THE Scriptures evidently teach, that faith in the blood of Christ is necessary in order that sinners may be justified through him. Christ is "set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood." He suffered, that God "might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth." Notwithstanding the all-sufficient atonement he has made, "he that believeth not shall be damned." This, too, is perfectly consistent. For it is really as necessary that sinners should have faith in the blood of Christ, in order that God may be just in justifying them, as it was that Christ should suffer. Indeed, the same reasons which rendered the sufferings of Christ necessary, rendered it equally necessary that sinners should believe; because the same obstacles which stood in the way of the pardon of sinners without an atonement, still stand in the way of the pardon of those who have not faith. That this may be clearly perceived, however, it will be necessary to keep in mind the necessity and nature of the atonement.
If the atonement consisted in the literal payment of a debt, it is acknowledged the case would be different. If sinners had, literally, owed divine justice an infinite debt, and Christ had stepped into their place and paid it by his sufferings and death, it is very evident, that faith in his blood would not be necessary to their justification. If the debt of sinners has been paid, it cannot be again demanded whether they have faith or not. If one person owe another, and a third person pay the debt, and procure a discharge, it surely cannot be necessary that the person discharged should have knowledge of the transaction, in order to his being free from his creditor. Or, if he be informed that his debt is paid, it can make no difference, with respect to the demands of his creditor, whether he believe the information or not. His not, believing, surely, cannot prevent its being discharged. Just so, if the atonement of Christ consisted literally in paying the debt of sinners, it can make no difference with respect to their discharge, whether they have any knowledge of, or belief in, what has been done or, not. Whether they believe, or disbelieve, the debt must be discharged.
But the truth is, the atonement of Christ is not the literal payment of a debt. He has not satisfied the demands of the law in this sense. The law as much demands the punishment of sinners, and as loudly curses every one who continueth not in all things written in it, until he obtains forgiveness, as it would have done if Christ had never died. All who have ever offended, even in one point, are as much guilty of transgressing the whole law, and actually owe as much to divine justice, until it is freely forgiven, as they would if Christ had not tasted death for them. Christ is not the end of the law in such a sense as to have annulled its claims. He did not come to destroy the law; but to fulfil. The law is not made void, through faith; but it is established. The great design of the atonement was not to pay the debt of sinners; but to open a way in which they might consistently be forgiven. Instead of paying a debt, therefore, it consisted in making as full a manifestation of God's respect for his law, and determination, to support it; of his abhorrence of sin, and his love of holiness; and of his determination to promote and secure the highest interest of his kingdom; as could have been made by a literal execution of the penalty of his law on transgressors; that so "he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus."
If this view which has been given of the atonement and of the grounds on which It was necessary be correct, it will be easy to perceive that there is now the same necessity that sinners should have faith in the blood of Christ, which there was that Christ should be set forth as a propitiation, in order that God may be just in justifying them. Faith in the blood of Christ may be defined as implying a cordial reception of the sufferings of Christ, or a cordial satisfaction in them, as a necessary, all-sufficient, and infinitely glorious atonement for sin. The necessity of such a faith may appear, from the same considerations which have been urged in showing the necessity of atonement.
1. God could not be just to his law, if he should pardon sinners who have no faith.
As there would have been great impropriety in God's pardoning sinners, without manifesting at the same time his regard for his law, so it must be evidently improper, that any should be justified, unless they respect the same law. Indeed, the same I respect for his law which rendered it necessary that God should provide an infinite atonement, in order that he might pardon sinners consistently with his infinite perfections, must entirely prevent his justifying any who remain opposed to his law. For, should he justify any such persons, he would, in this very act, greatly dishonor his law; he would countenance sinners in dishonoring it; he would even justify them in their unreasonable opposition to its demands. Hence, if God does really respect his law, as we have seen, then it is plain he can never justify any in their opposition to this law. But all those who have not faith, in the blood of Christ, are acting still in opposition to the law of God.
As has been observed, faith in the blood of Christ implies cordially receiving and approving of Christ's sufferings as a necessary atonement. But if sin is not an unreasonable and evil thing; if the law, of which sin is a transgression, is not good; then the sufferings of Christ could not be necessary as an atonement. The sufferings of Christ could not be necessary unless it were, in some way, to support the divine law. Faith in the blood of Christ, implying a cordial satisfaction with what Christ has suffered for the support of the divine law, as being indispensably necessary for the pardon of sinners, therefore implies respect for the law itself. While, on the other hand, unbelief, as it is a rejection of the atonement of Christ as being unnecessary and useless, dishonors the law which the atonement was designed to support.
Hence faith is evidently necessary in order to justification. For, if God should justify sinners who are destitute of faith, he would act directly against himself. While he testified that the atonement of Christ was necessary to the pardon of sinners, he would justify those who reject this testimony, and make him a liar. Indeed it is impossible that he should justify any on the ground of the atonement who have not faith; because both the atonement and faith are equally necessary, and for the same reasons. Notwithstanding the atonement, therefore, God cannot be just in justifying sinners, unless they believe in Jesus. He did not set Christ forth as a propitiation to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins in any other way, than through faith in his blood. It was not that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth not in Jesus; but "that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth."
2. God could not be just to his kingdom if he should justify sinners who have no faith in the blood of Christ.
Since the atonement was necessary that, if sinners were pardoned, the subjects of God's kingdom might yet be deterred from disobedience, and that the interests of holiness might be promoted, it must be evident that God cannot consistently justify sinners who have not faith; because this would have a tendency to promote unholiness. In this case, God would even justify sinners in their wickedness. Faith in the blood of Christ implies a cordial approbation of what he has done for the salvation of sinners. Any thing short of this must be rebellion against God. Sinners must either approve or disapprove of what Christ has done. If they disapprove of the atonement, they must disapprove of the divine law; and, consequently, of the character of the Lawgiver, which is there delineated. If they have faith, they acquiesce in Christ's work of atonement, and approve of the law and character of God; But if they have not faith, they remain in opposition to God, and to the whole economy of grace. No sinner, therefore, can have any true holiness, unless he has faith in the blood of Christ.
Hence it follows, that if God should justify any sinner who has not faith, instead of promoting, he would destroy the interest of holiness. Instead of punishing sinners who despise and reject Christ, he would justify them. This could have no tendency to deter others from disobedience, but would encourage them in it. Moral beings, perceiving that God was not so opposed to sinners, who opposed and slighted Christ, and thus manifested their disrespect to the law which he died to honor, and their disapprobation of the character of God which he died to display, but that he would justify them, it is impossible that they should either believe him an enemy to transgression, or discover any consistency in his character. They would conclude that Christ was set forth to be a minister of sin; not to condemn sin in the flesh, but to justify those who continue in the practice of this evil and bitter thing. Hence it appears plain,
3. That God could not appear just to his own character, if he should justify sinners who have no faith.
Consistency is one thing which is essential to the perfection of any character. But, it is obvious, that should God justify sinners who are destitute of faith, he would act very inconsistently. He would appear at variance with himself, destroying at one time what he had done at another. By the requirements and threatenings of his law he manifested a regard for holiness and an abhorrence of sin. In giving his beloved a regard for holiness and an abhorrences of sin. In giving his beloved Son to die on the cross to make an atonement, he manifested the same feelings, and displayed the same glorious character. But should be now justify those who have no faith in the atonement, no acquiescence in it, and no approbation for it, he would counteract and contradict what has thus been manifested in his law, and in the sufferings and death of Christ. In doing this, he would justify those who were opposed to Christ, which would be an implicit acknowledgment that their opposition was right; indeed, it would be taking part with them in their opposition. Hence his character would appear inconsistent and suspicious. Holy beings would be, at a loss what opinion they might form respecting his real feelings. They might fear him; but they would lose their confidence, and would scarcely find it in their hearts to love him. Since, therefore, all who are destitute of faith in the blood of Christ are opposed to him, it is impossible that any such can ever be justified. Faith in the blood of Christ is, therefore, indispensably necessary to justification. Christ is not the end of the law for righteousness to unbelievers, or to them that have not faith; but he is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
It may not be impertinent to observe here, moreover, that if God should justify those who have no faith, it could answer no very valuable purpose, even to those who should be thus justified, as it could not avail to secure their happiness. Sinners cannot be made happy without being brought into a state of reconciliation with God, nor can they be reconciled unless they have faith in Christ. Reconciliation to God implies faith in Christ, and faith in Christ implies reconciliation to God. They so include each other, that where one, is wanting the other cannot subsist. Every one who is truly reconciled must be pleased with what God does, so far as it is made known to him. For so far as any one is displeased with what God does, so far certainly he is unreconciled. Hence, if sinners are not pleased with what God has done, in causing an atonement to be made for sin, they are in a state of unreconciliation. They remain at variance, and at enmity with God. But if they are pleased with the atonement of Christ and so reconciled, they have faith in his blood. This is the very thing which is required in order to justification. Faith in the blood of Christ consists very much in being pleased and satisfied with what God has done, in giving his Son to die to make atonement for sin, and in cordially receiving the Son as an all-sufficient Saviour as he is offered in the gospel. But nothing short of this can be called reconciliation to God. Every thing short of this involves opposition and enmity.
Since, therefore, sinners must be reconciled to God, or they must be miserable; and since reconciliation to God implies faith in the blood of atonement, it is plain that faith in Christ is necessary to the happiness of sinners. Hence it appears that if God should justify sinners who have no faith, he would not only justify opposition to Christ and opposition to himself, but he would do that which would be altogether useless. For, though they were thus justified, sinners could have no peace in their opposition; they could not be happy. They would still be like the troubled sea when it cannot rest. But, certainly, the very idea of justifying one who is opposed to God, is highly repugnant to reason as well as to Scripture. There is, therefore, no possible way in which sinners can be justified, excepting through Nth in the blood of Jesus Christ. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus."
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