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« For, if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,” &c. Rom. V.
Out of these words I gather these three things.
(3.) That even then, when the very act of reconciliation was in performing, and also when performed, we 'were ungodly, sinners, enemies.
Now, the act by which we are said to be reconciled to God, while ungodly, while sinners, and while 'enemies, was Christ's offering himself a sacrifice for us, which is, in the words above mentioned, called his death. Christ died for the ungodly; Christ died for us, while sinners: Christ reconciled us to God by his death. And as Christ is said to die for us, so the Father is said to impute righteousness to us; to wit, as we are without works, as we are ungodly.
« Now to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." He worketh not, but is ungodly, when this gracious act of God, in imputing the righteousness of Christ to him, is extended; when he shall believe, his faith is counted to him for righteousness. And why should we not have the benefit of the righteousness, since it was completed for us while we were yet ungodly? Yea, we have the benefit of it; “ For when we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son."
When I say, the benefit, I mean that benefit that we are capable of and that is justification before God; for that a man may be capable of while he is in himself ungodly, because this comes to him by the righteousness of another. True, was it to be his own righteousness in Christ's, and imputed by God, not as a reward for work, or for debt, but freely by his grace ; therefore may be, and is so, while the person concerned is without works, ungodly, and a sinner.
And he that denieth that we are capable of this benefit while we are sinners and ungodly, may with the like reason deny that we are created beings: For that
which is done for a man without him, may be done for him at any time which they that do it shall appoint. While a man is a beggar, may not I make him worth ten thousand a-year, if I can and will; and yet he may not know thereof, in that moment that I make him so? yet the revenue of that estate shall really be his from the moment that I make him so, and he shall know it too at the rent day.
This is the case: We are sinners and ungodly; there is a righteousness wrought out by Jesus Christ, which God hath designed we shall be made righteous by; and by it, if he will impute it to us, we shall be righteous in his sight; even then when we are yet ungodly in ourselves; for he justifies the ungodly.
Now, though it is irregular and blameworthy in man to justify the wicked, because he cannot provide and clothe him with a justifying righteousness, yet it is glorious, and for ever worthy of praise, for God to do it; because it is in his power, not only to forgive, but to make a man righteous, even then when he is a sinner, and to justify him, while he is ungodly.
But it may be yet objected, That though God has received satisfaction for sin, and so sufficient terms for reconciliation by the obedience and death of his Son, yet he imputeth it not unto us, but upon condition of our becoming good.
Ans. This must not be admitted: For,
1. The scripture saith not so'; but that we are reconciled to God by the death of his Son, and justified too, and that while or when we are sinners and ungodly.
2. If this objection carrieth truth in it, Then it follows, that the Holy Ghost, faith, and so all grace, may be given to us, and we may have it dwelling in us, yea, acting in us, before we stand righteous in the judgment of the law before God, (for nothing can make us stand just before God in the judgment of the law, but the obedience of the Son of God without us). And if the Holy Ghost, faith, and so consequently the habit of every grace, may be in us, acting in us,
before Christ's righteousness be by God'imputed to us, then we are not justified as sinners and ungodly, but as persons inherently holy and righteous before.
But I have shewed you, that this cannot be, therefore righteousness for justification must be imputed first. And here let me present the reader with two or three things.
1. That justification before God is one thing, and justification to the understanding and conscience is another. Now, I am treating of justification before God, not of it as to man's understanding and conscience : And I say, a man may be justified before God, even then when himself knoweth nothing thereof, Isa. xi. 2. Matth. ix. 2. and while he hath not faith about it, but is ungodly.
2. There is a justification by faith, by faith's applying of that righteousness to the understanding and conscience, which God hath of his grace imputed for righteousness to the soul for justification in his sight. And this is that by which we as to sense and feeling, have peace with God: " Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," Rom. v. 1. And these two the apostle keepeth distinct in the oth verse : “ That while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." He addeth, “And not only so, but we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement, ver. jl. Here you see, that to be reconciled to God by the death of his Son, is one thing, and for us actually to receive by faith this reconciliation, is another: And not only so, but we have received the atonement.
3. Men do not gather their justification from God's single act of imputing of righteousness, that we might stand clear in his sight from the curse and judgment of the law; but from the word of God, which they understand not, till it is brought to the understanding by the light and glory of the Holy Ghost. We are not therefore in the ministry of the word to
pronounce any man justified, from a supposition that God has imputed righteousness to him since that act is not known to us, until the fruits that follow thereupon do break out before our eyes, to wit, the signs and effects of the Holy Ghost indwelling in our souls. And then we may conclude it, that is, that such a one stands justified before God, yet not for the sake of his inherent righteousness, nor yet for the fruits thereof, and so not for the sake of the act of faith, but for the sake of Jesus Christ his doing and suffering for us.
Nor will it avail to object, That if at first we stand justified before God by imputing of Christ's righteousness unto us, though faith be not in us to act, we may always stand justified so; and so what need of faith? for therefore are we justified, first, by the imputation of God, as we are ungodly, that thereby we may be made capable of receiving the Holy Ghost, and his grace in
iນ a way of righteousness and justice. Besides, God will have those that he shall justify by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, to have the Holy Ghost, and so faith, that they may know and be. lieve the things not only that shall be, but that already are, freely given to us of God. No, says Paul, “we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God," 1 Cor. ii. 12. To know, that is, to believe : It is given to you to believe, who believe according to the working of his mighty power ; and we have known and believed the love that God hath to us, preceding to our believing, John iv. 16. He then that is justified by God's imputation, shall believe by the power of the Holy Ghost; for that must come, and work faith, and strengthen the soul to act it, because imputed righteousness is gone before. He then that believeth shall be saved ; for his believing is a sign, not a cause, of his being made righteous before God by imputation ; and he that believeth not shall be damned.
And thus much for the Pharisee, and for his information. And now I come to that part of the text which remains, which respecteth the Publican.
“ And the Publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”
What this Publican was, I have shewed you, both with respect to his nation, office, and disposition. Wherefore I shall not here trouble the reader as to that. We now therefore come to his repentance in the whole and in the parts of it; concerning which I shall take notice of several things, some more remote, and some more near to the matter and life of it.
But, first, let us see how cross the Pharisee and the Publican did lie in the temple one to another, while they both were presenting of their prayers to God.
i. The Pharisee he goes in boldly, fears nothing, but trusteth in himself that his state his good, that God loves him, and that there was no doubt to be made but of his good speed in his religious enterprize. But, alas! poor Publican, he sneaks, crawls into the temple, and when he comes there, stands behind, aloof, off, as one not worthy to approach the divine presence.
2. The Pharisee at his approach has his mouth full of many fine things, whereby he strokes himself over the head, and in effect calls himself one of God's white boys, that always kept close to his will, abode with him, or, as the prodigal's brother said, “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandments,” Luke xv. 29. But alas ! poor Publican thy guilt, as to these pleas, stops, thy mouth; thou hast not one good thing to say of thyself, not one rag of righteousness ; thy conscience tells thee so; yea and if thou shouldst now attempt to set a good face on it, and for thy credit say something after the Pharisce in way of thine own commendations, yet here is God on one side, the Pharisee on the other, together with thine own heart to give thee a check, to