But I am not sure that the longevity of a move of God is a valid means of discerning its legitimacy. We need look no farther than the book of Galatians to see how quickly folk can leave off of a genuine move of God to 'something else'. We see it at Corinth and in the Book of Hebrews.
I was thinking more along the lines of a few years, but after considering your words and scriptures references, I do indeed see your point. I guess the old C & A debate comes to play on this point as well. Calvinists would claim that if they fell away they were never saved to begin with, where as Arminians would see it as back sliding. I guess this is why so many argue the results.
Sad to hear about the old stomping grounds of such profound men and events.
Thanks for your reply brother
| 2008/8/27 20:15||Profile|
Santa Cruz California
I believe this question can be answered quickly if we stick to Scripture.
Does Scripture teach clearly that a man is justified(declared righteous)by faith in Christ alone?
If the answer to this is yes, then Finney and others who make the Christian's acceptance with God based upon moral behavior(sanctification) are wrong.
Indeed if the Gospel or good news is that Christ indeed died for the ungodly and made them righteous by faith, then Finney and others like him are preaching another gospel.
Of course if Scripture does not teach this, then Finney and his views are correct.
So now it is our duty to look at Scripture to see what the Book teaches.
What gets confusing in this discussion is that both sides use the same terms to mean entirely different things.
For example if I as a Calvinist(only using this to define what I believe) refer to grace, I mean God's unmerited and amazing act of regenerating me while I was dead in sin and unable to do anything to even come to Him.
However the others usually use the term grace to mean a spark, or force that must be co-operated with to make it work. Or if you like, a little boost to clear the broken rungs on the ladder to Heaven. After that however, the Christian must climb in his own ability and power.
This is only one of the many terms that mean different things in this conversation. It is the same in a discussion with Roman Catholics who view grace much as the Arminian or Finney type of ideologies.
Now if we were honest, and compared what Finney himself said to let's say the Council of Trent, we would be very surprised to see and echo of Finney's thought there.
For in one of the Canons, it clearly say that if a man says that a man is justified by faith alone, let him be anathema. I could be wrong, but Finney seems to echo the same sentiments in his view of the Doctrine of imputed righteousness.
Again, we must look at Scripture to determine who our men we look up to are.
| 2008/8/27 20:29||Profile|
Calvinists would claim that if they fell away they were never saved to begin with, where as Arminians would see it as back sliding.
In modern times I think that many would say folk are eternally secure if they ever exercised one single act of saving faith. I personally know people that are unwavering in their view of eternal security. Falling away for them would have to mean a total renouncement of Christ. Personally I teach that folk must be genuinely born of the Spirit. I do [u]not[/u] believe that if a person demonstrates a single act of faith it is evidence they were regenerated. This is the danger of our times. Many folk do not understand what it means to be truly born from above. They live in their proof texts and are satisfied. But with my soul on the line I think it wise to keep studying the matter. ;-)
Robert Wurtz II
| 2008/8/27 20:44||Profile|
Does Scripture teach clearly that a man is justified(declared righteous)by faith in Christ alone?
We are saved by grace [i]through[/i] faith. God is determined to bring many sons unto glory. To make a people like unto Himself. That would mean that man is perfected in love as God is perfect in love. This is universal distribution of benevolence in this present age. God demonstrates His love to the just and the unjust. In this passage we see the love aspect of God's design in bringing many sons unto glory:
[color=000066]But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5).
Do we love like this? God will not stop until we do. He will persist in His dealings. Why? Love is patient. Do we love like God loves? Not just friends (phileo) and family (storgos), but while they are yet enemies (agape). Do we love (agape) without hypocrisy? Do we love in kind affection (philostorgos) in brotherly love (philadelphia)? (Romans 12:9, 10) Do we love like Steven loved as he was being stoned? Has [u]that[/u] love that reigned in Steven's heart, that asked God to forgive the men, that refused to be angry, but loved while he 'gave his body to be burned' been poured out in my heart? That's the question.
And God is determined to stop at nothing less. There is no shadow of turning in Him. There is no plan B. And God has determined that He will pour out His love by [i]grace[/i]; the [u]great[/u] love where with He loved us (Eph. 2) will provide it. The means of my receiving it is [i]faith[/i]. Faith like we find in Hebrews 11 among the true pilgrims; those that were "other worldly". The tent dwellers that testified that this ole' earth is not their home. They stayed packed up and never settled down here. They were just passing through on their road to eternity.
Robert Wurtz II
| 2008/8/27 21:05||Profile|
Faith, believing, and works.
v2For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God...
...v5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
This is one of the big issues as I understand it, the calvinists believe that faith or believing itself is 'works'.
Finney as I see it, thought otherwise, and he labored mightily in obedience to the Gospel of Lord Jesus Christ.
And many who are sincere in in their faith, look at Finney with admiration, in his passion, in his resolve, in his anointing. He finished his run well and fought a good fight.
| 2008/8/27 21:42||Profile|
Santa Cruz California
So, the question still remains, was Finney's view of justification in error or no?
Is a man declared right with God [i]because of[/i] Christ's righteousness or does the man himself have to [i]make himself righteous[/i] to be accepted by God?
Let's leave the Calvinism/Arminianism thing on the side for now, and simply look at Scripture.
If man is only right with God by his own righteousness, then what is the purpose of Christ's death? Why would there need to be a New Covenant if man could by his own will keep the Old one?
Did Christ only die as an example for us, or was there a definite purpose for His death?
| 2008/8/27 22:45||Profile|
So, the question still remains, was Finney's view of justification in error or no?
Let me first answer by saying that Finney was a revivalist that focused on whether or not people were truly converted. His aim was to preach in such a way as to bring a person face to face with whether or not they had 'justifying faith' or something else. He pointed to a person's assurance and proceeded to 'destructive test' it.
Finney believed in [u]imparted[/u] righteousness. He believed justification (past and present pardon) was conditioned upon obedience. He did not believe that Christ's righteousness could be imputed to us in such a way as to allow us to be positionally a Saint while [i]practically[/i] (a sin practitioner) and 'actually' a sinner. That is, a person is not justified that lives with 'known sin' in their life.
Finney would write a thousand volumes it seems to explain why it is impossible for God to allow a person to continue in sin and think they are converted. Personally, I think he takes things too far. That is my opinion. But Finney was obviously compelled to strike at false assurance so as to make sure individuals had a genuine faith and conversion.
But I also think it is fair to say that few 'feel' justified when there is known sin in their life. I know justification has nothing to do with feelings, but when the heart condemns all the legal truth in the world cannot ease the uneasiness inside. The stirrings and troublings of that one voice within shouts as loud as a thousand accusers. Only acknowledgement of the sin, application of the blood and repentance can settle the conscience, I think.
Again, I think Finney took things too far. I do not agree with his conclusions on justification and atonement to name a few. But I equally disagree with unconditional eternal security. In my mind they are equal and opposite errors.
Robert Wurtz II
| 2008/8/28 0:10||Profile|
Is a man declared right with God because of Christ's righteousness or does the man himself have to make himself righteous to be accepted by God?
The person must respond rightly to God when He reveals His will. I think this is absolute trust and dependence. It results in justification and paves the way for the person to be Born Again of the Spirit. In any event, God's purpose is an exceedingly awesome one. Justification is like receiving a work permit to begin demolition and construction. Some people think they can get a permit and ignore the project. This, I believe, is what Finney rejected categorically.
Robert Wurtz II
| 2008/8/28 0:19||Profile|
For those not familiar with Finneys reasoning I have pulled out some excerpts from 'justification'. This gives you a flavor of his views.
[b]Finneys Definition of Justification vs. Unconditional Eternal Justification[/b]
(Excerpts Taken From Finneys Justification)
1. It is the nature of a pardon, to set aside the execution of the penalty due to past violations of the law, and to restore the person to governmental favor, during good behavior.
2. Whatever penalty is due to any act of sin, is due therefore, from the nature of the case, so that every act of sin subjects the sinner to the penalty.
3. Pardon cannot then be prospective--sin cannot be forgiven in advance, and to maintain that it is, is to make Christ the minister of sin.
4. The Bible uniformly makes perseverance in holiness, that is, in obedience, just as much a condition of final acceptance with God, as repentance, or one act of faith. For my part, I must say, I don[']t know where the Bible makes salvation depend on one act of faith. Those who hold this dogma, ought to tell us where it is taught.
5. The Bible, on the contrary, expressly declares that 'when a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquities, and dieth in them, for his iniquity that he hath done, shall he die.' What can be more distinct or explicit than this declaration? I know not how it has been overlooked, or can be evaded.
6. Moreover, as I have before said, if the penalty (for sin) is abolished as it respects believers, the law must be. To them, its precept ceases to be anything else than simple advice, which they may do as they please about adopting.
7. The truth is, every Christian's conscience condemns the doctrine, and it obviously is evil, and only evil, and that continually, in its whole tendency.
[b]Finneys View of Present Justification[/b]
1. To be in Christ, is to have a personal, living faith in Him--it is to abide in Him by a living faith.
2. John 15:4-7. 'Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me, ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch that is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.' 1 John 3:5-6. 'And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins: and in Him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in Him, sinneth not: whosoever sinneth, hath not seen Him, neither known Him.' 2 Cor. 5:17. 'Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.'
3. I might quote many other passages, all setting forth that there is no condemnation to those whose faith secures in them, an actual conformity to the divine will. To all others, there is.
4. To be in Christ, is to be so under his influence, as not to walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit; that is, to receive constant divine influence from Him, as the branches derive nourishment from the vine. This intimate connection with Christ, and spiritual subjection to his control, are fully taught in many passages in the Bible. Gal. 2:20. 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.' And 5:16-25. 'This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary, the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which, I tell you before as I have also told you in times past, that they which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit, is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.'
5. When it is said there is no condemnation, it is not intended that they never were condemned, but that their past sin is all pardoned. They are wholly delivered from exposure to the penalty, due to their sins. In addition to this, it is intended, that in their present state of mind, they obey the law, so that the law does not condemn their present state. It does not mean that they will not be again condemned if they sin, but that while they are in Christ Jesus, they are free from all present condemnation.
6. But to him that is in Christ Jesus, there is now no condemnation, because he is in Christ Jesus in the sense above explained. Not that Christ shields him from the penalty while he continues to violate the precept, but that He saves him from sin, and thus, from desert of the penalty. Says the text, 'to those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.'
7. This assertion must either mean that when we are in Christ we do not sin, or that in Him we can sin without condemnation. Now, what does it mean? It cannot mean the last, for that would make Christ the minister of sin. No individual can sin without breaking the law, for sin is the transgression of the law. The first, then, must be the meaning, and this agrees with what the Scriptures teach-- 'Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.'
[b]A Justified state[/b]
1. None except those who walk after the Spirit are in a justified state. (Romans 8:1)
2. I do not mean that they are in no sense Christians. In the common acceptation of the term, it is not limited to those who are in a state of actual conformity to the will of God, but applies to all who give credible evidence of having been converted. Moreover, it is true of Christians, that they sustain a peculiar relation to God, and the term does not indicate that they never sin or fall into condemnation, but that they sustain a certain relation to God which others do not.
3. I mean that when one has truly repented, he is justified, and remains so just as long as he remains obedient, and no longer; and that when he falls into sin, he is as much condemned as any other sinner, because he is a sinner.
4. I also mean that justification follows and does not precede sanctification as some have vainly imagined. I here use the term sanctification, not in the high sense of permanent sanctification, but of entire consecration to God. It is not true that persons are justified, before they forsake sin. They certainly could not be thus legally justified, and the gospel proffers no pardon until after repentance, or hearty submission of the will to God. I add, that Christians are justified no longer than they are sanctified, or obedient, and that complete permanent justification depends upon complete and permanent sanctification.
5. Men are justified by faith in Christ, because they are sanctified by faith in Him. They do not have righteousness imputed to them, and thus stand justified by an arbitrary fiction, while they are personally unholy, but they are made righteous by faith, and that is the reason why they are justified.
6. To talk about depending on Christ to be justified by Him, while indulging in any form of known sin, is to insult Him. It is to charge him with being the minister of sin.
7. Why that such persons did not pretend to be holy, and professed to depend wholly on Christ. They acknowledged themselves sinners. And well they might! But what kind of religion is that? And how did he get such a notion? How else but by supposing that persons are not expected to be holy in this life, and that they can be justified while living in sin! Now I would as soon expect a pirate, whose hands are red with blood to be saved, as professors of religion who indulge in any form of sin, lust, pride, worldliness, or any other iniquity. 'Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid: Yea, we establish the law.' But what a state of things must it be, when a minister can utter such a sentiment as that?
8. A circuit Judge, some years since said, "I cannot admit the Bible to be true. It teaches that men are saved by faith, and I therefore regard the gospel as injurious to good morals, and as involving a principle that would ruin any government on earth." Now, did he get this idea from the Bible? No, but from the false representations made of the teachings of the Bible. It teaches no such thing, but plainly asserts that a faith that does not sanctify is a dead faith.
9. There are many hoping that they are Christians, who yet live so that their conscience condemns them. 'For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.' Now to teach that persons may be justified while their conscience condemns them, contradicts this passage. If our own conscience condemns us, God does. Shall He be less just than our own nature?
10. One who walks after the Spirit, has this inward testimony that he pleases God. An individual may think he does, when he does not, just as persons in a dream may think themselves awake, find it all a dream. So individuals may think they please God when they do not, but it is nevertheless true that those who please God know it. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.
11. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God.' While they abide in Christ, they are not condemned, but if they overlook what abiding in Christ is, they are sure to fall into sin, and then, they are condemned as a matter of course. The secret of holy living, and freedom from contamination, is to abide in Christ. Says Paul, 'I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.' We must have such confidence in Him as to let Him have the entire control in all things.
12. Sinners can see how to be saved. They must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart. They must become holy and walk after the Spirit.
13. There is neither peace nor safety except in Christ, but in Him is all fulness, and all we need. In Him you may come to God, as children, with the utmost confidence.
14. The instant you experience a freedom from condemnation, your whole soul yearns with benevolence for others. You know what their state is. Ah, yes, you know what it is to drink the wormwood and the gall--to have the arrows of the Almighty drink up your spirit, and when you find deliverance you must of course, want to teach others what is the great salvation--to strengthen those that are weak.
15. And an individual who can sit down at ease, and not find his benevolence like fire shut up in his bones--who does not even feel agonized, not for himself, but for others, cannot have yet found that there is now no condemnation. He may dream that he has, but if he ever awakes, he will find it but a dream. Oh, how many need to be aroused from this sleep of death!
Robert Wurtz II
| 2008/8/28 0:24||Profile|
Las Vegas, NV
| Re: Finneys Definition of Justification|
Thank you RobertW, indeed, good stuff!
Another article to read on this subject by Finney is the following:
[url=http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/articles/index.php?view=article&aid=569]Justification By Faith[/url] (A good title for the question at hand, yes?)
By Charles G. Finney
TEXT--"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."--Gal 2:16
THIS last sentiment is expressed in the same terms, in the 3d chapter of Romans. The subject of the present lecture, as I announced last week, is Justification by Faith. The order which I propose to pursue in the discussion is this:
I. Show what justification by law, or legal justification, is.
II. Show that by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified.
III. Show what gospel justification is.
IV. Show what is the effect of gospel justification, or the state into which it brings a person that is justified.
V. Show that gospel justification is by faith.
VI. Answer some inquiries which arise in many minds on this subject.
[I tried to take some excerpts ... but that really isn't easy with Finney. So here is a chunk. :-P]
III. I am to show what Gospel Justification is.
1. Gospel Justification is not the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Under the gospel, sinners are not justified by having the obedience of Jesus Christ set down to their account, as if He had obeyed the law for them, or in their stead. It is not an uncommon mistake to suppose that when sinners are justified under the gospel they are accounted righteous in the eye of the law, by having the obedience or righteousness of Christ imputed to them. I have not time to go into an examination of this subject now. I can only say that this idea is absurd and impossible, for this reason, that Jesus Christ was bound to obey the law for himself, and could no more perform works of supererogation, or obey on our account, than any body else. Was it not his duty to love the Lord his God, with all his heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself? Certainly; and if he had not done so, it would have been sin. The only work of supererogation he could perform was to submit to sufferings that were not deserved. This is called his obedience unto death, and this is set down to our account. But if his obedience of the law is set down to our account, why are we called on to repent and obey the law ourselves? Does God exact double service, yes, triple service, first to have the law obeyed by the surety for us, then that he must suffer the penalty for us, and then that we must repent and obey ourselves? No such thing is demanded. It is not required that the obedience of another should be imputed to us. All we owe is perpetual obedience to the law of benevolence. And for this there can be no substitute. If we fail of this we must endure the penalty, or receive a free pardon.
2. Justification by faith does not mean that faith is accepted as a substitute for personal holiness, or that by an arbitrary constitution, faith is imputed to us instead of personal obedience to the law.
Some suppose that justification is this, that the necessity of personal holiness is set aside, and that God arbitrarily dispenses with the requirement of the law, and imputes faith as a substitute. But this is not the way. Faith is accounted for just what it is, and not for something else that it is not. Abraham's faith was imputed unto him for righteousness, because it was itself an act of righteousness, and because it worked by love, and thus produced holiness. Justifying faith is holiness, so far as it goes, and produces holiness of heart and life, and is imputed to the believer as holiness, not instead of holiness.
3. Nor does justification by faith imply that a sinner is justified by faith without good works, or personal
Some suppose that justification by faith only, is without any regard to good works, or holiness. They have understood this from what Paul has said, where he insists so largely on justification by faith. But it should be borne in mind that Paul was combating the error of the Jews, who expected to be justified by obeying the law. In opposition to this error, Paul insists on it that justification is by faith, without works of law. He does not mean that good works are unnecessary to justification, but that works of law are not good works, because they spring from legal considerations, from hope and fear, and not from faith that works by love. But inasmuch as a false theory had crept into the church on the other side, James took up the matter, and showed them that they had misunderstood Paul. And to show this, he takes the case of Abraham. "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?--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. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." This epistle was supposed to contradict Paul, and some of the ancient churches rejected it on that account. But they overlooked the fact that Paul was speaking of one kind of works, and James of another. Paul was speaking of works performed from legal motives. But he has everywhere insisted on good works springing from faith, or the righteousness of faith, as indispensable to salvation. All that he denies is, that works of law, or works grounded on legal motives, have anything to do in the matter of justification. And James teaches the same thing, when he teaches that men are justified, not by works nor by faith alone, but by faith together with the works of faith; or as Paul expresses it, faith that works by love. You will bear in mind that I am speaking of gospel justification, which is very different from legal justification.
4. Gospel justification, or justification by faith, consists in pardon and acceptance with God.
When we say that men are justified by faith and holiness, we do not mean that they are accepted on the ground of law, but that they are treated as if they were righteous, on account of their faith and works of faith. This is the method which God takes, in justifying a sinner. Not that faith is the foundation of justification. The foundation is in Christ. But this is the manner in which sinners are pardoned, and accepted, and justified, that if they repent, believe, and become holy, their past sins shall be forgiven, for the sake of Christ.
Here it will be seen how justification under the gospel differs from justification under the law. Legal justification is a declaration of actual innocence and freedom from blame. Gospel justification is pardon and acceptance, as if he was righteous, but on other grounds than his own obedience. When the apostle says, "By deeds of law shall no flesh be justified," he uses justification as a lawyer, in a strictly legal sense. But when he speaks of justification by faith, he speaks not of legal justification, but of a person's being treated as if he were righteous.
4. Another thing effected by justification is to secure all needed grace to rescue themselves fully out of the snare of the devil, and all the innumerable entanglements in which they are involved by sin.
Beloved, if God were merely to pardon you, and then leave you to get out of sin as you could by yourselves, of what use would your pardon be to you? None in the world. If a child runs away from his father's house, and wanders in a forest, and falls into a deep pit, and the father finds him and undertakes to save him; if he merely pardons him for running away, it will be of no use, unless he lifts him up from the pit and leads him out of the forest. So in the scheme of redemption, whatever helps and aids you need, are all guaranteed, if you believe. If God undertakes to save you, he pledges all the light and grace and help that are necessary to break the chains of Satan and the entanglements of sin, and leads you back to your Father's house.
I know when individuals are first broken down under a sense of sin, and their hearts gush out with tenderness, they look over their past lives and feel condemned and see that it is all wrong, and then they break down at God's feet and give themselves away to Jesus Christ; they rejoice greatly in the idea that they have done with sin. But in a little time they begin to feel the pressure of old habits and former influences, and they see so much to be done before they overcome them all, that they often get discouraged, and cry, "O, what shall I do, with so many enemies to meet, and so little strength of resolution or firmness of purpose to overcome them?" Let me tell you, beloved, that if God has undertaken to save you, you have only to keep near to him, and he will carry you through. You need not fear your enemies. Though the heavens should thunder and the earth rock, and the elements melt, you need not tremble, nor fear for enemies without or enemies within. God is for you, and who can be against you? "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
5. Justification enlists all the divine attributes in your favor, as much as if you had never sinned.
See that holy angel, sent on an errand of love to some distant part of the universe. God's eye follows him, and if he sees him likely to be injured in any way, all the divine attributes are enlisted at once to protect and sustain him. Just as absolutely are they all pledged for you, if you are justified, to protect and support and save you. Notwithstanding you are not free from remaining sin, and are so totally unworthy of God's love, yet if you are truly justified, the only wise and eternal God is pledged for your salvation. And shall you tremble and be faint-hearted, with such support?
If a human government pardons a criminal, it is then pledged to protect him as a subject, as much as if he had never committed a crime. So it is when God justifies a sinner. The Apostle says, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." Henceforth, God is on his side, and pledged as his faithful and eternal friend.
Gospel justification differs from legal justification, in this respect: If the law justifies an individual, it holds no longer than he remains innocent. As soon as he transgresses once, his former justification is of no more avail. But when the gospel justifies a sinner, it is not so; but "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." A new relation is now constituted, entirely peculiar. The sinner is now brought out from under the covenant of works, and placed under the covenant of grace. He no longer retains God's favor by the tenure of absolute and sinless obedience. If he sins, now, he is not thrust back again under the law, but receives the benefit of the new covenant. If he is justified by faith; and so made a child of God, he receives the treatment of a child, and is corrected, and chastised, and humbled, and brought back again. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." The meaning of that is not, that God calls and saves the sinner without his repenting, but that God never changes his mind when once he undertakes the salvation of a soul.
I know this is thought by some to be very dangerous doctrine, to teach that believers are perpetually justified--because, say they, it will embolden men to sin. Indeed! To tell a man that has truly repented of sin, and heartily renounced sin, and sincerely desires to be free from sin, that God will help him and certainly give him the victory over sin, will embolden him to commit sin! Strange logic that! If this doctrine emboldens any man to commit sin, it only shows that he never did repent; that he never hated sin, and never loved God for his own sake, but only feigned repentance, and if he loved God it was only a selfish love, because he thought God was going to do him a favor. If he truly hated sin, the consideration that notwithstanding all his unworthiness God had received him as a child, and would give him a child's treatment, is the very thing to break him down and melt his heart in the most godly sorrow. O, how often has the child of God, melted in adoring wonder at the goodness of God, in using means to bring him back, instead of sending him to hell, as he deserved! What consideration is calculated to bring him lower in the dust, than the thought that notwithstanding all God had done for him, and the gracious help God was always ready to afford him, he should wander away again, when his name was written in the Lamb's book of life!
6. It secures the discipline of the covenant. God has pledged himself that if any who belong to Christ go astray, he will use the discipline of the covenant, and bring them back. In the 89th psalm, God says, putting David for Christ, "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips."
Thus you see that professors of religion may always expect to be more readily visited with God's judgments, if they get out of the way, than the impenitent. The sinner may grow fat, and live in riches, and have no bands in his death, all according to God's established principles of government. But let a child of God forsake his God, and go after riches or any other worldly object, and as certain as he is a child, God will smite him with his rod. And when he is smitten and brought back, he will say with the Psalmist, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes. Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now have I kept thy word." Perhaps some of you have known what it is to be afflicted in this way, and to feel that it was good.
7. Another effect of gospel justification is, to insure sanctification. It not only insures all the means of sanctification, but the actual accomplishment of the work, so that the individual who is truly converted, will surely persevere in obedience till he is fitted for heaven and actually saved.
V. I am to show that this is justification by faith.
Faith is the medium by which the blessing is conveyed to the believer. The proof of this is in the Bible. The text declares it expressly. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh he justified." The subject is too often treated of in the New Testament to be necessary to go into a labored proof. It is manifest, from the necessity of the case, that if men are saved at all, they must be justified in this way, and not by works of law, for "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified."
VI. I will now answer several inquiries which may naturally arise in your minds, growing out of this subject.
1. "Why is justification said to be by faith, rather than by repentance, or love, or any other grace."
Answer. It is no where said that men are justified or saved for faith, as the ground of their pardon, but only that they are justified by faith, as the medium or instrument. If it is asked why faith is appointed as the instrument, rather than any other exercise of the mind, the answer is, because of the nature and effect of faith. No other exercise could be appointed. What is faith? It is that confidence in God which leads us to love and obey him. We are therefore justified by faith because we are sanctified by faith. Faith is the appointed instrument of our justification, because it is the natural instrument of sanctification. It is the instrument of bringing us back to obedience, and therefore is designated as the means of obtaining the blessings of that return. It is not imputed to us, by an arbitrary act, FOR what it is not, but for what it is, as the foundation of all real obedience to God.
This is the reason why faith is made the medium through which pardon comes. It is simply set down to us for what it really is; because it first leads us to obey God, from a principle of love to God. We are forgiven our sins on account of Christ. It is our duty to repent and obey God, and when we do so, this is imputed to us as what it is, holiness, or obedience to God. But for the forgiveness of our past sins, we must rely on Christ. And therefore justification is said to be by faith in Jesus Christ.
2. The second query is of great importance: "What is justifying faith? What must I believe, in order to be saved?"
Answer. (1) Negatively, justifying faith does not consist in believing that your sins are forgiven. If that was necessary, you would have to believe it before it was done, or to believe a lie. Remember, your sins are not forgiven until you believe. But if saving faith is believing that they are already forgiven, it is believing a thing before it takes place, which is absurd. You cannot believe your sins are forgiven, before you have evidence that they are forgiven; and you cannot have evidence that they are forgiven until it is true that they are forgiven, and they cannot be forgiven until you exercise saving faith. Therefore saving faith must be believing something else.
Nor (2) does saving faith consist in believing that you shall be saved at all. You have no right to believe that you shall be saved at all, until after you have exercised justifying or saving faith.
But (3) justifying faith consists in believing the atonement of Christ, or believing the record which God has given of his Son.
The correctness of this definition has been doubted by some; and I confess my own mind has undergone a change on this point. It is said that Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. But what did Abraham believe? He believed that he should have a son. Was this all? By no means. But his faith included the great blessing that depended on that event, that the Messiah, the Savior of the world, should spring from him. This was the great subject of the Abrahamic covenant, and it depended on his having a son. Of course, Abraham's faith included the "Desire of all nations," and was faith in Christ. The apostle Paul has showed this, at full length, in the 3d chapter of Galatians, that the sum of the covenant was, "In thee shall all nations be blessed." In verse 16, he says, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."
It is said that in the 11th of Hebrews, the saints are not all spoken of as having believed in Christ. But if you examine carefully, you will find that in all cases, faith in Christ is either included in what they believed, or fairly implied by it. Take the case of Abel. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." Why was his sacrifice more excellent? Because, by offering the firstlings of his flock, he recognized the necessity of the atonement, and that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission." Cain was a proud infidel, and offered the fruits of the ground, as a mere thank offering, for the blessings of Providence, without any admission that he was a sinner, and needed an atonement, as the ground on which he could hope for pardon. Some suppose that an individual might exercise justifying faith, while denying the divinity and atonement of Jesus Christ. I deny this. The whole sum and substance of revelation, like converging rays, all center on Jesus Christ, his divinity and atonement. All that the prophets and other writers of the Old Testament say about salvation comes to him. The Old Testament and the New, all the types and shadows point to him. All the Old Testament saints were saved by faith in him. Their faith terminated in the coming Messiah, as that of the New Testament saints did in the Messiah already come. In the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul shows what place he would assign to this doctrine: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." Mark that expression, "first of all." It proves that Paul preached that Christ died for sinners, as the "first" or primary doctrine of the gospel. And so you will find it, from one end of the Bible to the other, that the attention of men was directed to this new and living way, as the only way of salvation. This truth is the only truth that can sanctify men. They may believe a thousand other things, but this is the great source of sanctification, "God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." And this alone can therefore be justifying faith.
There may be many other acts of faith, that may be right and acceptable to God. But nothing is justifying faith, but believing the record that God has given of his Son. Simply believing what God has revealed on any point, is an act of faith; but justifying faith fastens on Christ, takes hold of his atonement, and embraces him as the only ground of pardon and salvation. There may be faith in prayer, the faith that is in exercise in offering up prevailing prayer to God. But that is not properly justifying faith.
3. "When are men justified?"
This is also an inquiry often made. I answer--Just as soon as they believe in Christ, with the faith which worketh by love. Sinner, you need not go home from this meeting under the wrath of Almighty God. You may be justified here, on the spot, now, if you will only believe in Christ. Your pardon is ready, made out and sealed with the broad seal of heaven; and the blank will be filled up, and the gracious pardon delivered, as soon as, by one act of faith, you receive Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel.
4. "How can I know whether I am in a state of justification or not?""
Answer. You can know it in no way, except by inference. God has not revealed it in the scriptures, that you, or any other individuals, are justified; but he has set down the characteristics of a justified person, and declared that all who have these characteristics are justified.
(1.) Have you the witness of the Spirit? All who are justified have this. They have intercourse with the Holy Ghost, he explains the Scriptures to them, and leads them to see their meaning, he leads them to the Son and to the Father, and reveals the Son in them, and reveals the Father. Have you this? If you have, you are justified. If not, you are yet in your sins.
(2.) Have you the fruits of the Spirit? They are love, joy, peace, and so on. These are matters of human consciousness; have you them? If so, you are justified.
(3.) Have you peace with God? The apostle says, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." Christ says to his disciples, "My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you." And again, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Do you find rest in Christ? Is your peace like a river, flowing gently through your soul, and filling you with calm and heavenly delight? Or do you still feel a sense of condemnation before God?
Do you feel a sense of acceptance with God, of pardoned sin, of communion with God? This must be a matter of experience, if it exists. Don't imagine you can be in a justified state, and yet have no evidence of it. You may have great peace in reality, filling your soul, and yet not draw the inference that you are justified. I remember the time, when my mind was in a state of such sweet peace, that it seemed to me as if all nature was listening for God to speak; but yet I was not aware that this was the peace of God, or that it was evidence of my being in a justified state. I thought I had lost all my conviction, and actually undertook to bring back the sense of condemnation that I had before. I did not draw the inference that I was justified, till after the love of God was so shed abroad in my soul by the Holy Ghost, that I was compelled to cry out, "Lord, it is enough, I can bear no more." I do not believe it possible for the sense of condemnation to remain, where the act of pardon is already past.
(4.) Have you the spirit of adoption? If you are justified, you are also adopted, as one of God's dear children, and he has sent forth his Spirit into your heart, so that you naturally cry, "Abba, Father!" He seems to you just like a father, and you want to call him father. Do you know any thing of this? It is one thing to call God your father in heaven, and another thing to feel towards him as a father. This is one evidence of a justified state, when God gives the spirit of adoption.
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