meritis glorietur, nemo de ostate
se jactet, omnes speremus per Dominum Jesus misericordiam invenire,
quoniam omnes ante tribunal ejus stabimus. De illo veniam, de illo
indulgentiam postulabo. Quaenam spes alia peccatoribus?" in Ps.119.
Resh,--"Let no man arrogate any thing unto himself, let no man glory
in his own merits or good deeds, let no man boast of his power: let
us all hope to find mercy by our Lord Jesus; for we shall all stand
before his judgment-seat. Of him will I beg pardon, of him will I
desire indulgence; what other hope is there for sinners?"
     Wherefore, if men will be turned off from a continual regard unto
the greatness, holiness, and majesty of God, by their inventions in
the heat of disputation; if they do forget a reverential
consideration of what will become them, and what they may retake
themselves unto when they stand before his tribunal; they may engage
into such apprehensions as they dare not abide by in their own
personal trial. For "how shall man be just with God?" Hence it has
been observed, that the schoolmen themselves, in their meditations
and devotional writings, wherein they had immediate thoughts of God,
with whom they had to do, did speak quite another language as to
justification before God than they do in their wrangling,
philosophical, fiery disputes about it. And I had rather learn what
some men really judge about their own justification from their
prayers than their writings. Nor do I remember that I did ever hear
any good man in his prayers use any expressions about justification,
pardon of sin, and righteousness before God, wherein any plea from
any thing in ourselves was introduced or made use of. The prayer of
Daniel has, in this matter, been the substance of their
supplications: "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto
us confusion of faces. We do not present our supplications before
thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord,
hear; O Lord, forgive; for thine own sake, O my God," Dan.
9:7,18,19. Or that of the psalmist, "Enter not into judgment with
thy servant, 0 Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be
justified," Ps.143:2. Or, "If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities,
O LORD, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that
thou mayest be feared," Ps.130:3,4. On which words the exposition of
Austin is remarkable, speaking of David, and applying it unto
himself: "Ecce clamat sub molibus iniquitatum suarum. Circumspexit
se, circumspexit vitam suam, vidit illam undique flagitiis
coopertam; quacunque respexit, nihil in se boni invenit: et cum
tante et tam multa peccata undique videret, tanquam expavescens,
exclamavit, 'Si iniquitates observaris Domine, quis sustinebit?'
Vidit enim prope totam vitam humanam circumlatrari peccatis;
accusari omnes conscientias cogitationius suis; non inveniri cor
castum praesumens de justitia; quod quia inveniri non potest,
praesumat ergo omnium cor de misericordi Domini Dei sui, et dicat
Deo, 'Si iniquitates observaris Domine, Domine quis sustinebit?'
Quae autem est spes? Quoniam apud te propitiatio est". And whereas
we may and ought to represent unto God, in our supplications, our
faith, or what it is that we believe herein, I much question whether
some men can find in their hearts to pray over and plead before him
all the arguments and distinctions they make use of to prove the
interest of our works and obedience in our justification before him,
or "enter into judgment" with him upon the conclusions which they
make from them. Nor will many be satisfied to make use of that
prayer which Pelagius taught the widow, as it was objected to him in
the Diospolitan Synod: "To nosti, Domine, quam sanctae, quam
innocentes, quam purae ab omni fraude et rapina quas ad te expando
manus; quam justa, quam immaculata labia et ab omni mendacio libera,
quibus tibi ut mihi miserearis preces fundo;"--"Thou knowest, O
Lord, how holy, how innocent, how pure from all deceit and rapine,
are the hands which I stretch forth unto thee; how just, how
unspotted with evil, how free from lying, are those lips wherewith I
pour forth prayers unto thee, that thou wouldst have mercy on me."
And yet, although he taught her so to plead her own purity,
innocency, and righteousness before God, he does it not as those
whereon she might be absolutely justified, but only as the condition
of her obtaining mercy. Nor have I observed that any public
liturgies (the mass-book only excepted, wherein there is a frequent
recourse unto the merits and intercession of saints) do guide men in
their prayers before God to plead any thing for their acceptance
with him, or as the means or condition thereof, but grace, mercy,--
the righteousness and blood of Christ alone.
     Wherefore I cannot but judge it best (others may think of it as
they please), for those who would teach or learn the doctrine of
justification in a due manner, to place their consciences in the
presence of God, and their persons before his tribunal, and then,
upon a due consideration of his greatness, power, majesty,
righteousness, holiness,--of the terror of his glory and sovereign
authority, to inquire what the Scripture and a sense of their own
condition direct them unto as their relief and refuge, and what plea
it becomes them to make for themselves. Secret thoughts of God and
ourselves, retired meditations, the conduct of the spirit in humble
supplications, deathbed preparations for an immediate appearance
before God, faith and love in exercise on Christ, speak other
things, for the most part, than many contend for.

Thirdly, A due sense of our apostasy from God, the depravation of
our nature thereby, with the power and guilt of sin, the holiness of
the law, necessary unto a right understanding of the doctrine of
justification--Method of the apostle to this purpose, Rom.1,2,3--
Grounds of the ancient and present Pelagianism, in the denial of
these things--Instances thereof--Boasting of perfection from the
same ground--Knowledge of sin and grace mutually promote each other

     Thirdly. A clear apprehension and due sense of the greatness of
our apostasy from, God, of the depravation of our natures thereby,
of the power and guilt of sin, of the holiness and severity of the
law, are necessary unto a right apprehension of the doctrine of
justification. Therefore, unto the declaration of it does the
apostle premise a large discourse, thoroughly to convince the minds
of all that seek to be justified with a sense of these things,
Rom.1,2,3. The rules which he has given us, the method which he
prescribes, and the ends which he designs, are those which we shall
choose to follow. And he lays it down in general, "That the
righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;" and that "the
just shall live by faith," chap.1:17. But he declares not in
particular the causes, nature, and way of our justification, until
he has fully evinced that all men are shut up under the state of
sin, and manifested how deplorable their condition is thereby; and
in the ignorance of these things, in the denying or palliating of
them, he lays the foundation of all misbelief about the grace of
God. Pelagianism, in its first root, and all its present branches,
is resolved whereinto. For, not apprehending the dread of our
original apostasy from God, nor the consequence of it in the
universal depravation of our nature, they disown any necessity
either of the satisfaction of Christ or the efficacy of divine grace
for our recovery or restoration. So upon the matter the principal
ends of the mission both of the Son of God and of the Holy Spirit
are renounced; which issues in the denial of the deity of the one
and the personality of the other. The fall which we had being not
great, and the disease contracted thereby being easily curable, and
there being little or no evil in those things which are now
unavoidable unto our nature, it is no great matter to he freed or
justified from all by a mere act of favour on our own endeavours;
nor is the efficacious grace of God any way needful unto our
sanctification and obedience; as these men suppose.
     When these or the like conceits are admitted, and the minds of men
by them kept off from a due apprehension of the state and guilt of
sin, and their consciences from being affected with the terror of
the Lord, and curse of the law thereon, justification is a notion to
be dealt withal pleasantly or subtlety, as men see occasion. And
hence arise the differences about it at present,--I mean those which

(continued in part 4...)

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