Monday, January 05, 2009

0 Maintaining Sound Teaching on Justification

As I dig into the treatise "A Life of Justification, Opened" by John Brown of Wamphray, I am realizing how unfortunate it is that this man's work is so little known. The entire third chapter of his work, which is given the brief summary titlem "The Doctrine of Justification should be kept pure with all diligence; and what dangerous expressions should be shunned", could very well be posted in its entireity here, it being so worthwhile.

He begins this chapter with the following, by way of introduction:
We come next to speak a word unto the second particular mentioned; to wit, that all, who would be found faithful ambassadors, and be accepted of the Lord, should endeavor, both in practice and in doctrine, to keep this doctrine of the grace of God pure and unmixed: and particularly guard against the giving ground, or occasion to proud nature, to cry up self, in the matter of justification, by any expression, used in the explication thereof. We see here and elsewhere, how careful Paul is in this matter, using such expression, as may most emphatically exclude man, and all his pains, and set free grace on high, that God alone may be exalted... (p. 21, John Brown of Wamphray, A Life of Justification Opened)
What follows, then, is a list of several points that express erroneous positions regarding justification, each of which is worthy of an individual chapter of exposition. Though posting the whole chapter would indeed be worthwhile, I'll simply relate the contents of this list with the comment that these weighty items MUST be considered as we consider a proper understanding of justification.
  1. To say, that all works are excluded in justification; but such only as are done by the mere power and strength of nature; and not the works of grace, wrought by the Spirit.
  2. In like manner to say, that we are not justified by the works of the Ceremonial Law; but by obedience to the Moral Law
  3. Likewise to say, that all works are not excluded, but only outward works, which are done out of principle of fear, and not out of love and faith, and are not inward works of grace.
  4. They were guilty of the same crime, who say, that Paul only excludes the Jewish Law: for if thereby they mean only the Ceremonial Law, it is manifest from what is said, that hereby self and man shall be much exalted, when justification is made to be by, and according to the works of the Moral Law. If they mean thereby the Judicial Law, then justification should be by the Moral Law; yea and by obedience to the Ceremonial Law, as well as by obedience to the Moral Law, quite contrary to the whole discourse of the Apostle
  5. It is no less injurious to truth, and favorable to proud self, to sat with Socinus, that Paul only excludes perfect works, done in full conformity to the perfect Law of God; but not our imperfect works, which through grace are accepted, and accounted our righteousness
  6. It is injurious, upon the same account, to say, that Paul only excludes such works, as are accompanied with a conceit of merit, and none else
  7. It runs far in the same guilt, to say, that faith itself, which is our work, and considered as our act of obedience, is imputed to us for righteousness, and is that righteousness, upon which we are justified
  8. It is of the same nature, to say, that Paul excludes the works of the Law, but not the works of the Gospel: for the same ground of pride, boasting and glorying should be laid, that would be laid, by pleading for the works of the Law
  9. It must also be accounted dangerous, for puffing up of self, to say, that we are justified by our inherent righteousness
  10. Nor will it much help the matter, to say, that this inherent righteousness is not the price laid down, but only the condition, or causa, sine qu a non, or the like
  11. Neither yet will it prevent this boasting, to say, that this inherent righteousness is but a subordinate righteousness, whereby we have right unto the merits of Christ, which are the principle righteousness, answering the demands of the Law
  12. Though faith be indeed the mean of our justification, that is, the only thing required of us, in order to our interest in Christ, and actual participation of the benefits of his redemption, and of justification in the first place, according to the Gospel method: Yet it is too favorable to proud self, to call it such a condition, as hath a far more dangerous import;... And the performers of this condition, in this case, may reflect upon their own deed, and lay their weight on it, and, it being their righteousness, may plead upon it, as their immediate ground of right, before God, unto justification, and acceptance.
  13. It tends too much to blow up proud self, to say, that if works of obedience be not the condition of our justification, yet they may be called the condition of our second justification, or of the continuance of our justification
  14. It is also dangerous, to say, that the work of the Law, convincing of sin, with the effects and consequences thereof, sorrow, grief, anxiety, legal repentance, &c. are either dispositions, preparations or conditions of justification, or meritorious thereof by way of congruity
(pp. 15-21, John Brown, A Life of Justification Opened)
As I noted above, this list of errors is worthy of much consideration, and serves to introduce some of the topics Brown undertakes in the work from which I've quoted. Stay tuned for more.



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