"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." — Romans 3:24.
Here we have an answer to the most important and interesting of all inquiries, "How shall man be just with God?"
To be justified is to be acquitted from the charge brought against us, and absolved from the condemnation with which we were threatened. With regard to us, the condemnation was deserved, and the charge was deserved, and the charge was true. This renders the case so difficult and peculiar, and calls for the Apostle's development.
But in exposing the source of the privilege, he seems to use a tautology: "Being justified freely by his grace." If it be done freely, it must be of grace; and if it be gracious, it must be free. Yet this is not saying too much. Paul knew that men were proud, and vain, and that, as Simon Magus thought of purchasing the Holy Ghost with money, so they, in dealing with God about their souls, wish to be merchants, rather than suppliants, and would seem to buy, while they are compelled to beg. But, surely, if it be not saying too much, it is saying enough. Surely, after this, the freeness and graciousness of the thing cannot be questioned. It is not only free and gracious, as opposed to constraint, but as opposed to worthiness. Merit in a sinner, is impossible; his desert lies all on the other side. There he is worthy, and worthy of death. A man, who asks a favour, may have no claim upon you, but you may also have no demand upon him; and, therefore, though you may justly refuse him, yet you have no right to apprehend, and punish him. But God has a right to punish, and destroy us, and it is of his mercies that we are not consumed. It is also free and gracious, as opposed to desire. This is undeniable, with regard to the constitution and accomplishment of the plan itself, for these long preceded even our being. But is it true, with regard to the application of it? The Publican prayed, "God be merciful to me a sinner," and went down to his house justified. And you sought, and found. But what induced you to seek? A sense of your want of the blessing. But how came you to feel this, after being so long insensible of it? Hearing such a preacher. But who made this preacher, and sent him, and placed him in your way, and applied what he said to your heart? And the same may be asked, with regard to any other instrumentality. Go as far back as you please; when you arrive, you will find Him there before you, with all his preparations and excitements, and will hear Him say, as you approach, "Come, for all things are now ready."
But the Apostle tells us of the medium of the privilege: "Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." And it is obvious he did not deem this inconsistent with the former. He knew that it was still freely by his grace. It was with God to determine whether the law should take its course, or the penalty be transferred to the surety: for the sentence was, "The soul that sinneth it shall die." It was, therefore, an instance of his sovereign grace, to admit a substitute. Besides, if he required reparation, he himself provided the Lamb for a burnt offering. Herein "God hath commended his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," and hence the exclamation, "Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." We have an illustration of this, in the case of Job's friends. They had displeased God, and yet he was willing that they should be reconciled. He therefore ordered a proceeding that should be available: "Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you; for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly." The sacrifice, and the intercession of Job, did not dispose God to show them mercy, for he prescribed them; but they were the way in which he chose to exercise it. And thus, "He laid on him the iniquities of us all." "He made him, who knew no sin, to be a sin-offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." This redemption, therefore, is the effect of his goodness. He loved his own Son, because he laid down his life for us, and highly exalted him, because he was obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.
We cannot say too much of God's mercy; this is the origin of all our hopes. But, surely, he had a right to determine the way in which it should be extended towards those who had no claims upon it; and of the propriety of the way, both with regard to himself and also with regard to us, he was the only competent judge. And, therefore, if he has appointed a way, and revealed it in his word, ignorance, pride, or rebellion only can lead us to oppose or neglect it, and wretchedness and ruin must be the sure result of it. If we could not see the reasonableness of the dispensation, yet, if He has declared that it "became him," we should be bound to acquiesce and adore. But we can see that he has herein abounded towards us, in all wisdom and prudence; that here, mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other; that the law is magnified, and made honourable; that sin is condemned in the flesh; that God is just, while he justifies the ungodly who believeth in Jesus; and that every end that could have been answered by the destruction of the sinner, has been equally — better, infinitely better, answered by the death of the Saviour.
And now what wait we for? We are accepted in the Beloved. Let us come in his Name. Let us draw near in full assurance of faith. Let us joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. And let us not conceal, but zealously and gladly make known the blessedness that has brought us into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
Morning Exercises For Everyday In The Year
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