Tuesday, December 30, 2008

1 John Brown of Wamphray on the Imputation of Christ's Active Obedience

I was reading yesterday afternoon an article in the 3rd volume of the Confessional Presbyterian Journal - a most excellent publication that is worth far more than its subscription price of just $18 per annum. See this link for a fantastic deal if you've never subscribed... $50 for all four annual issues, 2004-2008. If you are a student of historical theology, either vocationally or avocationally, you will find a bountiful harvest of sound Reformed/Presbyterian thought in this valuable journal.

As I was reading the above-mentioned article which dealt with differences in the doctrine of justification as taught by the eminent Puritan, John Brown of Wamphray, and the more well-known Richard Baxter. I thought to seek out the primary work of Brown's that the article deals with, namely, his treatise, entitled "The Life of Justification Opened". It's a wonder this hasn't been reprinted in 300 years, but these things happen, unfortunately. I've only found an electronic copy of the work - but that is far better than not having the work in any form at all - the link to that work is here.

At any rate, in glancing through this masterful work, it appears to be a truly foundational treatise on the doctrine of justification as understood by the Puritans of the 17th century. In addition to all the other reading I've got on my gradually lengthening list, I can't see putting this one down. So if I might tarnish an old chestnut with my own alteration, "Lego, ergo blog."

One choice passage I leave you with here, wherein Brown clearly states his position regarding the imputation of ALL of Christ's righteousness:
Secondly, Romans 3:31, Do we then make void the Law through faith? God forbid: yea we establish the Law. Where the Apostle, preoccupying an objection, asserts; that through justification by faith, he did not make void the Law, but rather did establish it; the ground whereof is this, that by the Gospel way of justification, the Law gets full satisfaction, in all points, because Christ not only satisfied for the penalty thereof, which we were guilty of, and did lie under; but did also yield a perfect obedience thereunto; that so He might make up a full and complete surety-righteousness, by the imputation of which unto his own, or the Lord’s reckoning it upon their score, when they receive it by faith, they may be justified. And thus, though sinners, who have broken the Law, and so have forfeited the reward, promised to such as observe it in all points, and are come under the Curse, threatened to transgressors, be not only freed from the Curse, but receive the rich recompense of reward; yet the Law is not made null and void, but is rather established and confirmed in its full force, both as to its commands and sanction. (p. 68, pagination of the online version)
Later, he adds the following important paragraphs:
The Apostle speaks of a righteousness, and of a righteousness imputed, and all righteousness must consist in obedience to the Law, and in full conformity thereto: and seeing it is said to be imputed, and not by our works, it must of necessity follow, that the Apostle is to be understood, as speaking of the surety righteousness of Christ. And if the righteousness of Christ, who gave perfect obedience to the Law, and was constituted Mediator and Surety by the Father, and as such did give full satisfaction both in obeying the Law, and in paying the penalty, be not such an obedience to the Law, as will serve every believer’s turn, where else will the believer find a more adequate righteousness? Shall we think, that his act of faith, which is but one act of obedience to the Law, or an act of obedience to one command of the Law, hath a more perfect and absolute agreeableness to every man’s condition respectively, than the perfect obedience and righteousness of Christ! Let such believe this, as can. (pp. 70-71, pagination of online version)
That imputation of righteousness and pardon of sins do inseparably go together,is true; and that the one proves the other, is also clear from these words. But it is not proved, nor can it be proved, that imputed righteousness and remission of sins are the same; seeing it is obvious enough, that righteousness is one thing, and pardon of sins is another distinct thing. No man will say, that a pardoned thief is a righteous man; for that were as much as to say, He was never a thief. It is true, by pardon he is no more obnoxious to the penalty; the obligation to undergo that being now taken away: yet that will not evince that he is a righteous man: and there is still a difference between him, and one that never was chargeable with that guilt: this man, as to this, is indeed a righteous man, but not the other. (p. 71, pagination of the online version)
This is classic imputation - of Christ's passive, and of Christ's active righteousness as delineated by the Reformers. Look here for more discussion of this important doctrine as I make my way through this wonderful treatise in the weeks and months to come.


wazzup! said...

John Brown of Wamphray is fantastic! I'm glad to see that he is being rediscovered. Still Waters Revival Books used to sell a photocopied version of The Life of Justification Opened for like $16. Their old website (swrb.com) still lists it as being available in that format, but like I said, that's an old website. I don't know if you're still looking for a hard copy, but if you are I'd check them out. They might be able to hook you up.


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