The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Only Vindicated from the Charge of Encouraging Licentiousness
Romans 3:29-31
Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:…


1. The moral law is that rule to which from our relation to God we are obliged to conform. This obligation is founded on the nature of things, which nothing ever can dissolve. Should a doctrine, then, tend to warrant the inference that it might be relaxed, this would constitute sufficient ground for rejecting it. But such is not the tendency of our doctrine. On the contrary, it presupposes this obligation. There would have been no occasion for such a method of deliverance from the penal effects of offences committed against the law, but on the supposition of the antecedent obligation to obey the law. And is the sinner less bound to render obedience when he is pardoned, than when he was in a state of guilt?

2. In respect to the measure of the required obedience the objection falls to the ground. This law requires universal, unsinning obedience, and accounts every deviation to be sin. Should any interpretation, then, of Scripture be advanced, which shall reduce this measure of obedience, it would be justly rejected, as being dishonourable to God, contradictory to the Scriptures, and to the interests of morality. But the tendency of our doctrine is the exact opposite. It teaches us that we must be justified by faith, because the unsinning obedience required by the law renders it impossible that we can ever be justified by works. Were the law less holy, less rigorous in its demands, there would then be no necessity for this method of justification. But since righteousness cannot be attained by the law, the righteousness of faith is manifested in the gospel. Does faith, then, make void the law? No. It implies in the strongest manner the extensive nature of that obedience which the law requires.

3. But may not the doctrine supersede the necessity of any obedience at all? No; for —

(1) Mark the grounds on which the necessity of obedience to the moral law is founded. Because without it man would be unfit to enter into the presence of God, and unable to participate in the holy felicity of heaven (Hebrews 12:14; Matthew 5:8).

(2) Advert next to the particular nature of justification. It is simply one part of salvation — that part by which the guilt of sin is removed, and the sinner is reconciled to God. While it declares that no holiness has any share in atoning for sin, or in reconciling us to God, it does not therefore intimate that no holiness is requisite to qualify us for the enjoyment of our purchased inheritance. An invalid criminal receives a pardon. If we should assert that the state of his health had no connection with the mercy received, such an assertion could never be construed to imply that his recovery from sickness was unconnected with his future happiness. Because his obligation to punishment has been remitted by an act of grace, it cannot therefore be inferred that health is unnecessary to his enjoyment of the royal bounty. Nay, we should rather say that his deliverance from the sentence rendered the removal of his disorder a blessing more than ever desirable. So justification provides a remedy for the penal consequences which past disobedience has incurred; but it leaves the necessity of personal holiness to rest on the same foundation on which it always had rested, on the impossibility of holding communion with God, and of partaking in His felicity, without possessing corresponding dispositions, and being made partakers of His holiness. If, then, the method of justifying the sinner by faith only tends neither to weaken the obligation to obey the moral law, nor to reduce the measure of the required obedience, nor to supersede the necessity of obedience, in what sense does it make void the law? In no sense whatever.

II. THE ASSERTION THAT FAITH ESTABLISHES THE LAW. Far from producing effects unfavourable to the cause of morality, it tends to strengthen and promote it by motives of the most exalted nature, and of the most constraining obligation.

1. What is the state of the justified sinner? Under a conviction of the danger and misery of sin, looking unto Jesus, he has found peace and joy in believing. The ground of all his present peace and future prospects is a comfortable hope of his acceptance in the beloved. Let this hope be once destroyed, his peace is broken, his prospects are clouded. Still he is under condemnation. To keep alive, then, this hope is one leading object which the justified sinner has constantly in view. But how is the object to be accomplished? Doubtless the Holy Ghost is the author of this blessed experience, "who beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God." But He usually evidences to us our adoption by reflecting light on His own work of grace in the heart, and thus by enabling us to trace out the existence of the cause by the effects evidently produced. Sanctification, as it is the earnest of future glory, so it is an evidence, because a consequence, of our present reconciliation with God. Deliverance from the power of sin is a blessing annexed by promise to a state of justification (chap. Romans 6:14). Observe what a con. straining motive is thus provided to the attainment of universal holiness. The peace, the hope, the joy of a sinner are inseparably connected with the evidence of his interest in Christ.

2. But the faith which leads a sinner to Christ for justification includes a conviction, not only of the danger, but also of the demerit of sin. In what light does he view himself? As a brand plucked out of the fire; as a pardoned criminal, as a rebel graciously invested with all the privileges of a loyal subject. What sentiments of love, gratitude, obedience, does this view inspire!

3. These sentiments are still greatly augmented by a consideration of the means which have been employed in this work of mercy (Galatians 3:13). Redeemed with such a ransom, shall sinners refuse to give their lives to Christ? (1 Corinthians 6:20; Titus 2:14).

(E. Cooper.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

WEB: Or is God the God of Jews only? Isn't he the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,

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