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dominion of a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. They deserve nothing better from the hand of God whom they have hated and disobeyed, than eternal death, the proper wages of sin. Now, all true believ- . ers have been awakened to see themselves in this guilty and perishing condition, and brought to accept the punishment of their iniquities, and to ascribe righteousness to God, should he see fit to cast them off forever. They have been made willing to renounce al self-dependence and self-righteousness, and to rely alone upon the atonement of Christ for pardoning mercy in the sight of God. They have believed the record which God has given of his Son, and fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before them in the gospel. Christ has appeared to them precious, and their hearts have been united to him, as the branches are united to the vine. This has been owing to a divine operation upon their hearts. The apostle John represents those who have believed in the name of Christ, as "being born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” “He who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in the hearts of all true believers, to give them the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” None ever become true believers, until they have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, and have put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. But though God has begun a good work in their hearts, yet he carries it on gradually, and never makes them perfectly holy in this life. Paul acknowledged that he had not attained to perfect holiness, but when he would do good evil was present with him. His moral imperfections deeply affected him, and caused him to
cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Though true believers have been reconciled to God, and God has been reconciled to them; yet they offend him every day, and every day deserve the marks of his holy displeasure.
II. We are next to consider what is meant by their justification. The apostle asserts, that being justified by faith, they have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Justification is a term taken from the practice of civil courts, in acquitting or releasing from punishment those, who are found innocent of the charges alleged against them. But this term is not to be understood precisely in the same sense, when applied to the justification of believers. Though God releases them from punishment, yet he does not declare them innocent. He views them as actually guilty of transgressing his holy law, and as deserving to suffer the full penalty of it; but nevertheless for Christ's sake, he releases them from suffering the just punishment of their iniquities. So that justification, in a gospel sense, signifies no more nor less, than the pardon or remission of sin. What is called justification, in the New Testament, is more commonly called forgiveness in the Old. Under the Law, God is said to forgive or pardon true penitents; but under the Gospel, he is said either to forgive, or to justify them, which signifies the same thing. Christ usually told those who repented and believed, that "their sins were forgiven." Peter said to the three thousand that were awakened on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Paul commonly used justification and forgiveness as synonymous terms. Speaking of believers in the third of Romans, he says, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” And he addressed the Jews at Antioch in similar terms. “Be it known to you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” These and many other passages of Scripture plainly teach us, that the justification of believers is the same thing as their forgiveness, through the atonement of Christ.
III. We are to consider how God justifies, pardons, or forgives true believers.
The assembly of Divines say, “Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our
, sins, &c.” But have we any evidence, that he does, or says any thing, when he justifies or pardons believers? Do they see any thing done, or hear any thing said when they are justified? Or is there any reason to suppose, that God puts forth any act or makes any declaration, at the time of their justification? But if he does neither of these things, we have still to inquire how or in what manner, he justifies believers. To this question a plain and satisfactory answer may be given. God justifies all true believers by WILL. He has formed, and written, and published his last Will and Testament concerning mankind; in which he pardons all true believers, and makes them heirs of salvation, but totally disinherits and banishes from his kingdom all the finally impenitent and unbelieving. As it is by Will, that parents give future legacies to their children, while they are young, and even before they are born; so it is by Will, that God gives future legacies to his children. Hence says the Apostle, “The spirit itself beareth witness 'with our spirit that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” There is no occasion of God's saying or doing any thing, at the time of justifying believers, because he has already adopted them into his family and made them heirs, according to the terms specified in his written and revealed Will.
IV. Let us next consider when true believers are justified, pardoned, and accepted. The apostle plainly intimates, that they are justified as soon as they become believers. “Therefore being justified by faith we have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our Savior said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” And again he solemnly declared, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” The apostle declares, “There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." And he more directly says to believers, “You, being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven all your trespasses, blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that were against us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” He furthermore asserts, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” It
appears from these passages of Scripture, that as soon as any persons arise from spiritual death to spiritual life; or as soon as they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; or, in a word, as soon as they exercise any gracious affection, they become the children of God; and as soon as they become the children of God, they become heirs; and are instantly justified, pardoned, and accepted, whether they know it, or not. Children may be heirs to great estates, while they are entirely ignorant of their heirship. And so the children of God may be heirs to a rich and eternal inheritance, while they have painful fears of being forever disinherited. Justification is instantaneous; and takes place that moment, in which sinners become saints, or have the character of heirs in God's revealed Will.
It now remains,
V. To consider the conditions upon which believers are completely justified, pardoned, and accepted. I use all these expressions, because they are all used in Scripture to signify the same thing. Though believers are justified, pardoned, and accepted, as soon as they believe, or become the children of God; yet if we look into his last Will and Testament, we find that their full and final pardon entitled to their eternal inheritance is conditional. They must perform certain
gs, which he has specified as terms or conditions of their taking possession of their several legacies. When a man makes a Will, he may bequeath certain legacies to his children upon certain terms or provisos. He may give a legacy to one child upon condition, that he lives to become of age; to another upon condition, that he conducts in a certain manner; to another upon condition, that he follows a certain profession; and to another upon condition, that he performs certain services. The Testator always has a right to