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Home arrow Griffin's History arrow Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 9
Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 9 PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Oliphant   

I wish here to speak of the union that exists between Christ and each one of his people. This union begins by the quickening of the Spirit, in which we are passive, and in which we are made spiritually alive, made capable of understanding spiritual things, and of forming a just judgment in regard to the law and its purity and our utter inability to meet its demands. Indeed we are, by this spiritual life and light, enabled to see that nothing of our own, nor yet anything that can be furnished by man, can supply us with the needed righteousness; and with our understanding thus enlightened we lay hold of Christ and discover in him strength, and wisdom, and a true and never failing friend. We see in his death and suffering our redemption, and every need of ours provided for in him. Faith in us is an effect of life and grows out of his life-giving power.

It is argued that the places in Scripture where our justification is said to be "not of works," "not by works of righteousness which we have done," etc., are to be understood as of the ceremonial law, circumcision, and the observance of Jewish rites, etc. I wish now to devote a few pages to this point. Paul, in Rom. iv. 4., says, "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." He opposed the doctrine that works secure salvation on the ground that is would be a matter of debt, and not of grace. Now I argue, that if our salvation be procured by obeying the commands in the gospel, it would be as truly of debt, and not of grace, as if it were procured by obeying the commands in the gospel, it would be as truly of debt, and not of grace, as if it were procured by observing the ceremonies of the Jews, and Paul here sets aside works in general in the matter of our salvation. He also quotes where David mentions the blessedness of the man unto whom God "imputes righteousness without works." He does not say, "Without the works of Jewish ceremonies," but he uses a general term which is as applicable to one set of laws as another, in which he sets aside works in general, works of every kind, from the matter of salvation. In verse 7 he says, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered," covered by the atonement made by the vicarious sufferings of Christ; and in verse 8, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." The man who is saved and justified is one to whom sin is not imputed. Now, if sin is not imputed to a man, how can it be said that his obedience secures the removal of his sins? It seems plain that Paul, in this whole connection, intended to exclude works of every kind and show that our justification is the result of our sins not being imputed to us. In the 9th verse he shows that this blessing is not confined to the circumcision only, but that it is given to the uncircumcision as well; also that the promise was made to Abraham in uncircumcision, and that Abraham received circumcision as a seal of the righteousness which he had before he was circumcised.

Paul argues the matter (Rom. xi. 6), "If by grace, then is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace; but if it be of works, then is it no more of grace," etc. The doctrine that our salvation is secured by obeying the gospel would be as destructive to grace as to say it is secured by the ceremonies of the law. In either case it would make the obedience of men as essential to justification as the blood and righteousness of Christ, and the grace of God would be dependent on an unholy and imperfect thing, as the works of men, all of which Paul here sets aside by the words, "If by grace, then it is no more of works."

When Paul says, "By grace are ye saved through faith * * * not of works, lest any man should boast," he excludes works in general. Who has a right to doctor this sentence so as to denote only one particular kind of works? Would there not be as much room for boasting if salvation depends on the observance of the gospel, as there would be if it depended on the observance of the Jewish ceremonies? But here boasting in general is excluded by excluding works in general. Again, Paul says, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified, but by the law is the knowledge of sin," Rom. iii. 20. If any could be found who had not sinned, the law would be to them a friend, but inasmuch as all have sinned, the law can do no more than discover and punish sin. The use of the law here referred to is to reveal to us our sins, not the ceremonial law, but the moral law. Where it enters the heart "sin abounds," it brings our consciences to confess our sins. "If there had been a law given that could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." So there is no law that can bring righteousness to us, hence another plan must be had, and that’s the grace plan, in which righteousness is imputed to us "WITHOUT WORKS." "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse." Here we are informed that the curse rests upon all who expect justification by works, and in the next sentence he tells why by quoting an old scripture. "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of he law to do them." There are two points in this sentence, last quoted, which will forever prevent any man on earth being justified by any works of his own. The first is that "CONTINUETH not." The law requires a man to "CONTINUE," not to fail one moment; and the other is "ALL the things." Here we find the law requires men to continue without interruption, and who is it that does CONTINUE, and in "ALL things:" and who is it that keeps EVERY commandment? Now he who would be saved on a do or work plan has his task here laid out; it is to CONTINUE in ALL things, and inasmuch as no man does, or can do this, Paul concludes that "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." And to further prove this he says, "But that no man is justified by the deeds of the law is evident, for the just shall live by faith."

I wish here to mention one more text (Rom. viii. 3), "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." The law could not through our own weakness; our own proneness to sin makes it impossible for the law to justify, and in verse 4 he says, "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." The scheme he here urges is not one that requires us to fulfill the law, but it is one that fulfills the law "IN us." So here he is holding up his system of imputing "righteousness without works."

To further show that these places do not refer to the law of circumcision alone, I will call attention to Rom. vii. 13, "That sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." It is by our transgression of the moral law that wrath comes on us, not the ceremonial law.

I can not forbear making a lengthy quotation from Edwards, Vol. 1, p. 632: "It is evident when Paul said we are not justified by the works of the law, he excluded all our own virtue, goodness and excellency by the reason he gives that "boasting might be excluded." * * * Now what are men wont to boast of, unless it be what they esteem as their own goodness or merit? If we are not justified by the ceremonial law, and yet are justified by obedience to the gospel law, how would this exclude boasting? But it is said, "Boasting is excluded as circumcision was excluded, which is what the Jews especially used to glory in and value themselves upon above other nations. To which I answer, The Jews were not only used to boast of circumcision, but were notorious for boasting of their moral righteousness. They were generally Pharisees, who were full of boasting of their righteousness generally. One of them said, "Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men, an extortioner," etc., he boasted chiefly of his moral rectitude. But the scheme of salvation, as Paul viewed it, left no room, anywhere, for boasting. So in the matter of our justification, all our works, in obedience to any and every law, were excluded.

Paul, in Titus iii. 7, says, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done." There can be no doubt but that Paul here intended to exclude our own righteousness, or righteous woks which we have done, and none would say it is by our unrighteous works.

But I hope to furnish an article or chapter entirely on the doctrine of imputed righteousness and so I will leave off here.

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