By Thomas Brooks, 1675
V.The fifth plea that you are to make in order to these ten scriptures, [Eccles. 11:9, and 12:14; Mat. 12:14, and 18:23; Luke 16:3; Romans 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27, and 13:17; 1 Pet. 4:5.] which respects the account that you are to give up in the great day of the Lord, is drawn from the imputed righteousness of Christ to us. The justification of a sinner in the sight of God, upon the account of Christ's righteousness imputed to him, whereby the guilt of sin is removed, and the person of the sinner is accepted as righteous with the God of heaven, is that which I shall open to you distinctly in these following branches—
1. First, That the grace of justification in the sight of God is made up of two parts—
1. There is forgiveness of the offences committed against the Lord.
2. There is acceptance of the person offending—pronouncing him a righteous person, and receiving him into favor again, as if he had never offended. This is most clear and evident in the blessed Scriptures.
[1.] First, There is an act of absolution and acquittal from the guilt of sin, and freedom from the condemnation deserved by sin. The desert of sin is an inseparable attendant of sin, which can never be removed. It may be truly said of the sins of a justified person, that they deserve everlasting destruction—but justification is the freeing of a sinner from the guilt of his iniquity, whereby he was actually bound over to condemnation. [Romans 8:1. Condemnation is a forensic word, relating to what is in use among men in their courts of judicature to condemn. It is the sentence of a judge decreeing a penalty to be inflicted upon the guilty person.]
As soon as any man does sin, there is a guilt upon him, by which he is bound over to the wrath and curse of God; and this guilt or obligation is inseparable from sin; the sin does deserve no less than everlasting damnation. Now, forgiveness of sin has a peculiar respect to the guilt of sin, and removal of that. When the Lord forgives a man, he does discharge him of that obligation by which he was bound over to wrath and condemnation: Romans 8:1, "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus;" verse 33, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God who justifies;" verse 34, "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died." Beloved, the Lord is a holy and just God; and "he reveals his wrath from heaven against all unrighteousness," Romans 1:18; and there is a curse threatened to every transgression of the law, Gal. 3:10; and when any man sins, he is liable unto the curse, and God may inflict the same upon him, Romans 1:32. But when God forgives sins, he therein does interpose, as it were, between the sin and the curse, and between the obligation and the condemnation, Romans 6:23.
When the sinner sins, God might say unto him, "Sinner, by your sinning you are now fallen into my hands of justice; and for your sins I may, according to my righteous law, condemn and curse you forever! But such is my free, my rich, my sovereign grace, that for Christ's sake I will spare you and pardon you, and that curse and condemnation which you have deserved, shall never fall upon you. Oh, my affections, my affections, are yearning towards you, Jer. 31:20; and therefore I will have mercy, mercy upon you, and will deliver your souls from going down into the pit!" Job 33:13, 24, 28, 30.
When the poor sinner is indicted and arraigned at God's bar, and process is made against him, and he found guilty of the violation of God's holy law, and accordingly judged guilty by God, and adjudged to everlasting death, then mercy steps in and pleads, "I have found a ransom! Job 33:24. The sinner shall not die—but live!" When the law says, "Ah, sinner, sinner! thus and thus have you transgressed, all sorts of duties you have omitted, and all sorts of sins you have committed, and all sorts of mercies you have abused, and all sorts of means you have neglected, and all sorts of offers you have slighted!" Then God steps in and says, "Ah, sinner, sinner! what do you say, what can you say, to this heavy charge? Is it true or false? Will you grant it or deny it? What defense or plea can you make for yourself?" Alas! the poor sinner is speechless: Mat. 22:12, he was muzzled or haltered up, that is, he held his peace as though he had a bridle or a halter in his mouth. He has not one word to say for himself; he can neither deny, nor excuse, or extenuate what is charged upon him.
"Why now," says God, "I must and do pronounce you to be guilty; and as I am a just and righteous God, I cannot but adjudge you to die eternally. But such is the riches of my mercy, that I will freely justify you through the righteousness of my Son; I will forgive your sins, and discharge you of that obligation by which you were bound over to wrath, and curse, and condemnation!" The justified person may now triumphingly say, "Who is he who condemns?" He may read over the most dreadful passages of the law without being terrified or amazed, as knowing that the curse is removed, and that all his sins, which brought him under the curse, are pardoned, and are, in point of condemnation, as if they had never been! This is to be justified, to have the sin pardoned and the penalty remitted.
Romans 4:5-8, "However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works—Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." It is observable that what David calls forgiveness of sin, and not imputing of iniquity, Paul styles a being justified. But,
[2.] Secondly, As the first part of justification consists in the pardon of sin, so the second part of justification consists in the acceptance of the sinner's person as perfectly righteous in God's sight, pronouncing him such, and dealing with him as such, and by bringing of him under the shadow of that divine favor which he had formerly lost by his transgressions: Cant. 4:7, "You are all fair, my love, and there is no spot in you;" that is, none in my account, nor no such spots as the wicked are full of, Deut. 32:5. Look, as David saw nothing in lame Mephibosheth but what was lovely, because he saw in him the features of his friend Jonathan, 2 Sam. 9:3-4, 13-14. Just so, God, beholding his people in the face of his Son, sees nothing amiss in them. "They are all glorious within and without," Psalm 45:13. Look, as Absalom had no blemish from head to foot, so they are blameless and "without blemish before the throne of God," Rev. 14:5.
The pardoned sinner, in respect of divine acceptance, is "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing," Eph. 5:26-27. God accepts the pardoned sinner as complete in Christ, who is the head of all principality and power, Col. 2:10. Christ makes us lovely through his beauty; he gives us white raiment to stand before the Lord. Christ is all in all, in regard of divine acceptance: Eph. 1:6, "He has made us accepted in the beloved." "He has made us favorites," so Chrysostom and Theophylact render it. "God has ingratiated us," he has made us gracious in the Son of his love. Through the blood of Christ, we are lovely and beautiful in God's eyes. Isaiah 62:4, "You shall no more be termed forsaken—but you shall be called Hephzibah; for the Lord delights in you." [All people outside of Christ are cursed enemies, objects of God's wrath and justice, displeasing, offending, and provoking creatures; and therefore God cannot but loathe them and abhor them.]
The acceptance of our persons with God takes in six things:
(1.) God's honoring of us;
(2.) His delight in us;
(3.) His being well pleased with us;
(4.) His extending love and favor to us;
(5.) His high estimation of us;
(6.) His giving us free access to himself.
It is the observation of Ambrose, that though Jacob was not by birth the first-born—yet, hiding himself under his brother's clothes, and having put on his coat, which smelled most fragrantly, he came into his father's presence, and got away the blessing from his elder brother, Gen. 27:36; so it is very necessary, in order to our acceptance with God, that we lie hid under the precious robe of Christ, our elder brother; that, having the sweet savor of his garments upon us, our sins may be covered with his perfections, and our unrighteousness with the robes of his righteousness, 1 Cor. 2:15; so that we may offer up ourselves unto God "a living and acceptable sacrifice," Romans 12:1; "not having our own righteousness, which is but as filthy rags," Isaiah 64:6 but that which is "through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith," Phil. 9.
Thus you see that justification, for the nature of it, lies in the gracious pardon of the sinner's transgressions, and in the acceptance of his person as righteous in God's sight. But,
2. Secondly, In order to the partaking of this grace, of the forgiveness of our sins and the acceptance of our persons, we must be able to produce a perfect righteousness before the Lord, and to present it and tender it unto him.And the reason is evident from the very nature of God, who is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity," Hab. 1:13, that is, with patience or pleasure, or without punishing it. [Heb., "And to look on iniquity, you cannot do it."] There are four things that God cannot do:
(1.) He cannot lie;
(2.) He cannot die;
(3.) He cannot deny himself;
(4.) He cannot behold iniquity with approbation and delight.
Josh. 24:19, "And Joshua said unto the people, You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God, he is a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins." Such is the holiness of God's nature, that he cannot behold sin, that he cannot but punish sin wherever he finds it, Psalm 5:4-6. God is infinitely, immutably, and inexorably just, as well as he is incomprehensibly gracious. Now, in the justification of a sinner God does act as a God of justice, as well as a God of compassion. God is infinite in all his attributes, in his justice as well as in his mercy: these two cannot interfere with each other. As justice cannot encroach upon mercy, so neither may mercy encroach upon justice; the glory of both must be maintained. Now, by the breach of the law, the justice of God is wronged; so that although mercy is apt to pardon—yet justice requires satisfaction, and calls for vengeance on sinners. "Every transgression must receive just recompense," Heb. 2:2, and God will not in any case absolve the guilty, Exod. 34:7; and until this is done, the hands of mercy are tied that she cannot act. And seeing satisfaction could not be made to an infinite Majesty—but by an equal person and price; therefore the Son of God must become a curse for us, by taking our nature and pouring out his soul to the death. By this means, justice and mercy are reconciled and kiss each other, and mercy now being set at liberty, has her free course to save poor sinners. God will have his justice satisfied to the full, and therefore Christ must bear all the punishment due to our sins; or else God cannot set us free, for he cannot go against his own just will.
Observe the force of that phrase, "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things," Luke 24:26; Mat. 26:54, "It must happen in this way." Why must? but because it was,
(1.) So decreed by God.
(2.) Foretold by the prophets. Every particular of Christ's sufferings were foretold by the prophets, even to their very spitting in his face.
(3.) Prefigured in the daily morning and evening sacrifice; this Lamb of God was sacrificed from the beginning of the world.
A necessity then there was of our Savior's sufferings; not a necessity of co-action, for he died freely and voluntarily—but of immutability and infallibility, for the former reasons mentioned, John 10:11, 14, 17, 18.
An earthly prince who is just, holds himself bound to inflict punishment impartially upon the malefactor or his surety. It stands upon his honor; he says, "It must be so, I cannot do otherwise." This is true much more of God, who is justice itself. God, "who is great in counsel and excellent in working," had store of means at hand whereby to set free and recover lost mankind—yet he was pleased, in his infinite wisdom, to pitch upon this way of atonement, as being most agreeable to his holy nature, and most suitable to his high and sovereign ends—namely, man's salvation and his own glory. And that God does stand upon full atonement, and will not forgive one sin without it, may be thus made evident.
[1.] First, From the nature of sin, which is that "abominable thing which God hates," Jer. 44:4. [God could not simply pass over the sin of man, so as absolutely to let it go unpunished.] The sinner deserves to die for his sins: Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death." Every sinner is worthy of death; "those who commit such things are worthy of death," Romans 1:32. Now God is just and righteous. "It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to those who trouble you," 2 Thes. 1:6. Yes, and God did, therefore, "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice," Romans 3:25; "he did it to demonstrate his justice," verse 26.
Now, if God is a just and righteous God, then sin cannot absolutely escape unpunished; for it is just with God to punish the sinner who is worthy of punishment; and certainly God must deny himself if he will not be just, 2 Tim. 2:13—but this he can never do. Sin is of an infinite guilt, and has an infinite evil in the nature of it; and therefore no person in heaven or earth—but that person our Lord Jesus, who is God-man, and who had an infinite dignity—could either procure the pardon of it, or make satisfaction for it. No prayers, no cries, no tears, no humblings, no repentings, no resolutions, no reformations, etc., can stop the course of justice, or procure the guilty sinner's pardon. It is Christ alone, who can dissolve all obligations to punishment, and break all bonds and chains of guilt, and hand a pardon to us through his own blood, Eph. 1:7. We are set free by the blood of Christ. "By the blood of your covenant I have sent forth your prisoners out of the pit," Zech. 9:11: it is by his blood that we are justified and saved from wrath: Romans 5:9, "Much more being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath by him." What is it to be justified—but to be pardoned; and what is it to be saved from wrath—but to be delivered from all punishment? and both these depend upon the blood of Christ, Eph. 2:13; Col. 1:20. But,
[2.] The veracity of God requires it.Look, as God cannot but be just, so he cannot but be true. And if he cannot but be true, then he will make good the threatenings which have gone out his mouth: Gen. 2:17, "In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die!" Heb. "In dying, you shall die." [Under the name of death are comprehended all other calamities, miseries, and sorrows.] Death is a fall that came in by a fall, and without all question, every man should die the same day he was born, for "the wages of sin is death," and this wages would be presently paid, did not Christ reprieve poor sinners' lives for a season, upon which account he is said to be the Savior of all men, 1 Tim. 4:10; not of eternal salvation—but of a temporal preservation. "He will by no means clear the guilty." Exod. 34:7. "The soul that sins, it shall die." "The wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." Ezek. 17:20. "He will render to every man according to his deeds." Romans 2:6.
O sirs, God can never so far yield as to abrogate his own law, and quietly to sit down with injury and loss to his own justice, he himself having established a law, etc. "The law pronounces him cursed, who continues not in all things which are written therein, to do them," Gal. 3:10. Now, though the threatenings of men are frequently vain and frivolous—yet the threatenings of the great God shall certainly take place and have their accomplishment! Though many ten thousand millions of sinners perish, not one tittle of the dreadful threatenings of God shall fail until all be fulfilled, Mat. 5:18.
Josephus says that from that very time that old Eli heard those terrible threatenings, that made their ears tingle and hearts tremble that heard them—that he never ceased weeping, 1 Sam. 3:11-14. Ah, who can look upon the dreadful threatenings which are pointed against sinners all over the book of God, and not tremble and weep! God cannot but in justice punish sinners; neither is it in his choice or freedom whether he will damn the obstinate impenitent sinner or not. Look, as God cannot but love holiness wherever he sees it, so he cannot but loathe and punish wickedness wherever he beholds it; neither will it stand with the infinite wisdom of God, to admit of a dispensation or relaxation of his threatenings without justice. God had passed an authoritarian doom, and made a solemn declaration of it in his word, that "he who sins, shall die the death!" He will not, he cannot break his word.
You know he had foreordained Jesus Christ, and set him forth to take upon himself this burden, to become a propitiation for sin through his blood, Romans 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:20, and made known his mind concerning it in his written word plainly, Isaiah 53:7. If we read the words, "it is exacted or strictly required," meaning the iniquity or punishment of us all, verse 6. It is required at his hands, he must answer it in our stead, and so he is afflicted, and this affliction reaches even to his death, verse 8. Therefore when Christ puts this work upon an ought and must be, he lays the weight of all on the Scriptures, "Thus it is written," as you may see in the texts lately cited; as if he should say, "God has spoken it, and his truth engages him to see it done." Just so, God has threatened to punish sin, and his truth engages him to see it done.
O sirs, there is no standing before that God that is "a consuming fire," a just judge, a holy God, except I have one to "undertake for me," Heb. 12:29, who is "mighty to save," Isaiah 63:1, and mighty to satisfy divine justice, and mighty to pacify divine wrath, and mighty to bear the threatenings, and mighty to forgive sin!
When God forgives sin, he does it in a way of righteousness, Isaiah 19:20. 1 John 1:9, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." He does not say he is merciful—but "just, to forgive us our sins;" because they are atoned and satisfied for, and God's justice will not let him demand the same debt twice—of the surety and of the debtor also. It will never stand with the unspotted justice and righteousness of God, to require such debts of us, which Christ, by shedding his most precious blood, has discharged for us, Romans 3:25. Mark—the maledictory sentence of death, denounced by the law against sinners, was inflicted by God upon Christ. This is that which the prophet Isaiah positively asserts, where he says, "The chastisement," that is, the punishment (called a chastisement, because inflicted by a father, and only for a time,) "of our peace was upon him." And again, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted," Isaiah 53:5, 7; which, according to the genuine sense of the original, is better rendered, "It was exacted," that is, the punishment of our sin; and he was afflicted, or he answered, to the demand of the penalty.
"The curse to which we are subject," says Theodorus, "he assumed upon himself of his own accord." "The death that was not due to him—he underwent; that we might not undergo that death which was due to us," says Gregory. "He made himself a debtor for us, who were debtors; and therefore the creditor exacts it from him," says Arnoldus.
Now God's justice being satisfied for our offences, it cannot but remit those offences to us. As the creditor cannot demand that of the debtor which the surety has already paid—just so, neither can God exact the punishment of us which Christ has suffered; and therefore "it is just with God to forgive us our sins."
It will be altogether needless to inquire whether it had been injustice in God to forgive without payment and satisfaction. Austin's determination is very solid: "There was no lack in God to provide another possible way, and if it were unjust, it were impossible—but this way of satisfaction was most agreeable to divine wisdom. Before God did decree this way, it might be free to have used it or not—but in decreeing, this seemed most convenient, and after, it became necessary, so that there can be no remission without it; and however it might not have been unjust with God to have forgiven without it—yet we are sure it is most just with him to forgive upon satisfaction." [When you are forgiven, you are then released, and forever acquitted from any after-reckonings with the justice of God. Divine justice has no more to say or do against you, for, if the fault be forgiven, then also is the punishment forgiven; nay, let me speak with a holy and humble reverence, God cannot in his justice punish—where he has first pardoned.]
Indeed, the debt being paid by Christ, God's very justice, as I may say with reverence, would trouble him if he should not give out an acquittance. The believing penitent sinner may, in a humble confidence, sue out his pardon, not only at the throne of grace—but at the bar of justice, in these or the like expressions: "Lord, you have punished my sins in your Son; will you punish them in me? You have accepted that suffering of your Son as the punishment of my sin, therefore you cannot in justice exact it of me; for this were to punish twice for one offence—which your justice cannot but abhor." O sirs! God does not pronounce men righteous when they are not—but first he makes them so, and then he pronounces them to he such; so that if a man will be justified, he must be able to produce such a complete righteousness wherewith he may stand before the justice of God. Ah sinners! the Lord is infinitely just, as well as merciful; and if ever your sins are pardoned, it must be by an admirable mixture of mercy and justice together. It was one of the great ends of the gospel dispensation that God might exalt his justice in the justification of a sinner: Romans 3:26, "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus." But,
3. Thirdly, The only matter of man's righteousness, since the fall of Adam, wherein he can appear with comfort before the justice of God, and consequently whereby alone he can be justified in his sight—is the obedience and suffering of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of the mediator.There is not any other way imaginable, how the justice of God may be satisfied, and we may have our sins pardoned in a way of justice—but by the righteousness of the Son of God; and therefore this is his name, "Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness," Jer. 23:6. "This is his name," that is, this is the prerogative of the Lord Jesus, a matter that appertains to him alone, to be able to "bring in everlasting righteousness, and to make reconciliation for iniquity," Dan. 9:24.
The costly cloak of Alcisthenes, which Dionysius sold to the Carthaginians for an hundred talents, was indeed a base and beggarly rag, compared to that embroidered mantle of Christ's righteousness, which he puts upon us. Isaiah 61:10, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and a bride adorns herself with her jewels." [It is a sign of great favor from the Great Turk, when a rich garment is cast upon any that come into his presence. —Knolles History. The application is easy.]
Christ's righteousness is that garment of wrought gold, which we all need, to cover all our imperfections, and to render us perfectly beautiful and glorious in the sight of God. [Psalm 45:13; Romans 5:19; Col. 2:10; Eph. 5:27; Rev. 14:5; Romans 3:21-22, 25-26.] In this robe of righteousness we are complete; we are without spot or wrinkle; we are without fault before the throne of God. Through the imputation of Christ's righteousness, we are made righteous in the sight of God. God looking upon us, as invested with the righteousness of his Son, accounts us righteous. All believers have a righteousness in Christ as full and complete, as if they had fulfilled the law. "Christ being the end of the law for righteousness to believers," Romans 8:3-4, invests believers with a righteousness every way as complete, as the personal obedience of the law would have invested them with.
When men had violated God's holy law, God in justice resolved that his law should be satisfied, before man should be saved. Now this was done by Christ, who was the end of the law; he fulfilled it actively and passively, and so the injury offered to the law is recompensed. God had rather that all men should be destroyed, than that his law should not be satisfied. No man can perfectly be justified in the sight of God without a perfect righteousness, every way commensurable to God's holy law, which is the rule of righteousness, "Do this and live." Neither can any person have any choice, spiritual, lively communion with a righteous God, until he is clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. All Christ's active and passive obedience was either for himself, or in our stead and behalf. But it was not for himself—but for us, that he suffered and obeyed. Whatever Christ did or suffered in the whole course of his life, he did it and suffered it as our surety, and in our steads. For as God would not dispense with the penalty of the law without satisfaction, so he would not dispense with the commands of the law without perfect obedience.
Remember, once for all, that the actions and sufferings of Christ make but up one entire and perfect obedience to the whole law; nor had Christ been a perfect and complete Savior, if he had not performed what the law required, as well as suffered the penalty which the law inflicted. The imputation of Christ's righteousness to us is a gracious act of God the Father, according to his good will and pleasure, whereby as a judge, he accounts believers' sins unto the surety, as if he had committed the same; and the righteousness of Christ unto the believer, as if he had performed the same obedience which Christ did in his own person. So Christ's imputed righteousness is as effectual to the full, for the acceptance of the believing sinner, as if he had yielded such obedience to the Lord himself. Hence his righteousness is called "our righteousness," Jer. 23:6. Now without this righteousness there is no standing with acceptance, before the justice of God. But,
4. Fourthly, As this great design of Christ's redeeming sinners by his blood and sufferings, and by his being made a curse for them, does sound aloud the glory of divine JUSTICE, and the glory of God's VERACITY—so it sounds forth the glory of his WISDOM; for hereby he maintains the authority of his righteous law.[Solon, that wise lawmaker, could never find out a law to put all other good laws in execution—but such as are living laws, will make the laws to live: and will not the wise and living God make his laws and threatenings to live? Surely he will.] When a law is solemnly enacted, with a penalty in case of transgression, all those whom it concerns may conclude for certain, that the lawgiver will proceed accordingly; and it is a rule in policy, that laws once established and published, should be vigorously preserved. If the Lord should have wholly waived the execution of the law upon sinners or their surety, it might have tended greatly to the weakening of its authority, and the diminishing of the reverence of his sovereignty in the hearts of the sons of men. How often does God use that oath, "As surely as I live," for the fulfilling of his threatenings as well as of his promises, Jer. 22:24, and Ezek. 5:9-11. The Lord Jehovah is as true, faithful, and constant in his threatenings as he is in his promises. What he has threatened shall undoubtedly come to pass; he will be made known by his name Jehovah in the full execution of all his threatenings. The old world found it so, and Jerusalem found it so; yes, the whole nation of the Jews have found it so to this very day, see Ezek. 5:13, 15.
Look, as all the saints in heaven will readily put to their seals, that God is true and faithful in all his promises; just so, all the damned in hell will readily put to their seals, that God is faithful in all his threatenings. Men frequently deride the laws and threatenings of great men, when they are not put into execution. It is the execution of laws, which is the very life and soul of good laws, Eccles. 8:11. Should God pardon sin, without exacting the penalty of the law, how would sinners be hardened, and emboldened to say, with those men, or rather monsters, in Malachi 2:17, "Where is the God of justice?" That is, nowhere; either there is no God, or at least not a God of that exact, precise, and impartial justice, as some men say and as others teach. But now when God lets sinners see that he will not pardon sin without exacting the penalty of the law, either of the sinner or of his surety, then the sinner cries out, "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" Romans 11:33.
God stood so much upon the complete satisfaction and accomplishment of his law, that he was willing that Christ should be a sacrifice—that the law might be satisfied in its penalty; and that Christ in his own person should fulfill the righteousness of the law—that it might be satisfied in its commands, Romans 8:3-5. Now in this full satisfaction made to the law, the wisdom of God does gloriously shine. The heart of God was so set upon a full satisfaction to his law, that rather than it should not be done, his own Son must come from heaven and put on flesh, and be himself made under the law, Gal. 4:4-5; he must live a holy life, and die a cursed death—and all to satisfy the law, and to keep up the authority of it. But,
5. Fifthly, God does stand upon full satisfaction, and will not forgive one sin without it, that he might hereby cut off all occasions, which the devil, his arch-enemy, might take to calumniate and traduce him; for if God did not stand upon full satisfaction, the devil might accuse him—
(1.) of inconstancy and changeableness, that having threatened death to transgressors, he did quite forget himself, in waiving the threatening, and dispensing wholly with his law, by granting them free remission; yes,
(2.) of partiality and respect of people, that he should be so easy and forbearing, as to let them pass without any punishment at all; having been formerly so severe and rigid against Satan himself, in casting him and his angels down to hell, and keeping them in everlasting flames and chains of darkness, without the least hope of recovery, 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6. Satan might say, "Lord, you might have spared me, as well as man!" But the Lord can now answer, "Man has made satisfaction, he has borne the curse, and thereby fully discharged all the demands of the law; if he had not, I would no more have spared him than you!"
Ambrose brings in the devil boasting against Christ, and challenging Judas as his own; "he is not yours, Lord Jesus, he is mine, his thoughts beat for me; he eats with you—but is fed by me; he takes bread from you—but money from me; he drinks with you—but sells your blood to me." Had God pardoned sin without satisfaction, ah how would Satan have boasted and triumphed over God himself But,
6. Sixthly, God's standing upon full satisfaction, and his not forgiving one sin without it, bears a visible character of his goodness and loving-kindness, as well as it sounds out aloud the glory of divine justice."The great and the holy God, whose name is holy," Exod. 15:1, 11, might have rigorously exacted the penalty of the law on the persons of sinners themselves—but he has so far dispensed with his own law, as to admit of a surety, by whom the end of the law, that is, the manifestation of his justice and hatred of sin, might be fulfilled, and yet a considerable part of mankind might be preserved from the jaws of the second death, which otherwise must unavoidably have perished to all eternity, Rev. 20:6. God seems to speak at such a rate as this, "I may not, I will not, allow this high affront of Adam and his posterity against my 'holy and righteous law,' Romans 7:12, 14, whereby the honor both of my justice and truth is in danger to be trampled underfoot. And yet if I should let out all my wrath upon them, they would never be able to stand under it." Psalm 78:38; Isaiah 57:16. "I will therefore let out all my wrath upon their surety, and he shall bear it for them, that they may be delivered!" And thus the Lord "in wrath remembers mercy," Hab. 3:2. But,
7. Seventhly, We can receive no benefit by the righteousness of Christ for justification in the sight of God, nor can we be pardoned and accepted thereupon, until that righteousness become ours, and is made over unto us.How can we plead this righteousness before God, unless we have an interest in this righteousness? Isaiah 45:24-25. How can we rejoice and triumph in this righteousness, if this righteousness is not made ours? How can we have peace with God, and boldness at the throne of grace, through this righteousness, except we can lay claim to this righteousness? How can we conclude that we are happy and blessed upon the account of this righteousness, except it be made over to us? [2 Cor. 2:14; Gal. 6:14; Romans 5:1; Heb. 4:15-16; Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:7-11; Romans 4:8. If Christ's obedience is imputed to us, it must be so imputed as to be our righteousness before God; no imputation below this will serve our turns, cheer our hearts, and save our souls. Rev. 14:8; Isaiah 63:1; Rev. 3:18.]
There are none of us, who have such an inherent righteousness in ourselves, which we dare plead before the bar of God. And though God has provided such a glorious robe of righteousness for poor sinners, as is the wonder and amazement of angels—yet what would all this avail the poor sinner, if this righteousness be not made over to him? O sirs! remember this, Christ's righteousness must be yours—it must be made over to you, or else it will never stand you in good stead. Romans 5:17, "For if by one man's offence, death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in glory by one, Jesus Christ." Except they receive the righteousness of Christ, it is nothing to them. Christ's righteousness is in itself white raiment, and beautiful and glorious apparel—but it will never cover our nakedness, except it be put on, and we are clothed with it. It must be made over to us, or we can never be justified by it. 1 Cor. 1:30, "He is made to us righteousness;" if he is not made to us righteousness, we shall never be righteous. Though man has lost a righteousness to be justified by—yet there is an absolute necessity of having one. God cannot love nor delight in anything but righteousness. God is a holy God, a righteous God, and therefore can only love and take pleasure in those who are righteous, both by a righteousness imputed, and a righteousness imparted. Isaiah 45:24, "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength;" verse 25, "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory;" Isaiah 54:17, "Their righteousness is of me, says the Lord." Psalm 71:16, "I will make mention of your righteousness, even of yours alone." Look, as no man can be made rich by another man's riches, except they are made his; so no man can be made righteous by the righteousness of Christ, except his righteousness be made over to him; hence he is called, "The Lord our Righteousness," Jer. 23:6; and hence we are said to be "the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. 5:21; hence we are said "by his obedience to be made righteous," 2 Cor. 5:21.
8. Eighthly and lastly, The way whereby this righteousness of God's providing is conveyed and made over to us, that we may receive the benefit thereof, and be justified thereby—it is by way of IMPUTATION.The meaning is this: God does reckon the righteousness of Christ unto his people—as if it were their own. He does count unto them Christ's sufferings and satisfaction, and makes them partakers of the virtue thereof—as if themselves had suffered and satisfied. This is the genuine and proper import of the word imputation, when that which is personally done by one, is accounted and reckoned to another, and laid upon his score—as if he had done it. [Romans 3:21, and Isaiah 53. Imputed righteousness seems to be prefigured by the skins wherewith the Lord, after the fall, clothed our first parents. The bodies of the animals were for sacrifice, and the skins, to put them in mind that their own righteousness was like the fig leaves, imperfect, and that therefore they must be justified another way.]
Thus it is in this very case: we sinned and fell short of the glory of God, and became liable to the vindictive justice of God; and the Lord Jesus Christ, by his obedience and death, has given full satisfaction to divine justice on our behalf. Now when God does pardon and accept us hereupon, he does put it upon our account, he does reckon or impute it unto us as fully, in respect of the benefit thereof—as if we ourselves had performed it in our own persons. And this is the way wherein the Holy Spirit frequently expresses it: Romans 4:6, "Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputes righteousness without works;" and verse 11, "That righteousness might be imputed to them also." And therefore it highly concerns us to mind this scripture rule, that in order to the satisfaction of the justice of God, the sins of God's people were imputed and reckoned unto Christ. And in order to our partaking of the benefit of that satisfaction, or deliverance thereby, Christ's righteousness must be imputed and reckoned unto us.
The first branch of this rule you have, Isaiah 53:5-6, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities," etc., and "the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." And for the other branch of the rule, see Romans 5:19, "As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous;" verse 17, "As by one man's offence 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." From the comparison between the first and second Adam, it is evident that as Adam's transgression of the law of God is imputed to all his posterity, and that in respect thereof they are reputed sinners, and accursed and liable to eternal death; so also Christ's obedience, whereby he fulfilled the law, is so imputed to the members of his mystical body, that in regard of God, they stand as innocent, justified and accepted to eternal life.
Look, as Adam was the common root of all mankind, and so his sin is imputed to all his posterity; just so, Jesus Christ is the common root of all the faithful, and his obedience is imputed to them all. For it would be ridiculous to say that Adam's sin had more power to condemn, than Christ's righteousness has to save. And who but fools in folio will say that God does not impute Christ's righteousness, as well as Adam's sin? The apostle's parallel between the two Adams does clearly evidence that as the guilt of Adam's disobedience is really imputed to us, insomuch that in his sinning we all sin; just so, the obedience of Christ is as really imputed unto us, insomuch that in his obeying, imputatively and legally we obey also.
How did Adam's sin become ours? Why, by way of imputation. He transgressed the covenant, and did eat the forbidden fruit, and it was justly reckoned unto us. It was personally the sinful act of our first parent—but it is imputed to all of us who come out of his loins; for we were in him not only naturally, as he was the root of mankind—but also legally, as he was the great representative of mankind. In the covenant of works, and the transactions thereof, Adam stood in the stead, and acted in the behalf, not only of himself—but of all his posterity, and therefore his sin is reckoned unto them. Even so, after the same manner, the obedience and righteousness of Christ is made over to many for justification. I cannot understand the analogy between the two Adams, wherein the apostle is so clear and full, unless this imputation, as here stated, is granted.
Look, as Christ was made sin for us only by imputation, so we are made righteous only by the imputation of his righteousness to us, as the Scripture everywhere evidences, 1 Pet. 2:22; 2 Cor. 5:21, "He has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." How was Christ made sin for us? Not sin inherent, for he had no sin in him; he was "holy, harmless, and undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens," Heb. 7:26—but by imputation. Christ's righteousness is imputed to us, in that way wherein our sin was imputed to him. Now our sin was imputed to Christ, not only in the bitter effects of it—but he took the guilt of them upon himself, as I have in this treatise already evidenced; so, then, his righteousness or active obedience itself must be proportionably imputed to us, and not only in the effects thereof. The mediatorial righteousness of Christ can only become the believer's, only as the first Adam's disobedience became his posterity's, who never had the least actual share in his transgression; that is, by an act of imputation from God as a judge. The Lord Jesus having fulfilled the law as a second Adam, God the Father imputes it to the believing soul, as if he had done it in his own person. I do not say that God the Father does account the sinner to have done it—but I say that God the Father does impute it to the believing sinner—as if he had done it, unto all saving intents and purposes. Hence Christ is called "the Lord our Righteousness," Jer. 23:6.
An awakened soul, who is truly sensible of his own baseness and unrighteousness, would not have this golden sentence, "The Lord our Righteousness," blotted by a hand of heaven out of the Bible, for as many worlds as there are men in the world. Just so, is that text to a believer, living and dying, a strong cordial, namely, 1 Cor. 1:30, "Christ Jesus is made unto us of God wisdom, righteousness," etc. [In 1 Cor. 1:30, the apostle (1.) distinguishes righteousness from sanctification, imputed righteousness from inherent righteousness; (2.) he says that Christ's righteousness is made ours of God. See Romans 4:6; Psalm 71:16.]
And pray how is Christ made righteousness to the believer? Not by infusion—but imputation; not by putting righteousness into him—but by putting a righteousness upon him, even his own righteousness, by the imputing his merits, his satisfaction, his obedience unto them, through which they are accepted as righteous unto eternal life, Romans 5:19. Christ's righteousness is his in respect of his inherent nature—but it is ours in respect of imputation; his righteousness is his personally—but ours meritoriously; we are justified by another's righteousness, and that alone—by imputed righteousness; for another's righteousness can no other way be made ours—but only by imputation. Romans 5:18, "By the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men to justification." Were it any other than imputed righteousness, it would be as manifold a righteousness as there are people justified—but it is said to be "the righteousness of one, which comes upon all men for justification of life."
That is a choice word that you have in Rev. 19:8, "And to her," that is, Christ's spouse, "was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints." The Greek word here is "righteousnesses" or "justifications." This, say some, signifies a double righteousness given to us—
(1.) The righteousness of justification, whereby we are justified before God.
(2.) The righteousness of sanctification, by which we evidence our justification to men.
But others say it is a Hebraism rather, by the plural righteousnesses noting the most absolute, complete, and perfect righteousness which we have in Christ. [So the Hebrew word is used, Isaiah 45:24.] Now though I would not exclude inherent righteousness—yet I judge that imputed righteousness is the righteousness here meant; and that,
(1.) Because this clothing is that which is the righteousness of all saints, by which they stand before God. Now there is no standing before God in our inherent righteousness; for though, next to Christ, our graces are our best jewels—yet they are but weak and imperfect, they have their specks and spots, they are like the moon, which, when it shines brightest—yet has her black spots. [Psalm 76:7, and 143:2; Job 9:15, 22:2-4, and 35:7. The saints are said (Rev. 7:15) to be clothed in white robes, not because they had merited, or adorned themselves with good works—but because they had washed and made white their robes in the blood of the Lamb.]
(2.) Christ's righteousness is the only pure, clean, white, spotless righteousness. There is no speck or spot to be found upon Christ's righteousness—but "we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," as that evangelical prophet speaks, Isaiah 64:6, 3. The word here is plural, "righteousnesses." Christ has many righteousnesses—
First, He has his essential and personal righteousness as God. Now this essential personal righteousness of Christ cannot be imputed to us. Osiander was of opinion that men were justified by the essential righteousness of Christ as God, which was a most dangerous opinion, and learnedly and largely confuted by Calvin in his Institutions, and by others since.
Secondly, There is the mediatory righteousness of Christ. Now this is that righteousness which he wrought for us as mediator, whereby he did subject himself to the precepts, to the penalties, commands and curses, answering both God's vindictive and rewarding justice. There is Christ's active righteousness, and there is Christ's passive righteousness, etc. Of these I have spoken already in this treatise, and therefore a hint here is enough.
Thirdly, There are some expressions in the text which is under consideration that do best agree with the righteousness of Christ; as first that, "that she is arrayed in fine linen, clean and white." This clearly points at imputed righteousness, which Christ puts upon his bride as a royal robe. That which makes Christ's bride beautiful, yes, whiter than the snow, and more glorious than the sun in his eyes, is not any beauty of her own, nor any inherent righteousness in herself—but the white robe of Christ's own righteousness, which he puts upon her. Second, that expression in the text, "to her it was granted, that she should be arrayed in fine linen," etc. "It was granted to her," to show that this fine linen was none of her own spinning, it was a free gift of Christ unto her. Saints have no other righteousness, to make them lovely and acceptable in the eyes of God—but the robe of Christ's righteousness, which is that fine white linen, which Christ gives them, and which he puts upon them. Lastly, observe the confirmation and ratification that is given to these words in the 9th verse, "Write, these are the true sayings of God." These are not my sayings, nor the sayings of angels—but they are the sayings of that God who is truth itself, who cannot die, nor lie, nor deny himself, nor deceive the sons of God. And therefore you may safely rest upon these sayings of God, both in the 8th and 9th verses, as most sure and certain.
Surely the righteousness which the believer has is imputed; it is an accounted or reckoned righteousness to him; it is not that which he has inherently in himself—but God through Christ does esteem of him as if he had it, and so deals with him as wholly righteous—
(1.) It stands with reason that that satisfaction should be imputed to me, which my surety has made for my debt. Now Christ was our surety, as the apostle calls him, Heb. 7:22.
(2.) Adam's sin was justly imputed by God to all his posterity, though it was not their own inherently and actually, as the apostle tells us, Romans 5:14. All the sins of all the elect were imputed unto Christ, though they were not his own inherently and actually. "He made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin," says the apostle, 2 Cor. 5:21; and "upon him was laid the iniquity of us all," Isaiah 53:6. [This must be Luther's meaning when he says, Christ was the greatest sinner; he was Manasseh that idolater, David that adulterer, Peter that denier of his Master, etc., namely, by imputation only, he being made sin for them, as the apostle speaks.]
All the sins of all the believers in the world, from the first creation to the last judgment, were laid on him. How were they laid on him—but by imputation? Surely there was in Christ no fundamental guilt! No, no—but he was made sin by imputation and law-account; he was our surety, and so our sins were laid on him in order to punishment. And to prefigure this, all the iniquities of God's people were imputed to their sacrifice, though they were not inherently his own, as we read, Lev. 16:21, 22, "Aaron shall put all the iniquities of all the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, and all their sins, upon the head of the goat; and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities." And why then should it seem strange that the perfect righteousness of our sacrifice and surety, though it be not our own inherently, should be imputed to us by the Lord, and made ours? [To impute in the general, is to acknowledge that to be another's, which is not indeed his. It is used either in a good or bad sense, so that it is no more than to account or reckon. It is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and accepted for us, by which we are judged righteous.]
Frequently and seriously consider that the word answering this imputing is in the Hebrew and in the Greek, of which the sum, as the learned say, comes to this—that though the words in the general signify to think, to reason, to imagine, etc.—yet very frequently they are used to signify to account or reckon, by way of computation, as arithmeticians use to do, so that it is, as it were, a judgment passed upon a thing when all reasons and arguments are cast together. And from this it is applied to signify any kind of accounting or reckoning; and in this sense imputation is taken here for God's esteeming and accounting of us righteous; the Hebrew signifies to reckon or account.
It is taken by a borrowed speech from merchants' reckonings and accounts, who have their debt-books, wherein they set down how their reckonings stand in the particulars they deal in. Now, in such debt-books merchants use to set down whatever payments are made, either by the debtors themselves, or by others in the behalf of them. An example whereof we have in the Epistle of Philemon, verse 18, where Paul undertakes to Philemon for Onesimus, "If he has wronged you, or owes you anything, put that on my account;" that is, account Onesimus his debt to Paul, and Paul's satisfaction or payment to Onesimus, which answers the double imputation in point of justification; that is, of our sins to Christ, and of Christ's satisfaction to us, Psalm 32:1-2; both which are implied, 2 Cor. 5:21, "He made him to be sin for us;" that is, our sins were imputed to him, "that we might be the righteousness of God in him;" that is, that his righteousness might be imputed to us. The language of Jesus Christ to his Father seems to be this, 'O holy Father, I have freely and willingly taken all the debts and all the sins of all the believers in the world upon me; I have undertaken to be their paymaster, to satisfy your justice, to pacify your wrath, to fulfill your law, etc. And therefore, lo, here I am, ready to do whatever you command, and ready to suffer whatever you please. I am willing to be reckoned a sinner, that they may be reckoned righteous. I am willing to be accounted cursed, that they may be forever blessed. I am willing to pay all their debts, that they may be set at liberty. I am willing to lay down my life, that they may escape the second death. I am willing that my soul should be exercised with the most hideous agonies, that their souls may be possessed of heaven's happinesses!" Psalm 40:6-8; Heb. 10:4-9; John 10:11, 15, 17-18; Rev. 20:6. Oh, what wonderful wisdom, grace, and love is here manifested! that when we were neither able to satisfy the penalty of the law, or to bring a conformity to it—that then Christ should interpose, and become both redemption and righteousness for us!
Now, from the imputed righteousness of Christ, a believer may form up this fifth plea, as to all these ten scriptures—that refer to the great day of account: [Eccles. 11:9, and 12:14; Mat. 12:14, and 18:23; Luke 16:3; Romans 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27, and 13:17; 1 Pet. 4:5.] "O blessed God, you have given me to understand that the mediatorial righteousness of Christ includes, first, the habitual holiness of his person, in the absence of all sin, and in the rich and plentiful presence of all holy and requisite qualities; secondly, the actual holiness of his life and death by obedience. By his active obedience--he perfectly fulfilled the commands of the law; and by his passive obedience, his voluntary sufferings—he satisfied the penalty and demands of the law for transgressions. That perfect satisfaction to divine justice, in whatever it requires, either in the way of punishing for sin, or obedience to the law, made by the Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, the mediator of the new covenant, as a common head, representing all those whom the Father has given to him, and made over unto those who believe in him. This is that righteousness which is imputed to all believers in their justification, and this imputed righteousness of your dear Son and my dear Savior, is now my plea before your bar of justice."
Imputed righteousness is the same materially with that which the law requires. It is obedience to the law of God, exactly and punctually performed, to the very utmost iota and tittle thereof. Without the least abatement, Christ has paid the uttermost farthing. He is the fulfilling of the law for righteousness, and he has fulfilled the law in the human nature, to the intent that it might be fulfilled in the same nature to which it was at first given; and all this he has expressly done in all their names, and on all their behalfs—who believe in him, "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in them," Romans 8:3-4. [The righteousness which the law requires, upon pain of damnation, is a perfect obedience and conformity to the whole law of God, performed by every son and daughter of Adam in his own person. Now imputed righteousness is the same materially with that which the law requires.]
It is as if our dear Lord Jesus had said, "O blessed Father, this I suffer, and this I do—in the stead and room of all those who have ventured their souls upon me, that they may have a righteousness which they may truly call their own, and on which they may safely rest, and in which they may forever glory." Isaiah 45:24-25. Now it will never stand with the unspotted holiness, justice, and righteousness of God, to reject this righteousness of his Son, or that plea which is founded upon it. Oh, the matchless happiness of believers, who have so fair, so full, and so noble a plea to make in the great day of our Lord Jesus!