(Owen, Justification. part 4)

are really such, and not merely the different ways whereby learned
men express their thoughts and apprehensions concerning it.
     By some the imputation of the actual apostasy and transgression of
Adam, the head of our nature, whereby his sin became the sin of the
world, is utterly denied. Hereby both the grounds the apostle
proceeds on in evincing the necessity of our justification, or our
being made righteous by the obedience of another, and all the
arguments brought in the confirmation of the doctrine of it, in the
fifth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, are evaded and
overthrown. Socinus, de Servitor. par.4 cap. 6, confesses that place
to give great countenance unto the doctrine of justification by the
imputation of the righteousness of Christ; and therefore he sets
himself to oppose, with sundry artifices, the imputation of the sin
of Adam unto his natural posterity. For he perceived well enough
that, upon the admission thereof, the imputation of the
righteousness of Christ unto his spiritual seed would unavoidably
follow, according unto the tenor of the apostle's discourse.
     Some deny the depravation and corruption of our nature, which
ensued on our apostasy from God, and the loss of his image; or, if
they do not absolutely deny it, yet they so extenuate it as to
render it a matter of no great concern unto us. Some disease and
distemper of the soul they will acknowledge, arising from the
disorder of our affections, whereby we are apt to receive in such
vicious habits and customs as are in practice in the world; and, as
the guilt hereof is not much, so the danger of it is not great. And
as for any spiritual filth or stain of our nature that is in it, it
is clean washed away from all by baptism. That deformity of soul
which came upon us in the loss of the image of God, wherein the
beauty and harmony of all our faculties, in all their acting in
order unto their utmost end, did consist; that enmity unto God, even
in the mind, which ensued thereon; that darkness which our
understandings were clouded, yea, blinded withal,--the spiritual
death which passed on the whole soul, and total alienation frorn the
life of God; that impotency unto good, that inclination unto evil,
that deceitfulness of sin, that power and efficacy of corrupt lusts,
which the Scriptures and experience so fully charge on the state of
lost nature, are rejected as empty notions or fables. No wonder if
such persons look upon imputed righteousness as the shadow of a
dream, who esteem those things which evidence its necessity to be
but fond imaginations. And small hope is there to bring such men to
value the righteousness of Christ, as imputed to them, who are so
unacquainted with their own unrighteousness inherent in them. Until
men know themselves better, they will care very little to know
Christ at all.
     Against such as these the doctrine of justification may be
defended, as, we are obliged to contend for the faith once delivered
unto the saints, and as the mouths of gainsayers are to be stopped;
but to endeavor their satisfaction in it, whilst they are under the
power of such apprehensions, is a vain attempt. As our Saviour said
unto them unto whom he had declared the necessity of regeneration,
"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye
believe if I tell you heavenly things" so may we say, If men will
not believe those things, whereof it would be marvelous, but that
the reason of it is known, that they have not an undeniable evidence
and experience in themselves, how can they believe those heavenly
mysteries which respect a supposition of that within themselves
which they will not acknowledge?
     Hence some are so far from any concernment in a perfect
righteousness to be imputed unto them, as that they boast of a
perfection in themselves. So did the Pelagians of old glory in a
sinless perfection in the sight of God, even when they were
convinced of sinful miscarriages in the sight of men; as they are
charged by Jerome, lib. 2 Dialog.; and by Austin, lib. 2 contra
Julian., cap. 8. Such persons are not "subjects capacia auditionis
evangelicae." Whilst men have no sense in their own hearts and
consciences of the spiritual disorder of their souls, of the secret
continual acting of sin with deceit and violence, obstructing all
that is good, promoting all that is evil, defiling all that is done
by them through the lusting of the flesh against the Spirit, as
contrary unto it, though no outward perpetration of sin or actual
omission of duty do ensue thereon, who are not engaged in a constant
watchful conflict against the first motions of sin,--unto whom they
are not the greatest burden and sorrow in this life, causing them to
cry out for deliverance from them,--who can despise those who make
acknowledgments in their confession unto God of their sense of these
things, with the guilt wherewith they are accompanied,--[they] will,
with an assured confidence, resect and condemn what is offered about
justification through the obedience and righteousness of Christ
imputed to us. For no man will be so fond as to be solicitous of a
righteousness that is not his own, who has at home in a readiness
that which is his own, which will serve his turn. It is, therefore,
the ignorance of these things alone that can delude men into an
apprehension of their justification before God by their own personal
righteousness. For if they were acquainted with them, they would
quickly discern such an imperfection in the best of their duties,
such a frequency of sinful irregularities in their minds and
disorders in their affections, such an unsuitableness in all that
they are and do, from the inward frames of their hearts unto all
their outward actions, unto the greatness and holiness of God, as
would abate their confidence in placing any trust in their own
righteousness for their justification.
     By means of these and the like presumptuous conceptions of
unenlightened minds, the consciences of men are kept off from being
affected with a due sense of sin, and a serious consideration how
they may obtain acceptance before God. Neither the consideration of
the holiness or terror of the Lord, nor the severity of the law, as
it indispensably requires a righteousness in compliance with its
commands; nor the promise of the gospel, declaring and tendering a
righteousness, the righteousness of God, in answer whereunto; nor
the uncertainty of their own minds upon trials and surprisals, as
having no stable ground of peace to anchor on; nor the constant
secret disquietment of their consciences, if not seared or hardened
through the deceitfulness of sin, can prevail with them whose
thought are prepossessed with such slight conceptions of the state
and art of sin to fly for refuge unto the only hope that is set
before them, or really and distinctly to comport with the only way
of deliverance and salvation.
     Wherefore, if we would either teach or learn the doctrine of
justification in a due manner, a clear apprehension of the greatness
of our apostasy from God, a due sense of the guilt of sin, a deep
experience of its power, all with respect unto the holiness and law
of God, are necessary unto us. We have nothing to do in this matter
with men, who, through the fever of pride, have lost the
understanding of their own miserable condition. For, "Natura sic
apparet vitiata, ut hoc majoris vitii sit non videre", Austin. The
whole need not the physician, but the sick. Those who are pricked
unto the heart for sin, and cry out, "What shall we do to be saved?"
will understand what we have to say. Against others we must defend
the truth, as God shall enable. And it may be made good by all sorts
of instances, that as men rise in their notions about the
extenuation of sin, so they fall in their regard unto the grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is no less true also, on the other
hand, as unbelief works in men a disesteem of the person and
righteousness of Christ, they are cast inevitably to seek for
countenance unto their own consciences in the extenuation of sin. So
insensibly are the minds of men diverted from Christ, and seduced to
place their confidence in themselves. Some confused respect they
have unto him, as a relief they know not how nor wherein; but they
live in that pretended height of human wisdom, to trust to
themselves. So they are instructed to do by the best of the
philosophers: "Unum bonum est, quod beatae vitae causa et
firmamentum est, sibi fidere", Senec. Epist. 31. Hence, also, is the
internal sanctifying grace of God, among many, equally despised with
the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. The sum of their
faith, and of their arguments in the confirmation of it, is given by
the learned Roman orator and philosopher. "Virtutem", says he, "nemo
unquam Deo acceptam retulit; nimirum recte. Propter virtutem enim
jure landamur, et in virtute recte gloriamur, quod non contingeret,
si donum a Deo, non a nobis haberemus", Tull. de Nat. Deor.

Fourthly, Opposition between works and grace, as unto justification-
-Method of the apostle, in the Epistle to the Romans, to manifest
this opposition--A scheme of others contrary thereunto--Testimonies
witnessing this opposition--Judgment to be made on them--
Distinctions whereby they are evaded--The uselessness of them--
Resolution of the case in hand by Bellarmine, Dan.9:18; Luke 17:10

     Fourthly. The opposition that the Scripture makes between grace
and works in general, with the exclusion of the one and the
assertion of the other in our justification, deserves a previous
consideration. The opposition intended is not made between grace and
works, or our own obedience, as unto their essence, nature, and
consistency, in the order and method of our salvation; but only with
respect unto our justification. I do not design herein to plead any
particular testimonies of Scripture, as unto their especial sense,
or declaration of the mind of the Holy Ghost in them, which will
afterward be with some diligence inquired into; but only to take a
view which way the eye of the Scripture guides our apprehensions,
and what compliance there is in our own experience with that
     The principal seat of this doctrine, as will be confessed by all,
is in the Epistles of Paul unto the Romans and Galatians, whereunto
that also to the Hebrews may be added: but in that unto the Romans
it is most eminently declared; for therein is it handled by the
apostle ex professo at large, and that both doctrinally and in the
way of controversy with them by whom the truth was opposed. And it
is worth our consideration what process he makes towards the
decoration of it, and what principles he proceeds upon therein.
     He lays it down as the fundamental maxim which he would proceed
upon, or as a general thesis, including the substance of what he
designed to explain and prove, that in the gospel the "righteousness
of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just
shall live by faith," Rom.1:17. All sorts of men who had any
knowledge of God and themselves, were then, as they must be always,
inquiring, and in one degree or other laboring, after righteousness.
For this they looked on, and that justly, as the only means of an
advantageous relation between God and themselves. Neither had the
generality of men any other thoughts, but that this righteousness
must be their own,--inherent in them, and performed by them; as
Rom.10:3. For as this is the language of a natural conscience and of

the law, and suited unto all philosophical notions concerning the
nature of righteousness; so whatever testimony was given of another
kind in the law and the prophets (as such a testimony is given unto
a "righteousness of God without the law," chap.3:21), there was a
vail upon it, as to the understanding of all sorts of men. As,
therefore, righteousness is that which all men seek after, and
cannot but seek after, who design or desire acceptance with God; so
it is in vain to inquire of the law, of natural conscience, of
philosophical reason, after any righteousness but what consists in
inherent habits and acts of our own. Neither law, nor natural
conscience, nor reason, do know any other. But in opposition unto
this righteousness of our own, and the necessity thereof, testified
unto by the law in its primitive constitution, by the natural light
of conscience, and the apprehension of the nature of things by
reason, the apostle declares, that in the gospel there is revealed
another righteousness, which is also the righteousness of another,
the righteousness of God, and that from faith to faith. For not only
is the righteousness itself reveals alien from those other
principles, but also the manner of our participation of it, or its
communication unto us, "from faith to faith" (the faith of God in
the revelation, and our faith in the acceptation of it, being only
here concerned), is an eminent revelation. Righteousness, of all
things, should rather seem to be from works unto works,--from the
work of grace in us to the works of obedience done by us, as the
Papists affirm. "No," says the apostle, "it is 'from faith to
faith;'" whereof afterward.
     This is the general thesis the apostle proposes unto confirmation;
and he seems therein to exclude from justification every thing but
the righteousness of God and the faith of believers. And to this
purpose he considers all persons that did or might pretend unto
righteousness, or seek after it, and all ways and means whereby they
hoped to attain unto it, or whereby it might most probably be
obtained, declaring the failing of all persons, and the
insufficiency of all means as unto them, for the obtaining a
righteousness of our own before God. And as unto persons,--
     1. He considers the Gentiles, with all their notions of God, their
practice in religious worship, with their conversation thereon: and
from the whole of what might be observed amongst them, he concludes,
that they neither were nor could be justified before God; but that
they were all, and most deservedly, obnoxious unto the sentence of
death. And whatever men may discourse concerning the justification
and salvation of any without the revelation of the righteousness of
God by the gospel, "from faith to faith," it is expressly
contradictory to his whole discourse, chap. 1, from verse 19 to the
     2. He considers the Jews, who enjoyed the written law, and the
privileges wherewith it was accompanied, especially that of
circumcision, which was the outward seal of God's covenant: and on
many considerations, with many arguments, he excludes them also from
any possibility of attaining justification before God, by any of the
privileges they enjoyed, or their own compliance wherewithal, chap.
2. And both sorts he excludes distinctly from this privilege of
righteousness before God, with this one argument, that both of them
sinned openly against that which they took for the rule of their
righteousness,--namely, the Gentiles against the light of nature,
and the Jews against the law; whence it inevitably follows, that
none of them could attain unto the righteousness of their own rule.
But he proceeds farther, unto that which is common to them all; and,-
     3. He proves the same against all sorts of persons, whether Jews
or gentiles, from the consideration of the universal depravation of
nature in them all, and the horrible effects that necessarily ensue
thereon in the hearts and lives of men, chap. 3; so evidencing that
as they all were, so it could not fall out but that all must be shut
up under sin, and come short of righteousness. So, from persons he
proceeds to things, or means of righteousness. And,--
     4. Because the law was given of God immediately, as the whole and
only rule of our obedience unto him, and the works of the law are
therefore all that is required of us, these may be pleaded with some
pretence, as those whereby we may be justified. Wherefore, in
particular, he considers the nature, use, and end of the law,
manifesting its utter insufficiency to be a means of our
justification before God, chap.3:19,20.
     5. It may be yet objected, that the law and its works may be thus
insufficient, as it is obeyed by unbelievers in the state of nature,
without the aids of grace administered in the promise; but with
respect unto them who are regenerate and do believe, whose faith and
works are accepted with God, it may be otherwise. To obviate this
objection, he gives an instance in two of the most eminent believers
under the Old Testament,--namely, Abraham and David, declaring that
all works whatever were excluded in and from their justification,
chap. 4.
     On these principles, and by this gradation, he peremptorily
concludes that all and every one of the sons of men, as unto any
thing that is in themselves, or can be done by them, or be wrought
in them, are guilty before God, obnoxious unto death, shut up under
sin, and have their mouths so stopped as to be deprived of all pleas
in their own excuse; that they had no righteousness wherewith to
appear before God; and that all the ways and means whence they
expected it were insufficient unto that purpose.
     Hereon he proceeds with his inquiry, how men may be delivered from
this condition, and come to be justified in the sight of God. And in
the resolution hereof he makes no mention of any thing in
themselves, but only faith, whereby we receive the atonement. That
whereby we are justified, he says, is "the righteousness of God
which is by the faith of Christ Jesus;" or, that we are justified
"freely by grace through the redemption that is in him,"
chap.3:22-24. And not content here with this answer unto the inquiry
how lost convinced sinners may come to be justified before God,--
namely, that it is by the "righteousness of God, revealed from faith
to faith, by grace, by the blood of Christ," as he is set forth for
a propitiation,--he immediately proceeds unto a positive exclusion
of every thing in and of ourselves that might pretend unto an
interest herein, as that which is inconsistent with the
righteousness of God as revealed in the gospel, and witnessed unto
by the law and the prophets. How contrary their scheme of divinity
is unto this design of the apostle, and his management of it, who
affirm, that before the law, men were justified by obedience unto
the light of nature, and some particular revelations made unto them
in things of their own especial private concernment; and that after
the giving of the law, they were so by obedience unto God according
to the directions thereof! as also, that the heathen might obtain
the same benefit in compliance with the dictates of reason,--cannot
be contradicted by any who have not a mind to be contentious.
     Answerable unto this declaration of the mind of the Holy Ghost
herein by the apostle, is the constant tenor of the Scripture
speaking to the same purpose. The grace of God, the promise of
mercy, the free pardon of sin, the blood of Christ, his obedience,
and the righteousness of God in him, rested in and received by
faith, are everywhere asserted as the causes and means of our
justification, in opposition unto any thing in ourselves, so
expressed as it uses to express the best of our obedience, and the
utmost of our personal righteousness. Wherever mention is made of
the duties, obedience, and personal righteousness of the best of
men, with respect unto their justification, they are all renounced
by them, and they betake themselves unto sovereign grace and mercy
alone. Some places to this purpose may be recounted.
     The foundation of the whole is laid in the first promise; wherein
the destruction of the work of the devil by the suffering of the
seed of the woman is proposed as the only relief for sinners, and
only means of the recovery of the favour of God. "It shall bruise
thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel," Gen.3:15. "Abraham
believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness,"
Gen.15:6. "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the
live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children
of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting
them upon the head of the goat; and the goat shall bear upon him all
their iniquities unto a land not inhabited," Lev.16:21,22. "I will
go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy
righteousness, even of thine only," Ps.71:16. "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.
"Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no
man living be justified," Ps.143:2. "Behold, he put no trust in his
servants; and his angels he charged with folly: how much less in
them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust?"
Job 4:18,19. "Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns
against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them
together. Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make
peace with me; and he shall make peace with me," Isa.27:4,5.
"Surely, shall one say, In the LORD have I righteousness and
strength: in the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and
shall glory," chap.45:24,25. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we
have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. By his knowledge shall my righteous servant
justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities," chap.53:6,11.
"This is his name whereby he shall be called, The LORD our
Righteousness," Jer.23:6. "But ye are all as an unclean thing, and
all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," Isa.64:6. "He shall
finish the transgression, and make an end of sins, and make
reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting
righteousness," Dan.9:24. "As many as received him, to them gave he
power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his
name," John 1:12. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth
in him should not perish, but have eternal life," chap.3:14,15. "Be
it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this
man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all
that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not
be justified by the law of Moses," Acts 13:38,39. "That they may
receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are
sanctified by faith that is in me," chap.26:18. "Being justified
freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;
whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his
blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that
are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare at this time
his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him
which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By
what law? Of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we
conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the
law," Rom.3:24-28. "For if Abraham were justified by works, he has
whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scriptures
Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of
debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that
justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even
as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God
imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose
iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the
man to whom the Lord will not impute sin," chap.4:2-8. "But not as
the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of
one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace,
which is by one man, Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many. And not
as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was
by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto
justification. For if by one man's offense death reigned by one;
much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of
righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore,
as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation;
even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men
unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many
were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made
righteous," chap.5:15-19. "There is therefore now no condemnation to
them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but
after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law
could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his
own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin
in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled
in us," chap.8:l-4. "For Christ is the end of the law for
righteousness to every one that believeth," chap.10:4. "And if by
grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more
grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise
work is no more work," chap.11:6. "But of him are ye in Christ
Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and
sanctification, and redemption," 1 Cor.1:30. "For he has made him to
be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the
righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor.5:21. "Knowing that a man is not
justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,
even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by
the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the
works of the law shall no flesh he justified," Gal.2:16. "But that
no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident:
for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but,
The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ has redeemed us
from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us," chap.3:11-13.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should
boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good
works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them,"
Eph.2:8-10. "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the
excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have
suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I
may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own
righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the
faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,"
Phil.3:8,9. "Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling,
not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and
grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," 2
Tim.1:9. "That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs
according to the hope of eternal life," Tit.3:7. "Once in the end of
the world has he appeared, to put away sin," Heb.9:26,28. "Having by
himself purged our sins," chap.1:3. "For by one offering he has
perfected forever them that are sanctified," chap.10:14. "The blood
of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanseth us from all sin," 1 John 1:7.
Wherefore, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in
his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and his
Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen,"
     These are some of the places which at present occur to
remembrance, wherein the Scripture represents unto us the grounds,
causes, and reasons, of our acceptation with God. The especial
import of many of them, and the evidence of truth that is in them,
will be afterwards considered. Here we take only a general view of
them. And every thing in and of ourselves, under any consideration
whatever, seems to be excluded from our justification before God,
faith alone excepted, whereby we receive his grace and the
atonement. And, on the other side, the whole of our acceptation with
him seems to be assigned unto grace, mercy, the obedience and blood
of Christ; in opposition unto our own worth and righteousness, or
our own works and obedience. And I cannot but suppose that the soul
of a convinced sinner, if not prepossessed with prejudice, will, in
general, not judge amiss whether of these things, that are set in
opposition one to the other, he should retake himself unto, that he
may be justified.
     But it is replied,--These things are not to be understood
absolutely, and without limitations. Sundry distinctions are
necessary, that we may come to understand the mind of the Holy Ghost
and sense of the Scripture in these ascriptions unto grace, and
exclusions of the law, our own works and righteousness from our
justification. For,--1. The law is either the moral or the
ceremonial law. The latter, indeed, is excluded from any place in
our justification, but not the former. 2. Works required by the law
are either wrought before faith, without the aid of grace; or after
believing, by the help of the Holy Ghost. The former are excluded
from our justification, but not the latter. 3. Works of obedience
wrought after grace received may be considered either as sincere
only, or absolutely perfect, according to what was originally
required in the covenant of works. Those of the latter sort are
excluded from any place in our justification, but not those of the
former. 4. There is a twofold justification before God in this life,-
-a first and a second; and we must diligently consider with respect
unto whether of these justifications any thing is spoken in the
Scripture. 5. Justification may be considered either as to its
beginning or as unto its continuation;--and so it has divers causes
under these diverse respects. 6. Works may be considered either as
meritorious "ex condigno", so as their merit should arise from their
own intrinsic worth; or "ex congruo" only, with respect unto the
covenant and promise of God. Those of the first sort are excluded,
at least from the first justification: the latter may have place
both in the first and second. 7. Moral causes may be of many sorts:
preparatory, dispository, meritorious, conditionally efficient, or
only "sine quibus non". And we must diligently inquire in what
sense, under the notion of what cause or causes, our works are
excluded from our justification, and under what notions they are
necessary thereunto. And there is no one of these distinctions but
it needs many more to explain it; which, accordingly, are made use
of by learned men. And so specious a colour may be put on these
things, when warily managed by the art of disputation, that very few
are able to discern the ground of them, or what there is of
substance in that which is pleaded for; and fewer yet, on whether
side the truth does lie. But he who is really convinced of sin, and,
being also sensible of what it is to enter into judgment with the
holy God, inquires for himself, and not for others, how he may come
to be accepted with him, will be apt, upon the consideration of all
these distinctions and sub-distinctions wherewith they are attended,
to say to their authors, "Fecistis probe, incertior sum multo, quam
dudum." My inquiry is, How shall I come before the Lord, and bow
myself before the high God? How shall I escape the wrath to come?
What shall I plead in judgment before God, that I may be absolved,
acquitted, justified? Where shall I have a righteousness that will
endure a trial in his presence? If I should be harnessed with a
thousand of these distinctions, I am afraid they would prove thorns
and briers, which he would pass through and consume.
     The inquiry, therefore is, upon the consideration of the state of
the person to be justified, before mentioned and described, and the
proposal of the reliefs in our justification as now expressed,
whether it be the wisest and safest course for such a person seeking
to be justified before God, to retake himself absolutely, his whole
trust and confidence, unto sovereign grace, and the mediation of
Christ, or to have some reserve for, or to place some confidence in,
his own graces, duties, works, and obedience? In putting this great
difference unto umpirage, that we may not be thought to fix on a
partial arbitrator we shall refer it to one of our greatest and most
learned adversaries in this cause. And he positively gives us in his
determination and resolution in those known words, in this case:
"Propter incertitudinem propriae justitiae, et periculum inanis
gloriae, tutissimum est fiduciam totam in sola misericordia Dei et
benignitate reponere", Bellar. de Justificat., lib. 5 cap. 7, prop.
3;--"By reason of the uncertainty of our own righteousness, and the
danger of vain glory, it is the safest course to repose our whole
trust in the mercy and kindness or grace of God alone."
     And this determination of this important inquiry he confirms with
two testimonies of Scripture, as he might have done it with many
more. But those which he thought meet to mention are not
impertinent. The first is Dan.9:18, "We do not present our
supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great
mercies;" and the other is that of our Saviour, Luke 17:10, "When ye
shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We
are unprofitable servants." And after he has confirmed his
resolution with sundry testimonies of the fathers, he closes his
discourse with this dilemma: "Either a man has true merits, or he
has not. If he has not, he is perniciously deceived when he trusts
in any thing but the mercy of God alone, and seduces himself,
trusting in false merits; if he has them, he loses nothing whilst he
looks not to them, but trusts in God alone. So that whether a man
have any good works or no, as to his justification before God, it is
best and safest for him not to have any regard unto them, or put any
trust in them." And if this be so, he might have spared all his
pains he took in writing his sophistical books about justification,
whose principal design is to seduce the minds of men into a contrary
opinion. And so, for aught I know, they may spare their labour also,
without any disadvantage unto the church of God or their own souls,
who so earnestly contend for some kind of interest or other for our
own duties and obedience in our justification before God; seeing it
will be found that they place their own whole trust and confidence
in the grace of God by Jesus Christ alone. For to what purpose do we
labour and strive with endless disputations, arguments, and
distinctions, to prefer our duties and obedience unto some office in

(continued in part 5...)

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