The Way of Covenanting with God and of a Sinner's Obtaining Justification before Him.
From an excurses appended at Lecture III on Revelation chapter three in A Complete Commentary upon the Book of the Revelation.
By James Durham
The Text as edited, Copyright 2003 © First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett

This last epistle directed to the church of Laodicea,[1] contains a short sum of the gospel, and God’s way of engaging sinners to him. It will therefore be meet [suitable] to take some more particular consideration thereof. For here: 1. We have man described in his sinful condition, as miserable, naked, poor; and withal, blind and ignorant of the same. 2. We have the remedy proposed, viz. Gold and white raiment, etc. That is, Christ and his righteousness, which is the great promise of the covenant of grace, as the mids [means] leading to the enjoying of God. 3. There is the condition on which this is offered; that is, believing, expressed under the terms of buying, opening to him, hearing his voice, etc. 4. There are motives whereby the acceptance of this offer upon such terms is pressed, and that both from the necessity thereof, and hazard if it be slighted, and from the many advantages that do accompany the accepting thereof. 5. We have the duties that are called for upon this acceptance, viz. zeal and repentance, which are comprehensive of all.

This holds forth God’s way of covenanting with a sinful person, whereby the guilt of his sin, and the curse following thereupon, are removed: which we may conceive in this order:

1. Man is supposed not only to be sinful, but also obnoxious to the curse of God, and in his appearance before God’s justice, to have that sentence standing against him.

2. There being no remedy possible upon man’s side, as a satisfaction to that justice, there is an external righteousness provided, viz. the satisfaction of the Mediator, which being imputed to the sinner, is in law to be accepted as satisfactory for him by virtue thereof, he is to be absolved, and discharged as if he himself had satisfied: this is the meritorious cause of our justification.

3. This satisfaction of the Mediator is not imputed to all, nor to any, but upon the terms agreed upon, viz. that it be received, and rested upon; therefore the gospel is preached; and this righteousness is not only revealed therein, but offered thereby to all, who shall, by faith, receive the same: in which respect, the gospel, as it is contained in the word, and the preaching thereof, is commonly called the external instrumental cause of our justification.

4. When by the power of God’s Spirit the sinner is brought to receive this offer, and to rest upon this righteousness as the only ground of his peace, and his whole defense against the law, before the justice of God, then, according to the offer, he becomes interested in this righteousness, and Christ becomes his righteousness, who is, by this receiving of him, put on by the believer; and by this he may plead absolution from the challenges of the law before God’s justice, as a debtor may plead absolution from his debt upon his instructing the cautioner to have paid it. And in this respect, faith is called the condition of the covenant; because it is upon this condition that justification is offered to us therein, and upon this condition, God becomes our God, and Christ our Righteousness. And it is also called the instrumental cause of our justification, because it acts by receiving Christ as he is held forth in the word; and if that be justly called the external instrumental cause, which offers him for our righteousness, then may faith well be called the internal instrumental cause, because it receives him for that same end, and because by this receiving, he becomes our righteousness, upon which our justification is grounded.

Hence 5. Upon this receiving of Christ, and presenting of his righteousness for our defense before God’s justice, that righteousness and satisfaction is imputed to us, and accounted for ours; and upon this, our sins are pardoned and we absolved before God. And this is that wherein formerly our justification consists, and this is the end why this counsel is proposed, that by receiving of this offered righteousness, this may be attained. This way of restoring sinners by grace is often set forth by way of mutual bargain, as in covenanting, treating by ambassadors, marrying, buying, and such like; all which do import a mutual closing of a bargain upon mutual terms. And thus it is expressed to show, not wherein formally our justification consists, but to show the way and terms by which we may come at it, and upon which we close with God. And, in this respect, faith is called the condition of the covenant of grace, because it supplies that place, and has in it that which ordinarily a condition has, that is proposed in making of a mutual bargain.

Sometimes also, it is set forth under legal expressions as to libel an accusation against, to charge and arraign a sinner before justice, and then to absolve him from that charge in opposition to condemnation. And thus sin is called debt, and to punish for it is to exact or require satisfaction; and Christ in that respect is called the cautioner or surety, and his suffering, satisfying, the pardoning of the sinner, is called justifying, or absolving, in opposition to condemning; and the deriving of this from Christ is called imputation, or to repute the sinner righteous on Christ’s satisfying for him; or, it is the reckoning of Christ’s satisfaction on the account of the sinner. All which expressions are borrowed from the way of legal and judicial procedure before men. The first way shows how we become friends with God, viz. by covenanting with him in Christ Jesus. The second way shows a prime benefit which flows from that friendship, viz. our justification. These two are not to be conceived different things, or successive in time, much less to be separated; but as they be different ways of holding forth the same thing, whereof the one does especially relate to the means, the other to the end, and that so as grace and justice may be seen to go alongst in this great business, and that a sinner may be helped to conceive of the same the more distinctly, when he has it molded in the terms and forms used among men, and that under divers considerations; that so he may the more satisfyingly comprehend this mystery of free justification. Concerning which, in the general, we say:

1. That the immediate meritorious cause of our justification is Christ’s righteousness, we take for granted. For it is the gold here that makes rich, without which the dyvour [beggar; debtor] could not pay his debt. It is the raiment which covers our nakedness. And therefore the righteousness of the saints must be all put on, communicated, external and imputed righteousness; so that, supposing a man to be pursued before the bar of God’s justice, there is no defense can be proposed but Christ’s satisfaction, which only will be a relevant exception in that court; which in Paul’s example is clear (Phil. 3:9). As if it were asked, Paul, ‘what wilt thou flee to in that day?’ Only to be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is by the works of the law, but that which is by faith in Christ. Thus, Christ is our righteousness, and we are righteous in him, as he was made sin for us. For, that opposition [in] 2 Cor. 5:21 evinces this; but our sins were imputed to him, and so were the immediate ground upon which he was found liable to justice. In that same manner, therefore, his righteousness must be the immediate cause of our being absolved, seeing his righteousness must be transferred to us, as our sins were to him, as is said.

2. That this righteousness of the Mediator is immediately imputed to us, has also been accounted a truth amongst the orthodox hitherto. That is, that as a cautioner’s paying of the debt, being instructed in a court, is sufficient for absolving of the debtor from the creditor’s pursuit; because, in the law, the cautioner’s paying in the debtor’s name, is reckoned as if the debtor had paid it; and so it is imputed to him, and accepted for him; so it is here. And this way of imputing Christ’s righteousness immediately, serves exceedingly:

(1) To humble the sinner, when that whereby he is justified, is not in himself; this being certain, that we are more proud of what is supposed to be in us, than of what is imputed to him for his absolution, than if by his industry he had procured something to pay for himself, although the stock had been freely bestowed on him by the cautioner.

(2) It serves to commend Christ, and to bound all boasting and glorying in him, who is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, etc. (1 Cor. 1:30), for this very end, That he who glorieth, might glory in the Lord.

(3) This rides marches[2] [notes the line or difference] between the righteousness of the two covenants, that the one is inherent, and consists in works; that is, as the apostle speaks [in] Titus 3:5, the righteousness, or somewhat which we ourselves have done; the other, is without [outside] us, and comes by imputation, and so is not only distinguished from our own righteousness, but opposed to it (Phil. 3:9). And although this truth be misrepresented by many; yet we judge it to be impregnable; and that in the great day the decision will be found favorable thereto, when only happy shall they be that be thus found in Christ. Thus, therefore, we are to conceive the terms of the gospel, as if a debauched dyvour were ready to be apprehended, having nothing to pay, suppose one should offer to undertake for him, and pay the debt, so as he might be liberated, upon condition that he should acknowledge his benefactor, and plead ever his defense against the pursuit upon the cautioner’s payment, and the discharge procured by him: in this respect, the cautioner’s payment is the meritorious cause whereby such a man is absolved, viz. because that payment is reckoned for him, or imputed to him. Yet his pleading that defense, or producing of that discharge, immediately, may be said instrumentally to procure it, because it is not the cautioner’s payments simply that is sustained, as a relevant defense in judgment, till that be instructed, and except the defense be founded thereon; for so the law provides. So it is not Christ’s satisfying simply, but his satisfaction, pleaded by faith, and fled unto, that justifies; for so the law of faith has enacted. Yet the producing of such a discharge merits nothing, but gives a legal ground of right to the cause that merits, and so to what is merited. And the Lord has appointed this to be the condition of justification, viz. the pleading of Christ’s satisfaction before the bar immediately. For (1) That stops all mouths; and none can produce that satisfaction, but they must necessarily acknowledge emptiness in themselves, justice and grace in God, and love and fullness in the Mediator. (2) The pleading of this shows a complete, perfect, equal, evangelic righteousness; or, that one man has better ground to be justified upon, and a better righteousness than another.

3. That faith is necessary for justification, so that none can expect to be justified but believers, has been also hitherto almost amongst all uncontroverted, till that of late Antinomians have opposed it. But the scripture is very express: (1) In limiting all the promises of pardon to a believer. (2) In cursing all that believe not, and declaring them to be under the curse. (3) In placing faith correlatively taken, in the room that works had in the first covenant, which must be in reference to justification itself, and not the sense thereof only. (4) In asserting that we believe that we may be justified (Gal. 2:16. etc). So that there needs not much speaking to this, beside, that many things spoken of repentance, may be applied here.[3] And if it be found that faith is either the condition of the covenant of grace, or the instrumental cause of justification, this will necessarily follow, that there is no justification without it. I know there are some divines that use different expressions here; yet seeing they also oppose Antinomians, we will not now stick on that.

There is more difficulty in conceiving of the manner how faith concurs: that there is some eminency in it, is acknowledged both by Papists, who account it a radical grace, having influence on all other graces, and so having special influence on that which they call justification; and also by some others, who, making works with it to be conditions of the new covenant, do yet acknowledge a special aptitude in it, for applying of Christ’s righteousness; and that therefore it is the principal condition, and other things, less principal, in this. Indeed, these of the last opinion seem to differ from us: (1) That they place faith, repentance, and works in one and the same kind of casualty in reference to justification. (2) That this casualty is but to account them all causes sine quibus non. (3) That all instrumentality is denied to faith. (4) That faith is not alone the condition from any respect to its immediate acting on its object Christ, but as other graces are. (5) That Christ is not our immediate evangelic righteousness, but faith properly taken, and that as comprehending all other duties and graces under it; and so it is both properly taken, and improperly. (6). That therefore we may be said to be justified by works as by faith, faith being taken largely for all. Although, where the thing is clear, and Christ is rested on in justification, and his satisfaction, acknowledged, as is in this case, there needs be no great debate for words and terms of Condition, Imputation, Instrument, etc; yet these being still used among divines, we conceive there is no just reason to cast [discard] them, the use of them having now, of a long time, made them to pass in this matter, without mistake or strict binding of them to the acceptations wherein they are used in other matters. Much less is there reason to cry down the matter expressed by them; and it cannot but be sad, that such new controversies should be moved. We are persuaded that the reflecting on many worthy men, the obscuring of the trodden path by new questions and objections, the confounding of readers by proposing, as it were, of a different strain of the covenant, from what formerly has been preached, the giving of an open door to men to propose new draughts in all things, and that not in expressions only, but also, as is alleged, in fundamental material things, etc. shall be more prejudicial to edification, nor [than] the bringing forth of this shall be useful. For if by this all the former doctrine of justification be enervated, where are we till now? If it stand so as the followers thereof may attain heaven: what is the use of this so full a new mold, with so much professed danger in, and dissatisfaction with the former? Will it not be welcome to Papists, to have Protestants speaking in their terms, and homologating them in condemning the former language of the most eminent reformers! And though unlearned, or unread divines, be the epithets of the opposers of this doctrine, yet possibly experience may show that such may most readily be the embracers of it. I say, again, when the church is overwhelmed with controversies already, it is not fit to contend for words, seeing there is some agreement in the nature of faith, and in the necessity of works; and, we are sure, where both these are, there can be no hazard. Yet, if under this new model, another matter be comprehended, than formerly has been intended by other expressions in the writings of others, it cannot be so easily approved, lest we should condemn the generation of God’s people, who have gone before us. Laying by therefore prejudice and contention for words, we shall a little, so far as our scope permits, inquire into the truth of faith’s peculiar concurring for the application of Christ’s righteousness in the covenant of grace, and what may be said of works. In reference to which, we would permit:

1. That this way of covenanting is borrowed from the practice of man with man, to set forth somewhat of a spiritual nature betwixt God and man: for which end the similitudes of covenanting, marrying, treating, accusing, justifying, etc. are borrowed as has been said.

2. That though all mutual covenants have their conditions; yet are they to be distinguished, because sometimes the covenant is such, as entering into it entitles to the benefits comprehended in it, as in a marriage-covenant, entry thereunto entitles the wife unto the husband, and all that is his. Sometimes again, the relation must not only be entered, but all the terms thereof actually performed, before there be a right to the thing promised; thus is the covenant betwixt a master and a servant. For though the servant be the master’s servant at the first instant of the agreement, yet has he not a right to the covenanted hire, till he has performed the service, and accomplished his term. In the first of these covenants, that which enters one in that relation, is the condition, not so in the second.

3. Hence we may distinguish the condition of a covenant. Sometimes it is taken materially (to say so) and more largely, viz. for all the duties that are required of one in that relation, and so a wife’s dutifulness to her husband after marriage, and an adopted son’s dutifulness to his father after adoption, etc. may be called conditions of the marriage-covenant, and of adoption. Sometimes again, a condition is taken more strictly, and, to say so, formally. That is, for such a thing as makes up the relation, and entitles one to, and instates him in, the privileges covenanted. So formal consenting in marriage, is the condition; and a son’s actual accepting of the offered adoption, and engaging himself to be dutiful, do instate him in the privilege of a son, although he has not yet actually performed all that he is engaged unto. And in this respect, the actual performing of some duties, is rather the duty of one in such a relation, than the condition required to the upmaking of it.

4. There is a difference betwixt these privileges and benefits of a covenant that flow from it as such, and to all in such a relation. Thus all wives, as such, have interest in their husbands; all adopted children in their parents, whatever years they be of, etc. and these benefits and privileges of a covenant, which are but conditionally promised, even to these within such relations, and require more than being in covenant; as although a wife cannot but have interest in her husband, as she is a wife; yet can she not plead the dowry covenanted, except she continue a faithful wife; for if she fail in the essentials of the covenant, she may be divorced. Or an adopted son cannot plead actual possession of the inheritance, though he be a son, till the term come that is appointed by the father, or he perform something called for in the right of adoption, which is insinuated also [in] Gal. 4:1-2, etc.

Now to apply this, we may some way see in what sense works may be called the condition of the covenant of grace, and in what sense faith only.

1. If we take the condition largely and materially for what is called for from one in covenant; so works may be called the condition of the covenant, even as a wife, or son, their performing of conjugal and filial duties to their husband or parent, may be called conditions of marriage and adoption. Yet if we consider the condition of the covenant of grace strictly and formally, as that which does actually interest one in, or entitle him unto Christ’s righteousness, and makes him a son, that is faith properly taken, as it does unite with Christ (John 1:12), because it is impossible to conceive one to believe in Christ, but he must be conceived to have title to him, as a wife has to her husband, or a son has to his father. And so he cannot be conceived to be a believer, but he must be justified, because to have interest in Christ and his righteousness, cannot be separated from justification.

2. We say if we look to such privileges of the covenant of grace as presuppose something beside being in covenant to antecede; as for example, entering into life, admission unto glory, and the like; in that respect, works, and holiness may be called the condition of salvation, because that is not actually attained without these; even as a wife’s dutifulness may be called the condition of her obtaining her dowry, yet neither is this properly a condition of marriage, nor the other of covenanting with God. But if we look to the privileges which follow the covenant immediately and do agree to a covenanter as such, as to be justified, adopted, etc. in that respect, not works, but faith is to be called the condition of the covenant, and of justification; because by faith they are instated into that covenant, and so in these privileges that agree to a covenant as such.

Hence 3. We may see that when we speak of the covenant of grace and its condition, it is not to be compared with every covenant amongst men indifferently, as suppose, to that agreement that is betwixt a master and a servant, and a husbandman and his laborer for his hire, which presupposes working (and so the performing thereof must go before, ere the servant or laborer can plead anything upon their agreement), but it is like a marriage covenant or free adoption, which does indeed infer duties to follow in the respects foresaid, and does imply an engagement to perform them, but does not presuppose the actual performance thereof, before any right can be pleaded by such relations, but only consenting and engaging to the same. Hence in scripture, the covenant of works is compared to that covenant which is betwixt masters and servants, and the husband-man and his hired laborers, etc. and the reward is called debt, or hire, not because of any merit or condignity in the works (which cannot be pleaded, even in Adam’s case), but because the performance of the duties of holiness, and obedience, was necessarily presupposed to the having right to the great privileges contained in that covenant. For though Adam was in covenant with God at first, yet could he not claim life by virtue thereof, till he had continued in the obedience of the commands, and actually performed the same, as servants must do before they can plead for their hire. Again, the covenant of grace is compared to free adoption or a man’s entitling of a stranger to his inheritance upon condition of his receiving that, and to marriage betwixt man and wife (which is frequent in scripture); not because the covenant of grace requires not holiness and works, but because it does not require them actually to precede a person’s title to all privileges covenanted, and does freely entitle him to the same, upon his entry therein, as a wife is entitled to what is the husband’s, upon her marriage with him, although afterward she be to perform the duties of that relation, rather as duties called for by it, than as conditions of it. Hence we may call the covenant of works a servile covenant, and the covenant of grace a filial or conjugal covenant; and therefore, although holy duties be required in both, yet there is difference, and the one is of works, and the other of grace. Neither is it the difference that the works in the one were meritorious, and in the other not; for there is proper merit in neither, nor is the difference to be placed in this, that the one requires works perfectly holy, as the condition thereof, and the other evangelic works not perfectly holy. Because so, there were not the same law for ordering of holy duties to us which they had, nor that same absolute pattern of holiness for our copy, viz. God’s holiness, calling us to be holy as he is holy; nor were defects, in reference to our perfect holiness, sinful under the covenant of grace, if perfection were not required therein: all which are false, besides that so it were still of works. But the difference lies in this: that our working is not to be the ground of our right to the inheritance, nor actually to precede our right as in the covenant of works it was necessary, but believing and consenting only.

This difference betwixt the covenant of works and of grace, may be conceived thus: suppose a debtor being sued for his own debt, should either plead no debt, or that he had paid it, or would pay it; this is the covenant of works. Again, that of grace, is, as a debtor acknowledging debt, but being unable to pay, pleading only the cautioner’s payment, and expects to be absolved upon that account; and not as if by a cautioner’s intervening, he had all the debt forgiven him to so much, or had a new bargain given him for a penny yearly, or a pepper-corn in the place of a thousand talents; and, in a word, so much down, or that for gold, ore of gold should be accepted. For so:

(1) Some would have their penny more weighty than others, and thereby be more justified than others, or at least have a better ground to be justified upon.

(2) It would be still the same kind of condition, and so the same covenant in kind (majus et minus non variant specimen); for, paying of one bushel for an hundred chalders, still says it is victual-rent, although it be of grace, that it is so little. And indeed so, the first covenant might be called of grace, because the good promised was so far beyond the rent required: and so it was but as a man that did at first require a talent, for that which was worth much more, and should afterward alter and require only a shekel.

(3) It cannot be so; for the sinner’s charge is not that he wants [lacks] his penny or pepper-corn, but that he has broken the law; his righteousness therefore must be such as meets that charge (as Rom. 8:34), and so it must be such a righteousness as must stand before justice, and be equivalent, at least, to his own fulfilling the law, or his having satisfied the penalty thereof.

(4) When the apostle opposes the righteousness of the law and gospel, he opposes not as it were a thousand talents to a penny, or one sort of works to another, but the righteousness of Christ, or, to be found in him, to all kind of works whatsoever (Phil. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3, etc), and to have the righteousness of faith, and the righteousness of Christ, and the righteousness by faith, are ever one and the same, and are still opposed to works.

From this also it appears that covenanting does in order of nature precede justification; because, by covenanting and being in covenant, we come to have a right thereto, as to a promise of the covenant, as the accepting of an offered pardon, does go before our having actual right to the following privileges, or a woman’s consent before her actual claim to the husband’s goods, though the one is not supposed to be without the other; even as the breach of covenant precedes our being liable to condemnation by the law. Hence also we may someway gather that there may be some formal different consideration of the condition of justification, from the condition of the covenant; for justification being a legal judicial act, it must presuppose such a condition as may be a ground in justice to absolve a sinner; and therefore in this, Christ’s satisfaction, as presented and pleaded, must be the only ground; for it is with respect to that only, by which a sinner can be justified; and this is, to be found in Christ (Phil. 3:9). Covenanting again, being a mutual deed, wherein the Lord condescends to make a free offer, and to admit in covenant on condition of receiving, the condition here must be that which entitles to that thing offered and enters the person within the bond of the covenant, which must be faith. Hence these two acts of faith, whereby it is defined, may be thus conceived:

(1) It receives Christ, and so it enters into and closes with the covenant, and gets instantly a title to what is contained therein.

(2) It rests on him; which must be judicially understood, as one rests on a relevant defense, and therefore pleads it, as it is said Rom. 2, that the Jews rested on the law, which was to expect justification by it, and so to rest on the righteousness thereof; in which sense we now rest by faith on Christ’s righteousness. This supposes one to be in him, and in the covenant, and it looks, as such, to justification; and in respect of its manner of acting immediately on Christ our righteousness, it may well be called the instrumental cause of our justification.

Thus, suppose a sinner to be lying under God’s curse, and suppose the Mediator to have satisfied, and a proclamation to be made, that whatsoever sinner, liable to the curse for sin, will accept of Christ’s righteousness; and rest thereon, he shall be justified. (1) A sinner is induced to receive that offer, which is done by consenting and submitting to that way of obtaining righteousness; this is the closing with the covenant, and thus faith is the condition thereof. Then (2). Suppose him to look to the charge that stands against him for his former sins in God’s threatened curse, and to satisfy this he gives in Christ’s satisfaction; which being offered to him for this end that he, upon the receiving thereof, may be justified; he, by faith resting on God’s faithful word, through Christ, repels all these charges, by presenting that as his defense, and by the letter of the law of faith, which says, He that believeth shall not come into condemnation, but hath passed from death to life. He is absolved: and this is justification, even as he was formerly condemned by the law of works. Here the only meritorious cause of the absolution, and the righteousness upon which the sentence passes, is the cautioner’s payment; yet so as it is judicially pleaded. In which respect, we say that faith is instrumental. And though this pleading of it be necessary, and the law absolves not but when the ground is instructed; yet this pleading or instructing is not in the person’s righteousness properly, or the ground of his absolution. But that which is pleaded and instructed, viz. the cautioner’s payment which being according to law instructed, is the ground of absolving the debtor from the charge. This is plain, even in the dealing of human courts. And the tenor of the way of justification, being held forth in the Word, with respect to a judicial procedure in human courts, as is said, it can no other way be more satisfyingly cleared.

To insist a little more then: There is a two-fold peculiarity attributed to faith, beside what is given to works and any other grace. (1) That it is the condition of the covenant, properly. (2) That it has an instrumental causality peculiar to it, in our justification.

(1) By the first, is meant that believing in Christ, and the receiving of him; is that which instates one into the covenant, and gives him right to what is promised, and does in our having right to God’s promises, supply that room, which conditions do in men’s mutual bargains: wherein when one promises somewhat on such a condition, the performances of that condition does turn the conditional promise into an absolute right to him that has performed it. And so a condition is that upon which the title to the great promise, viz. God’s being our God, does depend. And faith gets this name in respect of the place God has put it into his covenant, and so it flows from his extrinsic ordination.

(2) By the second, viz. that it is called an instrumental cause, the intrinsic manner of its acting is respected. For, though it be from the Spirit with other graces, and they be not separated; yet has it a peculiar aptitude to look to Christ, receive him, apprehend and eat him, take hold of and rest on him, etc. which no other grace has. For it is in the new creature and inner-man some way proportionably as it is in the outer-man; for though there be many members of one body, yet all act not in the same manner; the hand acts one way, and the ear another, etc. So it is in the inner-man, there are many graces (which are members thereof) yet have they their peculiar way of acting, whereof these mentioned are attributed to faith; for which often it is called the eye, the hand, and the door of the renewed soul, because by it, Christ is apprehended and received thereunto.

We conceive this instrumentality is justly attributed to faith, because seeing there must be an application of the righteousness of Christ, and seeing faith concurs or is made use of as a mids [means] for receiving of him, which is the way by which his righteousness is applied, why may it not be called instrumental in our justification, as it is instrumental in receiving of, and resting on his righteousness, by which, and for which we are justified? And thus faith is not our receiving, but the means by which we receive, as the eye is not our seeing, nor the hand our gripping of anything, but the organs or means whereby we see and grip. Neither does this give anything to faith, that derogates from Christ; for it leaves the praise and virtue to him. But [it] does infer only an exercising of faith, for attaining of that benefit, viz. justification; justification itself being an apotelesma, to say so, or effect, both of Christ’s purchase, God’s grace, and our believing, and flows from them all respectively, and presupposes the same. The dispute about active and passive instruments is needless here, seeing the meaning is clear, that for attaining of justification by Christ’s righteousness, faith does peculiarly concur in the apprehending thereof, and resting thereon, otherwise than other graces can be said to do. And this cannot be denied, if we consider:

(1) That to be justified by Christ, and by faith, or by the righteousness of Christ, and the righteousness of faith, are still one in scripture, even then when that concurrence which is allowed to faith is denied to all other things; which says that faith concurs peculiarly, and that so as Christ is rested on by it when it justifies; or that it justifies by obtaining justification through him.

(2) If this be truth, that the righteousness of Christ is the thing immediately presented before God’s justice upon which we are absolved, as is said, and also if it cannot be denied that faith has a peculiar aptitude to act on Christ’s righteousness, and present the same; then it must be granted, first, that faith must have a peculiar way of concurring to the attaining of justification; and secondly, that this may well be called an instrumental casualty in reference to that end. Otherwise there is no use nor exercise of this its particular aptitude, which is still acknowledged. And if it please better to say, that faith justifies or concurs in justification, in respect of its peculiar aptitude to act on Christ, and to receive him, than to say it concurs instrumentally, we shall not contend, providing it be the same, upon the matter, with the ordinary doctrine concerning this instrumentality of faith, which we may illustrate and confirm by these considerations and similitudes.

(1) It is granted that the Word is the external instrument of justification; and that must be because it offers the same upon condition of believing; or holds forth a righteousness by which we may be justified; so faith must be the internal instrument, because it receives the same that is offered by the Word; and receiving is no less necessary to justification, than offering; and seeing that receiving and offering relate so to each other, and both to the end, there is reason to attribute the same kind of casualty to the one, that is given to the other respectively.

(2) We are said to be justified by faith in Christ, as the people were healed by looking to the brazen serpent, which was to typify this (John 3:14). Now they, by the virtue of the serpent (considering it typically, and with respect to the appointment), did receive health; yet so as that health was attained by looking thereto; in which respect, their eye, or look, might be called instrumental in their health, although it was not looking simply, but to that object with respect to the Lord’s appointment. Even so it is here; it is Christ’s virtue whereby we are justified, yet so as by faith it is apprehended, and according to God’s appointment looked unto. And thus (as Matt. 7), the eye is called the light of the body, because it is the organ by and through which light is brought or let in to it; so faith may be called our righteousness, as it is the means by which Christ’s righteousness without us is apprehended, brought in as it were, and admitted of, to be ours.

(3) Justification is still held forth in judicial expressions, as is said: now, as an accused party, their producing of a law for them, or a discharge, may be said to be instrumental in their own absolution, although it be only the virtue of the discharge given in that procures the same; so may faith be said instrumentally to justify us, as it presents for us Christ’s satisfaction before the justice of God, and so it is here as in human courts. For although some advocates, it may be, plead better, and some worse; yet suppose that they all produce the same discharges, and the same laws in favors of their clients, they might all be called instrumental in their absolution, and the ground of their absolvitours[4] would be equal. Whereas, if their act of pleading, without respect to what is pleaded, were considered, it would not be so. Even so here, though some men’s faith be more strong, and others more weak, yet all apprehending the same satisfaction of Christ, there is equal sharing in justification; which could not be, if faith did not concur instrumentally in the use-making of Christ’s righteousness, even as of the only immediate evangelic righteousness, as it respects our justification; because, if faith be considered in itself, and not as with the object, apprehended by it, it is not equal even in those that are justified.

4. See it in miraculous faith: as it concurs for attaining of a particular benefit; so does saving faith for attaining of justification. For that there is an equal influence of both upon their respective effects, cannot be denied. Now, that miraculous faith might be said someway to concur instrumentally for health, is clear; for it is said that some had faith to be healed, to receive virtue from Christ, etc. which others had not, and accordingly the effects are attributed both to their faith and to Christ’s power; therefore, it may be so here, viz. justification may flow from faith as the instrumental cause, and from Christ’s righteousness as the meritorious.

5. In the ordinary similitude of marriage or solemn covenanting, it may be seen: for, actual consenting, or the hand that writes the name, may be said to be instrumental in the closing of the bargain, or in attaining the privileges that follow thereon, and the hand has another influence than the foot or eye, although these also be necessary, yet it is not consenting or subscribing simply, but such and such in reference to such objects and covenants: even as it is not the tongue’s speaking truths, and the reaching forth of discharges simply, that are instrumental in men’s courts for attaining absolution; but it is the speaking of such pertinent truths, or producing of such suitable discharges that comes under that name. And this is all we intend when we say that faith concurs instrumentally, even to hold out the immediate cause of our justification to be Christ apprehended by faith: so that faith and Christ are both necessary, but differently, and so also that the efficacy of all the concurrence of faith may be from Christ the object, from which it is not to be separated when it is said to justify.

The other thing peculiarly attributed to faith, is that it is the condition of the covenant of grace, properly: which can be said of no other grace or work. This is to be understood as is above expressed, viz. that faith is that which on our side is called for, for constituting of us covenanters, and giving us right to the great comprehensive promise thereof, that God may be our God: and upon the performing of which, that which God has promised in it, may be expected, as is before said.

That faith is thus the condition peculiarly, and not works, nor any other grace (beside what is said afterward upon repentance) may thus appear:

(1) Because faith only has that peculiar aptitude of receiving God’s offer, and returning of our engagement; and so, for making the bargain mutually to be closed: and faith cannot be conceived to be exercised, but the bargain must be conceived to be closed, and that person to be in covenant: therefore, the exercising thereof must be peculiarly the condition.

(2) If faith be that which peculiarly rides marches [Ed. See page 4] between the covenant of grace and the covenant of works and curse, and a believer eo ipso [for that very reason] be freed from the curse, because he is a believer, and rests on Christ, then faith must be peculiarly the condition of the covenant of grace; but the former cannot be denied, and is clear (John 3:18, 36).

(3) If works concur in the same casualty with faith, then it must either be works before one be in covenant, or works thereafter; but it can be neither. Not before one be in covenant, because such works cannot be accepted; nor secondly, after; because then they could not be the condition upon which we are admitted: for so, we would be accepted before the condition be performed. If it be said, that the same reasoning will seclude faith, because if faith be the condition, then it must either be faith before we be in covenant, or after, etc. Answ. It follows not; because it is faith neither before nor after our entry, but that which enters us, that is the condition. And it cannot be conceived before nor after, being an instantaneous act, as solemn consenting in marriage, is not before nor after, as it constitutes marriage; but instantly. Here, still observe, that when we speak of a condition, we speak of that condition whereby one is admitted within the covenant, and not of anything that may be implied to be performed by one admitted already to covenant; because that must be the condition of the covenant properly that entitles one to the privileges covenanted. But what enters one into this covenant, does entitle him to the privileges covenanted; therefore it must properly be the condition; and faith being that, is therefore alone so to be esteemed. Which we may further urge thus: either being admitted to the covenant, one is freed from the curse, and instated in all the privileges of the covenant or not. It cannot be said not, because that were to make one a covenanter and not a covenanter, and one cannot be conceived to be in covenant with God, but God is in covenant with him actually, as a wife’s marrying of a husband does actually state her in what is the husband’s. Therefore faith being that whereby we are entered into covenant, as is granted, must be properly the only condition. Again, either by faith we are instated in the covenant of grace upon the very instant of believing, and so justified; or, one may be supposed to be a believer and not to be in the covenant of grace; or, to be in the covenant of grace, and not to be justified; both which are absurd: therefore faith must be the proper condition.

If it be said here that justification is a continued act, then we urge: (1) If instantly on believing one be justified and freed from the curse and instated into friendship with God, then it cannot be a continued act; but the former is true, as is said; and to say otherwise, would overturn the nature of the covenant. (2) If justification be a continued act, then our being received and admitted into covenant as to a right unto the saving blessings promised therein, must be a continued act also. For these two must stand and fall together, viz. to be admitted thus into covenant, and to be justified; for who are thus in covenant are justified, and who are justified are thus in covenant. But the last cannot be said, viz. that the act of our being admitted, or whereby we are entered into covenant, is a continued act.

Because: [1] So none living could be said to be in covenant with God, nor account themselves to be God’s, or claim God to be theirs, which is absurd.

[2] So one that is a believer, might be said to be under the curse of the covenant of works, which is contrary unto that freedom pronounced into believers. For if they are not under grace, they are still under the covenant of works, and if under grace, then in the covenant of grace. To say here that God continues to justify, will not remove this; because justification must continue only as their admitting, or the act of their admission into covenant, may continue. But it cannot be said that they continue in being admitted into covenant; or that by a continued act the Lord is still admitting them; or that they are continuing to enter, as it infers non-admission, or non-entry, or an imperfect admission, but as it suppones [supposes] the person to be entered, and to continue so, it must therefore be so in justification.

[3] If a believer, eo ipso that he is a believer, has a shield against all challenges, and a righteousness that can abide the trial in justice, then justification cannot be a continual act, because if justification be not instantaneous and immediately perfect, it must either be upon one’s not believing in Christ, or because of some defect of the righteousness that faith presents, and so faith were not a sufficient shield. For it must be, because the word does not pronounce him just upon the ground of that righteousness, which were also absurd; but the former is true: a believer cannot be conceived to be such, but he has a complete righteousness in Christ, and by being in him, has a sufficient answer to justice, upon the first instant of believing, as the whole series of the gospel demonstrates, he that believeth shall not come into condemnation, etc. Therefore must he be upon the first instant justified; for if it were but a perfecting, it could not be said that he had an actual perfect righteousness, but only that it were a perfecting.

Further, we may argue against works concurring with faith, thus: If works be a condition of the covenant, then it must either be works as begun, or as persevered into. But neither can be said. Not the first, because it is granted that persevering in holiness is no less necessary than entering thereinto. Not the second, because perseverance is a mercy contained in the covenant, and (if we may say so) promised to us upon condition of our believing and entering covenant: it cannot therefore be the condition of our entering the covenant. Again, many have not actual works, and yet may be saved; therefore works cannot be the condition. If it be said, that such have resolutions of, and engagement unto works; that cannot solve this; because this opinion distinguishes works, and the necessity of them from faith properly and strictly taken. Yet to them that hold it, faith strictly and properly taken (even that which is justifying), does receive Christ as Lord, and so implies this engagement: and therefore, if that definition of justifying faith were true, and this ground also granted, that engaging is sufficient, then also were faith properly, that is, strictly taken, the condition of the covenant, according as they understand it; and so there were no necessity to add or mention works as distinct from it, or to press faith to be the condition as more largely and improperly taken. And so in some respect there were no difference: for this far none denies but that actual engaging to Christ and to holiness is necessary; because it is impossible to conceive one closing with the covenant, but he becomes ipso facto engaged who does close. Or thus: that which is the condition to one, must be to all at age (for of such we speak); but actual works cannot be the condition to all; because some may be saved without them. As suppose (which is not impossible) actual consenting to the covenant, and engaging to holiness, were the last act of a person before death; neither can they say that engaging to holiness were in this case sufficient, and that is here intended: because works are spoken of as the condition, as they are distinguished from faith, as it is taken by them to be the accepting of Christ as Lord as well as Savior, as has been said. See more of this on repentance. [5]

But beside all that is spoken, these two mainly stand in the way of our accounting works a condition of the covenant, or of justification, in the same kind of casualty with faith:

1. Because it obscures the difference of the two covenants, viz. the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace; for so works should be still the condition of the covenant of grace. Now, the apostle does directly oppose these. The righteousness of the law saith on this ways, the man that doth these things, etc. And the righteousness of faith is held forth as opposite to that, and so cannot be said to consist in doing of works (Rom. 10:5-6; Gal. 3:12).

If it be said that he excludes legal works, or law-righteousness, which are not alleged by this opinion; but does not exclude evangelic works, which may well stand with grace. Answ. (1) The apostle’s opposition is not made to exclude one kind of works, and take in another; but simply to exclude all which may come under the expression do this. And hence faith itself, as it is our work, has ever been excluded in this respect.

(2) If we look to works, with respect unto the covenant of works, even so works have no proper merit, nor proportion unto the things promised of themselves, but as it is determined and condescended to in the covenant, and by virtue of God’s promise made thereunto. Therefore it is called a covenant of works, not because of the merit of the works, but in respect of the formality of the condition thereof, viz. doing; that is, the righteousness which we ourselves do (Tit. 3:5). And in this respect, to work one day, and to work twenty years, or paying of a thousand talents, and one penny, does not difference the nature of the condition of the covenant (supposing the condition of both to be expressed in these terms) although the degree thereof be different.

(3) Faith is opposed to works as the condition of the covenant, or of justification, not as considered in itself, but as with respect to its object Christ; and so we are thus to conceive the opposition, works inherent in us, and performed by us, are called for in the covenant of works, as the righteousness thereof, and as the only ground upon which we can expect to be justified by it. Again, by the covenant of grace, Christ’s righteousness without [outside] us, received by faith, is only admitted as a righteousness and ground of justification. That faith is so to be understood, in Rom. 10:5-6 and Gal. 3:10-12, etc. is evident. For the righteousness spoken of [in] Rom. 10:3-4 (which is the righteousness of faith, and is opposed to our righteousness) is Christ, the end of the law for righteousness to all that believe, who was stumbled at by the Jews, etc. So it is also in that other place, Gal. 3. as the scope manifests, viz. faith as making use of Christ; his becoming the curse for us. And it is observable that in both these chapters the difference of the conditions of the covenant of works and of grace is insisted on, to plead the necessity of a righteousness without us in opposition to our own; and so faith must be the condition of the covenant of grace, as it acts or rests on that.

2. The second thing that mainly dissuades from that opinion, is that it proposes something in ourselves as the immediate ground of our justification before God, under that title of being our evangelic righteousness. For if works concur in that same casualty with faith, then our believing properly must be accounted our righteousness, and not Christ’s by faith, taken hold on; because these two are inconsistent, viz. faith and works, in a proper sense, to be our evangelic righteousness, and Christ’s also. For, suppose one to be charged at God’s bar for sin, the one way Christ is represented, and the other way the man’s believing and obedience. If it be said, that when we mention believing or faith, it cannot but respect Christ: Answ. (1) Then there is no difference; for we acknowledge faith correlatively taken to be our righteousness. (2) Then also works cannot concur in that manner, for they cannot so respect him; which is all that is intended.

If it be said, that Christ is our legal righteousness, that is, that by him we have satisfied the covenant of works, he having paid in our name; but faith and obedience are our evangelic righteousness; that is, as he has procured a new grant of life upon these easy terms in the covenant of grace, and so as by performing thereof, we may come to have right to what he has purchased, in satisfying the first covenant:

Answ. (1) This misrepresents God’s way of covenanting, who has not appointed our paying of a small rent (as it were a penny) to be the ground of our right unto Christ’s purchase; but seeing Christ became cautioner in our name, to pay the debt, he has appointed the debtor’s claiming of, and submitting unto his payment, to be the terms upon which he shall be absolved as was at the entry to this discourse observed, and is clear from Philip. 3:9, where the righteousness of faith (which is our evangelic righteousness, and opposed to works) and to be found in Christ, are one; and the one is explained by the other.

(2) This way makes a covenant to be a mids or way for attaining of another righteousness for justification beside Christ’s; and so makes two righteousnesses in justification, and one of them to be the mids [means] for attaining the other; whereas the gospel righteousness is but one in itself, by faith apprehended and made ours.

(3) Although this may seem not to exalt works by giving them any merit; yet it is impossible to account them even to be our evangelic righteousness, or a condition of the covenant of grace, but there will be still a readiness to heighten them above their own place, which derogates to the way of grace that is laid down by faith in Christ. For it is easy to exceed in reference to anything in ourselves considered in itself; whereas when faith only is respected, as it apprehends Christ, it cannot be so considered; for it not only merits nothing, but it excludes merit and all boasting. And therefore the Lord has thus wisely ordered that all may be kept from boasting, even of faith.

(4) We may answer, if by legal righteousness be understood that which may be satisfying to the law, so Christ indeed is our legal righteousness, yet so as by the gospel only we have access to him, and have a promise of being accepted through him, without the receiving of which by faith, he is not a legal righteousness to any; and so he is our only evangelic righteousness also. And thus our legal righteousness and evangelic are the same, for there is but one charge to a sinner, which only can be answered by fleeing to Christ. And so he is our legal righteousness as the law’s charge is satisfied by him; and he is our evangelic righteousness, as that means of answering the law is to us proposed in the gospel, and for us (upon the condition foresaid) accepted by the same, without which Christ had never been our legal righteousness. And the dividing of these two righteousnesses, does suppone [suppose], that there may be a legal righteousness in Christ, to such as may actually never partake thereof (and we are afraid that some such thing may occasion this distinction), whereas God’s way in the gospel is to provide a righteousness for such as were given to Christ, by which they may be actually justified (Isa. 53:11). And if Christ be not this gospel-righteousness, what can it be? For it is by him we are freed from the curse of the law, which is the end wherefore this gospel-righteousness is preached. And it is by putting on him, that even the gospel holds forth justification. But if we consider the law-righteousness strictly, as it requires personal holiness, or satisfaction from the very party, so Christ is not our legal righteousness; and in that sense it cannot be pleaded for. It must therefore follow that he is our gospel-righteousness, seeing no other way but by the gospel we have access to him, and therefore, that distinction will not hold here. For Christ is either our legal righteousness – that is, the righteousness which the law holds forth and accepts of itself, or our evangelic righteousness – that is, the righteousness which the gospel holds forth, and which by it is accepted. But he is not the first. Ergo, he must be the second. And so faith, properly taken, cannot be our evangelic righteousness, seeing Christ, and faith properly taken, without relation to him, cannot both be so accounted. Again, if faith properly taken, and that largely, be our gospel-righteousness upon which we are justified, then it is either faith, including that respect to Christ, or not. But neither of these can be. For, if it respect and include Christ, then it is what we say: faith with its object, and not faith properly; and so not faith in that same casualty with works, which is asserted. If it respect not, nor include Christ, then is there a righteousness and ground of justification, wherein Christ is not comprehended, which will sound no way like a gospel-righteousness.

If it be said, that he has procured faith in that large sense to be accepted: Answ. (1) That makes a new covenant of works, as is said. (2) That is not to make Christ to be our immediate righteousness; but only to have procured that such works should be accepted, and the former covenant mitigated, but not in its nature changed. And so (3) It homologates popish doctrine, which we would hope is far from being intended by the maintainers of this opinion. (4) That overturns the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as our immediate righteousness, which is enough to make it to be shunned. For if we lippen [trust] to such graces and duties as abstracted from Christ, and without resting on him, that is, not to be found in him, but in them (for these two are opposed, Philip. 3:9); and so they are a righteousness that will never quiet the conscience, and which the gospel will never own as an evangelic righteousness, rest on it who will.

If it be said, “Cannot faith then, properly taken, be in any respect counted a condition, or ground of right? For answer, in sum we say: (1) That faith, at most, is but the condition on which Christ becomes our righteousness, or is imputed to us for our justification; and so faith itself properly cannot be our righteousness. (2) We say that when faith is called the condition of the covenant, or our righteousness, it does not imply that it is properly imputed; but it shows to whom, and upon what terms, Christ’s righteousness is imputed, or how a sinner may have access to be justified by it. (3) We say that faith, when it is called the condition, is ever to be taken strictly; that is, as it receives Christ, and by that manner of acting is differenced from all other graces and works. And so (4) We say, that it cannot be conceived under this consideration, but as looking to Christ’s righteousness as the object thereof, even as we cannot conceive a consent which constitutes a marriage, without respect unto the party consented unto, and his offer, or declaration of his will preceding, without which no consent could be constitutive of marriage, or be a ground of claim to any of the goods or privileges of such a person. Or, as we cannot conceive looking to the brazen serpent, as the condition upon or means by which health was gotten, but with respect to the object thereof, viz. the serpent. And the ground and warrand [warrant: surety; security] preceding, viz. God’s appointment; without which, a look, considered simply in itself, is not so to be esteemed.

If it be yet urged here, that if faith properly taken, be the condition of the covenant of grace, and has in that succeeded in the room that works had in the covenant of works, then faith must be our evangelic righteousness, because works then were our legal righteousness, and that upon which our right to life did stand; but the former is a truth; he that said “do and live,” says now, “believe and be saved.” Ergo, etc.

Answ. (1) This will say nothing for faith largely taken as comprehending works; but at the most for faith strictly taken as contradistinguished from them: and so there will not be that same kind of casualty in both, but the contrary.

(2) In this condition, faith is never to be taken without implying the object Christ; or without respect to its proper aptitude for receiving of him, and so “believe and thou shalt be saved,” implies still this: “receive Christ and rest on his righteousness, or submit to Christ’s righteousness, and accept of him for that end, that he may be righteousness to thee, and thou shalt be saved.” It is impossible to conceive it otherwise, at least rightly. Now, when upon believing, justification follows and the person is declared just, it cannot be said that the act of believing properly is imputed, and that upon that account he is declared just. It is rather Christ’s righteousness believed on, that is imputed to him, and upon that account he is declared just, which is the very terms of the covenant of redemption, whereby the sinner’s sins are imputed to Christ; whereupon he, as cautioner [surety], is sentenced, and made sin, that his righteousness may be imputed to us, and so we, upon that account, made righteous, and that in him, and not in ourselves; as it is, 2 Cor. 5:21, which implies that even our evangelic righteousness, whereby we are absolved, is in him, and not in ourselves, as the sin for which he was sentenced was in us, and not in him.

(3) There is this difference between the two covenants, as was said: the one is a servile covenant, to say so, and must have what is engaged to in it, performed, before one have right to what is promised. And so works were in the covenant of works, the condition upon which life was to be expected; and without the actual performing of which, there could have been no pleading for it. But this, viz. the covenant of grace, is a conjugal covenant; therefore is not the condition thereof in all things to be squared by that. Besides, works were the very material righteousness upon which justification was sounded in the covenant of works; but to say of faith, as taken in itself, and without respect to Christ, that it were so the condition now, would be absurd, Christ being, by the whole strain of the gospel, held forth to be rested on before we can be justified. And yet even this would not confirm any way what is said of the joint concurrence of grace and works in that same kind of casualty with faith.

If it be further said: “May not faith, properly taken, be called the condition upon which Christ’s righteousness becomes a sinner’s, and is imputed to him?”

Answ. (1) This confirms what we say. For if faith be the condition upon which Christ becomes our righteousness, then it is Christ who is our righteousness, and not faith strictly and properly taken, much less largely, as comprehending all other graces. For if it were our righteousness, properly, there needed no imputation of Christ’s after our believing, except it be said, as some Papists say, that it is imputed to make up our defects, and to make our holiness acceptable; and so it were our faith and works that should be justified by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and not our persons: which is contrary to scripture.

(2) This is, upon the matter, the same with what we said, as is hinted; for, suppose a debtor to be pursued, he pleads absolution, because his cautioner has paid, and he produces the discharge given to him, wherein that is acknowledged. His pleading so, and producing of that discharge, may be some way called the ground that gives him right in law to have that payment of the cautioner’s imputed to him; yet his absolution flows from the complex business, not of his pleading simply, but of the cautioner’s paying, his pleading of that payment, and the law’s accepting of that defense, and imputing of it to him; and so from all these together his absolution flows. Just so it is here. Our justification flows from Christ’s satisfaction being accepted and rested on by us, and imputed to us by God.

(3) And therefore, thirdly, though faith properly be the condition upon which Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, I had rather call it the means by which it is apprehended; yet it follows not that therefore faith, properly taken, is our righteousness, and as such, is imputed to us, and accounted so, seeing still this presupposes the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in order of nature to intervene between our believing and our justification; and therefore, that his righteousness imputed, must be properly our righteousness; seeing we, upon that account, and considered as such (viz. as having Christ’s righteousness imputed to us) are justified, and upon that righteousness imputed, justification is immediately grounded.

(4) Yet, fourthly, all this says nothing for faith largely taken, as comprehending all gospel duties. For though faith strictly taken be necessary for having right to Christ’s righteousness, of having it imputed to us, yet are not actual works so, by any means; but, through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, we are first accepted, and then bring forth these good works; which shows that they do not go before that imputation of Christ’s righteousness, or our justification, but that rather they follow thereupon. For if we cannot do good works till we be sanctified, and if none be sanctified but such as are justified, and these two cannot be separated; no, not for an instant of time (for it cannot be said that a man is sanctified, but not yet justified, aut contra); then it will follow that a man is justified before he has actual works (it is of such we debate, and not of habitual seminal holiness); for he may be, and is sanctified before he can have them, much more ere he persevere in them, and so consequently, actual good works cannot concur to justification as faith does, or be the condition thereof. But the former is true and clear: therefore so is the latter also, which is the thing that was in question.

(5) Lastly, we say, if faith properly and largely taken according to their meaning, or yet strictly, be imputed to us for righteousness, then either Christ’s righteousness is not imputed, but our faith only, or Christ’s righteousness and our faith properly taken also. But neither can be said. Not the first, viz. that the righteousness of Christ is not imputed to us, but faith only; that I suppose is not intended. Neither can the latter be said, viz. that faith is imputed to us for righteousness, and Christ also. For then, Christ is either imputed for our total righteousness, and so faith [does not] come in, or, as a partial righteousness, and that is absurd. Again, either his righteousness is imputed to us before we believe (and so before our faith can be imputed), which is false; for that would make Christ’s righteousness to be ours before we were in covenant internally. Or, it is imputed to us after we believe, and so after our own faith is imputed to us and accepted for righteousness; but that cannot be; for then we would be righteousness before the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, which is absurd. Or, lastly, both must be imputed together, which also cannot be. For if both be imputed together, properly, then both in the same sense or kind of casualty, or in divers senses. The first cannot be said; for that would make both meritorious, which is disclaimed. If the last be said, then it must be so as the one is imputed to us for our legal righteousness, viz. Christ’s satisfaction, and the other as out evangelic, viz. faith. But (1) That is the thing already spoken to, and divides Christ and our gospel-righteousness. Or (2) It turns to this, that Christ is the thing that satisfies justice, but faith is the ground or means by which we come to have title to that satisfaction; which is the thing that is granted, and we suppose is the thing that by some is intended: and is, in sum, that to which others give the name of the instrumental cause. And, if so, there needs not be contending for words: for both are acknowledged, viz. that by Christ’s righteousness, only as the meritorious cause, we are justified, and that there is no right to plead justification by that, except by faith, or upon condition of believing, by which actual right to Christ, and by him justification is certainly obtained.

Further, it cannot be said that they are imputed jointly. For then:

(1) Either that imputation must be an instantaneous act, at the first believing, or exercise of faith, and so justification must be an instantaneous act also; which they will not grant; because the faith that is imputed, according to them, is faith and the exercise of holiness persevered in; for which cause, justification to them is a continued act.

(2) It must be instantaneous, but not imputed, till faith and holiness be persevered into; and by this neither Christ’s righteousness, nor faith is imputed to the person, nor can he be accounted in friendship with God, or to be in Christ, or righteous, till his life be closed; for he cannot be accounted so, till he be justified, and he is not justified till these be imputed to him for righteousness.

Or (3) That imputation must be a continued act, from the first closing with Christ till the end. But how can that be? For [1] It is hard to conceive the act of the imputation of our faith to be continued, but more hard to conceive the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to be a continued act; for Christ’s righteousness at the first is perfect, and it is to be imputed to the believers. If therefore one may be called a believer, it is to be imputed to him instantly. [2] Imputation being a judicial word and act, it supposes an instant sentencing of such a righteousness to belong to such a person, as it were, and to be accepted for him. For if he has not a perfect right, there is no legal imputation to say so; but if it be perfect, then it is an instantaneous act. [3] If it be continued, then it is continued as if at first it were not a perfect imputation or perfectly imputed; but that were to say that it is not imputation: if it be continued as perfect, then it is supposed to be instantaneous, and past; and what was said for justification, holds here. Indeed if the meaning be that the gospel continues to impute righteousness, even after faith, till the believer be in heaven, and to account such a sinner just by virtue thereof; that is truth. But that speaks the changed state of a sinner, upon the account of an imputation and justification already: so, indeed, the word of the gospel continues still to pronounce believers justified upon that account, and that imputation in its virtue never ceases. But it cannot be said that the word continues to justify, as justifying denotes the changing of a person’s state, from a state of enmity to a state of friendship: even as an absolved rebel, or debtor, once pronounced free by virtue of such a person’s intercession, or cautioner’s payment, continues to be declared free; that is, his absolution continues in force. But properly, the act of freedom, or absolving, does not continue, but is instantaneous upon the production of such rights.

To shut up this, we may illustrate the way of justification, which is more clearly expressed in the gospel under these expressions, Believe, and thou shalt be saved, by comparing it with the more obscure and typical expressions used under the law: for, it is certain, the substance is the same; and what is our legal righteousness, was theirs; and what was their evangelic righteousness, is ours also. Now, the terms or expressions of the Old Testament run thus (Lev. 1:3-4, etc): When a man sinneth, he shall bring his offering, etc. and shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering, and it shall be accepted for him, to make an atonement for him, etc. In which words, there is an express condescending upon the Lord’s side, to propose something as a righteousness for a sinner, which was to be accepted for him; yet, I suppose, no Christian will say that it was the external sacrifice itself that was to be accepted for such, nor that it was the act of the faith of the offerer alone, that was so accepted. For then there needed no sacrifice. But it behooved to be the thing typified by that sacrifice, viz. the sacrifice of Christ, looked to, apprehended and pleaded by the faith of the offerer, that was so accepted. Yet, the external sacrifices in the Old, are as expressly said to be accepted for a sinner’s justification, or as an atonement for him, as faith is said to be accounted for righteousness in the New: and, as it cannot be said, that by virtue of Christ’s satisfaction, or the covenant with him, it was procured that such performances and sacrifices should be accepted of themselves, as the person’s immediate evangelic righteousness, though their ceremonial law was their gospel; so it cannot be said that there is any such bargain concerning faith in the New Testament: but that Christ apprehended by faith, is the righteousness both under the Old and New Testament: which is the thing we intend.

[1] The text has been edited against both the 1788 and the 1799 editions. See also the recent new edition published by Old Paths Publications.

[2] Ed. Marches — Borders. As in “Riding the marches, a practice retained in various boroughs, especially at the time of public markets. ‘It is customary to ride the marches, occasionally, so as to preserve in the memory of the people the limits of their property.’” Jamieson. This is a phrase often used by Durham. See Lectures on Job (chapter 3 & 24), Sermons on Isaiah 53 (Sermon 20), Lectures on Revelation (1.5; 3.1-3; 5.2; 8.2; 9.2; 11.3; 12.1&3; 22.3), and Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments, 10th Commandment.

[3] See “Concerning Repentance,” another separate lecture or digression in Durham’s Commentary on Revelation.

[4] Absolvitor, absolvitour, absolvitur. Scottish Law. A forensic term. “Absolvitur from the claim.” When a person is freed by sentence of a judge from any debt or demand. Jamieson.

[5] See “Concerning Repentance.” Ibid.