(Owen, Justification. part 36) is that of Abraham, verse 21-23: for he says, that by Abraham's being justified by works, in the way and manner wherein he asserts him so to have been, "the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness". And if his intention were to prove that we are justified before God by works, and not by faith, because Abraham was so, the testimony produced is contrary, yea, directly contradictory, unto what should be proved by it; and accordingly is alleged by Paul to prove that Abraham was justified by faith without works, as the words do plainly import. Nor can any man declare how the truth of this proposition, "Abraham was justified by works," (intending absolute justification before God,) was that wherein that Scripture was fulfilled, "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness"; especially considering the opposition that is made both here and elsewhere between faith and works in this matter. Besides, he asserts that Abraham was justified by works then when he had offered his son on the altar; the same we believe also but only inquire in what sense he was so justified: for it was thirty years or thereabout after it was testified concerning him that "he believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness"; and when righteousness was imputed unto him he was justified; and twice justified in the same sense, in the same way, with the same kind of justification, he was not. How, then, was he justified by works when he offered his son on the altar? He that can conceive it to be any otherwise but that he was by his work, in the offering of his son, evidenced and declared in the sight of God and man to be justified, apprehends what I cannot attain unto, seeing that he was really justified long before; as is unquestionable and confessed by all. He was, I say, then justified in the sight of God in the way declared, Gen.22:12; and gave a signal testimony unto the sincerity of his faith and trust in God, manifesting the truth of that Scripture, "He believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness". And, in the quotation of this testimony, the apostle openly acknowledges that he was really accounted righteous, had righteousness imputed unto him, and was justified before God (the reasons and causes whereof he therefore considers not), long before that justification which he ascribes unto his works; which, therefore, can be nothing but the evidencing, proving, and manifestation of it: whence also it appears of what nature that faith is whereby we are justified, the declaration whereof is the principal design of the apostle. In brief, the Scripture alleged, that "Abraham believed, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness," was fulfilled when he was justi fied by works on the offering of his son on the altar, either by the imputation of righteousness unto him, or by a real efficiency or working righteousness in him, or by the manifestation and evidence of his former justification, or some other way must be found out. First, That it was not by imputation, or that righteousness unto the justification of life was not then first imputed unto him, is plain in the text; for it was so imputed unto him long before, and that in such a way as the apostle proves thereby that righteousness is imputed without works. Secondly, That he was not justified by a real efficiency of a habit of righteousness in him, or by any way of making him inherently righteous who was before unrighteous, is plain also; because he was righteous in that sense long before, and had abounded in the works of righteousness unto the praise of God. It remains, therefore, that then, and by the work mentioned, he was justified as unto the evidencing and manifestation of his faith and justification thereon. His other instance is of Ahab; concerning whom he asserts that she was "justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and sent them away." But she received the spies "by faith," as the holy Ghost witnesses, Heb.11:31; and therefore had true faith before their coming; and if so was really justified: for that any one should be a true believer and yet not be justified, is destructive unto the foundation of the gospel. In this condition she received the messengers, and made unto them a full declaration of her faith, Josh.2:9-11. After her believing and justification thereon, and after the confession she had made of her faith, she exposed her life by concealing and sending of them away. Hereby did she justify the sincerity of her faith and confession; and in that sense alone is said to be "justified by works." And in no other sense does the apostle James, in this place, make mention of justification; which he does also only occasionally. (4.) As unto "works," mentioned by both apostles, the same works are intended, and there is no disagreement in the least about them; for as the apostle James intends by works duties of obedience unto God, according to the law,--as is evident from the whole first part of the chapter, which gives occasion unto the discourse of faith and works,--so the same are intended by the apostle Paul also, as we have proved before. And as unto the necessity of them in all believers, as unto other ends, so as evidences of their faith and justification, it is no less pressed by the one than the other; as has been declared. These things being in general premised, we may observe some things in particular from the discourse of the apostle James, sufficiently evidencing that there is no contradiction therein unto what is delivered by the apostle Paul concerning our justification by faith, and the imputation of righteousness without works, nor to the doc trine which from him we have learned and declared; as,--1. He makes no composition or conjunction between faith and works in our justi fication, but opposes them the one to the other; asserting the one and rejecting the other, in order unto our justification. 2. He makes no distinction of a first and second justification, of the beginning and continuation of justification, but speaks of one justification only; which is our first personal justification before God. Neither are we concerned in any other justification in this cause whatever. 3. That he ascribes this justification wholly unto works, in contradistinction unto faith, as unto that sense of justification which he intended, and the faith whereof he treated. Wherefore,--4. He does not at all inquire or determine how a sinner is justified before God, but how professors of the gospel can prove or demonstrate that they are so, and that they do not deceive themselves by trusting unto a lifeless and barren faith. All these things will be farther evidenced in a brief consideration of the context itself; wherewith I shall close this discourse. In the beginning of the chapter unto verse 14, he reproves those unto whom he wrote for many sins committed against the law, the rule of their sins and obedience, or at least warns them of them; and having showed the danger they were in hereby, he discovers the root and principal occasion of it, verse 14; which was no other but a vain surmise and deceiving presumption that the faith required in the gospel was nothing but a bare assent unto the doctrine of it, whereon they were delivered from all obligation unto moral obedience or good works, and might, without any danger unto their eternal state, live in whatever sins their lusts inclined them unto, chap.4:1-4; 5:1-6. The state of such persons, which contains the whole cause which he speaks unto, and which gives rule and measure unto the interpretation of all his future arguing, is laid down, verse 14, "What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?" Suppose a man, any one of those who are guilty of the sins charged on them in the foregoing verses, do yet say, or boast of himself, that he has faith; that he makes profession of the gospel; that he has left either Judaism or Paganism, and betaken himself to the faith of the gospel; and therefore, although he be destitute of good works and live in sin, he is accepted with God, and shall be saved;--will, indeed, this faith save him? This, therefore, is the question proposed,--Whereas the gospel says plainly, that "he who believeth shall be saved," whether that faith which may and does consist with an indulgence unto sin, and a neglect of duties of obedience, is that faith whereunto the promise of life and salvation is annexed? And thereon the inquiry proceeds, How any man,--in particular, he who says he has faith,--may prove and evidence himself to have that faith which will secure his salvation? And the apostle denies that this is such a faith as can consist without works, or that any man can evidence himself to have true faith any otherwise but by works of obedience only; and in the proof hereof does his whole ensuing discourse consist. Not once does he propose unto consideration the means and causes of the justification of a convinced sinner before God, nor had he any occasion so to do; so that his words are openly wrested when they are applied unto any such intention. That the faith which he intends and describes is altogether useless unto the end pretended to be attainable by it,--namely, salvation,-- he proves in an instance of, and by comparing it with, the love or charity of an alike nature, verses 15,16, "If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit?" This love or charity is not that gospel grace which is required of us under that name; for he who behaves himself thus towards the poor, the love of God dwelleth not in him, 1 John 3:17. Whatever name it may have, whatever it may pretend unto, whatever it may be professed or accepted for, love it is not, nor has any of the effects of love; it is neither useful nor profitable. Hence the apostle infers, verse 17, "Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone." For this was that which he undertook to prove;--not that we are not justified by faith alone, without works, before God; but that the faith which is alone, without works, is dead, useless, and unprofitable. Having given this first evidence unto the conclusion which, "in thesi," he designed to prove, he reassumes the question and states it "in hypothesi," so as to give it a more full demonstration, verse 18, "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works," (that is, which is without works, or by thy works,) "and I will show thee my faith by my works." It is plain, beyond denial, that the apostle does here again propose his main question only on a supposition that there is a dead, useless faith; which he had proved before. For now all the inquiry remaining is, how true faith, or that which is of the right gospel kind, may be showed, evidenced, or demonstrated, so as that their folly may appear who trust unto any other faith whatever? "Deixon moi ten pistin sou",--"Evidence or demonstrate thy faith to be true by the only means thereof, which is works." And therefore although he say, "Thou hast faith," that is, "Thou professes and boastest that thou hast that faith whereby thou mayest be saved,"--"and I have works," he does not say, "Show me thy faith by thy works, and I will show thee my works by my faith," which the antithesis would require; but, "I will show thee my faith by my works," because the whole question was concerning the evidencing of faith and not of works. That this faith, which cannot be evidenced by works, which is not fruitful in them, but consists only in a bare assent unto the truth of divine revelation, is not the faith that does justify or will save us, he farther proves, in that it is no other but what the devils themselves have; and no man can think or hope to be saved by that which is common unto them with devils, and wherein they do much exceed them, verse 19, "Thou believest there is one God; thou does well: the devils also believe, and tremble." The belief of one God is not the whole of what the devils believe, but is singled out as the principal, fundamental truth, and on the concession whereof an assent unto all divine revelation does necessarily ensue. And this is the second argument whereby he proves an empty, barren faith to be dead and useless. The second confirmation being given unto his principal assertion, he restates it in that way, and under those terms, wherein he designed it unto its last confirmation: "But wilt thou know, 0 vain man, that faith without works is dead?" verse 20. And we may consider in the words,--First, The person with whom he deals, whose conviction he endeavoured: him he calls a vain man;--not in general, as every man living is altogether vanity, but as one who in an especial manner is vainly puffed up in his own fleshly mind,--one that has entertained vain imaginations of being saved by an empty profession of the gospel, without any fruit of obedience. Secondly, That which he designs with respect unto this vain man is his conviction,--a conviction of that foolish and pernicious error that he had imbibed: "Wilt thou know, O vain man?" Thirdly, That which alone he designed to convince him of is, that "faith without works is dead";--that is, the faith which is without works, which is barren and unfruitful, is dead and useless. This is that alone, and this is all, that he undertakes to prove by his following instances and arguing; neither do they prove any more. To wrest his words to any other purpose, when they are all proper and suited unto what he expresses as his only design, is to offer violence unto them. This, therefore, he proves by the consideration of the faith of Abraham, verse 21, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?" Some things must be observed to clear the mind of the apostle herein; as,--1. It is certain that Abraham was justified many years before the work instanced in was performed; for long before was that testimony given concerning him, "He believed in the LORD, and he counted it unto him for righteousness": and the imputation of righteousness upon believing is all the justification we inquire after or will contend about. 2. It is certain that, in the relation of the story here repeated by the apostle, there is not any one word spoken of Abraham's being then justified before God, by that or any other work whatever. But, 3. It is plain and evident that, in the place related unto, Abraham was declared to be justified by an open attestation unto his faith and fear of God as sincere, and that they had evidenced themselves so to be in the sight of God himself; which God condescends to express by an assumption of human affections, Gen.22:12, "Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me." That this is the justification which the apostle intends, cannot be denied but out of love to strife; and this was the manifestation and declaration of the truth and sincerity of his faith whereby he was justified before God. And hereby the apostle directly and undeniably proves what he produces this instance for,--namely, that "faith without works is dead." 4. It is no less evident that the apostle had not spoken any thing before as unto our justification before God, and the means thereof; and is therefore absurdly imagined here to introduce it in the proof of what he had before asserted, which it does not prove at all. 5. The only safe rule of interpreting the meaning of the apostle, next unto the scope and design of his present discourse, which he makes manifest in the reiterated proposition of it, is the scope of the places, [and the] matter of fact, with its circumstances, which he refers unto and takes his proof from. And they were plainly these, and no other:--Abraham had been long a justified believer; for there were thirty years, or thereabout, between the testimony given thereunto, Gen.15, and the story of sacrificing his son, related Gen.22. All this while he walked with God, and was upright in a course of holy, fruitful obedience; yet it pleased God to put his faith, after many others, unto a new, his greatest, his last trial. And it is the way of God, in the covenant of grace, to try the faith of them that believe, by such ways as seem meet unto him. Hereby he manifests how precious it is (the trial of faith making it appear to be "more precious than gold," 1 Pet.1:7), and raises up glory unto himself; which is in the nature of faith to give unto him, Rom.4:20. And this is the state of the case as proposed by the apostle,--namely, how it may be tried whether the faith which men profess be genuine, precious, "more precious than gold," of the right nature with that whereunto the gospel promise of salvation is annexed. Secondly, This trial was made by works, or by one signal duty of obedience prescribed unto him for that very end and purpose; for Abraham was to be proposed as a pattern unto all that should afterwards believe. And God provided a signal way for the trial of his faith,--namely, by an act of obedience. which was so far from being enjoined by the moral law, that it seemed contrary unto it. And if he be proposed unto us as a pattern of justification by works in the sight of God, it must be by such works as God has not required in the moral law, but such as seem to be contrary thereunto. Nor can any man receive any encouragement to expect justification by works, by telling him that Abraham was justified by works, when he offered up his only son to God; for it will be easy for him to say, that as no such work was ever performed by him, so none such was ever required of him. But, Thirdly, Upon Abraham's compliance with the command of God, given him in the way of trial, God himself "anthropopathoos" declares the sincerity of his faith and his justification thereon, or his gracious acceptance of him. This is the whole design of the place which the apostle traduces into his purpose; and it contains the whole of what he was to prove, and no more. Plainly it is granted in it that we are not justified by our works before God, seeing he instances only in a work performed by a justified believer many years after he was absolutely justified before God. But this is evidently proved hereby,-- namely, that "faith without works is dead"; seeing justifying faith, as is evident in the case of Abraham, is that, and that alone, which brings forth works of obedience: for on such a faith alone is a man evidenced, declared, and pronounced to be justified or accepted with God. Abraham was not then first justified; he was not then said to be justified;--he was declared to be justified, and that by and upon his works: which contains the whole of what the apostle intends to prove. There is, therefore, no appearance of the least contradiction be tween this apostle and Paul, who professedly asserts that Abraham was not justified before God by works; for James only declares that by the works which he performed after he was justified he was ma nifested and declared so to be. And that this was the whole of his design he manifests in the next verse, where he declares what he had proved by this instance, verse 22, "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" Two things he enforces as proved unto the conviction of him with whom he had to do:--1. That true faith will operate by works; so did Abraham's,--it was effective in obedience. 2. That it was made perfect by works; that is, evidenced so to be,--for "teleios, teleioumai," does nowhere in the Scripture signify the internal, formal perfecting of any thing, but only the external complement or perfection of it, or the manifestation of it. It was complete as unto its proper effect, when he was first justified; and it was now manifested so to be. See Matt.5:48; Col.4:12; 2 Cor.12:9. "This," says the apostle, "I have proved in the instance of Abraham,--namely, that it is works of obedience alone that can evince a man to be justified, or to have that faith whereby he may be so." He adds, in the confirmation of what he had affirmed, verse 23, "And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness, and he was called The friend of God." Two things the apostle affirms herein:--1. That the Scripture mentioned was fulfilled. It was so in that justification by works which he ascribes unto Abraham. But how this Scripture was herein fulfilled, either as unto the time wherein it was spoken, or as unto the thing itself, any otherwise but as that which is therein asserted was evidenced and declared, no man can explain. What the Scripture affirmed so long before of Abraham was then evidenced to be most true, by the works which his faith produced; and so that Scripture was accomplished. For otherwise, supposing the distinction made between faith and works by himself, and the opposition that he puts between them, adding thereunto the sense given of this place by the apostle Paul, with the direct importance of the words, and nothing can be more contradictory unto his design (namely, if he intended to prove our justification before God by works) than the quotation of this testimony. Wherefore, this Scripture was [not], nor can be, otherwise fulfilled by Abraham's justification by works, but only that by and upon them he was manifested so to be. 2. He adds, that hereon he was called The friend of God. So he is, Isa.41:8 ; as also, 2 Chron.20:7. This is of the same importance with his being justified by works: for he was not thus called merely as a justified person, but as one who had received singular privileges from God, and answered them by a holy walking before him. Wherefore, his being called "The friend of God," was God's approbation of his faith and obedience; which is the justification by works that the apostle asserts. Hereon he makes a double conclusion (for the instance of Rahab being of the same nature, and spoken unto before, I shall not insist again upon it):--l. As unto his present argument, verse 24. 2. As unto the whole of his design, verse 26. The first is, "That by works a man is justified, and not by faith only";--"Ye see then, you whom I design to convince of the vanity of that imagination, that you are justified by a dead faith, a breathless carcase of faith, a mere assent unto the truth of the gospel, and profession of it, consistent with all manner of impiety, and wholly destitute of good fruits: you may see what faith it is that is required unto justification and salvation. For Abraham was declared to be righteous, to be justified, on that faith which wrought by works, and not at all by such a faith as you pretend unto." A man is justified by works, as Abraham was when he had offered up his son to God; that is, what he really was by faith long before, as the Scripture testifies, was then and thereby evidenced and declared. And, therefore, let no man suppose that by the faith which they boasted of, any one is or can be justified, seeing that whereon Abraham was declared to be so, was that which evidenced itself by its fruits. 2. He lays down that great conclusion; which he had evinced by his whole disputation, and which at first he designed to confirm, verse 26, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." A breathless carcase and an unworking faith are alike, as unto all the ends of natural or spiritual life. This was that which the apostle designed from the beginning to convince vain and barren professors of; which, accordingly, he has given sufficient reason and testimony for. 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