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On Justification through the Blood and Righteousness

of a Substitute.

THE first thought to which the mind should be directed in every question respecting Justification, respects THE JUSTIFIER. To whom belongs the right to justify? The answer is very obvious to all who admit the sovereignty and almighty power of God. As there is only one supreme Ruler and Legislator, so there is only One Judge to whom alone it belongeth to justify or to condemn. Every question, therefore, respecting Justification necessarily brings before us the judicial courts of God. The principles of those courts must be determined by God alone. Even to earthly governors we concede the right of establishing their own laws, and appointing the mode of their enforcement. Shall we then accord this title to man, and withhold it from the all-wise and almighty God? Surely no presumption can be greater than for the creature to sit in judgment on the Creator, and to pretend to determine what should, or should not be, the methods of His government. It must be our place reverently to listen to His own exposition of the principles of His own courts, and humbly to thank Him for His goodness in condescending to explain to us what those principles are. As sinners, we can have no claim on God. We have no claim to a revelation that should acquaint us with His ways.

The judicial principles of the government of God, are, as might be expected, based upon the absolute perfectness of His own holiness. This was fully shown both in the prohibitory and in the mandatory commandments of the Law as given at Sinai. That Law prohibited not only wrong deeds and wrong counsels of the heart, but it went deeper still. It prohibited even wrong desires and wrong tendencies, saying, "Thou shalt not be concupiscent"- that is, thou shalt not


have, even momentarily, one desire or tendency that is contrary to the perfectness of God. And then as to its positive requirements, it demanded the perfect, unreserved, perpetual surrender of soul and body, with all their powers, to God and to His service. Not only was it required, that love to Him-love perfect and unremitted should dwell as a living principle in the heart, but also that it should be developed in action, and that unvaryingly. The mode also of the development throughout, was required to be as perfect as the principle from which the development sprang.

If any among the children of men be able to substantiate a claim to perfectness such as this, the Courts of God are ready to recognise it. The God of Truth will recognise a truthful claim wherever it is found. But if we are unable to present any such claim-if corruption be found in us and in our ways-if in every thing we have fallen short and do fall short of God's glory, then it is obvious that however willing the Courts of God may be to recognise perfectness wherever it exists, such willingness can afford no ground of hope to those, who, instead of having perfectness, have sins and short-comings unnumbered.

And if we see that such a mode of justification is, to us, hopeless, let us beware of murmuring against the strictness of the Divine requirements, as if we were displeased with God for refusing to be satisfied with less than perfectness. Such murmuring is not only useless but sinful. It has the sinfulness of rebellion, and of ingratitude too. It is in mercy that God has made known to us as the unalterable principle of His Courts, that they will not justify on the ground of personal righteousness any one who cannot prove the possession of a righteousness that is perfect-like His own, without intermission, and without flaw.

What then have we to do? We have to enquire whether the Courts of God permit that a claim to the possession of righteousness should be presented, based, not on the title of what we personally are, but on the title of what has been substitutionally effected by another. Do the Courts of God admit the principle of substitution?

This question, like the previous one, can only be decided on the authority of God. He alone can determine, and He alone can reveal, the principles of His own Courts. But His declaration, respecting the holiness of His own unbending Law, is not more plain, than is His revelation respecting a means of justification provided through a Substitute. The same Courts which would be ready to recognise

the claim of personal righteousness (if such a claim could be advanced) are also willing to admit of a claim being preferred on the ground of being beneficially interested in the substitutional righteousness of Another.

It is impossible, however, that the principle of substitutional righteousness could be recognised in the Courts of God on behalf of those who had broken God's Law, unless a provision were made for bearing its penalties, as well as for fulfilling its commandments. According to the appointment of the Law, if there be a falling short in any of its requirements, then there is not only failure in respect of the attainment of righteousness, but as a consequence of such failure, guilt, and upon all guilt the Law pronounces curse-" cursed is he that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the Law to do them." Consequently, if we are unable to prove the possession of perfect personal righteousness, that very inability leaves us under curse. We stand not merely as those who have failed in attaining the reward of righteousness, but as those who because of such failure are under the pronounced sentence of God's holy Law. He who has not perfect righteousness is a sinner, and every sinner is under curse.

If, therefore, grace is pleased to open a way of salvation through substitution, it is necessary that the Substitute should be One, able, both to meet all the demands of the Law in respect of righteousness, and also to bear the curse which the infraction of the Law had entailed on those, whom, as a Substitute, He represents. Such a Substitute, Christ is. He came to sustain the dignity and holiness of the Divine government, as well as to open a door of mercy. He magnified the Law by perfect obedience to all its requirements, so that not one jot or tittle passed therefrom till all was fulfilled: and He also bore in life and in death all that was appointed to be borne in order that mercy might be exercised with a due regard to the claims of justice. There may be, and there is, love in God towards sinners; but there is also wrath in God towards unpardoned sin, and that wrath demands atoning or "appeasing" sacrifice, (iλaouov.) This "appeasement" Christ supplied, and thus the governmental holiness of God, before angels and men and Satan, was glorified, not only by the perfectness with which every commandment of His Law was kept, not only by the unswerving steadfastness with which its curse was borne, but also by the excellency and dignity of the Person of Him who undertook to obey it and to suffer under it: for that Person was

Immanuel-" the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts." The dignity of the Person must not be overlooked whilst considering the perfectness of the work. All, therefore, who are recognised in the Courts of heaven as having such an One as their Substitute, must necessarily be regarded as effectually freed from the penalty of their guilt, seeing that their Substitute has borne that penalty for them; and as possessed of perfect righteousness, seeing that their substitute has presented His own righteousness in their stead.

Some modern writers, indeed, reject the doctrine of Christ's vicarious fulfilment of the Law on behalf of His people, as if it were not needed; and as if the righteousness referred to in such texts as, "He is the Lord our righteousness"—and "the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe," referred to something higher than any righteousness which could result from Christ's obedience to the Law. But let us beware of speaking or thinking lightly of the Law of God, or of the service of Him who undertook to obey it for His people. That Law was a transcript of the holiness of God; and none but One who was holy as God, and who was God, could meet its claims. Consequently, it is impossible that there can be anything higher, anything more perfect than the obedience rendered by Immanuel to the Law of God. Nothing can be more perfect than that which is perfect. Light that hath no darkness at all is light that hath no darkness at all; and such light can in no respect be surpassed or exceeded. Prolongation of development cannot make perfectness more perfect. When a heavenly perfectness which had been from everlasting and shall be to everlasting, was manifested for thirty and three years on this earth, the perfectness so exhibited was in no respect less excellent than that which had been in the ages that preceded, or which shall be in the ages that succeed, the period of its earthly development. The waters brought to David from the well at Bethlehem, and which he poured out before the Lord, were not less pure or less crystal because they were a part-a portion merely, of the well from which they were taken. As to purity and excellency there was no difference between the waters and the well. As was the well, such were the waters. Not indeed that such an illustration is adequate; for the fountain was, so to speak, present when He was in the earth who is "God over all, blessed for ever." The development, however, of the fulness that is in Him was, no doubt limited during the days of His earthly service. It was limited as to time, and it was displayed but in part.

Nevertheless, that limited period supplied the obedience by which believers are formally "constituted righteous;" and to that obedience attached the excellency of that heavenly and eternal Person whose obedience it was. When, therefore, the righteousness which Christ provided by His vicarious fulfilment of the Law is reckoned to us, we become possessed of a righteousness no less excellent, no less perfect, no less precious, than the Person of Him whose righteousness it is. "By the obedience of One shall many be constituted righteous," is a statement sufficiently distinct. The obedience of which it speaks cannot be understood of anything save the obedience which was manifested on earth by that Holy One who was "born of a woman made under the Law;" and that obedience is said to be the means, the necessary means, to our being constituted righteous. The fulfilment of the Law was no less necessary than was the bearing its penalties to the maintenance of the governmental holiness of God: and consequently both were required of the Heavenly Substituteboth were needful for our salvation. "Verily, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law till all be fulfilled." Did any one so fulfil it but Himself? And did He fulfil it on His own behalf? That could not be, for He was essentially the Righteous One. He fulfilled it to provide a righteousness for His believing people. Well then may the righteousness so provided be said to be "the righteousness of God," for it is a righteousness in full conformity with the requirements of His holy Law-a righteousness which He can acknowledge as falling in nothing short of His own perfectness. It was needful for our justification that such a righteousness should be formally provided, and formally acknowledged in the Courts of God. Accordingly, there was a moment when the righteousness thus needed for the justification of God's people, formally began to be wrought out by their Surety, and there was a moment when the working out of that righteousness was formally accomplished. It began with the birth and terminated at the death of the Holy One: and it is in virtue of that which was thus formally wrought out and accomplished in the days of His flesh, that Christ's people are said to be "constituted," by means of His obedience, "righteous."

Thus too is supplied the reason, why, in the Scripture, the nonimputation of sin is always spoken of as implying also the imputation of righteousness. In the arrangements of men, it is otherwise. Human tribunals may acquit or pardon; but their pardon is not

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