Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Justification of Life is Only Upon the Ground of a Perfect Righteousness

Scottish minister John Colquhoun closes his two-part sermon on Justification with this appeal:
"This subject [justification] suggests grounds of trial. — Are you justified or not? I do not ask if you justify yourselves, or if men justify you; but does God justify you? If you are guilty but of one sin, and have not repented, you are as certainly condemned as if you had been guilty of ten thousand. The chains of natural corruption with which you are girded declare you to be still under condemnation. Now, have you seen and felt yourselves in a state of condemnation? 
"Justification is a judiciary sentence, and before you can expect it, you must appear in court, and answer to your libel. Do you see your want of a perfect righteousness, the insufficiency of your own performances, and at the same time, the gift, suitableness, and sufficiency of the righteousness of Jesus Christ? Do you trust cordially in Christ as Jehovah your Righteousness? And are you humbled for your unbelief? Have you ever been grieved and troubled for the legal propensity of your heart? Is your self-righteous temper a burden, and a sore grievance to you? If so, it is a favourable sign. Do you rely on Christ's righteousness for all your title to eternal life? Believe more, trust more; for they who believe are justified from all things, etc.  
"Let secure sinners consider, that every sermon addressed to them is a summons put into their hands, to answer for their innumerable sins at the bar of that omniscient God whose eyes are as a flame of fire. What consternation will seize you, O condemned and impenitent sinner, when you shall see an infinitely just Judge upon his great white throne; when you shall find a strict law before you, and an accusing conscience within! Like Shimei you have broken through your rules of confinement, and are men of death. Be persuaded that you cannot be justified but on the ground of a perfect righteousness; and you have no such righteousness of your own. Rely, then, for the justification of life on the surety-righteousness of the Lord Jesus, freely offered in the Gospel to you. Renew frequently your actings of faith on Him as your righteousness and strength, and glory in his finished work."
John Colquhoun. Sermons, Chiefly on Doctrinal Subjects - Justification, Sermon IX, 162-163

*Earlier posts with excerpts from Colquhoun's Justification Sermon are here and here.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Manner of a Sinner's Justification - Colquhoun

John Colquhoun (1748-1827): excerpts from his sermon on Justification -
"IV. Under the fourth general head, I was to consider the manner of a sinner's justification. The elect were justified, 1. Intentionally, or in the absolute purpose and decree of God. It is called "the justification of life." It is legal life, in opposition to legal death under the condemning sentence of the violated law, and as such is a constituent part of eternal life. Now, we are told that eternal life was promised and given to the elect in Christ, or to Christ as Representative of the elect, before the world began. "In hope of eternal life, that God who cannot lie promised before the world began." "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Hence justification, as a fundamental part of that life, was according to the purpose and grace of God, promised and given to the elect in Christ, before the world began. It was promised to Christ their Representative, in their name, upon condition of his fulfilling all righteousness for them in time. Thus on the ground of their federal union with their adorable Surety, they were justified according to the purpose and grace of God, even from eternity. Hence is this cheering declaration, "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all," Isa. liii.6...
"2d, They were justified virtually, in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. — When Jesus died, he died in order to satisfy Divine justice, as Surety of the elect: when he rose, he rose as their Representative, and in him they all virtually arose...
"3d, They are justified actually, when they apply this justification, each of them to himself by faith — "All who believe are justified from all things;" that is, are justified actually, so as to have the sentence declared, both in the court of heaven and in the court of conscience...
"Lastly, They shall be publicly justified at the last day. — Then they shall be solemnly absolved before an assembled world, and have their title to eternal life publicly proclaimed. In that day, judgment shall be passed, an irreversible sentence shall be pronounced on them. On this account, it is called the day of judgment, Matth. xii. 36. In that day, the good works of the saints shall be proclaimed, not as the ground of their justification, but as evidences of their interest in the spotless righteousness of Christ, and of their title to life eternal. This, the sentence of the righteous Judge implies, — "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you..."
"Thus the elect are justified... In the day of eternity, their justification was actually secured; in the day of Christ's resurrection, it was acually merited; in the day of believing, it is actually applied to the conscience; and in the day of judgment it shall be actually declared in the most public and solemn manner. From eternity, they were justified in the purpose of God; at Christ's resurrection, they were justified in the Son of God as their representative; at the time of their beginning to believe, they are justified in the court of God, the court of heaven, and the court of conscience; and in the last day, they shall be justified publicly at Christ's august tribunal."
 -John Colquhoun. Sermons, Chiefly on Doctrinal Subjects - Justification, Sermon IX, 152-156.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On the Back Burner...

1. The way to... 
WLC 32: ... giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.
'Holy obedience... the way... to salvation', i.e. the way by which believers obtain salvation or the way in which believers walk to possess salvation already obtained? I prefer the latter.
"Christ is the way to life, because he purchased us a right to life. The practice of Christian piety is the way to life, because thereby we go to the possession of the right obtained by Christ."  (Witsius, Animadversions, 162)
2. "The law is indeed by itself, as it teaches us what righteousness is, the way to salvation: but our depravity and corruption prevent it from being in this respect an advantage to us." (John Calvin)

3. Christians are forward-looking by looking back... to the cross of Jesus.

4. A wrong prescription always follows a wrong diagnosis. The two may be logically consistent (which makes it seem so right) and yet still be wrong. Get the diagnosis right!

5. There is a Man in the glory, seated at the right hand of God.

6. "Sacred euphemisms" of the experiential-centered-life:
a. experience life
b.  touch the Lord
 c. live in your spirit, not in your mind... (really?)
d. the highest authority is the Spirit within you... (oh my...) 
 e. to share your experience of the Lord...
 f. how to make a right decision... follow the "peace" within you 
 g. to be "blessed" is to be moved emotionally 
 h. Scripture is the Word of God only when "by the Spirit" we experience it so.         (conveniently supports letter 'd'... thank you, Karl)
7. One mark of a true Christian is the struggle against sin, even though it may be occasioned by frequent setbacks.

8. Christians don't so much progress as persevere.

9. "For Calvin the promises of God flow from the covenants of God by which God has bound himself, and the covenants flow from election." (Robert Godfrey, John Calvin - Pilgrim and Pastor)

10. Axiom of linguistics and theology: "A term or word doesn't necessarily have to be present in order for the substance of a concept to be present." (Brian Estelle)

11. Apostolic tradition... Scripture.

12. "God the Son became incarnate to obey as the substitute for sinners, to die in their place as a payment for sin, their propitiation and expiation, to rise from the dead on the third day for their justification, whose person and benefits (righteousness, life, sanctity) are received through faith (trusting) alone in him alone." (R. Scott Clark)

13. "The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried"--that is history. "He loved me and gave Himself for me"--that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive Church." (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, 29)

14. When moving away from a set liturgy defined by Scripture in favor of the spontaneous  "Spirit-led" form of worship, the church merely moves from one type of set liturgy to another. There is no re-inventing the wheel every week via the Spirit. Untethered from Scripture as a guide, Christ-centered worship inevitably morphs into a "worshipper-centered" experience both in its means and its end. **

15. "And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32).  What was once our disqualification before God's Law is now our qualification for God's grace in Christ; that grace being our sure ground in the Christian-life-liturgy of faith and repentance...

**I know, controversial to many...

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How shall man be just with God?

"From what has been stated, we may learn a satisfactory answer to this question, How shall man be just with God? How can an unrighteous person be accepted as righteous by an infinitely righteous Judge? It can not possibly be on the ground of his own performances; for though he should even from the moment of his birth till that of his death, obey the law perfectly, it could never satisfy for the sin in which he was born. It is by the consummate righteousness of Jesus Christ received by faith, that he can be just in the eye of the law, or the sight of God. 
"Hence learn, that the righteousness which is the ground of a sinner's justification, is not the believer's because it is imputed to him; but it is imputed to him because it is already his. In God's imputation of it, he reckons it to be what it is already, the believer's justifying righteousness. It is the believer's, in virtue of his legal union with Christ from eternity, and of his vital union with him in time."
John Colquhoun. Sermons - Chiefly on Doctrinal Subjects, 160.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Thomas Bell: Let Christ's Doing and His Dying Be Your Only Boast...

"We may see what must be the only ground of our confidence before God.
"It is not our own works of righteousness, nothing wrought in us, or done by us. Neither faith, repentance, nor new obedience. It is Christ's surety-righteousness, nothing without, nothing beside it, It and it only. What he did in satisfaction of law and justice, that only can be a poor sinner's confidence, when standing at the divine tribunal: nothing else can be sustained there. Every other thing, however fair, firm or bulky in the carnal eye, is but unstable water, or yielding air, and shall leave the unhappy man who leans upon it, under an eternal disappointment. Being originally under a covenant of works, a broken covenant, nothing but what was done by Christ to fulfil its precept, and to satisfy its penalty, can be sustained as the ground of our confidence before God. To think any less sufficient, would be saying that sinners can be justified to the prejudice of the covenant of works; that divine justice has abated its demands, and can be pleased without an adequate satisfaction. Be wise, therefore, sinners, be instructed, as ye value your salvation. Trust not in yourselves, in your own hearts, or your own works. Turn away your eyes from everything, in point of confidence, but Christ, and his surety-righteousness." 
Thomas Bell. A Treatise on the Covenants of Works and Grace, 225