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ousness, cannot justify us consistently with the rectoral holiness of God.
I may add, it cannot be agreeable to the truth of God that we should be justified by any righteousness which will not fully answer the demands of the moral law, God has pronounced every one cursed, who continues not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them. If therefore we have not a full conformity to all things written in the book of the law, if we have not a perfect obedience to its precepts, nor a full satisfaction for the violation of them to plead in our favour, then either we must lie under the curse, or God must break his word, The latter you dare not suppose ; and the former is, in its nature, absolutely inconsistent with our juftification.
I know of but one answer, that can with any colour of reason be made to these arguments; and that is, that Christ's fulfilling the law for us is our legal righteousness; as freeing us from the rigorous demands, and from the curses of the moral law: But that our faith, including sincere obedience in its nature, is our evangelical righteousness, whereby we ourselves personally fulfil the gospel, and are hereby justified before God. According to this distinction, Christ's righteousness is the matter or ground of our justification, taken negatively, as it lieś in abfolving us from the curse of the law, and declaring our sins forgiven ; but our own righteous. ness is the matter or ground of our justification, considered positively, as it lies in pronouncing us righteous, and so entitled to the blessing.–Now the least that can be said against this notion, is, that it eclipses the honour of Christ, as the Lord our Righte. ousness, and leaves man whereof to glory. But the consideration of this will of course bring me to the last thing I proposed in answer to your objection.
If your own construction of those passages in the fourth chapter to the Romans were granted, and faith, as including evangelical obedience in it, is imputed to us for righteousness, yet this would make nothing against our justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ. For allowing that faith be our personal evangelical righteousness, and that as such it will justify us, or render us acceptable to God as far as it goes, we must yet have Christ's righteousness imputed to us, or else lie under the curse of the moral law, as I have already proved.
If faith, including sincere obedience in it, be imputed to us for righteousness, this our personal righteousness must be imputed to us; not for what it is not, but for what in truth it is ; that is, an imperfect righteousness. God cannot judge that to be perfect, which is really imperfect; for his judg. ment ever is according to truth: And a weak, im. perfect faith (as that of the best is) cannot consti. tute a perfect righteousness. Whence it follows, that we cannot on account of this our personal righteousness be effectually and thoroughly justi. fied; we cannot be perfectly acquitted from guilt and condemnation; we cannot be entitled to complete happiness and eternal life, by virtue of our own righteousness; and therefore it is of the last necessity that we have some other and better righteousnefs, even a perfect one, to plead; or else we must perilh eternally. At least, we cannot at present be justified on the foot of our own righteousness, so long as we are in this imperfect state, but must wait for justification of life, as a di. ftant future benefit, not to be received till we are made perfect in holiness. Whereas, by the whole current of Scripture it appears, that justification is a present benefit, taking place in the life which now is. Believers have not a mere promise, that they
Mall be justified; but such are, in the most express terms, represented in Scripture as already justified, as actually pardoned and made accepted in the Beloved, as passed from death to life, and reinstated in God's special favour ; so that there is now no condemnation to them, but they are now the heirs of Salvation.
Thus, Sir, I have given you some of the reasons I have against your Author's interpretation of those passages in the fourth chapter to the Romans. Many other arguments might be added further to illustrate the truth; and to refute all pretences of this kind. But I am afraid I have been already too tedious ; and I hope, what is already said may prove sufficient for your satisfaction.
You desire me to give a brief view of my fen« timents of those passages; and to thew « what sense I understand faith to be imputed to us “ for righteousness. You tell me, that you cannot « understand how faith’s being imputed to us for “ righteousness can intend that Christ's righteousness « is imputed to us."
The common interpretation of these passages by our Protestant divines, from the beginning of the Reformation, is, that faith is imputed for righteousness, not subjectively, or as it is an act of our own, and our own personal righteousnefs; but objectively, or as it hath respect to its object, and apprehends the righteousness of Christ ; that is, as faith is the band of union between Christ and the foul, and interests us in him, and his justifying righteousness, it is imputed to us for righteousness : Thus, it is the righteousness of faith, as faith is the term or mean of our interest in Christ's righteousness: And yet it is the righteousness of Christ, as he was the immediate fubject and author of it, or as it was wrought out by him.--Our faith is in a like manner said to be
the faith of Jesus Christ, (Rom. iii. 22.), as Christ's righteousness is here said to be the righteousness of faith. Our faith is not called the faith of Christ, as it is his personal act, (Christ does not believe for us), but as it receives the Lord Jesus Christ, and gives us an interest in him. Nor is our faith our righteousness,, as it is our personal act, (our faith has not fulfilled the law, nor answered the demands of vindictive justice), but itfis our righteousness, as it interests us in what Christ hath done and suffered for us, whereby the law is fulfilled, and justice satisfied. In the former case the object is put for the act; the faith of Chrift, for believing in Chrift.-And there can no reason be given, why with the same pro. priety, in the latter case, the act may not be put for the object ; the righteousness of faith, for righteousness by or through faith; and why faith may not be counted for the righteousness obtained by believing:-It is remarkable, that the Apostle expressly speaks of faith in this view, every where else besides this context; and therefore he ought to be here also understood in this sense, to make his doctrine confiftent.-In this sense, faith is our justifying righte. ousness, as a condemned malefactor's accepting his Prince's pardon is his deliverance from execution; or as a beggar's accepting an alms is his preservative from starving. As in these cases it is not the act of receiving, but the benefit received, that is the preservation ; so in that case it is not the act of receiving Christ, but the benefit received by faith, that is the believer's righteousness.
But "you cannot understand how faith's being
imputed to us for righteousness, can intend that “ Christ's righteousness is imputed to us."-Well then, let it be even supposed, that faith is here taken subjectively, and that it was Abraham's faith itself, considered as an act of his own, that was im
puted to him. It may notwithstanding be set in such a view, as will secure the truth of the doctrine I am pleading for, if the text be considered as it is in the original. His faith was imputed UNTO righteousness, (eis doxasbournu), That is, as he was reckoned, judged or esteemed of God to be a sound believer; so the faith which was imputed or reckoned to him was unto righteousness; was inftrumental to his attaining of righteousness; was the means, that, by the righteousness of One, the free gift came upon him, unto justification of life ; or, in other words, was the means of his interest in that righteousness of Christ, by which he was justified. In this fense, the imputation respects his faith, and intends an approbation and acknowledgment of it as true and sincere, and effectual to its proper purposes. He was approved of God, as having a true and sound faith, a faith effectual, as an applying means unto righteousness, and thereby unto justification ; a faith, which interested him in Christ and his righteousness, and thereby intitled him unto acceptance with God, and eternal life.--He was judged to be such a believer as to have a right, according to the terms of the covenant of grace, to have righteouf. ness imputed to him, without works, as it is expressed in ver. 6.-According to this view of the case, imputation is considered in this context in both senses before explained. Abraham was reckoned or esteemed a true believer; in consequence whereof, a justifying righteousness was imputed to him, even the righteousness of God without the law.
I think, I have before fufficiently proved to you, that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ received by faith, and cannot be justified by any personal inherent righteousness of our own.
This has been illustrated from the nature of things, and confirmed by full and plain Scripture testimony ;