William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

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Justification


by William Ames


1. Participation in the blessings of the union with Christ comes
when the faithful have all the things needed to live well and
blessedly to God. Eph. 1:3, He has blessed us with every spiritual
blessing; Rom. 8:32, He who spared not his own son . . . how shall
he not freely with him give us all things also?

2. This participation therefore brings a change and alteration in
the condition of believers from the state of sin and death to the
state of righteousness and eternal life. 1 John 3:14, We know that
we are translated from death to life.

3. This change of state is twofold, relative and absolute (or real).

4. The relative change occurs in God's reckoning. Rom. 4:5, And to
him who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the
ungodly, his faith is imputed as righteousness. 2 Cor. 5:19, God
was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their
offenses.

5. The change, of course, has no degrees and is completed at one
moment and in only one act. Yet in manifestation, consciousness, and
effects, it has many degrees; therein lie justification and
adoption.

6. Justification is the gracious judgment of God by which he
absolves the believer from sin and death, and reckons him righteous
and worthy of life for the sake of Christ apprehended in faith. Rom.
3:22, 24, The righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ in all
and upon all that believe. . . . they are freely justified by his
grace . . . through the redemption made by Jesus Christ.

7. It is the pronouncing of a sentence, as the word is used, which
does not denote in the Holy Scriptures a physical or a real change.
There is rather a judicial or moral change which takes shape in the
pronouncing of the sentence and in the reckoning. Prov. 17:15, He
that justifies the wicked; Rom. 8:33, Who shall lay anything to the
charge of God's elect? It is God who justifies.

8. Therefore, Thomas and his followers are completely mistaken for
they would make justification a kind of physical motion from the
state of unrighteousness to that of righteousness in a real
transmutation. They consider that it begins with sin, ends in
inherent righteousness, with remission of sin and infusion of
righteousness the motion between.

9. The judgment was, first, conceived in the mind of God in a
decree of justification. Gal. 3:8, The Scripture, foreseeing that
God would justify the Gentiles by faith. Second, it was pronounced
in Christ our head as he rose from the dead. 2 Cor. 5:19, God was in
Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their sins to
them. Third, it is pronounced in actuality upon that first
relationship which is created when faith is born. Rom. 8:1, There is
therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Fourth,
it is expressly pronounced by the spirit of God witnessing to our
spirits our reconciliation with God. Rom. 5:5, The love of God is
shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to
us. This testimony of the spirit is not properly justification
itself, but rather an actual perceiving of what has been given
before as if in a reflected act of faith.

10. It is a gracious judgment because it is given not by God's
justice but by his grace. Rom. 3:24, Freely by his grace. For by
the same grace with which he called Christ to the office of mediator
and the elect to union with Christ, he accounts those who are called
and believing, justified by the union.

11. It happens because of Christ. 2 Cor. 5:21, That we may become
the righteousness of God in him. The obedience of Christ is that
Si.KalwiMo., the righteousness, Rom. 5:16, in the name of which the
grace of God justifies us, just as the disobedience of Adam was that
upliio., the offense, Rom. 5:16, for which God's justice condemned
us, Rom. 5:18.

12. Therefore, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers
in justification. Phil. 3:9, That I may be found in him not having
my own righteousness which is of the law but that which is by faith
in Christ, the righteousness of God through faith.

13. This righteousness is called the righteousness of God because it
is ordained, approved, and confirmed by his grace to the end that
sinners can stand before him, Rom. 10:3.

14. This justification comes about because of Christ, but not in the
absolute sense of Christ's being the cause of vocation. It happens
because Christ is apprehended by faith, which follows calling as an
effect. Faith precedes justification as the instrumental cause,
laying hold of the righteousness of Christ from which justification
being apprehended follows; therefore, righteousness is said to be
from faith, Rom. 9:30; 10:6. And justification is said to be by
faith, Rom. 3:28.

15. This justifying faith is not the general faith of the
understanding by which we give assent to the truth revealed in the
Holy Scriptures, for that belongs not only to those who are
justified, nor of its nature has it any force to justify, nor
produce the effects which are everywhere in Scripture given to
justifying faith.

16. Neither is it that special trust (properly speaking) by which we
obtain remission of sins and justification itself. For justifying
faith goes before justification itself, as a cause goes before its
effect. But faith apprehending justification necessarily presupposes
and follows justification as an act follows the object towards which
it is directed.

17. That faith is properly called justifying by which we rely upon
Christ for the remission of sins and for salvation. For Christ is a
sufficient object for justifying faith. Faith justifies only by
apprehending the righteousness by which we are justified. That
righteousness does not lie in the truth of some proposition to which
we give assent, but in Christ alone Who has been made sin for us
that we might be righteousness in him, 2 Cor. 5:21.

18. Therefore, words are often repeated in the New Testament which
show that justification is to be sought in Christ alone: John 1:12;
3:15, 16; 6:40, 47; 14:1, 12; Rom. 4:5; 3:26; Acts 10:43;
26:18; and Gal. 3:26.

19. Justifying faith of its own nature produces and is marked by a
special, sure persuasion of the grace and mercy of God in Christ.
Therefore, justifying faith is not wrongly described as persuasion
by the orthodox (as it often is) especially when they take a stand
against the general faith to which the papists ascribe everything.
But the following should be considered. First, the feeling of
persuasion is not always present. It may and often does happen,
either through weakness of judgment or various temptations and
troubles of mind, that a person who truly believes and is by faith
justified before God may for a time think that he neither believes
nor is reconciled to God. Second, there are many degrees in this
persuasion. Believers obviously do not have the same assurance of
grace and favor of God, nor do the same ones have it at all times.
But this cannot be said of justifying faith itself, without
considerable loss in the consolation and peace which Christ has left
to believers.

20. Justification does not free from sin and death directly by
taking away the blame or stain or all the effects of sin; rather it
removes the guilty obligation to undergo eternal death. Rom. 8:1,
33, 34, There is no condemnation . . . Who shall lay anything to
their charge? . . , who shall condemn?

21. Nor does it take away guilt so that the deserving of punishment
is removed from sin. This cannot be taken away as long as sin itself
remains. But justification does take away guilt so that its haunting
or deadly effects vanish.

22. The absolution from sins is called many things in the Holy
Scripturesremission, redemption, and reconciliation, Eph. 1:6, 7
but these all have the same meaning. When sin is thought of as a
bondage or kind of spiritual captivity because of guilt,
justification is called redemption. When it is thought of as
subjection to deserved punishment, it is called remission also
passing by, blotting out, exoneration, taking away, casting away,
removing, and casting behind the back, Rom. 4:7; Col. 2:13; Mic.
7:18; Isa. 43:12; 38:17; Ps. 32:1, 2. And when sin is thought of as
enmity against God, justification is called reconciliation, Rom.
5:10. Sometimes this is regarded as even a kind of winking at sin,
Num. 23:25, and a covering of sin, Ps. 32:1, 2.

23. Not only are past sins of justified persons remitted but also
those to come. Num. 23:25. God sees no iniquity in Jacob or
perverseness in Israel. Justification has left no place for
condemnation. John 5:24, He who believes has eternal life and shall
not come into condemnation justification gives eternal life surely
and immediately.

It also makes the whole remission obtained for us in Christ actually
ours. Neither past nor present sins can be altogether fully remitted
unless sins to come are in some way remitted.

24. The difference is that past sins are remitted specifically and
sins to come potentially. Past sins are remitted in themselves, sins
to come in the subject or the person sinning.
25. Yet those who are justified need daily the forgiveness of sins.
This is true because the continuance of grace is necessary to them;
the consciousness and manifestation of forgiveness increases more
and more as individual sins require it; and the execution of the
sentence which is pronounced in justification may thus be carried
out and completed.

26. Besides the forgiveness of sins there is also required an
imputation of righteousness, Rom. 5:18; Rev. 19:8; Rom. 8:3. This
is necessary because there might be a total absence of sin in a
case where that righteousness does not exist which must be offered
in place of justification.

27. This righteousness is not to be sought in a scattered fashion in
the purity of the nature, birth, and life of Christ. It arises
rather, with remission of sins, out of Christ's total obedience,
just as the disobedience of Adam both robbed us of original
righteousness and made us subject to the guilt of condemnation.



 

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