(5.) What Christian ever felt, or can feel in the presence of God, that he has a right to demand justification in the name of Christ, as due to him on the ground of "exact justice?" Observe, the framers of the Confession just quoted, studiously represent all the grace exercised in the justification of sinners, as confined to the two acts of giving His Son and accepting the substitution. This done, Christ fully pays the debt, fully and exactly satisfies His Father's justice. You now need not, must not conceive of the pardon of sin as grace or favor. To do this is, according to the teaching of this Confession, to dishonor Christ. It is to reject His righteousness and salvation. What think you of this? One act of grace in giving His Son, and consenting to the substitution, and all forgiveness, all accepting and trusting as righteous, is not grace, but "exact justice." To pray for forgiveness, as an act of grace, is apostasy from Christ. Christian! Can you believe this? No; in your closet, smarting under the sting of a recently committed sin, or broken down and bathed in tears, you cannot find it in your heart to demand "exact justice" at the hand of God, on the ground that Christ has fully and literally paid your debt. To represent the work and death of Christ as the ground of justification in this sense, is a snare and a stumbling-block. This view that I have just examined, contradicts the necessary convictions of every saint on earth. For the truth of this assertion I appeal to the universal consciousness of saints.
2. Our own works, or obedience to the law or to the gospel, are not the ground or foundation of our justification. That is neither our faith, nor repentance, nor love, nor life, nor anything done by us or wrought in us, is the ground of our justification. These are conditions of our justification, in the sense of a "not without which," but not the ground of it. We are justified upon condition of our faith, but not for our faith; upon condition of our repentance, love, obedience, perseverance to the end, but not for these things. These are the conditions, but not the reason, ground, or procuring cause of our justification. We cannot be justified without them, neither are we or can we be justified by them. None of these things must be omitted on pain of eternal damnation. Nor must they be put in the place of Christ, upon the same penalty. Faith is so much insisted on in the gospel as the sine qua non of our justification, that some seem disposed, or at least to be in danger of substituting faith in the place of Christ; of making faith instead of Christ the Savior.
3. Neither is the atonement, nor anything in the mediatorial work of Christ, the foundation of our justification, in the sense of the source, moving, or procuring cause. This, that is the ground of our justification, lies deep in the heart of infinite love. We owe all to that merciful disposition that performed the mediatorial work, and died the accursed death to supply an indispensable condition of our justification and salvation. To stop short in the act which supplied the condition, instead of finding the depths of a compassion as fathomless as infinity, as the source of the whole movement, is to fail in discrimination. The work, and death, and resurrection, and advocacy of Christ are indispensable conditions, are all-important, but not the fundamental reason of our justification.
4. Nor is the work of the Holy Spirit in converting and sanctifying the soul, the foundation of our justification. This is only a condition or means of bringing it about, but is not the fundamental reason.
5. But the disinterested and infinite love of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the true and only foundation of the justification and salvation of sinners. God is love, that is, He is infinitely benevolent. All He does, or says, or suffers, permits or omits, is for one and the same ultimate reason, namely, to promote the highest good of universal being.
6. Christ, the second person in the glorious Trinity, is represented in scripture, as taking so prominent a part in this work, that the number of offices and relations which He sustains to God and man in it are truly wonderful. For example, He is represented as being King, Judge, Mediator, Advocate, Redeemer, surety, Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, Prophet, Priest, Passover, or Lamb of God the bread and water of life true God and eternal life our life our all in all as the repairer of the breach as dying for our sins as rising for our justification as the resurrection and the life bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows as He, by whose stripes we are healed as the head of His people as the bridegroom or husband of His church as the shepherd of His flock as the door by which they enter as the way to salvation as our salvation as the truth as being made sin for us that we are made the righteousness of God in Him that in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead that in Him all fullness dwells all power in heaven and earth are said to be given to Him the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world Christ in us the hope of glory the true vine of which we are the branches our brother Wonderful Counselor the mighty God the everlasting Father the prince of peace the captain of salvation the captain of the Lord's host.
These are among the official relations of Christ to His people, and to the great work of our justification. I shall have frequent occasion to consider Him in some of these relations, as we proceed in this course of study. Indeed, the offices, relations, and works of Christ, are among the most important topics of Christian theology.
Christ is our Justification, in the sense that He carries into execution the whole scheme of redemption devised by the adorable Godhead. To Him the scriptures everywhere direct the eyes of our faith and of our intelligence also. The Holy Spirit is represented not as glorifying Himself, but as speaking of Jesus, as taking of the things of Christ and showing them to His people, as glorifying Christ Jesus, as being sent by Christ, as being the Spirit of Christ, as being Christ Himself dwelling in the hearts of His people. But I must forbear at present. This subject of Christ's relations needs elucidation in future lectures.