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does not change the nature of the offence, or prove that to be right which is in itself wrong. Crime is what it is in its own nature, and is not modified by the manner in which he who commits it is treated. To pardon a man out of the penitentiary does not prove that the act of burglary or theft for which he was committed was innocent. To forgive a man under the gallows does not prove that he is not ill-deserving for the act of murder. To be led, from any consideration, to treat a man who has injured us as if he had not done it, does not prove that the act was not wrong; or that he should not regard himself as blanieworthy for having done it. Our kind treatment of him will not be likely in any degree to diminish his sense of his criminality; and the act of pardon with which an offender against God is met, when penitent, will not lessen his sense of his own guilt. God never comes in the act of justification to convince him that he has not done wrong, but to save him though it is admitted that he is a great sinner; and the consciousness that he is a sinner will attend him and humble him through life. He will lift up his eyes and his heart with thankfulness that he is a pardoned man; not with pride and self-complacency that he is an innocent man. He will have the spirit of the publican, not of the Pharisee. The publican that went down to his house justified would not go feeling that he was innocent; he would be filled with gratitude that so great a sinner might be forgiven.
(4.) Justification in the gospel does not mean mere pardon. It has been supposed by many that this is all that is denoted by it. But there are insuperable objections to this opinion. One is, that it is a departure from the common use of language. When a man who has been sentenced to the penitentiary is pardoned before the term of his sentence is expired, we never think of saying that he is justified. The offence is forgiven, and the penalty is remitted; but the use of the word justify in his case would convey a very different idea from the word pardon. Another objection is, that the sacred writers have so carefully and so constantly used the word "justify.” If mere pardon or forgiveness were all that is intended, it is difficult to see why another word has been constantly employed, and a word so different in its signification. And another objection is, that mere forgiveness is not all which the case seems to demand. There was required a reinstating in the favour of God; a restoration to forfeited immunities and privileges; and a purpose in regard to future treatment which is not necessarily involved in the word pardon. It may be conceived that, in cases of pardon for high offences, there would be required, in order to meet all the circumstances of the caso, not only a remission of the penalty, but a distinct act restoring to the offender or his family his title, his hereditary honours, and his place in civil relations. The pardon of Lord Bacon would not have restored him at once to the bench, nor the forgiveness of Raleigh to his station in the court of Elizabeth. In the case of a sinner against God, pardon respects mainly the past; justification, the purpose of God in reference to the future. Forgiveness remits past crimes; justification respects the purpose of God to treat the offender as if he had not sinned : and though these may be simultaneous, yet they may be separated in conception as distinct things. The one forgives the past; the other reinstates the offender in the lost favour of God.
(5.) It is not meant that in the act of justification the merits of the Lord Jesus become so transferred to us that they can be regarded as literally ours, or that his righteousness is in any proper sense our own. This is not true, and cannot be made to be true. Moral character is not capable of being transferred from one individual to another; and however the benefits of what one does may be conveyed to another, it will always be true that the character of an individual is what it is in itself. It will always be true that Christ, and not we, obeyed perfectly the law of God; that Christ, and not his people, died on the cross; and that the merit of his life and death is strictly his, and not theirs. It will always be true, also, that they violated the law of God, that their characters were sinful, and that they deserved not the mercy of God. No man can really believe that the moral character of one individual can be transferred to another, and no one should charge the Bible with inculcating any such doctrine, either with respect to the effect of Adam's transgression on his posterity, or the righteousness of the Redeemer in the salvation of his people.
(6.) We are prepared now to remark positively, that justification on the gospel-plan denotes a purpose on the part of God to treat a sinner as if he were righteous. It implies an intention not to punish him for his sins ; not to regard him as any longer under condemnation; not to treat him as an alien, an apostate, and an outcast;—but to regard and treat him in the future in all his important relations as if he had never sinned. It involves the purpose to shield him from the condemning sentence of the law, and the wrath that shall come upon the guilty; to admit him to the fellowship of unfallen beings; to regard him as entitled to all the privileges of a child of God, as if he had not fallen; to throw around him the ægis of the Divine protection and favour to the end of the present life, and then to admit him to immortal life in heaven. These things would have been his if he had not fallen ; and these things are now made his in virtue of the merits of the Redeemer. In all his great relations, in all the most permanent and important things that affect him, he is, and is to be, as if he had not sinned. The main evils of the apostacy in his case are arrested, and it is the Divine purpose to regard and to treat him as a child of God.
It is important to remark, that in these statements it is not designed to affirm that in all respects the act of justification places a man in precisely the same situation in which he would have been if he had not siuned. It is, indeed, designed to teach that in the direct Divine dealings with him he will be regarded and treated as if he were personally righteous. But why, then, it will be asked, does he suffer and die? Why is he not removed to heaven, as Enoch and Elijah were, without seeing death? Why does the justified man ever pass through severe bodily trials, like Job or Hezekiah; or experience the evils of poverty and want, like Lazarus; or why is he called to part with beloved children, or to be thrown into prison, or to lie down in the sorrows of the most painful form of death, as thousands have already done, and as the children of God now often do?
It is necessary to make such exceptions or qualifications as these in explaining the nature of justification. Though justified, man is not in fact treated in this world in all respects as he would have been if he had not sinned. In the life to come he will be. But nothing is plainer than that in the present life things occur in reference to the treatment of those who are justified, which would not have occurred if man had not sinned, and which will not occur in heaven. Poverty, sickness, bereavement, death, and kindred evils, come upon the righteous and the wicked, the saint and the sinner, the man who is justified and the man who is not. These evils are indeed softened and mitigated by religion, and may be among the means by which the justified man is better prepared for heaven; but still they exist as evils, and are to be regarded as among the fruits of sin not removed by the act of justification, and as furnishing the exceptions or qualifications alluded to when it is said that in this life the justified man is not treated in all respects as if he had not sinned. The reasons why the evils of sin are not entirely arrested by the act of justification, and why the believer is not treated in this life in all respects as if he had not sinned, seem to be principally two:-(a) One is, that it is not the nature of religion to arrest or change the operation of physical laws. It will have an indirect and gradual effect in checking some of those laws, but to have made that effect direct and immediate would have required a constant miracle. It is not the design of religion to restore health or property which has been wasted by dissipation; to check the results of vice in those who have been led astray by evil example, or to stay the effects of a life of guilt on our physical frame. A life of virtue will ultimately do much to accomplish this ; but to do it at once would require the physical power of a miracle. For the same reason, to be justified does not save from temporal death, from death in accordance with the laws of our physical being. No one can doubt that God could have saved us from this, but it would be easy to suggest reasons why it has not been done. (6) Another reason why the act of justification does not secure the same treatment in all respects here as if man had never sinned, is that he who is justified, and who is at heart a true believer, is often in circumstances where he needs the discipline of the hand of God. He is not at once made perfect; and his imperfections, his wanderings, his neglect of duty, his worldliness, often demand the interposition of God for his own good in a way which would neither be necessary nor proper in the case of one who had never sinned. Hence, if the Christian sins, he may be recalled even by stripes. Hence he comes under the regular physical laws of the Divine administration in the world. Hence he is sick or bereaved. Hence, like other men, he may be cut off by the pestilence, may be swallowed up in the promiscuous ruins of an earthquake, or lie down on a bed of long and lingering disease, and die. Here, he is subject to the physical laws of our being, and to the administration of a wise discipline; in the world to come, he will be treated altogether as if he had never sinned. No distinction will be made between him and unfallen beings, nor will there be any such remembrance of his own former guilt as that he shall occupy a less elevated position, or have less ready access to the throne than if he had never been a transgressor.
II. It was proposed, in the second place, to show how justification is accomplished through the merits of Christ,-or how his merits become available to us for this purpose. It is not uncommon to say, in explaining this, that His “righteousness is imputed to us," or that it becomes ours. But as this language, to many minds, does not convey a very definite conception, and as, to other minds, it often conveys erroneous impressions, and seems to be irreconcileable with the common notions of men about moral character, it is necessary to explain in what sense we become justified by the merits of Christ. Perhaps in doing this, also, it may be shown that so far from being contrary to the common notions of men about what is right and proper, it is in fact but carrying out, on the most elevated scale possible, what is practically occurring every day in the common relations and transactions of life. It is to be observed, then,
(1.) That we are often benefited by what others have done. The meaning is, that what they have done is of the same adyantage to us, for certain ends, as if we had done it ourselves. A case or two taken from familiar transactions will illustrate what is meant, and help to a proper explanation of the subject. Take the case of a father and a son. The reputation of the one is often a passport or recommendation to the other, of very great value, as he enters on life. The son has as yet no known character, no acquaintance with the world, no credit. The father has all these. He is widely known as a man of virtue; he has an extensive and honoured circle of acquaintance; he has ample credit in the business in which he is engaged. Now while it is true that this character and credit belong to the father as his own, and cannot be literally transferred to the son, it is also true that, for certain purposes, it may be made to answer the same ends for the latter as if it were his own. Unless, by his own misconduct, he shall forfeit the advantage which he might derive from it, it will be a passport to him in starting on his career; it will go before him, preparing many hearts to greet him with kindness; it will obtain for him the confidence of others; it may be the means of securing for him many a friend and helper when calamities come, even when his father lies in the grave. While it will always be true that all the merit and the credit appertain to his father, and while, whatever may be his own subsequent worth, he will cherish a deep and abiding impression of that, it is also true that, for certain purposes,
he could have derived no higher advantages in the case if the character and the credit had been his own. It would not indeed to all intents and purposes be the same, but there are great and valuable ends in his passage through the world which could be no better secured if all this had been his own. The influence of his father's name and character, unless he forfeits the advantage, will attend him far on, perhaps entirely through, the journey of life.
Take another common case. A young man embarks in business without capital. He has acquired already, it may be, a character for industry, talent, and honesty; but he has no means by which he can commence the enterprise of his life. What he wants now is credit. If he had that, he would be sure of success. But he has none as yet of his own. He has had no opportunity to make himself known, so as to secure the extensive confidence of his fellow-men. You have had such an opportunity, and have reaped its result. To a certain extent, and for certain purposes, you allow him to make use of your name.
You endorse his papers, and agree to be responsible for him. Now this to him, in the