Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
~ Galatians 2:16, Romans 5:9
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
~ James 2:21, James 2:24
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
~ Romans 6:1-2, Romans 3:31
Rom 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
~ Romans 6:16-18, Romans 6:12, Romans 6:11, Romans 6:14
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
~ Genesis 17:1, Hebrews 12:28
A Blow at the Root of Antinomianism, by John Flavel. The following contains an excerpt from the text.
Error 1: Justification from Eternity.
Error I. That the justification of sinners is an immanent and eternal act of God, not only preceding all acts of sin, but the very existence of the sinner himself, and so perfectly abolishing sin in our persons, that we are as clean from sin as Christ himself; αναμαρτητοι, as some of them have spoken. To stop the progress of this error I shall,
1. Lay down the sentence of the orthodox about it.
2. Offer some reasons for the refutation of it.
(1.) That which I take to be the truth agreed upon, and asserted by sound and reformed divines, touching gospel-justification, is by them made clear to the world, in these following scriptural distinctions of it.
Justification may be considered under a twofold respect or habitude.
1. According to God’s eternal decree; or,
2. According to the execution thereof in time.
1. According to God’s eternal decree and purpose; and in this respect grace is said to be “given us in Christ before the world began,” 2 Tim. 1.19. and we are said to be “predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ,” Eph. 1.5.
2. According to the execution thereof in time, so they again distinguish it by considering it two ways:
1. In its impetration by Christ.
2. In its application to us.
That very mercy or privilege of justification, which God from all eternity, purely out of his benevolent love, purposed and decreed for his elect, was also in time purchased for them by the death of Christ, Rom. 5.9,10. where we are said to be “justified by his blood;” and he is said to have “made peace through the blood of his cross, to reconcile all things to himself,” Col. 1.20. to be “delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification,” Rom. 4.25. Once more, “That God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses,” 2 Cor. 5.19. God the Father had in the death of Christ, a foundation of reconciliation, whereby he became propitious to his elect, that he might absolve and justify them. Again,
2. It must be considered in its application to us, which application is made in this life at the time of our effectual calling. When an elect sinner is united to Christ by faith, and so passeth from death to life, from a state of condemnation into a state of absolution and favour; this is our actual justification, Rom. 5.1. Acts 13.39. John 5.24. which actual justification is again considered two ways:
1. Universally and in general, as to the state of the person.
2. Specifically and particularly, as to the acts of sin.
As soon as we are received into communion with Christ, and his righteousness is imputed by God, and received by faith, immediately we pass from a state of death and condemnation to a state of life and justification, and all sins already committed, are remitted without exception or revocation; and not only so, but a remedy is given us in the righteousness of Christ against sins to come: and though these special and particular sins we afterward fall into, do need particular pardons; yet, by the renewed acts of faith and repentance, the believer applies to himself the righteousness of Christ, and they are pardoned.
Again, they carefully distinguish betwixt,
1. Its application by God to our persons. And,
2. Its declaration, or manifestation in us, and to us.
Which manifestation, or declaration, is either,
1. Private, in the conscience of a believer, or,
2. Public, at the bar of judgment.
And thus justification is many ways distinguished. And, notwithstanding all this, it is still actus indivisus, an undivided act, not on our part, for it is iterated in many acts; but on God’s part, who at once decreed it; and on Christ’s part, who by one offering purchased it, and, at the time of our vocation, universally applied it, as to the state of the person justified; and that so effectually, as no future sin shall bring that person any more under condemnation.
In this sentence or judgment the generality of reformed, orthodox divines are agreed; and the want of distinguishing (as they, according to scripture, have distinguished) hath led the Antinomians into this first error about justification, and that error hath led them into the most of the other errors. That this doctrine of theirs (which teaches that men are justified actually and completely, before they have a being) is an error, and hath no solid foundation to support it, may be evidenced by these three reasons.
1. Because it is irrational.
2. Because it is unscriptural.
3. Because it is injurious to Christ and the souls of men.
Reason 1. It is irrational to imagine, that men are actually justified before they have a being, by an immanent act or decree of God. Many things have been urged upon this account, to confute and destroy this fancy, and much more may be rationally urged against it: let the following particulars be weighed in the balance of reason.
1. Can we rationally suppose, that pardon and acceptance can be affirmed or predicated of that which is not? Reason tells us, Non entis nulla sunt accidentia; that which is not, can neither be condemned nor justified: but before the creation, or before a man’s particular conception, he was not, and therefore could not in his own person be a subject of justification. Where there is no law, there is no sin; where there is no sin, there is no punishment; where there is neither sin nor punishment, there can be no guilt; (for guilt is an obligation to punishment) and where there is neither law nor sin, nor obligation to punishment, there can be no justification. He that is not capable of a charge, is not capable of a discharge. What remains then, but that either the elect must exist from eternity, or be justified in time? It is true, future beings may be considered as in the purpose and decree of God from all eternity, or as in the intention of Christ, who died intentionally for the sins of the elect, and rose again for their justification; but neither the decree of God, nor the death of Christ takes place upon any man for his actual justification, until he personally exist: for the object of justification, is a sinner actually ungodly, Rom. 4.5. but so no man is, or can be so from eternity. In election, men are considered without respect to good or evil done by them, Rom. 9.11. not so in actual justification.
2. In justification there is a change made upon the state of the person, Rom. 5.8,9. 1 Cor. 6.9,10,11. By justification men pass from a state of death to a state of life, John 5.24. but the decree or purpose of God, in itself, makes no such actual change upon the state of any person: it hath indeed the nature of an universal cause; but an universal cause produceth nothing without particulars. If our state be changed, it is not by an immanent act of God: hence no such thing doth transire. A mere velle non punire, or intention to justify us in due time and order, makes no change on our state till that come, and the particular causes have wrought. A prince may have a purpose or intention to pardon a law-condemned traitor, and free him from that condemnation in due time; but whilst the law that condemned him, stands in its full force and power against him, he is not justified or acquitted, notwithstanding that gracious intention, but stand still condemned. So it is with us, till by faith we are implanted into Christ. It is true Christ is a surety for all his, and hath satisfied the debt; he is a common head to all his, as Adam was to all his children, Rom. 5.19. but as the sin of Adam condemns none but those that are in him; so the righteousness of Christ actually justifies none but those that are in him; and none are actually in him but believers: therefore, till we believe, no actual change passeth, or can pass upon our states. So that this hypothesis is contrary to reason.
Reason 2. As this opinion is irrational, so it is unscriptural. For
1. The scripture frequently speaks of remission or justification as a future act, and therefore not from eternity, Rom. 4.23,24. “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for ours also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him,” &c. And, Gal. 3.8, “The scriptures foreseeing that God would justify the Heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham.” The gospel was preached many years before the Gentiles were justified; but if they were justified from eternity, how was the gospel preached before their justification?
2. The scripture leaves all unbelievers, without distinction, under condemnation and wrath. The curse of the law lies upon them all till they believe, John 3.18. ” He that believeth in him is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already.” And, Eph. 2.3,12,13. The very elect themselves were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. They were at that time, or during that state of nature, (which takes in all that whole space betwixt their conception and conversion) without Christ, without hope, without God in the world. But if this opinion be true, that the elect were justified from eternity, or from the time of Christ’s death, then it cannot be true, that the elect by nature are children of wrath, without Christ, without hope, without God in the world; except these two may consist together, (which is absolutely impossible) that the children of wrath, without God, Christ, or hope, are actually discharged from their sins and dangers, by a free and gracious act of justification.
Objection. But doth not scripture say, Rom. 8.33, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” If none can charge the elect, then God hath discharged them.
Solution. God hath not actually discharged them, as they are elect, but as they are justified elect; for so runs the text, and clears itself in the very next words, It is God that justifieth. When God hath actually justified an elect person, none can charge him.
3. It is cross to the scripture order of justification, which places it not only after Christ’s death in the place last cited, Rom. 8.33, but also after our actual vocation; as is plain, ver. 30, “Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” It is absurd to place vocation before predestination, or glorification before justification; Sure then it must be absurd also to place justification before vocation; the one as well as the other confounds and breaks the scripture order: You may as well say, men shall be glorified that were never justified, as say they may be justified before they believed, or existed. So that you see the notion of justification from eternity, or before our actual existence, and effectual vocation, is a notion as repugnant to sacred scripture, as it is to sound reason.
Reason 3. And as it is found repugnant to reason and scripture, so it is highly injurious to Jesus Christ and the souls of men.
(1.) It greatly injures the Lord Jesus Christ, and robs him of the glory of being our Saviour; for if the elect be justified from eternity, Christ cannot be the Saviour of the elect, as most assuredly he is; for if Christ save them, he must save them as persons subject to perishing, either de facto or de jure. But if the elect were justified from eternity, they could, in neither respect, be subject to perishing: For he that was eternally justified, was never condemned, nor capable of condemnation; and he that never was, nor could be condemned, could never be subject to perishing; and he that never was, nor could be subject to perishing, can never truly and properly be said to be saved.
If it be said the elect were not justified till the death of Christ, I demand then what became of all them that died before the death of Christ? If they were not justified, they could not be glorified; for this is sure, from Rom. 8.30, that the whole number of the glorified in heaven is made up of such as were justified on earth: Let men take heed, therefore, lest, under pretence of exalting Christ, they bereave him of the glory of being the Saviour of his elect.
(2.) It bereaves him of another glorious royalty. The scripture every where makes our justification the result and fruit of the meritorious death of Christ, Rom. 3.24,25. Rom. 8.3,4. 2 Cor. 5.19,20. Gal. 3.13,14. Eph. 1.17. but if men were justified from eternity, how is their justification the fruit and result of the blood of the cross? as it plainly appears from these scriptures to be. Nay,
(3.) This opinion leaves no place for the satisfaction of justice by the blood of Christ for our sins. He did not die according to this opinion to pay our debts. And here Antinomianism and Socinianism meet, and congratulate each other: For if there were no debts owing to the justice of God from eternity, Christ could not die to pay them; and it is manifest there were no debts due to God’s justice from eternity, on the account of his elect, if the elect were from eternity justified; unless you will say, a person may be justified, and yet his debts not paid: For all justification dissolves the obligation to punishment.
If there were any debt for Christ to pay by his blood, they must either be his own debts, or the elect’s. To say they were his own is a blasphemous reproach to him; and, according to this opinion, we cannot say they were the elect’s; for if they were justified from eternity their debts were discharged, and their bonds cancelled from eternity. So that this opinion leaves nothing to the blood of Christ to discharge, or make satisfaction for.
(4.) And as it hath been proved to be highly injurious to the Lord Jesus, so it is greatly injurious to the souls of men, as it naturally leads them into all those wild and licentious opinions, which naturally flow from it, as from the radical, prolific error, whence most of the rest derive themselves, as will immediately appear in
Error II. That justification by faith is no more but the manifestation to us of what was really and actually done before; or a being persuaded more or less of Christ’s love to us; and that when persons do believe, that which was hid before doth then only appear to them.
Refutation. As the former error dangerously corrupts the doctrine of justification, so this corrupts the doctrine of faith; and therefore deserves to be exploded by all Christians.
That there is a manifestation and discovery of the special love of God and our own saving concernment in the death of Christ to some Christians at some times cannot be denied. Paul could say, Gal. 2.20,21, Christ loved him, and gave himself for him; but to say that this is the justifying act of faith, whereby a sinner passes from condemnation and death into the state of righteousness and life; this I must look upon as a great error; and that for the following reasons:
Reason 1. Because there be multitudes of believing and justified persons in the world, who have no such manifestation, evidence, or assurance, that God laid their iniquities upon Christ, and that he died to put away their sins [in particular]; but daily conflict with strong fears and doubts, whether it be so or no, [as to themselves]. There are but few among believers that attain such a persuasion and manifestation, as Antinomians make to be all that is meant in scripture by justification through faith. Many thousand new-born Christians live as the new-born babe, which neither knows its own estate, or the inheritance to which it is born.
Vivet, et vitæ nescius ipse suæ.
“Not conscious of life, it lives.”
A soul may be in Christ, and a justified state, without any such persuasion or manifestation, as they here speak of, Isa. 50.10. and if any shall assert the contrary, he will condemn the greatest part of the generation of God’s children. Now that cannot be the saving and justifying act of faith, which is not to be found in multitudes of believing and justified persons.
But manifestation, or a personal persuasion of the love of God to a man’s soul, or that Christ died for him, and all his iniquities are thereby forgiven him, is not to be found in multitudes of believing and justified souls.
Therefore such a persuasion or manifestation is not that saving justifying faith which the scripture speaks of.
That faith which only justifies the person of a sinner before God must necessarily be found in all justified believers, or else a man may be justified without the least degree of justifying faith, and consequently it is not faith alone by which a man is justified before God.
Reason 2. That cannot be a justifying act of faith which is not constant and abiding with the justified person, but comes and goes, is frequently lost and recovered, the state of the person still remaining the same. And such contingent things are these persuasions and manifestations; they come and go, are won and lost, the state of the person still remaining the same. Job was as much a justified believer when he complained that God was his enemy, as when he could say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” [Job 19.25.] The same may be said of David, Heman, Asaph, and the greatest number of justified believers recorded in the scripture. There be two things belonging to a justified state, (1.) That which is essential and inseparable, to wit, faith uniting the soul to Christ. (2.) That which is contingent and separable, to wit, evidence and persuasion of our interest in him. Those believers that walk in darkness and have no light have yet a real, special interest in God as their God, Isa. 50.10. Here then you find believers without persuasion or manifestation of God’s love to them; which could never be, if justifying faith consisted in a personal persuasion, manifestation, or evidence of the love of God, and pardon of sin to a man’s soul. That cannot be the justifying faith spoken of in scripture, without which a justified person may live in Christ and be as much in a state of pardon, and acceptation with God, when he wants it, as when he hath it. But such is persuasion, evidence, or manifestation of a man’s particular interest in the love of God, or the pardon of his sins. Therefore this is not the justifying faith the scripture speaks of.
Reason 3. That only is justifying, saving faith, which gives the soul right and title to Christ, and the saving benefits which come by Christ upon all the children of God. Now, it is not persuasion that Christ is ours, but acceptation of him that gives us interest in Christ, and the saving benefits and privileges of the children of God. John 1.12, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on his name.” So that unless the Antinomians can prove, that receiving of Christ, and personal persuasion of pardon be one and the same thing, and consequently, that all believers in the world are persuaded, or assured, that their sins are pardoned; and reject from the number of believers all tempted, deserted, dark and doubting Christians; this persuasion they speak of is not, nor can it be the act of faith, which justifies the person of a sinner before God. That which I think led our Antinomians into this error, was an unsound and unwary definition of faith, which, in their youth, they had imbibed from their catechisms, and other systems, passing without contradiction or scruple in those days; which, though it were a mistake, and hath abundantly been proved to be so in latter days, yet our Antinomians will not part with a notion so serviceable to the support of the darling opinion of eternal justification.
Reason 4. A man may be strongly persuaded of the love of God to his soul, and of the pardon of his sins, and yet have no interest in Christ, nor be in a pardoned state. This was the case of the Pharisees and others, Luke 18.9, Rev. 3.17, therefore this persuasion cannot be justifying faith. If a persuasion be that which justifies the persuaded person, then the Pharisees and Laodiceans were justified. Oh! how common and easy is it for the worst of men to be strongly persuaded of their good condition, whilst humble, serious Christians doubt and stagger? I know not what such doctrine as this is useful for, but to beget and strengthen that sin of presumption, which sends down multitudes to hell out of the professing world: For what is more common amongst the most carnal and unsanctified part of the world, not only such as are merely moral, but even the most flagitious and profane, than to support themselves by false persuasions of their good estate? When they are asked, in order to their conviction, what hopes of salvation they have, and how they are founded? their common answer is, Christ died for sinners, and that they are persuaded, that whatever he hath done for any other, he hath done it for them as well as others: but such a [groundless] persuasion cometh not of him that called them, and is of dangerous consequence.
Reason 5. This doctrine is certainly unsound, because it confounds the distinction betwixt dogmatical and saving faith; and makes it all one, to believe an axiom or proposition, and to believe savingly in Christ to eternal life. What is it to believe that God laid our iniquities upon Christ, more than the mere assent of the understanding to a scripture axiom, or proposition, without any consent of the will, to receive Jesus Christ as the gospel offers him? And this is no more than what any unregenerate person may do; yea, the very devils themselves assent to the truth of scripture axioms or propositions as well as men, James 2.19. “Thou believest there is one God, thou dost well; the devils also believe and tremble.” What is more than a scripture axiom or proposition? “God laid the iniquities of us all upon Christ,” Isa. 53.6. And yet (saith Dr. Crisp, p. 296.) “God cannot charge one sin upon that man that believes this truth, That God laid his iniquities upon Christ.” The assent of the understanding may be often given to a scripture-proposition, whilst the heart and will remain carnal, and utterly averse to Jesus Christ. I may believe dogmatically, that the iniquities of men were laid upon Christ, and persuade myself presumptively, that mine, as well as other men’s were laid upon him; and yet remain a perfect stranger to all saving union and communion with him.
Reason 6. This opinion cannot be true, because it takes away the only support that bears up the soul of a believer in times of temptation and desertion.
For how will you comfort such a distressed soul that saith, and saith truly, I have no persuasion that Christ is mine, or that my sins are pardoned; but I am heartily willing to cast my poor sin-burdened soul upon him, that he may be mine; I do not certainly know that he died intentionally for me, but I lie at his feet to cleave to him, wait at the door of hope; I stay and trust upon him, though I walk in darkness and have no light. Now let such doctrines as this be preached to a soul in this condition (and we may be sure it is the condition of many thousands belonging to Christ) I say, bring this doctrine to them, and tell them, that unless they be persuaded of the love of God, and that God laid their iniquities on Christ, except they have some manifestation that their persons were justified from eternity, their accepting of Christ, consent of their wills, waiting at his feet, &c. signifies nothing; if they believe not that their particular sins were laid upon Christ, and are pardoned to them by him, they are still unbelievers, and have no part or portion in him. Whatever pretences of spiritual comfort and relief the Antinomian doctrine makes, you see by this it really deprives a very great, if not the greatest number of God’s people of their best and sweetest relief in days of darkness and spiritual distress. So that this doctrine which makes manifestation and assurance the very essence of justifying faith, appears hereby to be both a false and very dangerous doctrine. And yet there is as much or more danger to the souls of men in their
Error 3. That men ought not to doubt of their faith, or question whether they believe or no. Nay, that they ought no more to question their faith than to question Christ.
Refutation. What an easy way to heaven is the Antinomian way? Were it but as true and safe to the soul, as it is easy and pleasing to the flesh, who would not embrace it? What a charm of the devil is prepared in those two propositions? Be but persuaded more or less of Christ’s love to thy soul (saith Mr. Saltmarsh) and that is justifying faith. Here is a snare of the devil laid for the souls of men. And then (2.) To make it fast and sure upon the soul, and effectually to prevent the discovery of their error, tell them they need no more to doubt or question their faith than to question Christ, and the work is done to all intents.
Now that this is an error, and a very dangerous one, will appear by the following reasons:
Reason 1. The questioning and examining of our faith is a commanded scripture-duty, 2 Cor. 13.5, “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your ownselves,” &c. And 2 Pet. 1.10. “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” 1 Cor. 10.12. The second epistle of John, ver. 8, “Look to yourselves that we lose not the things which we have wrought:” With a multitude of other scriptures, recommending holy jealousy, serious self-trial and examination of our faith, as the unquestionable duties of the people of God. But if we ought to question our faith no more than we ought to question Christ, away then with all self-examination, and diligence to make our calling and election sure; for where there is no doubt nor danger, there is no place or room for examination, or further endeavours to make it surer than it is. How do you like this doctrine, Christians? How many be there among you, that find no more cause to question your own faith or interest in Christ, than you do to question, whether there be a Christ, or whether he shed his blood for the remission of any man’s sins?
Reason 2. This is a very dangerous error, and it is the more dangerous because it leaves no way to recover a presumptuous sinner out of his dangerous mistakes; but confirms and fixes him in them to the great hazard of his eternal ruin. It cuts off all means of conviction or better information, and nails them fast to the carnal state in which they are. According to this doctrine, it is impossible for a man to think himself something, when he is nothing; or to be guilty of such a paralogism and cheat put by himself upon his own soul, James 2.22. this, in effect, bids a man keep on right or wrong; he is sure enough of heaven if he be but strongly persuaded that Christ died for him, and he shall come thither at last. Certainly this was not the counsel Christ gave to the self-deceived Laodiceans, Rev. 3.17,18, but instead of dissuading them from self-jealousy and suspicion of their condition, whether their faith and state were safe or not, he rather counsels them to buy eye-salve, that is, to labour after better information of the true state and condition they were in, and not cast away their souls by false persuasions and vain confidences.
Reason 3. This doctrine cannot be true, because it supposes every persuasion, or strong conceit of a man’s own heart, to be as infallibly sure and certain, as the very fundamental doctrines of Christianity. No truth in the world can be surer than this, that Jesus Christ died for sinners. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation,” 1 Tim. 1.15. This is a foundation-stone, a tried, precious corner-stone, a sure foundation laid by God himself, Isa. 28.16, and shall the strong conceits and confidences of men’s hearts vie and compare in point of certainty with it? As well may probable, and merely conjectural propositions, compare with axioms that are self-evident, or demonstrative arguments that leave no doubts behind them. Know we not, that the heart is deceitful above all things, the most notorious cheat and imposter in the world, Jer. 17.9. Does it not deceive all the formal hypocrites in the world, in this very point? And shall every strong conceit and presumptuous confidence, begotten of Satan by a deceitful heart, and nursed up by self-love, pass without any examination or suspicion for as infallible and assured a truth, as that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners? The Lord sweep that doctrine out of the world by reformation, which is like to sweep so many thousand souls into hell by a remediless self-deception.
Error 4. The fourth Antinomian error before-mentioned, was this, That believers are not bound to confess their sins, or pray for the pardon of them; because their sins were pardoned before they were committed; and pardoned sin is no sin.
Refutation. If this be true doctrine, then it will justify and make good such conclusions and inferences as these, which necessarily flow from it: viz.
1. That there is no sin in believers.
2. Or if there be, the evil is very inconsiderable. Or,
3. Whatever evil is in it, it is not the will of God that they should either confess it, mourn over it, or pray for the remission of it; whatever he requires of others, yet they need take no notice of it, so as to afflict their hearts for it; God hath exempted them from such concernments: There is nothing but joy to a believer, saith Mr. Eaton. But neither of these conclusions are either true or tolerable; therefore neither is the principle so which yieldeth them.
(1.) It is not true or tolerable to affirm, that there is no sin in a believer: 1 John 1.18, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not,” Eccl. 7.20. “In many things we offend all,” James 3.2. The scriptures plainly affirm it, and the universal experience of all the saints sadly confirms it. It is true, the blood of Christ hath taken away the guilt of sin, so that it shall not condemn believers; and the spirit of sanctification hath taken away the dominion of sin, so that it doth not reign over believers; but nothing, except glorification, utterly destroys the existence of sin in believers. The acts of sin are our acts, and not Christ’s; and the stain and pollution of those sinful acts, are the burthens and infelicities of believers, even in their justified state. Dr. Crisp indeed, in p. 270, 271. calls that objection (I suppose he means distinction betwixt the guilt of sin, and sin itself) a simple objection, and tells us, the very sin itself, as well as the guilt of it, passed off from us, and was laid upon Christ: So that speaking of the sins of blasphemy, murder, theft, adultery, lying, &c. from that time (saith he) that they were laid upon Christ, thou ceasest to be a transgressor. If thou hast a part in the Lord Christ, all these transgressions of thine become actually the transgressions of Christ. So that now thou art not an idolater, or persecutor, a thief, a murderer, and an adulterer, thou art not a sinful person; Christ is made that very sinfulness before God, &c. Such expressions justly offend and grieve the hearts of Christians, and expose Christianity to scorn and contempt. Was it not enough that the guilt of our sin was laid on him, but we must imagine also, that the thing itself, sin, with all its deformity and pollution should be essentially transferred from us to Christ? No, no. After we are justified, sin dwelleth in us, Rom. 7.17, warreth in us, and brings us into captivity, verse 23, burthens and oppresses our very souls, verse 24. Methinks I need not stand to prove what I should think no sound experienced Christian dares to deny, that there is much sin still remaining in the persons of the justified. He that dares to deny it, hath little acquaintance with the nature of sin, and of his own heart.
(2.) It is neither true nor tolerable to say, there is no considerable evil in the sins of believers, deserving a mournful confession or petition for pardon. The desert of sin is hell: it is an artifice of Satan to draw men to sin, by persuading them there is no great evil in it; but none except fools will believe it. Fools, indeed, make a mock of sin; but all that understand either the intrinsic evil of it, or the sad and dismal effects produced by it, are far from thinking it a light or inconsiderable evil. The sins, even of believers, greatly wrong and offend their God, Psalm 51.4. and is that a light thing with us? They interrupt and clog our communion with God, Rom. 7.21. They grieve the good Spirit of God, Eph. 4.30. Certainly these arc no inconsiderable mischiefs.
(3.) Now if there be sin in believers, and so much evil in their sins (neither of which any sober Christian will deny) then undoubtedly it is their duty to confess it freely, mourn for it bitterly, and pray for the pardon of it earnestly; unless God have any where discharged them from those duties, and told them these are none of their concernments, and that he expects not these things from justified persons; but that these are duties properly and only belonging to other men. But on the contrary, you find the whole current of scripture running strongly and constantly in direct opposition to such idle and sinful notions. For,
(1.) He hath plainly declared it to be his will, that his people should confess their sins before him, and strongly connected their confessions with their pardons, 1 John 1.9. and frequently suspends from them the comfortable sense of forgiveness, till their hearts be brought to this duty, Psalm 32.5. compared with verses 3,4. the more to engage them to this duty, by the sensible ease and comfort attending and following it.
(2.) He also enjoins it upon them, That they mourn for their sins, Isa. 22.12. expresses his great delight in contrition and brokenness of spirit for sin, Isa. 66.2, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit.” Christ himself pronounces a blessing upon them that mourn, Matt. 5.4. Justified Paul mournfully confesses his former blasphemies, persecutions, and injuries done against Christ, 1 Tim. 1.13. So did Ezra, Daniel, and other eximious saints.
Objection. Yes, say some, they did indeed confess their sins committed before their justification, but not their after-sins.
Reply. According to Antinomian principles, I would demand, If all the elect were justified from eternity, what sins any of them could confess which they had committed before their justification? Or, if they were justified from the time of Christ’s death, what were the sins any of us have to confess who had not a being, and therefore had not actually sinned long after the death of Christ? But I hope none will deny, that the mournful complaints the apostle makes for sin, Rom. 7.23,24. were after he was a sanctified and justified person.
(3.) It is not the will of Christ to exempt any justified person upon earth from the duty of praying frequently and fervently for the remission of his sins. This the most eminent saints upon earth have done. The greatest favourites of heaven have freely confessed, and heartily prayed for the remission of sin, Dan. 9.4 19. And that the gospel gives us no exemption from this duty, appears by Christ’s injunction of it upon all his people, Matt. 6.12.