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Justification by Faith

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    III

    The statement that justification by faith is counting one just, not by virtue of his own obedience, but by what another does for him, is strictly correct as far as it goes, but was not offered as giving a full and complete idea of the effects of justification in the gospel. It has been noticed that a guilty person may be guilty still, notwithstanding another may suffer because of his violation of the law. This is and has been the condition of the great majority of those for whom Christ died. Now if a person were set free merely on the ground that the penalty had been executed on a substitute, though the authority and integrity of the law would be vindicated, the Government would have no security against his resuming a course of lawlessness; and the community would have no assurance that ho would not again trample upon their rights. It is therefore evident that before a pardon can safely be granted to the transgressor, there must be given some guarantee in regard to his future conduct. To guard all interests; with mercy to unite justice to all parties, we shall need to inquire for a broader definition of justification by faith than that which we have considered. We should then define it as follows:—JBF 16.1

    It is that change both in man’s relations and condition by virtue of which (1) He is counted just as regards his past life, though his life has not been just; (2) The Government and its subjects are guaranteed against future depredations; and (3) God may consistently accept his service as that of a loyal subject.JBF 16.2

    By this it will be seen that it is necessary, not only to do a work for man but, also, in him, in order to his complete justification. While the act of laying the penalty upon a substitute vindicates the majesty of the law, a change of heart or of disposition, a thorough amendment of life, can only give that guarantee which is demanded for the future. And this is called conversion. Justification by faith embraces all this. With anything less than this we cannot imagine that any one would stand justified before God.JBF 17.1

    The first point in the above list has been considered. The second needs no argument to sustain it; every one can see at a glance the reasonableness of the statement that both the Government and the subjects are entitled to guarantees against future acts of lawlessness. But the third point will not be so apparent to every one, and will therefore need to be examined; for some may think it is consistent for God to accept the service of any one, at any time it may be offered, no matter what his past life may have been. We must differ with them. It would be a reproach to God and to his Government to accept the service of any one except under proper conditions.JBF 17.2

    Suppose a person who was born in a foreign land comes to the United States and proposes to take part in the execution of our laws. Of course his proposal is promptly rejected. But he urges his case in the following manner:—JBF 17.3

    “In my native land I carefully examined the principles of your Government, and admire them;JBF 17.4

    2 therefore I am come to this country. I have read your laws; I think they are just. I am anxious to bear a part in executing them. I have an education superior to that of many who hold office in this country. I claim to have as good ability as they, and to love your Government as well as they. “Why, then, am I rejected from holding an office?”JBF 17.5

    The answer is readily given, thus:—JBF 18.1

    “By birth you are a citizen of another Government which is entirely different from this; and as such you are held under obligation to seek its welfare and to further its interests. We cannot know but you are even now acting under instructions from your sovereign. You must publicly renounce allegiance to him, and declare your allegiance to this Government. You must be naturalized. Then you will no longer be regarded as an alien, but as an American citizen, and be entitled to all the privileges of one born in this country.”JBF 18.2

    This all can understand; its reasonableness all can see. Without such a safeguard as this enemies might come in and undermine our Government by abusing and perverting its laws under pretense of executing them. And it is truly strange that any who love justice and good government, and who know that evil is in the world, and in the hearts of men, should stand in doubt as to the necessity of the gospel, to bring us into acceptance with God, and to fit us by a transformation of heart and life for a place in his service and at last in his kingdom.JBF 18.3

    In the above illustration, so striking in every feature, we have only used the ideas given to us by the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians. He had before said to the Romans that of all the world, Jew and Gentile, there is none righteous, no, not one. Destruction and misery are in their ways. All stand guilty before God. In harmony with this he speaks of himself and of his brethren as being “by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Ephesians 2. And of the brethren, Gentiles in the flesh, he says: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” They who were the children of wrath, aliens and strangers, have their condition entirely changed through faith in Christ and by his blood. “Now therefore,” continues the apostle, “ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” The gospel of Christ is the law of naturalization, by means of which aliens or foreigners are inducted into the household of God, and are made citizens of the commonwealth of Israel,-the Israel of God.JBF 19.1

    In illustrations it is permitted us to represent spiritual things by those which are natural; we have no other means of making comparisons which our minds can appreciate. But we must always remember that there is a depth to spiritual things which the natural cannot reach. A foreigner, dwelling in his native land, may have a high regard for the principles and the rulers of our Government without disparagement to his loyalty to his own; because the two Governments maintain friendly relations with each other. Each has its own territory, and each has paramount right and jurisdiction in its own dominion. But the very nature of the Government of God forbids that there shall, in it, be any parallel to this condition.JBF 19.2

    1. His dominion, his right of jurisdiction, is universal. No contrary Government has any right to exist.JBF 20.1

    2. His law, the rule of his Government, is a moral law. It takes cognizance, not of actions alone, but of motives and intentions.JBF 20.2

    3. As no contrary rule has any right to exist, there can of right to no neutrality in case of usurpation or rebellion. When war is waged against a Government, every good and loyal citizen is bound to support the Government. A refusal to do so is equivalent to giving aid to the enemy.JBF 20.3

    Now inasmuch as all have gone astray-all have departed from God-the world is in the condition of a mighty rebellion against its rightful ruler. There is a general disregard of his authority and of the rights of his subjects. And no one is on neutral ground; says the Governor: “He that is not for me is against me.” And so far has man fallen from his “first estate,” that it is declare that “the carnal mind,” the natural, unchanged heart, “is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7. Hence, all are by nature the children of wrath, because all are aliens, or more properly, in a state of rebellion against the Supreme Ruler of the universe. Can any doubt the necessity of naturalization, or of the acceptance of the amnesty offered, that we may be brought into friendly and loyal relations to the one Lawgiver? Can any deny the reasonableness of the declaration, “Ye must be born again”?JBF 20.4

    No one, we think, can now fail to see the correctness of our proposition that God cannot consistently accept or approve of the action of any one in his natural state, or in carnal mindedness. Such a state being one of enmity against God, every action springing from the carnal or natural heart is an act of rebellion, because it is done in utter disregard of the authority of our rightful Sovereign. Every act has its spring in self-will; it proceeds from a spirit which, if it could have undisputed sway, would dethrone Jehovah and substitute its own will for his. If any one has a remaining doubt of the truthfulness of this statement, let him look abroad upon the earth, and see its millions sunken to every depth of iniquity, “hateful, and hating one another.” In truth, “the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.” We might heighten the darkness of the picture should we stop to consider the infinite holiness of the character of God, and of the purity and spirituality of the divine law, of which we are all transgressors. But even with a very partial view the scene is dark enough to cause us to wonder at the forbearance of God, that he does not blot this rebellious province, made filthy by the evil practices of its inhabitants, out of existence.JBF 21.1

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