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Home arrow Writers arrow J.H. Oliphant arrow Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 6
Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 6 PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Oliphant   


Neonomianism seems to be an essential part of the Arminian system. "The new covenant of grace, which, through the medium of Christ’s death, the Father made with men, consists, according to this system, not in our being justified by faith as it apprehends the righteousness of Christ; but in that, God, abrogating the exaction of perfect legal obedience, accepts of faith itself, and the imperfect obedience of faith, instead of the perfect obedience of the law, and graciously accounts them worthy of eternal life." There was an order of people some two hundred years ago holding this peculiar sentiment. It is essential to every form of Arminianism. Imperfect man is not capable of rendering perfect obedience, therefore if obedience be made the ground of our acceptance, we must show that the "spiritual" law of God has been relaxed, or suspended, so as to accept imperfect obedience as the basis of our acceptance. Our faith is imperfect and unsteady, and if justification be founded on our faith, then it would have a changeable and unsteady foundation, and would therefore be imperfect justification. When a man is justified he cannot be MORE JUSTIFIED. It is like the words "round," "square," "infinite," etc.; it admits of no comparison, but is perfect and complete; or not at all.

Paul’s words, "Therefore being justified by faith," do not mean that faith is the court that proclaims a man is just, for "It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemeth." We must not give imperfect and unsteady faith the throne, for God occupies that. We must not make faith the cause or grounds of our justification, for that is to put faith in the place of our Saviour, and his righteousness, as taught in the words, "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed." The gospel reveals the righteousness of God, "from faith to faith." Faith discovers that God’s "righteousness" is revealed in the gospel, apprehends it, and presents it to conscience as a complete settlement of every difficulty, and this brings peace with God, peace with Jesus, a righteousness, equal to the law’s most righteous claim.

"To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." God is JUST when he proclaims a sinner to be just, for there is an ALL-SUFFICIENT CAUSE why it should be done; the words, "His righteousness," express the true cause, or ground upon which it is done. In the words "being justified freely by his grace," the word "freely" means WITHOUT CAUSE, and is the same in the original as they "hated him WITHOUT A CAUSE." The obvious meaning here is that there was no cause IN HIM why they should hate him. It does not mean that there was no cause for their hating him, but no cause in him. So, "being justified FREELY by his grace," means, there is no cause in man, no act of man, no good quality in him, that stands as a cause of his justification. Yet, these words do not mean that there is no cause any where why he should justify men. There is good and sufficient ground for their being justified, revealed in the gospel, which is the "righteousness of Christ." "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed." Let it be remembered that the gospel "reveals a righteousness," and one that is equal to the law of God, "unrelaxed," so there is no need of SUSPENSION or RELAXATION of law.

Those who seek to maintain Arminian sentiments, find it necessary first, to get man from under a law requiring perfection; they find it necessary to maintain that the first law, or moral law, was too severe and exacting, and it occurs to me, that they detract from the honor of Christ in the work of salvation. They must deny that the Saviour has undertaken to save men in a way that honors every feature of the moral law, and that satisfies its most righteous claims, while the whole tenor of the Bible shows that he has undertaken to save man in a way to honor law, in its greatest severity; he asks no suspension, he pleads for no relaxation, but has undertaken to bring a countless host to glory in harmony with the pure and spiritual law of God. They shall be as "fair as the curtains of Solomon," "neither spot or wrinkle or any such thing." So there can be no good reason for urging this "relaxation" or "suspension" theory. True, no Arminian theory can stand without it, and those who maintain it, see that it is the bedrock of every conditional theory. It assigns an improper and unreasonable place for faith and repentance. Let us get before our mind a man sincerely penitent, broken in heart and contrite in spirit; he is truly repenting of his sins. Now, on this "suspension" theory he does all this as a price of pardon, he does it intentionally, from choice; but where is the true Christian who will say that he wept for sin as a price of pardon? that they were brokenhearted for sin as a means for removing sin? This would assign to repentance an unnatural place, and in fact an impossible place. It would take from it, its sincerity, for if those tears and sighs are designed, to satisfy law, if that broken heart is furnished by the sinner as a satisfaction to the relaxed law of God, then the sinner’s hope may well be in those tears, he may rely on his broken heart, for if these things do meet the requirements of he law he is under, he may trust them, and if it all be voluntary and intentional, it is insincere; but the testimony of every truly heartbroken sinner is, that it is not the voluntary act of the soul. If penitence does meet the requirements of the relaxed law of God, then Christ does not, so this doctrine teaches men to trust repentance for the satisfaction of the law, it puts repentance in the place of Christ. It declares to the mind that repentance is the voluntary act of man, all of which is clearly wrong. It is not an act of the mind that can be voluntarily performed, as every one who has truly repented will testify; his groans and sighs were not vented with any view of appeasing God’s wrath, nor were they such as could be laid aside at will. The aching heart, and sleepless nights originated in a cause wholly uncontrollable. Nor did it occur once to the mind that this satisfies law.

A doctrine that puts repentance in the place of Christ is clearly wrong. Repentance has its place, it is important and necessary, but it meets the claims of no law. It is not the cause of our deliverance from law nor the means of it. It is consequent upon a true discovery of our sinful state. It is the effect of a correct understanding of our lost condition. It is the gift of God and the effect of grace. A man truly penitent, longs for salvation, but desires it in a way that honors God’s law, he "desires the sincere milk of the word." He sees himself justly condemned by law. The gospel reveals to him a righteousness that quiets his fears, dries his tears and brings peace. It is not the discovery that repentance satisfies the law that brings peace, nor the thought that we have repented long enough, but Christ and him crucified. The notion that repentance is designed to satisfy law is inconsistent with all that we have felt or known on this subject. Far better to give up the "relaxation" theory, than put repentance in the place of Christ.

The same that has been said of repentance may be said of faith. If faith is the requirement of the relaxed law of God, then we may depend on our faith, and those who urge that faith meets the claims of the law, and is designed for that end, put faith in the place that is assigned to Christ, suspends our salvation on the act of man. The notion that the law of God has been relaxed or suspended, intimates strongly that God gave a law in the beginning that was too severe, and this is unworthy of God, that he should place his creature man under a law that he would find too severe, and find it necessary to suspend the law. It presents the idea that God is mutable, changeable. It assigns the gospel the wrong place. The gospel would be, in this theory, A LAW; the relaxed law of God, a mere BUNDLE OF CONDITIONS UPON WHICH MEN MAY BE SAVED, and men thus taught will depend on their own works for salvation, because this theory tells them that their salvation depends on their works as surely as it depends on anything done by God or Christ or by the Spirit.

The gospel is good news, not law. The first meaning of the word is good news. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," is a pure gospel sentence, no conditionality about it; it proclaims that the "poor in spirit are blessed," not blessed in certain conditions to be performed by them; nor does the language suggest that they have voluntarily become poor in spirit.

The first meaning of the word "gospel," is good news. There are many sentences in the New Testament that express the claims of the moral law of God, others express the law that we are under to Christ, but not a law setting forth conditions upon which eternal life is suspended. The volume, as a whole, may be called "the gospel," because, as a whole, it sets forth God’s plan of saving sinners, and is good news of glad tidings to men. There is a vast difference between good news and law; law requires obedience, with a penalty attached, while the gospel proclaims deliverance to the captive. This theory presents the gospel as a law of pardon, and suspends our eternal salvation upon our own works.

The sentiment that man is not justly blamable and under condemnation until this severe law is set aside and he put under a milder law, evinces a disposition to apologize for sin and to seek for modifying circumstances, and consequently is at war with the doctrine of grace. It is certain that our salvation in heaven is wholly of grace. The great mass of mankind oppose this sentiment, and seek to find some excuse for man. If our depravity and inability to keep the law of God is an apology in our favor, this fact would lessen the need of grace. So if God must needs take man from under the first law and put him under the new law, this fact would be an apology for him and lessen his need of grace. This Neonomian theory represents God as saving the best of men, the most obedient and easiest saved, which disagrees with revelation on this subject, for as base and corrupt persons as live were made the objects of his love; the thief on the cross (Luke xxiii. 43); Saul of Tarsus (Acts ix); the woman at the well of Samaria (John iv. 1-26), and many persons who were by no means the most moderate sinners, and but a few, if any Christians would urge that they were the most moderate sinners, or the easiest saved. The most consistent view to take of the whole subject is to regard the whole race as in a condemned state, justly condemned, condemned independent and aside from any and every thing done by our Redeemer, with no apologies of any kind growing out of their depravity, their hereditary sin, or natural tendency to sin. So that the plan of salvation was not in any way designed to make it just to condemn men, nor is the Spirit’s work designed to "clear God in the condemnation of men," but the design of every step of our Redeemer in the whole system, is to save men from a condemnation already due, from a sentence of condemnation already just, and justly leveled at all men. This is the most consistent view to take of the whole matter.

Nor should we attempt to find the reason of our salvation in the origin of men, as every phase of the Two-seed doctrine does. For if there be two races of men, one from a good seed, and the other from an evil, here again we would find the cause of salvation in men, which is as fatal to the doctrine of grace, as any system of salvation ever devised by men. Any system that finds the reason of salvation in man is fatal to grace, and he who loves the doctrine of grace, and desires to maintain it among men, must maintain the equal and just condemnation of all men, with no apology of any kind. This agrees with the experience of each one. We were so disturbed on account of our sins that our wonder was not, how can God be just and damn me; but HOW CAN HE BE JUST AND SAVE ME? "If my soul were sent to hell, his righteous law approves it well." This understanding of our case prepares us to receive truth, and without this our hearts will rebel against it until the day of death.

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