Dec 30, 2009

Thoughts upon the date of Justification - Part 3 by Job Hupton

The numbering, bold lettering, and additional paragraph forming have been added as a help for the reader.

Having stated my views of the subject to which you object, I would submit to your consideration the subsequent answers to your objections.

1. Object. 1st. « God in the scripture, positively declares, that those who believe not in Jesus Christ, are under condemnation. John. iii. 19." It is, I think, evident upon the face of this objection, that the reasonings of your mind are something like the following : " a person cannot be, at the same time, in a state of condemnation, and a state of justification; but unbelievers are in a state of condemnation; therefore, unbelievers are not in a state of justification." This reasoning is false, and it affects some other grand leading truths of the everlasting gospel, as much as it does eternal justification; truths which are delivered by the lip of divine eternal truth, in terms equally strong, positive, and unequivocal, with those in which the condemnation of unbelievers is expressed; and which it is thought you, Sir, with all your objections, would confess, as a part of your creed, and publish without hesitation, as the glory of the gospel : the truths to which I allude, are the eternity of God's love to his elect, their eternal blessedness in Christ, and their redemption from the curse by the death of Christ. The following arguments, framed upon the same principle as the above, which is supposed to militate with justification before faith, might be introduced, with some degree of plausibility, to prove that the love of God to the elect, their blessedness in Jesus, and their redemption are not prior to faith.

First, no man can be at the same time, a child of wrath, and an object of God's love ; but the elect are, by nature, the children of wrath even as others ; therefore, while they are in a state of nature, they are not the objects of God's love. Now contrast this argument with the declarations of scripture, and the fallacy of it will be obvious and the danger of adopting your mode of reasoning will appear. " I have loved thee with an everlasting love." "Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." "Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me." "God who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, bath quickened us together with Christ."

Secondly, persons cannot in the nature of things, be under the blessing of God and the curse of the law at the same instant; but unbelievers are under the curse of the law, therefore unbelievers are not under the blessing of God. Now this is quite discordant with that inspired apostolic testimony; " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who bath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, according as he bath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." Here the eternal election of God's people, and their eternal blessedness, as founded upon that election, and inseparable from it are positively declared ; and will you conclude, that because these persons are said to be under the curse, while they are unbelievers, this testimony is untrue, and that they were not eternally blessed ? Surely not. Why then object on that ground to eternal justification ? Can you draw a line of distinction between justification and blessedness, and separate the one from the other ?

Thirdly, no man can be redeemed from the curse of the law and yet be under that curse ; but the people of God are under it till they believe in Jesus; therefore they are not redeemed till they believe in him. This argument is in direct opposition to that well known declaration : " Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." The manifestation of the redemption of Christ to the hearts of the redeemed adds nothing to it ; no, it was as complete when the Redeemer uttered those ever memorable words, " It is finished," as ever it will be; and the elect were as perfectly redeemed from the curse then, as they are after they believe, or as they will be when they are glorified. Much the same maybe said of justification ; neither the application of it to the heart, nor our faith in Jesus, contributes to the perfection of it, much less gives being to it, any more than the application of a plaister impregnates it with healing virtue, or gives being to that plaister; or the mouth by the act of receiving -food, adds to its goodness.

And here it may be proper to observe, that the unbelieving elect, stand in a twofold relation ; that through grace they are related to Christ, in whom they were chosen in eternity, and by nature to Adam ; that as they stand related to the former, they are, and ever were, within the bond of the everlasting covenant of grace in which their justification is, and ever was complete ; that as they stand related to the latter, they are under the covenant of works, and its dreadful menace ; that when God declares them condemned, he utters his voice in the law, and speaks truth of them, and to them, as they are related to Adam, as under the law, and as in their fallen state ; that he thus speaks with a gracious design for their conviction, to make them sensible of their need of Christ, and to demolish all their legal dependences, hopes, and expectations ; that having reduced them to despair of obtaining salvation by the ministration of death, he utters his voice in the gospel, speaks to them as they stand related to Jesus, declares the great transaction past, and brings down the immortal blessing of justification, and reveals it to them as .the fruit of his stupendous love laid up in him, in whom it pleased him that all fulness should dwell, even in eternity.

2. Object. 2nd. "The righteousness of Jesus Christ is set forth to those who are under condemnation, that in believing on it they may be justified. Rom. iii. 25." That the righteousness of Jesus Christ is set forth to those who are under condemnation is confessed ; but that it is set forth to them that in believing they may be justified is denied, except justification in the conscience is meant. The text referred to will not support the position which is here laid down ; for the apostle does not teach the condemned to believe, that they may be justified; but, that God appointed his Son to be the propitiation for sins, and ordained his righteousness, that he might be just to himself, and to his holy law, in pardoning the guilty and justifying the unrighteous; that in the gospel he sets forth, reveals, or exhibits this propitiation and this righteousness, that his justice as well as his grace, may appear in the forgiveness of sin, and the justification of sinners ; and that they who believe are the happy partakers of the above inestimable blessings; not for believing, but according to the absolute freeness of divine favour, in which they were always interested, and of which their faith is the effect and the evidence.

3. Object. 3rd. "Every one who comes under the effectual teaching of the Spirit of God by the word, believes that he is under condemnation. Acts ii. 37, 38." What has this to do with eternal justification any more than with eternal predestination ? Is all true that a man believes who is under the effectual teaching of the Spirit of God by the word? Surely not. Some who have been under this teaching have stedfastly believed, that they have committed the unpardonable sin, and sealed their destruction sure ; but their belief of this was no proof of the truth of it. But suppose what they are here said to believe is true, and it undoubtedly is, as they stand related to that law, which says, `° cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law to do them," they may, notwithstanding, be perfectly justified, as they stand related to Jesus Christ in the covenant of grace. And the same Spirit, who has taught them to know, that they are justly condemned by the law, will also teach them, that they were justified in the sight and the account of God, in Jesus, even while they had the sentence of death in themselves by the law, though then they knew it not.

4. Object. 4th. "Faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ is to believe with the heart in God, as justifying me freely by his grace, through the redemption of Jesus Christ. Rom. iv. 3-14." In the scriptures to which you refer in this objection, we are told, that " Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness;" that " to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness ;" and that the man is blessed, "to whom God imputeth righteousness without works;" but not that faith in the righteousness of Christ is to believe with the heart in God, as justifying me. Nor do the scriptures any where teach us, that the first act of faith, or that act in which a sinner first applies to the righteousness of Christ for justification, is always a belief that God is justifying me ; if it were, there would be no such thing as little, or weak faith, but every believer would, in the very moment in which he first believes, have faith in the height of perfection : for beyond assurance of our personal interest in Christ it cannot go.

That some of God's people have the full assurance of faith, is a glorious truth ; but that every real believer is favoured with it must be denied. The faith of God's elect is a firm persuasion of the soul that God freely justifies the ungodly, by the imputation of Christ's righteousness, and a dependence upon that righteousness only, for justification from all ungodliness. And this may be, and often is attended with many distressing doubts and fears, respecting their right and title to that righteousness in which they desire above all things to be found, and in which they put their trust. But, after all, the above objection furnishes no argument against eternal justification; for if when a sinner under conviction of sin, is disposed and enabled by divine power, to embrace the righteousness of the gracious Redeemer, he were to believe that God in that very moment pronounced him just, it could not be thence fairly inferred, that he never did so before, nor that he did not constitute him just, and pronounce him righteous in his own eternal mind, before the foundation of the world ; any more than it could, from his promising to Abraham, Gen. xvii. 2, to multiply him exceedingly, that he never promised the same thing before; see Gen. xii. 2 : or than it could be concluded, from the giving of the moral law from Mount Sinai, in the days of Moses, that it had no existence prior to that event.

5. Object. 5th. "If the elect were never under condemnation, they never, in the nature of things, could enjoy a deliverance from it." In this objection, you suppose that the justification of the elect in eternity, is inconsistent with their condemnation in time. But please to view them as connected with both the first and the second Adam ; and as related to the two covenants, that of grace made with Christ, their spiritual head and representative, and with them as chosen in him in eternity ; and that of works made with Adam, their natural head and representative, and with them as created in him, in time ; and then, it is thought, you may easily perceive, how they might be completely justified in the former, and yet in time be justly condemned in the latter.

They who believe the eternal justification of the elect to be a truth, do not deny their condemnation by the law, but consider them as standing in a twofold capacity, members of Christ and children of Adam ; and in that justified in eternity as perfectly as if they were not condemned in time; and in this condemned in time, as completely as if they had not been justified in eternity. Nor is there any inconsistency in this, any more than there is in believing that Christ was, in different characters, at once infinitely blessed, and rigourously cursed ; infinitely blessed as the Son of the Father ; rigourously cursed as the surety of sinners.

Object. 6th. "The apostle Paul does not say whom he justified them he also called, but whom he called them he also justified. Rom. viii. 30." This objection is founded upon a notion that the Sovereign Disposer of all things has, in his wise and wonderful counsel, arranged spiritual blessings exactly in the same order in which they are mentioned in the revelation of them. But this notion cannot be right; because the holy scriptures do not always mention the same things, in the same order ; and therefore, not always in the order in which they stand, in the divine economy, in which there can be no variation. In Rom. viii. 29, 30, predestination, the same with election, is mentioned before calling; but in 1 Peter i. 10, and again in Rev. xvii. 14, calling stands in order before election ; yet nothing is more evident than, the priority of election to calling : the former took place in eternity, the latter takes place in time ; and, indeed, the above notion, if admitted, will effectually confute your favorite opinion, and establish justification before faith ; for we are told, that God bath saved us, and called us. Here salvation is mentioned before calling, and you know that, as there is no faith without calling, so there is no salvation without justification. Though the apostle in the place referred to, does say, ,whom he called them he also justified," nothing can be concluded from his words, hostile to eternal justification ; for the construction of them does not make it necessary, to understand him as speaking of justification, as subsequent to calling, though, perhaps, the connexion in which they stand does ; therefore, it is best to interpret them as meaning justification in the conscience, which takes place when we believe, and is perfectly consistent with eternal justification in Christ: for the former is, in fact, nothing but the latter shining into the heart, in the rays of the gospel, and the beams of the divine Spirit.

7. Object. 7th. "Many appear to conceive that the gospel is a revelation of God's purpose, to save an elect people, I Tim. i. 15, and that they are evidently elected and justified, because they believe this. 1 Thess. i. 4, 5." This objection is enveloped in obscurity, and therefore the objector's meaning cannot be easily comprehended. Does he mean that some people think, that they are elected and justified, in consequence of their believing that the gospel is a revelation of God's purpose to save an elect people ? Or that they conceive that by their faith in the gospel, their election and justification are made evident? However, let his meaning be what it will, eternal justification has no more to fear from this objection, than the strongest rock has to dread from the stroke of a feather moved by the hand of an infant; for the question is not, what this, or that man conceives, or believes ; but what is truth ? As true conceptions of the gospel cannot increase, so false ones cannot diminish either the number or the excellency of its truths.

8. It appears with evidence, bright as the meridian sun, that God, in eternity, absolutely chose, or elected, a definite number of persons, out of the human race, and fixed them in his Son, in whom he chose them, with a firm determination to save them from all sin and misery, and to raise them to glory everlasting, by his own never-failing might, through the mediation of Jesus ; and it is no less evident, that be chose them to faith and holiness, means appointed by his own will to accomplish, in confederacy with other things which his sovereignty has adopted, his grand design : his own eternal glory, in his people's everlasting bliss. Nor is there any scarcity of evidence, that the gospel is an accurate and ample description, of the whole glorious and amazing scheme of salvation, as issuing from the sovereign will, and the infinite wisdom of Jehovah ; and carried into execution by the joint operation of the Eternal Three. Now as the elect were absolutely chosen in Christ to faith, as well as to glory; as interest in him is founded upon election in him; as justification before God is inseparable from interest in him ; and as every effect proves the existence of the cause which produces it ; faith must be the indubitable evidence of their eternal election, interest and justification, in him blessings which can never be disjoined.

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