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reject the word imputed, rather than the word righteousness, is not easily accounted for ; unless it may be thought that mankind know there must be a righteousness in order to acceptance with God, but are unwilling that it should be an imputed righteousness, because that necessarily cuts off all boasting. Men are fond of personal, and therefore try to obscure imputed righteousness. It is however sufficient to countenance the use of this phrase, that we have it in our text, and find it several times repeated in this chapter and in other passages of holy scripture. We observe,
1. The person to whom this act of imputation is ascribed, God. On which we may remark, that there is a concurrence of the sacred persons of the Trinity in the work of redemption. The righteousness was finished by the Son of God: it is imputed by the Father; and a discovery of it to the soul, as the reason of divine acceptance, is made by the Holy Ghost, who takes of the things of Jesus and shews them unto us.
The act of justifying is elsewhere ascribed to the Father. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect ? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth ? It is Christ that died. (Rom. viii. 33, 34.) Here is a manifest distinction between God that justifieth, and Christ that died. The sinner, by the violation of the law, became obnoxious to divine wrath : Christ undertook for him, and satisfied divine justice. God the Father being well pleased with his righteousness, pronounces the sinner justified: he acquits him from every charge, because Christ died. And at the same time that the sinner is acquitted the Saviour is approved ; because the sinner is discharged on the foot of the Saviour's merits.
2. The manner in which the sinner is justified is expressed, viz. By imputation.—“God imputeth righteousness.” The sense in which we are to understand the phrase may be learnt in the context. The apostle assures us, verse 5, that God justifieth the ungodly. This is their character at the very time when God justifies : if so, they have no personal righteousness, and consequently can. not be accepted by him for any thing that is properly their own : it follows that it must be on acount of the righteousness of another. By imputation here, therefore, we are to understand the placing that to one which properly belongs to another ; e. g. Jesus Christ was perfectly inno. cent: he had no sin either of naturc, or of practice ; yet guilt was so laid upon him, or imputed to him, that he became responsible to the justice of God; and it is said that he bore it in his own body on the tree. Though he was the Lamb without blemish and without spot, he was crucified on Calvary between two thieves. His sufferings could not be on his own account, because he was innocent, and therefore they must be on the account of others. In the same way is a sinner discharged by his righteousness.
Though no transactions among men can fully illustrate the doctrine before us, the following instance may
be admitted as bearing some resemblance. A bondsman is frequently accepted in the behalf of a debtor. Now the debt that was contracted was not his personal debt; nevertheless, it becomes his by voluntarily putting himself in the debtor's place, and the creditor accordingly looks to him for payment. So it is in this case. The sins for which Christ died were not his own
personal acts; but became his by a voluntary substitution of himself in the sinner's stead, and by the act of the Father, his laying them on him. On the other hand, the payment made by the bondsman was not the personal act of the debtor; yet it is so viewed by the creditor that the debtor is released. So the righteousness of Jesus is not the personal obedience and suffering of the sinner; yet it is so accounted his that he is discharged from condemnation, and shall be finally admitted to glory. This illustration, which has often been introduced by the lovers of this doctrine, tends in a degree to explain it; and seeing Christ is called the surETY of a better testament, there appears a propriety in this use of it. surety is one who appears in the behalf of another.
I shall only subjoin, in order to prove the doctrine of imputation, the following ever memorable
passage ; For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. It has been quoted before, but not with the same design. Now the sense of the apostle, in these words, is plainly this, that the righteousness of Christ becomes the sinner's, in the same way that Adam's sin becomes chargeable to his posterity; and that is, by being derived, or reckoned to them. It at least deserves a serious answer-How
could be made righteous by the obedience of one, if that obedience is not placed to them? or, how Christ's obedience should avail a sinner, especially in so high a sense as that he shall be discharged from guilt, and accepted as righteous in the sight of God, if it is not imputed to him?
Objection. It may be said, If Christ both obeyed the law, and suffered its penalty in the behalf of his people, that they have nothing to do with it. For, as by his sufferings and death they are freed from condemnation, so, by his perfect obedience they are dismissed from obligation to obey it.
To which I reply-The sinner can be freed from the law only agreeably to the design and engagement of his surety: no farther than he engages for him can he be benefited. Now the scripture expressly declares, that the design of Christ in becoming a substitute, was to procure a deliverance from the law so far as it tended to condemnation. Christ hath redeemed us from the CURSE of the law. Agreeably to which it is said, he was made under it, that he might redeem them who were under it. This is the current language of the New Testament. Hence observe, that the intention of Jesus Christ was to deliver his people from the curse. Evil is ever involved in the idea of a deliverance. We do not say, that a man is delivered from that which is good, but only from something that is pernicious. Now as obedience to the law is no evil, or part of the curse, consequently it is what the sinner stood in no need of a salvation from. The language of the law, as has often been observed, is, Do thyself no harm. The deliverance, therefore, which the justified obtain by Christ from the law, consists in these two things;
(1.) A freedom from condenination. The sinner having transgressed the law, was condemned by it to lie under the wrath of Jehovah, in an eternal exclusion from heaven. From this awful calamity
all the justified are delivered by the interposition of the Divine Redeemer : in accomplishing which, it was indispensably necessary that he should both obey the law and endure its penalty.
(2.) They are freed from the law as a covenant of works: hence they do not expect eternal life upon the footing of their own obedience. Accordingly the apostle Paul says, Ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ. Again—But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held ; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. They were dead to it, so as no longer to seek to be justified by the deeds of it ; or to look
their obedience as a condition or term of their acceptance with God; because by the deeds of the law could no flesh living be justified. Hence we observe, that as this was the extent of the design of Christ, even to deliver from the law only as it tended to condemnation, the justified are not delivered from it as a rule of life, any more than they are delivered from corporal death by his dying.
Could it once be made to appear that these sentiments are subversive of obedience, it would immediately characterize them, and prove that they ought to be rejected : but so far are they from this, that they establish it. St. Paul having discoursed at large on the doctrine of justification without the deeds of the law, asks the question, Do we then make void the law through faith? i. e. the doctrine of faith. And then answers it with an emphatic God forbid : yea, we establish the law. As to the threatening and precepts of the law, what has been said already proves that it is established with respect to them; seeing the