(Owen, Justification. part 21)

sufficiently secured against all objections. Our actual interest in
the satisfaction of Christ depends on our actual insertion into his
mystical body by faith, according to the appointment of God.
     4. It is yet objected, "That if the righteousness of Christ be
made ours, we may be said to be saviours of the world, as he was, or
to save others, as he did; for he was so and did so by his
righteousness, and no otherwise." This objection also is of the same
nature with those foregoing,--a mere sophistical cavil. For,--
     (1.) The righteousness of Christ is not transfused into us, so as
to be made inherently and subjectively ours, as it was in him, and
which is necessarily required unto that effect of saving others
thereby. Whatever we may do, or be said to do, with respect unto
others, by virtue of any power or quality inherent in ourselves, we
can be said to do nothing unto others, or for them, by virtue of
that which is imputed unto us only for our own benefit. That any
righteousness of ours should benefit another, it is absolutely
necessary that it should be wrought by ourselves.
     (2.) If the righteousness of Christ could be transfused into us,
and be made inherently ours, yet could we not be, nor be said to be,
the saviours of others thereby; for our nature in our individual
persons is not "subjectum capax", or capable to receive and retain a
righteousness useful and effectual unto that end. This capacity was
given unto it in Christ by virtue of the hypostatical union, and no
otherwise. The righteousness of Christ himself, as performed in the
human nature, would not have been sufficient for the justification
and salvation of the church, had it not been the righteousness of
his person who is, both God and man; for "God redeemed his church
with his own blood."
     (3.) This imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, as
unto its ends and use, has its measure from the will of God, and his
purpose in that imputation; and this is, that it should be the
righteousness of them unto whom it is imputed, and nothing else.
     (4.) We do not say that the righteousness of Christ, as made
absolutely for the whole church, is imputed unto every believer; but
his satisfaction for every one of them in particular, according unto
the will of God, is imputed unto them,--not with respect unto its
general ends, but according unto every one's particular interest.
Every believer has his own homer of this bread of life; and all are
justified by the same righteousness.
     (5.) The apostle declares, as we shall prove afterwards, that as
Adam's actual sin is imputed unto us unto condemnation, so is the
obedience of Christ imputed unto us to the justification of life.
But Adam's sin is not so imputed unto any person as that he should
then and thereby be the cause of sin and condemnation unto all other
persons in the world, but only that he himself should become guilty
before God thereon. And so is it on the other side. And as we are
made guilty by Adam's actual sin, which is not inherent in us but
only imputed unto us; so are we made righteous by the righteousness
of Christ, which is not inherent in us, but only imputed unto us.
And imputed unto us it is, because himself was righteous with it,
not for himself, but for us.
     5. It is yet said, "That if we insist on personal imputation unto
every believer of what Christ did, or if any believer be personal1y
righteous in the very individual acts of Christ's righteousness,
many absurdities will follow." But it was observed before, that when
any design to oppose an opinion from the absurdities which they
suppose would follow upon it, they are much inclined so to state it
as, that at least they may seem so to do. And this oft times the
most worthy and candid persons are not free from, in the heat of
disputation. So I fear it is here fallen out; for as unto personal
imputation, I do not well understand it. All imputation is unto a
person, and is the act of a person, be it of what, and what sort it
will; but from neither of them can be denominated a personal
imputation. And if an imputation be allowed that is not unto the
persons of men,--namely, in this case unto all believers,--the
nature of it has not yet been declared, as I know of.
     That any have so expressed the imputation pleaded for, "that every
believer should be personally righteous in the very individual acts
of Christ's righteousness," I know not; I have neither read nor
heard any of them who have so expressed their mind. It may be some
have done so: but I shall not undertake the defense of what they
have done; for it seems not only to suppose that Christ did every
individual act which in any instance is required of us, but also
that those acts are made our own inherently,--both which are false
and impossible. That which indeed is pleaded for in this imputation
is only this, that what the Lord Christ did and suffered as the
mediator and surety of the covenant, in answer unto the law, for
them, and in their stead, is imputed unto every one of them unto the
justification of life. And sufficient this is unto that end, without
any such supposals. (1.) From the dignity of the person who yielded
this obedience, which rendered it both satisfactory and meritorious,
and imputable unto many. (2.) From the nature of the obedience
itself, which was a perfect compliance with, a fulfilling of, and
satisfaction unto the whole law in all its demands. This, on the
supposition of that act of God's sovereign authority, whereby a
representative of the whole church was introduced to answer the law,
is the ground of his righteousness being made theirs, and being
every way sufficient unto their justification. (3.) From the
constitution of God, that what was done and suffered by Christ as a
public person, and our surety, should be reckoned unto us, as if
done by ourselves. So the sin of Adam, whilst he was a public
person, and represented his whole posterity, is imputed unto us all,
as if we had committed that actual sin. This Bellarmine himself
frequently acknowledges: "Peccavimus in promo homine quando ille
peccavit, et illa ejus praevaricatio nostra etiam praevaricatio
fuit. Non enim vere per Adami inobedientiam constitueremur
peccatores, nisi inobedientia illius nostra etiam inobedientia
esset", De Amiss. Grat. et Stat. Peccat., lib.5 cap.18. And
elsewhere, that the actual sin of Adam is imputed unto us, as if we
all had committed that actual sin; that is, broken the whole law of
God. And this is that whereby the apostle illustrates the imputation
of the righteousness of Christ unto believers; and it may on as good
grounds be charged with absurdities as the other. It is not,
therefore, said that God judges that we have in our own persons done
those very acts, and endured that penalty of the law, which the Lord
Christ did and endured; for this would overthrow all imputation;--
but what Christ did and suffered, that God imputes unto believers
unto the justification of life, as if it had been done by
themselves; and his righteousness as a public person is made theirs
by imputation, even as the sin of Adam, whilst a public person, is
made the sin of all his posterity by imputation.
     Hereon none of the absurdities pretended, which are really such,
do at all follow. It does not so, that Christ in his own person
performed every individual act that we in our circumstances are
obliged unto in a way of duty; nor was there any need that so he
should do. This imputation, as I have showed, stands on other
foundations. Nor does it follow, that every saved person's
righteousness before God is the same identically and numerically
with Christ's in his public capacity as mediator; for this objection
destroys itself, by affirming that as it was his, it was the
righteousness of God-man, and so it has an especial nature as it
respects or relates unto his person. It is the same that Christ in
his public capacity did work or effect. But there is a wide
difference in the consideration of it as his absolutely, and as made
ours. It was formally inherent in him,--is only materially imputed
unto us; was actively his,--is passively ours; was wrought in the
person of God-man for the whole church,--is imputed unto each single
believer, as unto his own concernment only. Adam's sin, as imputed
unto us, is not the sin of a representative, though it be of him
that was so, but is the particular sin of every one of us; but this
objection must be farther spoken unto, where it occurs afterwards.
Nor will it follow, that on this supposition we should be accounted
to have done that which was done long before we were in a capacity
of doing any thing; for what is done for us and in our stead, before
we are in any such capacity, may be imputed unto us, as is the sin
of Adam. And yet there is a manifold sense wherein men may be said
to have done what was done for them and in their name, before their
actual existence; so that therein is no absurdity. As unto what is
added by the way, that Christ did not do nor suffer the "idem" that
we were obliged unto; whereas he did what the law required, and
suffered what the law threatened unto the disobedient, which is the
whole of what we are obliged unto, it will not be so easily proved,
nor the arguments very suddenly answered, whereby the contrary has
been confirmed. That Christ did sustain the place of a surety, or
was the surety of the new covenant, the Scripture does so expressly
affirm that it cannot be denied. And that there may be sureties in
cases criminal as well as civil and pecuniary, has been proved
before. What else occurs about the singularity of Christ's
obedience, as he was mediator, proves only that his righteousness,
as formally and inherently his, was peculiar unto himself; and that
the adjuncts of it, which arise from its relation unto his person,
as it was inherent in him, are not communicable unto them to whom it
is imputed.
     6. It is, moreover, urged, "That upon the supposed imputation of
the righteousness of Christ, it will follow that every believer is
justified by the works of the law; for the obedience of Christ was a
legal righteousness, and if that be imputed unto us, then are we
justified by the law; which is contrary unto express testimonies of
Scripture in many places." Answer. (1.) I know nothing more frequent
in the writings of some learned men than that the righteousness of
Christ is our legal righteousness; who yet, I presume, are able to
free themselves of this objection. (2.) If this do follow in the
true sense of being justified by the law, or the works of it, so
denied in the Scripture, their weakness is much to be pitied who can
see no other way whereby we may be freed from an obligation to be
justified by the law, but by this imputation of the righteousness of
Christ. (3.) The Scripture which affirms that "by the deeds of the
law no man can be justified," affirms in like manner that by "faith
we do not make void the law, but establish it;" that "the
righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us"; that Christ "came not
to destroy the law, but to fulfill it," and is the "end of the law
for righteousness unto them that do believe." And that the law must
be fulfilled, or we cannot be justified, we shall prove afterwards.
(4.) We are not hereon justified by the law, or the works of it, in
the only sense of that proposition in the Scripture; and to coin new
senses or significations of it is not safe. The meaning of it in the
Scripture is, that only "the doers of the law shall be justified,"
Rom.2:13; and that "he that does the things of it shall live by
them," chap.10:5,--namely, in his own person, by the way of personal
duty, which alone the law requires. But if we, who have not
fulfilled the law in the way of inherent, personal obedience, are
justified by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us,
then are we justified by Christ, and not by the law.
     But it is said that this will not relieve; for if his obedience be
so imputed unto us, as that we are accounted by God in judgment to
have done what Christ did, it is all one upon the matter, and we are
as much justified by the law as if we had in our own proper persons
performed an unsinning obedience unto it. This I confess I cannot
understand. The nature of this imputation is here represented, as
formerly, in such a way as we cannot acknowledge; from thence alone
this inference is made, which yet, in my judgment, does not follow
thereon. For grant an imputation of the righteousness of another
unto us, be it of what nature it will, all justification by the law
and works of it, in the sense of the Scripture, is gone for ever.
The admission of imputation takes off all power from the law to
justify; for it can justify none but upon a righteousness that is
originally and inherently his own: "The man that does them shall
live in them." If the righteousness that is imputed be the ground
and foundation of our justification, and made ours by that
imputation, state it how you will, that justification is of grace,
and not of the law. However, I know not of any that say we are
accounted of God in judgment personally to have done what Christ
did; and it may have a sense that is false,--namely, that God should
judge us in our own persons to have done those acts which we never
did. But what Christ did for us, and in our stead, is imputed and
communicated unto us, as we coalesce into one mystical person with
him by faith; and thereon are we justified. And this absolutely
overthrows all justification by the law or the works of it; though
the law be established, fulfilled, and accomplished, that we may be
     Neither can any, on the supposition of the imputation of the
righteousness of Christ truly stated, be said to merit their own
salvation. Satisfaction and merit are adjuncts of the righteousness
of Christ, as formally inherent in his own person; and as such it
cannot be transfused into another. Wherefore, as it is imputed unto
individual believers, it has not those properties accompanying of
it, which belong only unto its existence in the person of the Son of
God. But this was spoken unto before, as also much of what was
necessary to be here repeated.
     These objections I have in this place taken notice of because the
answers given unto them do tend to the farther explanation of that
truth, whose confirmation, by arguments and testimonies of
Scripture, I shall now proceed unto.

X. Arguments for justification by the imputation of the
righteousness of Christ. The first argument from the nature and use
of our own personal righteousness

Arguments for justification by the imputation of the righteousness
of Christ--Our own personal righteousness not that on the account
whereof we are justified in the sight of God--Disclaimed in the
Scriptures, as to any such end--The truth and reality of it granted-
-Manifold imperfection accompanying it, rendering it unmeet to be a
righteousness unto the justification of life

III. There is a justification of convinced sinners on their
believing. Hereon are their sins pardoned, their persons accepted
with God, and a right is given unto them unto the heavenly
inheritance. This state they are immediately taken into upon their
faith, or believing in Jesus Christ. And a state it is of actual
peace with God These things at present take for granted; and they
are the foundation of all that I shall plead in the present
argument. And I do take notice of them, because some seem, to the
best of my understanding, to deny any real actual justification of
sinners on their believing in this life. For they make justification
to be only a general conditional sentence declared in the gospel;
which, as unto its execution, is delayed unto the day of judgment.
For whilst men are in this world, the whole condition of it being
not fulfilled, they cannot be partakers of it, or be actually and
absolutely justified. Hereon it follows, that indeed there is no
real state of assured rest and peace with God by Jesus Christ, for
any persons in this life. This at present I shall not dispute about,
because it seems to me to overthrow the whole gospel,-- the grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ, and all the comfort of believers; about which
I hope we are not as yet called to contend.
     Our inquiry is, how convinced sinners do, on their believing,
obtain the remission of sins, acceptance with God, and a right unto
eternal life? And if this can no other way be done but by the
imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto them, then thereby
alone are they justified in the sight of God. And this assertion
proceeds on a supposition that there is a righteousness required
unto the justification of any person whatever: for whereas God, in
the justification of any person, does declare him to be acquitted
from all crimes laid unto his charges, and to stand as righteous in
his sight, it must be on the consideration of a righteousness
whereon any man is so acquitted and declared; for the judgment of
God is according unto truth. This we have sufficiently evidenced
before, in that juridical procedure wherein the Scripture represents
unto us the justification of a believing sinner. And if there be not
other righteousness whereby we may be thus justified but only that
of Christ imputed unto us, then thereby must we be justified, or not
at all; and if there be any such other righteousness, it must be our
own, inherent in us, and wrought out by us; for these two kinds,
inherent and imputed righteousness, our own and Christ's, divide the
whole nature of righteousness, as to the end inquired after. And
that there is no such inherent righteousness, no such righteousness
of our own, whereby we may be justified before God, I shall prove in
the first place. And I shall do it, first, from express testimonies
of Scripture, and then from the consideration of the thing itself;
and two things I shall premise hereunto:--
     1. That I shall not consider this righteousness of our own
absolutely in itself, but as it may be conceived to be improved and
advanced by its relation unto the satisfaction and merit of Christ:
for many will grant that our inherent righteousness is not of itself
sufficient to justify us in the sight of God; but take it as it has
value and worth communicated unto it from the merit of Christ, and
so it is accepted unto that end, and judged worthy of eternal life.
We could not merit life and salvation had not Christ merited that
grace for us whereby we may do so, and merited also that our works
should be of such a dignity with respect unto reward. We shall,
therefore, allow what worth can be reasonably thought to be
communicated unto this righteousness from its respect unto the merit
of Christ.
     2. Whereas persons of all sorts and parties do take various ways
in the assignation of an interest in our justification unto our own
righteousness, so as that no parties are agreed about it, nor many
of the same mind among themselves,--as might easily be manifested in
the Papists, Socinians, and others, I shall, so far as it is
possible in the ensuing arguments, have respect unto them all; for
my design is to prove that it has no such interest in our
justification before God, as that the righteousness of Christ should
not be esteemed the only righteousness whereon we are justified.
     And, First, we shall produce some of those many testimonies which
may be pleaded unto this purpose, Ps.130:3,4, "If thou, LORD,
shouldest mark iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand? But there is
forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." There is an
inquiry included in these words, how a man, how any man, may be
justified before God; how he may stand, that is, in the presence of
God, and be accepted with him,--how he shall stand in judgment, as
it is explained, Ps.1:5, "The wicked shall not stand in the
judgment," shall not be acquitted on their trial. That which first
offers itself unto this end is his own obedience; for this the law
requires of him in the first place, and this his own conscience
calls upon him for. But the psalmist plainly declares that no man
can thence manage a plea for his justification with any success; and
the reason is, because, notwithstanding the best of the obedience of
the best of men, there are iniquities found with them against the
Lord their God; and if men come to their trial before God, whether
they shall be justified or condemned, these also must be heard and
taken into the account. But then no man can "stand," no man can be
"justified," as it is elsewhere expressed. Wherefore, the wisest and
safest course is, as unto our justification before God, utterly to
forego this plea and not to insist on our own obedience, lest our
sins should appear also, and be heard. No reason can any man give on
his own account why they should not be so; and if they be so, the
best of men will be cast in their trial as the psalmist declares.
     Two things are required in this trial, that a sinner may stand:--
     1. That his iniquities be not observed, for if they be so, he is
lost for ever. 2. That a righteousness be produced and pleaded that
will endure the trial; for justification is upon a justifying
righteousness. For the first of these, the psalmist tells us it must
be through pardon or forgiveness. "But there is forgiveness with
thee," wherein lies our only relief against the condemnatory
sentence of the law with respect unto our iniquities,--that is,
through the blood of Christ, for in him "we have redemption through
his blood, even the forgiveness of sins," Eph.1:7. The other cannot
be our own obedience, because of our iniquities. Wherefore this the
same psalmist directs us unto, Ps.71:16, "I will go in the strength
of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, of thine
only." The righteousness of God, and not his own, yea, in opposition
unto his own, is the only plea that in this case he would insist
     If no man can stand a trial before God upon his own obedience, so
as to be justified before him, because of his own personal
iniquities; and if our only plea in that case be the righteousness
of God, the righteousness of God only, and not our own; then is
there no personal, inherent righteousness in any believers whereon
they may be justified;--which is that which is to be proved.
     The same is again asserted by the same person, and that more
plainly and directly, Ps.143:2, "Enter not into judgment with thy
servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." This
testimony is the more to he considered, because as it is derived
from the law, Exod.34:7, so it is transferred into the gospel, and
twice urged by the apostle unto the same purpose, Rom.3:20;
     The person who insists on this plea with God professes himself to
be his servant: "Enter not into judgment with thy servant;" that is,
one that loved him, feared him, yielded all sincere obedience. He
was not a hypocrite, not an unbeliever, not an unregenerate person,
who had performed no works but such as were legal, such as the law
required, and such as were done in the strength of the law only;
such works as all will acknowledge to be excluded from our
justification, and which, as many judge, are only those which are so
excluded. David it was, who was not only converted, a true believer,
had the Spirit of God, and the aids of special grace in his
obedience, but had this testimony unto his sincerity, that he was "a
man after God's own heart." And this witness had he in his own
conscience of his integrity, uprightness, and personal
righteousness, so as that he frequently avows them, appeals unto God
concerning the truth of them, and pleads them as a ground of
judgment between him and his adversaries. We have, therefore, a case
stated in the instance of a sincere and eminent believer, who
excelled most in inherent, personal righteousness.
     This person, under these circumstances, thus testified unto both
by God and in his own conscience, as unto the sincerity, yea, as
unto the eminency, of his obedience, considers how he may "stand
before God," and "be justified in his sight." Why does he not now
plead his own merits; and that, if not "ex condigno," yet at least
"ex congruo," he deserved to be acquitted and justified? But he left
this plea for that generation of men that were to come after, who
would justify themselves and despise others. But suppose he had no
such confidence in the merit of his works as some have now attained
unto, yet why does he not freely enter into judgment with God, put
it unto the trial whether he should be justified or no, by pleading
that he had fulfilled the condition of the new covenant, that
everlasting covenant which God made with him, ordered in all things,
and sure? For upon a supposition of the procurement of that covenant
and the terms of it by Christ (for I suppose the virtue of that
purchase he made of it is allowed to extend unto the Old Testament),
this was all that was required of him. Is it not to be feared that
he was one of them who see no necessity, or leave none, of personal
holiness and righteousness, seeing he makes no mention of it, now it
should stand him in the greatest stead? At least he might plead his
faith, as his own duty and work, to be imputed unto him for
righteousness. But whatever the reason be, he waives them all, and
absolutely deprecates a trial upon them. "Come not," says he, "O
LORD, into judgment with thy servant;" as it is promised that he who
believes should "not come into judgment," John 5:24.
     And if this holy person renounce the whole consideration of all
his personal, inherent righteousness, in every kind, and will not
insist upon it under any pretence, in any place, as unto any use in
his justification before God, we may safely conclude there is no
such righteousness in any, whereby they may be justified. And if men
would but leave those shades and coverts under which they hide
themselves in their disputations,--if they would forego those
pretences and distinctions wherewith they delude themselves and
others, and tell us plainly what plea they dare make in the presence
of God from their own righteousness and obedience, that they may be
justified before him,--we should better understand their minds than
now we do. There is one, I confess, who speaks with some confidence
unto this purpose, and that is Vasquez the Jesuit, in 1, 2, disp.
204, cap. 4, "Inhaerens justitia ita reddit animam justam et sanctam
ac proinde iliam Dei, ut hoc ipso reddat eam heredem, et dignam
aeterna gloria; imo ipse Deus efficere non potest ut hujusmodi
justis dignus non sit aeterna beatitudine". Is it not sad, that
David should discover so much ignorance of the worth of his inherent
righteousness, and discover so much pusillanimity with respect unto
his trial before God, whereas God himself could not otherwise order
it, but that he was, and must be, "worthy of eternal blessedness?"
     The reason the psalmist gives why he will not put it unto the
trial, whether he should be acquitted or justified upon his own
obedience, is this general axiom: "For in thy sight," or before
thee, "shall no man living be justified." This must be spoken
absolutely, or with respect unto some one way or cause of
justification. If it be spoken absolutely, then this work ceases
forever, and there is indeed no such thing as justification before
God. But this is contrary unto the whole Scripture, and destructive
of the gospel. Wherefore it is spoken with respect unto our own
obedience and works. He does not pray absolutely that he "would not
enter into judgement with him," for this were to forego his
government of the world; but that he would not do so on the account
of his own duties and obedience. But if so be these duties and
obedience did answer, in any sense or way, what is required of us as
a righteousness unto justification, there was no reason why he
should deprecate a trial by them or upon them. But whereas the Holy
Ghost does so positively affirm that "no man living shall be
justified in the sight of God," by or upon his own works or
obedience, it is, I confess, marvelous unto me that some should so
interpret the apostle James as if he affirmed the express contrary,-
-namely, that we are justified in the sight of God by our own works,-
-whereas indeed he says no such thing. This, therefore, is an
eternal rule of truth,--By or upon his own obedience no man living
can be justified in the sight of God. It will be said, "That if God
enter into judgment with any on their own obedience by and according
to the law, then, indeed, none can be justified before him; but God
judging according to the gospel and the terms of the new covenant,
men may be justified upon their own duties, works, and obedience."
Ans. (1.) The negative assertion is general and unlimited,--that "no
man living shall" (on his own works or obedience) "be justified in
the sight of God." And to limit it unto this or that way of judging,
is not to distinguish, but to contradict the Holy Ghost. (2.) The
judgment intended is only with respect unto justification, as is
plain in the words; but there is no judgment on our works or
obedience, with respect unto righteousness and justification, but by
the proper rule and measure of them, which is the law. If they will
not endure the trial by the law, they will endure no trial, as unto
righteousness and justification in the sight of God. (3.) The prayer
and plea of the psalmist, on this supposition, are to this purpose:
"O LORD, enter not into judgment with thy servant by or according
unto the law; but enter into judgment with me on my own works and
obedience according to the rule of the gospel;" for which he gives
this reason, "because in thy sight shall no man living be
justified:" which how remote it is from his intention need not be
declared. (4.) The judgment of God unto justification according to
the gospel does not proceed on our works of obedience, but upon the
righteousness of Christ, and our interest therein by faith; as is
too evident to be modestly denied. Notwithstanding this exception,
therefore, hence we argue,--
     If the most holy of the servants of God, in and after a course of
sincere, fruitful obedience, testified unto by God himself, and
witnessed in their own consciences,--that is, whilst they have the
greatest evidences of their own sincerity, and that indeed they are
the servants of God,--do renounce all thoughts of such a
righteousness thereby, as whereon, in any sense, they may be
justified before God; then there is no such righteousness in any,
but it is the righteousness of Christ alone, imputed unto us,
whereon we are so justified. But that so they do, and ought all of
them so to do, because of the general rule here laid down, that in
the sight of God no man living shall be justified, is plainly
affirmed in this testimony.
     I no way doubt but that many learned men, after all their pleas
for an interest of personal righteousness and works in our
justification before God, do, as unto their own practice, retake
themselves unto this method of the psalmist, and cry, as the prophet
Daniel does, in the name of the church, "We do not present our
supplications before thee for our own righteousness, but for thy
great mercies," chap.9:18. And therefore Job (as we have formerly
observed), after a long and earnest defense of his own faith,
integrity, and personal righteousness, wherein he justified himself
against the charge of Satan and men, being called to plead his cause
in the sight of God, and declare on what grounds he expected to be
justified before him, renounces all his former pleas, and betakes
himself unto the same with the psalmist, chap.40:4; 43:6.
     It is true, in particular cases, and as unto some special ends in
the providence of God, a man may plead his own integrity and
obedience before God himself. So did Hezekiah, when he prayed for
the sparing of his life, Isa.38:3, "Remember now, O LORD, I beseech
thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect
heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight." This, I say,
may be done with respect unto temporal deliverance, or any other
particular end wherein the glory of God is concerned: so was it
greatly in sparing the life of Hezekiah at that time. For whereas he
had with great zeal and industry reformed religion and restored the
true worship of God, the "cutting him off in the midst of his days"
would have occasioned the idolatrous multitude to have reflected on
him as one dying under a token of divine displeasure. But none ever
made this plea before God for the absolute justification of their
persons. So Nehemiah, in that great contest which he had about the
worship of God and the service of his house, pleads the remembrance
of it before God, in his justification against his adversaries; but
resolves his own personal acceptance with God into pardoning mercy:
"And spare me according unto the multitude of thy mercies,"
     Another testimony we have unto the same purpose in the prophet
Isaiah, speaking in the name of the church, chap.64:6, "We are all
as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy
rags." It is true the prophet does in this place make a deep
confession of the sins of the people; but yet withal he joins
himself with them, and asserts the especial interest of those
concerning whom he speaks, by adoption,--that God was their Father,
and they his people, chap.63:16, 44:8,9. And the righteousnesses of
all that are the children of God are of the same kind, however they
may differ in degrees, and some of them may be more righteous than
others; but it is all of it described to be such, as that we cannot,
I think, justly expect justification in the sight of God upon the
account of it. But whereas the consideration of the nature of our
inherent righteousness belongs unto the second way of the
confirmation of our present argument, I shall not farther here
insist on this testimony.
     Many others also, unto the same purpose, I shall wholly omit,--
namely, all those wherein the saints of God, or the church, in a
humble acknowledgment and confession of their own sins, do retake
themselves unto the mercy and grace of God alone, as dispensed
through the mediation and blood of Christ; and all those wherein God
promises to pardon and blot out our iniquities for his own sake, for

(continued in part 22...)

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