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The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 18

By Samuel Rutherford

      NAY, give me leave to say, that Antinomians make justification and free grace, their common-place of divinity, as if they only had seen the visions of the Almighty, and no other. But they are utterly ignorant thereof; for they confound and mix what the Word distinguisheth, because justification is only a removal of sin by a law-way, so that in law it cannot actually condemn: There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, [24] (Rom. 8:1). So that in law, all obligation to external punishment, called reatus personaethe guiltiness of the sinner, is removed, and he shall never be condemned for sin, because Christ did bear that guilt for him. Hence we say, in this regard it is blasphemy to say, that tears of sinners do wash away sin; that sorrow for sin and fasting pacifieth, or removeth God's wrath. For my part, I never used such popish and unsavoury speeches: Papists do, and we must distinguish between the lax rhetoric, and the strict divinity of Fathers. But (2.) Justification is not an abolition of sin in its real essence and physical indwelling. Justified Paul sigheth and crieth, "I am carnal, sold under sin. I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good. O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:14, 18, 24). Now, if the sense of the corrupt flesh make these complaints in Job, David, Paul, and if sinful flesh opposite to faith, apprehending the just contrary in Christ who justifieth the sinner, dwell not in us,--then [1.] David, Job, and Paul, did lie in these confessions; for to speak contrary to the language of justifying faith, must be a lie. [2.] They were not really carnal, and sold under sin, but only according to the sinful doubting and apprehension of the flesh. Paul's crying out of the body of sin, was an irrational, fleshly, and hypocritical complaint. [3.] We are not to grow in the grace of sanctification, and abstinence from yielding to the motions of the flesh, because, if there be no sinful imperfections in our sanctification, we are not to grow in grace really, but only in the false and hypocritical apprehension of the flesh. [4.] If God see nothing of sin in the saints after their justification, then there can be no sin in them after justification; and so, the justified cannot sin, except they may sin, and yet God cannot see them sin, contrary to Psalms 69:5; & 139:1-3. Yet John saith, even of himself, and of those who have an Advocate in heaven, (1 John 2:1,) "That if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us," (1 John 1:8). Now, he cannot speak of men as considered in the state of nature and unjustified, because, to answer a doubt of weak consciences, who said, Oh! if we have sin, then are we eternally lost and condemned,' he answereth, {1.} The justified are to confess, (verse 9,) and God is faithful to forgive. {2.} He answereth, "If we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father," (1 John 2:1). [5.] It must inevitably follow, that Christ commanding these who have a Father in heaven, to pray, Forgive us our sins,' commandeth them daily to pray out of a fleshly doubting, not from the spirit of faith. I had rather say with Scripture, that all the justified saints must take down their top-sail, and go to heaven halting, and that they carry their bolts and fetters of indwelling sin through the field of free grace, even to the gates of glory, Christ daily washing, and renewing pardons, and we daily defiling, to the end that grace may be grace.

      [6.] Yea, the Scripture is most clear, that the fairest face that is now shining in glory, was once even in the kingdom of grace, and in the state of justification, blacked with sin, and sin-burnt, by reason of sin dwelling in them; "For there is no man that sinneth not." (1 Kings 8:46.) This is a black put on the faces of all men dwelling on the earth, amongst which you must reckon justified and pardoned souls, "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not." (Eccl. 7:20.) Then there is a thorn in our fairest rose; David's sun shines not so bright, but there is a cloud going over it; in every justified man's good he doth, in every sacrifice that he offereth, there is some dung. The sun hath looked on him.' Augustine had the same controversy, but on another ground, with Julian, who also of old, conceited that justified souls were free of inherent sin, as libertines now teach; but Augustine saith always, That sin dwelleth in the regenerate, but it is not imputed, and concupiscence after baptism is removed; [25] not that it is not, but that in the court of justice it is not reckoned on our score.' By which it is more than evident, that justification is not such an abolition of sin, in its root and essence, as shall be in the state of glory, when root and branch shall be abolished; and not only shall justification free us, as it doth in this life, from all law-guilt, and obligation to wrath, which is but Actus Secundus, the second Act of sin, the effect, not the essence of sin, but also, sanctification being perfected, all indwelling of sin shall be removed. Sin in the justified hath but house-room, and stayeth within the walls as a captive, an underling, a servant,--it hath not the keys of the house to command all, nor the sceptre to rule: all the keys are upon Christ's shoulder: far less, hath it a law power to condemn. Therefore saith Augustine excellently, [26] "God healeth the sinner from his guiltiness (it is a law-word, and a law-cure) presently, but from his infirmity by degrees, by little and little." [27] The holiest in this life, is but the dawning of the morning; we are half-night half-day: "Who can say I have made my heart pure, I am clean from sin?" (Prov. 20:9.) Who can say, I have a clean heart, and not lie? Libertines can say it in a higher manner than Papists, who acknowledge that venials, little sins, and motes, are in us always in this life.

      But it may be, this is the Old Testament spirit that speaketh, as they say; but the apostle, (Rom. 3,) applieth the Psalm 14, that stoppeth all mouths of the world, as so many guilty malefactors at the high bar of heaven: and he proveth, that no flesh, not David, nor the holiest on earth, can be justified by works, either done by the strength of nature, or by the help of grace.--Now, if there be no indwelling sin in the justified person, we answer not Papists and Pelagians, who say, That we are justified by works done by the help and aid of grace after regeneration, but not by the works that we perform by the strength of nature;' for if there be no indwelling sin in the regenerated, all their good works must be perfect and sinless, and can draw no contagion from an impure heart; because if there be no indwelling sin, and no imperfect sanctification in us (as Mr. Eaton saith it is hypocrisy so to think or say), how can an impure heart defile these works that are done by the aid of grace? For that which is not, hath no operations at all: if there be no contagious fountain, and no indwelling sin, but root and branch be removed in justification, then such a fountain cannot defile the actions; "In many things we offend all" (James 3:2); (ptaiomen apantes,) a metaphor from travelers walking on stony or slippery ground. "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24.) If this was but the flesh and unbelief that made this complaint, then the combat between the flesh and the spirit shall come from the flesh. Now the conflict of two contraries, such as are the flesh and the spirit, is not from the one more than the other, but equally from both: the conflict between fire and water, is neither from the fire only, nor from the water only, but from both, yoking together. Yea, certain it is, that the flesh cannot, and doth not complain of its own motions against the spirit; sin cannot complain of sin; it is the renewed part that complaineth of the stirrings and motions of the unrenewed part: Satan is not divided against Satan, nor sin against sin. It is true, the sins of the justified are said to be sought and not found, (Jer. 50:20,) and our transgressions are said "to be blotted out, and blotted out as a thick cloud, and to be remembered no more," (Isa. 43:25; 44:22; Psalm 51:1,) "and to be subdued and cast into the depths of the sea," (Mic. 7:19,) "and we washed," (Rev. 1:5;) "and made whiter than the snow." (Psalm 51:2.) And Christ's church is so "undefiled," so "fair as the moon, clear as the sun," (Cant. 5:2; 6:10,) that Christ himself giveth a testimony of her, "Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee;" (Cant. 4:7;) all which are true in a law sense, and in legal and moral freedom from sin, in regard that the sins of the justified and washed in Christ's blood, shall no more be charged upon them to their condemnation, than if they had never committed any sins at all; and as if their sins, were no sins to witness against them in judgment, they being clothed with Christ's white and spotless righteousness; for they are, in their actual guilt, as touching the law-sting and power, as no sins, no debts, but obliterated in the book of God's account, and as a blotted out cloud, which is no cloud; in which regard they must be white and fair whom Christ washeth.

      I profess, it is sweet to be dipped in the new "fountain opened to the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness," and under the sweet and fair hand of the Mediator, that he might wash us: I know he should not be ashamed of his labour, but should make fair and white work. But, in regard of the inherent root, essence, and formal being of sin, the saints are not freed and delivered from sin; but these same sins, though broken in their dominion to command as tyrants, and removed and taken away, [28] in their law-demerit and guilt; yet do remain and dwell in the saints while they are here in this life. And these two removals of sin differ much: the former is a law-removal of sin, not the removal of the essence and being of sin; the other removal, is a physical removal in root and branch, and therefore, done by degrees, according to the measure of begun sanctification, and shall never be perfect in this life, till that habit of sanctification, which is contrary to sin, physically considered, shall be introduced, and the person perfected in glory: Whereas the former removal is so perfect, as the person is made spotless, and whiter than snow; which two removals of sin may be thus illustrated: There is a man defiled with leprosy in his body,--this is a physical contagion; the same man is condemned to die for a high point of treason against the state and prince--this is a law-contagion. The physician cureth him of his leprosy by a physical expulsion of the disease, but by degrees, and by little and little, and maketh, at length, his skin, as the skin of a young child. The prince and state send to him a free pardon of his treason, and he is at once perfectly acquitted from his guilt; but the prince's pardon doth not physically and really expel out of his person the shame, the inherent blot and infamy of his foul and treacherous disloyalty that he committed against prince and state, so as this pardon should transubstantiate and change him by a physical transmutation, into a person as innocent and blameless, as any the most loyal subject of the kingdom: the pardon putteth only upon him a law-change, and a moral immunity and freedom from a shameful death. And Christ's pardon in like manner doth remove a law-obligation to eternal death, so as there is no condemnation to the man; but it removeth not the inherent and physical blot, nor the real obliquity between his foul sin, and the spiritual law of God; nor doth it make him perfectly sinless and holy, as if he had never sinned, as Antinomians dream. So, the justification of the saints, is like the free acquitting of a broken man that hath borrowed thousands, and is unable to pay: the canceling of his bill freeth him in law, from paying the sums, but doth in no case make him a man that never borrowed money; nor doth it free him from that inherent blot of injustice, in regard of which he is a broken man, who hath wasted his neighbour's goods. But perfected sanctification expelleth sin in its essence, being root and branch in its dominion, lordly power indwelling, so that it is no more: and this is like the expelling of night-darkness out of the whole body of the air, by the presence of the sun diffusing its beams and light from east to west, and north and south. I grant, the habit of sanctification perfected in glory, doth not make it a false proposition, that such a pardoned and washed saint never sinned, for Factum infectum, fieri non potest: What is done can never be undone; that were a speaking contradiction: but it putteth the man in that state, that he is as free of the indwelling of the body of sin, and perfectly holy, as the body of the air at noon-day is free of darkness, and qualified with inherent light. Now, Antinomians cannot endure (especially Mr. Eaton, their chief leader,) that we say, that sanctification is imperfect in this life, or that the indwelling of sin can consist with free justification, and remission of sins in Christ's blood. But let us turn our eyes a little toward the wisdom of God's free dispensation, to scan the reasons why our Lord will have justified saints to go halting to heaven.

      1. He can, at our first conversion, make us glorified and perfected saints; but it is his wisdom to take a time and succession to perfect his saints: he took about thirty and three years on earth for the work of our redemption, and would for three days lodge in the grave, as it were a neighbour to "our father, corruption, and the worm, our brother and sister," (Job 17:14,) "though he saw no corruption," (Psalm 16:10). He hath been dressing up the high palace of glory, his Father's house, these sixteen hundred years. If he be pleased to take months and years to the work of the applying of the purchased redemption, whereas, he might and could have done it in one instant, as he created light out of darkness with one word, we are to be silent: his wisdom in so doing, is sufficient for us. The second heaven, and the new light in the redeemed soul, is done by continued acts of omnipotency; the first heaven was sooner made. Shall it seem hard to us, that our midnight, and our full noon day-light of grace, are not existent in one instant together? We are to wait on in patience; and not to fret, that we cannot at our first conversion, pray out of us the indwelling body of sin, and sigh out the weight and sin that doth so hardly beset us, (Heb. 12:1). God is wise who will have our day to break and dawn by degrees, and our shadows to flee away, and our sun to rise to noon-day light through length of time. If a creature, yea, the most excellent of created angels, should but sit at the helm of this great world, to rule and govern all things but for forty-eight hours, the sun should not rise in due time, the walls and covering of the great building of the world should fall, the globe of the world, and of the whole earth "should reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man," all should go to confusion; and so, if we had a world of grace of our own carving, and had it in our wise choice to go, from the first moment of our new birth, to heaven, without sin, we should lose ourselves by the way, and take on new debt, that should require the new and fresh crucifying of the Lord of glory: we should be no better tutors, governors, and lords to ourselves, than Adam, and the angels that fell. The weight of a saint's heaven and hell upon his own clay-shoulders, is a heaven put to a great hazard, or rather to a remediless loss: I shall easily grant that it is sure that my heaven be upon Christ's shoulders.

      2. Grace worketh suitably to the nature of the patients. The vessel would be prepared with the frequent sense of grace, before Christ pour in it the habit of glory. It is fit we see and feel the shaping and sewing of every piece of the wedding-garment, and the framing, moulding, and fitting of the crown of glory, for the head of the citizen of heaven; yea, the repeated sense and frequent experiences of grace in the ups and downs in the way, the falls and risings again of the traveler, the revolutions and changes of the spiritual condition, the new moon, the darkened moon, the full moon in the Spirit's ebbing and flowing, raiseth in the heart of saints, in their way to the country, a rank smell of that fairest rose and lily of Sharon, Jesus Christ, the delight of men and angels;--that as travelers at night talk of their foul way, and of the praises of their guide; and battle being ended, soldiers number their wounds, extol the valour, skill, and courage of their leader and captain;--so, the glorified soldiers may take loads of experiences of free-grace to heaven with them, and there speak of their way, and their country, and of the praises of Him who hath "redeemed them out of all nations, tongues, and languages." The half-drowned man shaketh his head, and drieth his garments before the sun on the shore, with joy and comfort. The impressions of the kisses of the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, are the deeper, that the frequent experiences of grace have been many. Much dirty and dangerous way, and the lively and hearty welcome of glory, suit well together.

      3. As there is much, yea, an exceeding weight of glory in heaven, so it is convenient, that the way to heaven be strewed and covered with roses of renewed acts of free grace, and Christ's repeated expressions of new pardon, one expression coming after another;--that, since the saints pray daily, forgive us our sins,' it is in the wisdom of God fitting, that as glory in heaven is one continued act of happiness for all eternity, so the grace that maketh the old and sinful man a new creature, should be one continued act of grace. And, as many streams and rivers are one water, and one spring in the fountain; and many lines, one in the centre; and thousands of generations of men, are but one man in the first father, Adam;--so, multiplied acts of grace in the saints, from the first moment of their conversion, to the period and first hour of their glorification, are but one fountain-grace in God, revealed in the mediator, Christ: and there can be no reason, why our first conversion should be free grace, and the perseverance of the saints in grace, and all their steps in the way should not also be grace. Grace is not only singly in the saints, but grace and peace must be multiplied on them.

      4. The standing and prorogated intercession and advocation of Jesus Christ, every day upon occasion of new committed sins, (1 John 2:1, 2,) and the golden altar that hath been hot these 1600 years, (Rev. 8:3, 4,) with the fresh prayers of the saints, must have a daily use, so long as Christ is in the office of the great, true, and exalted High Priest, now passed into the Holy of Holies; and better it is that Christ act grace again and again in heaven, as we sin again and again on earth, than that the act of our High Priest's intercession had been all but one act on the cross. And the way to heaven was made long, and falls there must be in the way, to the end that I might lodge many nights and months by the way, with my guide Christ, and that my expenses and charges in the way might be free grace.

      5. Faith hath its work in our gradual mortification. We believe that Christ shall perfect what he hath begun; so it was needful, that winter, and months of spring and summer, go before our harvest and reaping of the fruits of the tree of life.

      6. Christ works in the lower kingdom, as making the higher kingdom the copy and sampler of his working. Now, it is most suitable for flowers and roses, that must be transplanted, to grow up in the high garden beside the tree of life, and to blossom out glory for all eternity, that they grow for a time in the land of grace, that they may take kindly with the soil. So, the lower and higher gardens of glory and grace differ not in nature; what groweth in the one, can well grow in the other: they cannot suit with the happiness of that land, except they have experienced the holiness of continued grace in this land. And Christ maketh storms of sin to blow upon his young heirs for their winter, God keeping life at the root, that they may be fitter for an eternally green flourishing summer of glory. And when Christ consecrated himself through many afflictions, that he might be an heir suitable for glory, he being brought through fire and water, hot and cold, and many changes, to heaven, and so came to eternal happiness through many years' continued holiness, it was not fit that Christ, who was to make heirs like his rule and sampler, should bring them to glory with a leap and a step, from a justified condition, to a glorified estate, without an intervening progress in sanctification and holiness. Christ understandeth well the fundamental laws of the higher city, the new Jerusalem. The frame of the government of that kingdom is, that none be received as free citizens of glory, but such as have served apprentices, minors, little children, under tutors to grace and the way of holiness. He is of too short standing, who cometh hot and smoking out from his lusts, a justified sinner, to step immediately into glory; and so, here is a stranger welcomed to heaven from hell,--a child of Satan, playing at the devil's fireside yesterday, or the last hour; now this day, this same very hour, he must be enrolled amongst those who walk with the Lamb, in white. Some soldiers, I grant, are advanced to be high commanders, per saltum, by a leap, but it is for some piece of rare service to the prince and state; and it is like the repenting thief, who, in few hours' space, had been in three several kingdoms; in the state of nature, the kingdom of darkness, and the kingdom of grace, and that day with Christ in paradise. But this is, I conceive, rare: and give me leave to say, princes at their coronation do some extraordinary acts of grace, by privilege of the new crown, that they may handsel [first exercise] the new throne with acts of mercy. Christ was now in an act of pure unmixed grace, actually and formally redeeming the lost world on the cross, and was now this day crowned by his mother the Church, and installed King-Redeemer of saints, and therefore would handsel paradise with a sinner, by a privilege of matchless grace: there is but one example of it in all the Scripture.

      7. The way to heaven is sweeter, that it should be here nulla dies sine linea, that every day and hour that we sin (as every hour we contract new debt), Christ's free grace might have its daily flux, the "fountain opened to the house of David," daily running, renewed forgiveness going along with "this day, our daily bread:" hence these noble acts of grace. (1.) Every sin, the least omission by law, is hell, (Deut. 27:26, Gal. 3:10). Two sins must be two hells, seven sins, seven hells: then multiplied sins, to the number of the hairs of David's head, (Psalm 40:12,) and not sins only, but innumerable iniquities, must cause the account of Christ's free grace to swell and arise to a deliverance from two, from seven, from innumerable hells. Oh, grace, every day! every hour! So then, the rebel brought nine times a-day, twenty times a-day, for the space of forty years, by his prince's grace, from under the axe, how fair and sweet are the multiplied pardons and reprivals of grace, to speak so! Here are multitudes of multiplied redemptions, here is plenteous redemption: I defile every hour, Christ washeth; I fall, grace raiseth me; I come this day, this morning, under the reverence of justice, grace pardoneth me; and so along, till grace puts me into heaven. "The Lamb's book of life" containeth not only the names of those who are ordained for that blessed end of eternal life, but also, the means leading to the end. Then here are written all the sins, all the pardons of free grace, since the first Adam sinned. Oh, but the book of life must be a huge volume! Oh, how large, and broad, and long, must the accounts of the grace of Christ be! (2.) We are not saved completely, because justified; but we are expectants of the divinity of immediate vision, and "groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body, and are saved by hope." (Rom. 8:23, 24.) In regard of title, we are saved completely; but in another sense, we are but lords and kings in title only; we are far from the lands, rents, crown, and our Father's house, and so, are not saved, till our feet stand within the streets of the New Jerusalem. (3.) In this consideration, we sigh in our fetters and bolts, and sin remaineth in us, for our exercise and humiliation, that we may have an habitual engagement to Jesus Christ and his grace. That soul loveth much to whom much is forgiven; and, especially, when in sense and frequent experiences, much and multiplied backslidings are forgiven.

      Objection. 1.--But justification is one indivisible act of grace, pardoning all sins, past, present, and to come; and is not a successive and continued act, in progress always, such as is sanctification; for we are but once justified.'

      I answer by these following assertions:

      1.--There is a double notion of justification, as Dr. Abbot teacheth us. There is a universal, and properly so called justification; there is a partial, and improperly so called justification: or, give me leave to say, there is a justification of the person, of the state; or a justification repeated, or rather a reiterated remission; I doubt, if it be called a justification. The former justification doth include, (1.) The act of atonement made by Christ on the cross, for all the sins of all the elect of God, past, present, and to come. This act is not tied to believing, nor are we properly justified, in regard of this act. But, (2.) There is a justification formal, of which Paul speaketh, (Rom. 3:4; Gal. chapters 3-5,) which goeth along in order of cause, time, and a required condition of apprehending Christ's righteousness. And this justification of the person, while he believeth, is but once done, and that, when the believer doth first lay hold on Christ, and righteousness imputed in his blood. There is, (3.) A remission, and taking away of sin. Now, according to these, we are to consider of doing away sin in a threefold notion; for, though justification essentially include remission and pardon of sin, yet every remission doth not include justification, properly so called.

      Assertion 2.--This threefold taking away of sins, I clear from the Scripture. (1.) Christ taketh away our sins on the cross, causatively, and by way of merit, while as he suffereth for our sins on the cross. So, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world," (John 1:29). "He was made sin for us," (1 Cor. 5:21). "Christ blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross," (Colos. 2:14). "Who, his own self, bare our sins on the tree," (1 Pet. 2:24). "He made his soul an offering for sin," (Isa. 53:10). This atonement of blood was typified in Aaron, who was to lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and to confess the sins of the people, and did translate them off from the people; "so as the goat was to bear upon him all their iniquities, into a land not inhabited," (Levit. 16:20-22). Now, this was the paying of a ransom for us, and a legal translation of the eternal punishment of our sins; but it is not justification, nor ever called justification. There is a sort of imputation of sin to Christ here, and a sum paid for me; but, with leave, no formal imputation, no forensical, and no personal law-reckoning to me, who am not yet born, far less, cited before a tribunal, and absolved from sin. When Christ had completely paid this sum, Christ was justified legally, as a public person, and all his seed fundamentally, meritoriously, causatively, but not in their persons.

      There is a second removal of sin, and that is, when the believer is justified by faith. Paul, "Even as David," (saith he,) "also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works," saying "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth no sin," (Rom. 4:6-8). This is the blessedness of a man born, living, believing. Now, we say improperly, the heirs of a king not born are blessed. [29] So, if Christ's removal of sins on the cross were justification, all Christ's seed, and we believers of the Gentiles, who were not then born when Christ died, should be blessed and justified before we be born. Now, in this, which is formally the justification of the believing sinner, the believer's person is accepted, reconciled, justified, and really translated by a law-change from one state to another. I mean not, that there is a physical infusion of a new habit of sanctification, and an expulsion of an old habit, as Papists teach, confounding regeneration, or sanctification, with justification. But there is a real change of the state of the person: "And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified," (1 Cor. 6:11); then they were sometime not justified. (2.) There is here a real removal of all sins, and a pardon and relaxation from the eternal punishment of all sins; as well of sins to come, and not yet committed, as of sins past, present, and already committed; so as sins not yet committed, shall no more involve the believer in the punishment of eternal wrath, than sins past or present. Yet, (3.) The sins not committed, though virtually pardoned (with correction and submission) are not formally pardoned. That which is not sin at all, but only in a naked potency, it must be pardoned only in that notion that it is a sin, and not first formally remitted, and then afterward committed: yet is it paid for, and the person freed from all actual condemnation for it--but withal, conditionally and virtually, so he believe in Christ, and renew his repentance; which graces God shall infallibly give him, because the calling and gifts of God are without repentance.

      And of this third removal of sin, is that petition which Christ hath taught justified persons to ask of God, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive them that sin against us." And Nathan saith to David, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not die," (2 Sam. 12:13). David, before he contracted this horrible guilt of murder, and adultery, was "a man according to God's own heart," and so his person was justified: this way, God daily taketh away sin: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, The just shall live by faith," (Rom. 1:17). Now, the life of faith justifying, is not one single act of faith, such as is at our first personal, relative, and universal absolution; but the believer liveth by renewed and often repeated acts of faith, such as is, "To walk from faith to faith." The least faith [30] doth justify; but the gospel requireth a growth in faith. In this sense, remission is a continued, and one prorogated act of free grace, from our first moment of believing, to the day of putting the crown on our head.

      If any object that I am contrary to myself, in that I sometimes did write, that justification is a plenary pardon, in one indivisible act of all sins, past, present, and to come, and therefore sin cannot be oftener than once pardoned--If I should answer, that the knowledge we have, especially in so supernatural a mystery, is but the twilight, or the day-star's glimmering of sinful men, it might suffice; but I judge, that I speak nothing contrary to that.

      Assertion 3. For two formal justifications of a believer, I utterly deny, which is that which Arminians press not a little; yea, and the justification of the person, and his acceptance in God's favour, is but one act: I never fall from that acceptance, once being in court and grace. I illustrate it thus: There is a catholic pardon in a statute of Parliament, for grace to all traitors, and that for treasons past, and also to come, upon condition, that after new treasons committed, they address themselves to the public register of the state, and cause insert their names in the blank of that act of grace printed, and in the keeping of some officer of state: now, though any one be pardoned at his first lapse, fully, if he fail again and again, and yet perform the condition prescribed in law, we cannot say he hath obtained twenty, a hundred, yea, as many several pardons of grace, as he hath failed against king and state--it is but one public act of grace made use of several times. So, here, in the gospel, there is a written act of the grace of God in Jesus Christ,--remission to all under the treason of sin against the royal crown and glory of the Most High, the supreme Lawgiver, and that to the acceptation of the person of the traitor in full favour, when he shall have in his conscience the transumpt or transcript of it at first; and also for grace and pardon of all after-slips, and sins against the glory of the Redeemer (so he sin not against the only flower of the prerogative royal, the operation of the Holy Ghost in a special manner) upon condition, he walk from faith to faith, and renew his address to Christ, the great Lord of the rolls, who keepeth the book of life;--now, I cannot see here many pardons of grace, but only, the double extract or copy of the first act of free grace.

      Objection 2. But the sins pardoned to the justified person, after the first justification of his person, were never pardoned before, and they are now pardoned; therefore, there must be two justifications.

      Answer. They were virtually pardoned, and so, as he shall never come to condemnation for any sins past, or to come, but the man now standeth Justus in curia, justified in the court; whereas before his first believing, God looked at him, as a judge doth at a guilty person, whose person he absolveth from all punishment, because his surety hath given a ransom for him, and he holdeth forth that ransom to the judge: but the man in all his after faults is so far forth a sinner, as that which he hath done, though he be a justified David, displeaseth the Lord, (2 Sam. 11:27); And in so far is he pardoned; But, (2.) God now looketh on him, as a father on an offending son; and this son doth not hold forth a new ransom to God, but only renew the former: nor doth it infer a new acceptance of his person that he had not before, (3.) Nor place in God any new love of free complacency and good will; but only a further manifestation thereof, and a greater measure of the love of benevolence. (4.) It is the same act of free grace that God putteth forth in pardoning his son now fallen in sin, and in accepting of his person at first. [2.] It is the same ransom of Christ's atonement of his dear blood, that his faith layeth hold on now, as before. [3.] The pardon of this sin committed by a justified son, is not the freeing of him from the eternal punishment of this sin, as if he had been under eternal wrath for it before;--for at his first believing, when his person was accepted, he was fully and freely pardoned, and freed from all the obligation to eternal wrath, that all or any of his sins past, present, or to come, might subject him unto;--but it is the renewing of the certainty of the sufficiency of Christ's ransom, as applied to take away that sin in particular, and that by a renewed act of faith. Now, the renewed apprehension of the grace of God in the same ransom of blood for righteousness in Christ, as applied to this new guiltiness, maketh not a new forensical and law-act, but doth only apply the Lord's first act of grace to this particular sin; nor do I mean, that faith, for remission of sins committed after a soul is in the state of justification, is nothing else but a mere reflex act, by which we apprehend and know the first acceptance of a sinner to righteousness; for it is a direct act, apprehending the former grace of a sufficient ransom, as applied to this new contracted guiltiness; for the sinner is condemned for unbelief, (John 3:18, 36,) and because he believeth not, he is liable to the wrath of God. Now he is not condemned, because he doth not to his own sense know, feel, and apply the remission of sins, and satisfaction purchased in Christ's blood for him: because then, he should be condemned, because he doth not believe a lie; for there was never any such remission purchased for him: he is condemned, not for want of sense and actual knowledge of any such pardon, but for want of confiding on Christ, as on him who hath made a sufficient atonement for all that believe; and so, justifying faith is some other thing, than the sense of purchased pardon of sins.

      Objection 3. Then may I, with the like boldness, believe the remission of these sins that I am to commit, and so, sin boldly, because I am persuaded, they cannot prevail to condemn me eternally, as I may with boldness believe the remission of sins already committed.

      Answer. There is a boldness of faith; and, (2,) a sinful boldness. In regard of boldness of faith, I am to believe the sufficiency of that invaluable ransom, that it cannot be more or less, nor intended or remitted, but doth lie under the eye of Justice, and equally accepted of God, as able to remove the eternal guilt of all sins, past, present, as also of those to come. But it were sinful boldness to commit sin, because Christ hath paid for it: it is a motive to the contrary, not to live to ourselves, but to him who died for us, because Christ bare our sins on his own body on the tree, (1 Pet. 3:24; 1 Pet. 1:18; Gal. 1:4; Rom. 6:1-4; 1 Pet. 4:1, 2.) For though I be persuaded there is no fear of eternal wrath in sins to be committed, for my faith believeth freedom from that, in regard of all sins; there be other stronger motives to eschew sin, than fear of hell; even fear of violating infinite love and mercy: there is a more prevailing and efficacious power in apprehended love, to keep from sin (it being saving grace,) than in fear of hell, which of itself is no grace. (2.) Fear of punishment of sin as sin, is to keep from sin, though it be not fear of eternal punishment: the eternity of punishment is no ways essential to punishment. Libertines closely remove this motive, who will have no sin, as sin in God's court, punished in the believer. It is not punished in order to satisfaction of justice, but it followeth not that it is not punishable as sin.

      Objection. It is mercenary, and peculiar to hirelings, to abstain from sin for fear of stripes, or to serve God Intuitu mercedis, for hope of reward.

      Answer. To abstain from sin, for fear of punishment, as the only and greatest evil (whereas the evil of sin is far greater, and so more to be feared) is mercenary: Indeed, we teach that no man should, upon that fear, abstain from sin. (2.) To serve God for hope of heaven, as a created good to ourselves, separated in the intention from God himself and holiness, is peculiar to hirelings, but not to serve God simply for heaven. Moses did it, (Heb. 11:25, 26.) It is Christ's argument in stirring up his disciples to suffer for righteousness; "For great is your reward in heaven." (Matt. 5:12.) And it is no less mercenary which libertines teach, that to serve God for actual hire in hand already purchased, to wit, for deliverance from hell, and a purchased redemption, than what we teach, that we may serve God for hope of good to come, if the intention in both be not steeled with grace, and free of selfishness.

      [24] Ouden katakrima; he saith not ouden katakriton, nothing that deserveth condemnation, nihil condemnabile.--Rutherford.

      [25] Non ut non sit, sed ut non imputetur.

      [26] Cont. Julian, Lib. 6, c. 5. "Sanat vitiatum a reatu statim, ab infirmitate paulatim."

      [27] And Gregory, Moral, Lib. 29, c. 2. "Quid in hac vita omnes qui veritatem sequimur, nisi aurora sumus? Aurora enim noctem praeteriisse nunciat, nec tamen diei claritatem illa satis ostendit; sed dum illam pellit, et hanc suscipit, lucem tenebris permixtam tenet, sic nos quaedam jam quae lucis sunt agimus, et tamen in quibusdam adhuc tenebrarum reliquiis non caremus."

      [28] Quoad actualem reatum Dternae mortis.--Rutherford.

      [29] Non entis nulla sunt accidentia.--Rutherfurd.

      [30] Even the minimum quod sic.--Rutherfurd.

Back to Samuel Rutherford index.

See Also:
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Introduction to Sermons
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 1
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 2
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 3
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 4
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 5
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 6
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 7
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 8
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 9
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 10
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 11
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 12
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 13
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 14
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 15
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 16
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 17
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 18
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 19
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 20
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 21
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 22
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 23
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 24
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 25
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 26
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 27


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