It is God that Justifieth
WONDERFUL THING it is, this being justified, or made just. If we had never
broken the laws of God we should not have needed it, for we should have been
just in ourselves. He who has all his life done the things which he ought to
have done, and has never done anything which he ought not to have done, is
justified by the law. But you, dear reader, are not of that sort, I am quite
sure. You have too much honesty to pretend to be without sin, and therefore you
need to be justified.
Now, if you justify yourself, you will simply be a
self-deceiver. Therefore do not attempt it. It is never worth while.
If you ask your fellow mortals to justify you, what can they
do? You can make some of them speak well of you for small favours, and others
will backbite you for less. Their judgment is not worth much.
Our text says, "It is God that justifies," and
this is a deal more to the point. It is an astonishing fact, and one that we
ought to consider with care. Come and see.
In the first place, nobody else but God would ever have
thought of justifying those who are guilty. They have lived in open rebellion;
they have done evil with both hands; they have gone from bad to worse; they have
turned back to sin even after they have smarted for it, and have therefore for a
while been forced to leave it. They have broken the law, and trampled on the
gospel. They have refused proclamations of mercy, and have persisted in
ungodliness. How can they be forgiven and justified? Their fellowmen, despairing
of them, say, "They are hopeless cases." Even Christians look upon
them with sorrow rather than with hope. But not so their God. He, in the splendour
of his electing grace having chosen some of them before the foundation of the
world, will not rest till He has justified them, and made them to be accepted in
the Beloved. Is it not written, "Whom he did predestinate, them he also
called: and whom he called them he also justified: and whom he justified, them
he also glorified"? Thus you see there are some whom the Lord resolves to
justify: why should not you and I be of the number?
None but God would ever have thought of justifying me. I am
a wonder to myself. I doubt not that grace is equally seen in others. Look at
Saul of Tarsus, who foamed at the mouth, against God's servants. Like a hungry
wolf, he worried the lambs and the sheep right and left; and yet God struck him
down on the road to Damascus, and changed his heart, and so fully justified him
that ere long, this man became the greatest preacher of justification by faith
that ever lived. He must often have marvelled that he was justified by faith in
Christ Jesus; for he was once a determined stickler for salvation by the works
of the law. None but God would have ever thought of justifying such a man as
Saul the persecutor; but the Lord God is glorious in grace.
But, even if anybody had thought of justifying the ungodly,
none but God could have done it. It is quite impossible for any person to
forgive offences which have not been committed against himself. A person has
greatly injured you; you can forgive him, and I hope you will; but no third
person can forgive him apart from you. If the wrong is done to you, the pardon
must come from you. If we have sinned against God, it is in God's power to
forgive; for the sin is against Himself. That is why David says, in the
fifty-first Psalm: "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this
evil in thy sight"; for then God, against whom the offence is committed,
can put the offence away. That which we owe to God, our great Creator can remit,
if so it pleases Him; and if He remits it, it is remitted. None but the great
God, against whom we have committed the sin, can blot out that sin; let us,
therefore, see that we go to Him and seek mercy at His hands. Do not let us be
led aside by those who would have us confess to them; they have no warrant in
the Word of God for their pretensions. But even if they were ordained to
pronounce absolution in God's name, it must still be better to go ourselves to
the great Lord through Jesus Christ, the Mediator, and seek and find pardon at
His hand; since we are sure that this is the right way. Proxy religion involves
too great a risk: you had better see to your soul's matters yourself, and leave
them in no man's hands.
Only God can justify the ungodly; but He can do it to
perfection. He casts our sins behind His back, He blots them out; He says that
though they be sought for, they shall not be found. With no other reason for it
but His own infinite goodness, He has prepared a glorious way by which He can
make scarlet sins as white as snow, and remove our transgressions from us as far
as the east is from the west. He says, "I will not remember your
sins." He goes the length of making an end of sin. One of old called out in
amazement, "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and
passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not
his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18 ).
We are not now speaking of justice, nor of God's dealing
with men according to their deserts. If you profess to deal with the righteous
Lord on law terms, everlasting wrath threatens you, for that is what you
deserve. Blessed be His name, He has not dealt with us after our sins; but now
He treats with us on terms of free grace and infinite compassion, and He says,
"I will receive you graciously, and love you freely." Believe it, for
it is certainly true that the great God is able to treat the guilty with
abundant mercy; yea, He is able to treat the ungodly as if they had been always
godly. Read carefully the parable of the prodigal son, and see how the forgiving
father received the returning wanderer with as much love as if he had never gone
away, and had never defiled himself with harlots. So far did he carry this that
the elder brother began to grumble at it; but the father never withdrew his
love. Oh my brother, however guilty you may be, if you will only come back to
your God and Father, He will treat you as if you had never done wrong! He will
regard you as just, and deal with you accordingly. What say you to this?
Do you not see--for I want to bring this out clearly, what a
splendid thing it is--that as none but God would think of justifying the
ungodly, and none but God could do it, yet the Lord can do it? See how the
apostle puts the challenge, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's
elect? It is God that justifies." If God has justified a man it is well
done, it is rightly done, it is justly done, it is everlastingly done. I read a
statement in a magazine which is full of venom against the gospel and those who
preach it, that we hold some kind of theory by which we imagine that sin can be
removed from men. We hold no theory, we publish a fact. The grandest fact under
heaven is this--that Christ by His precious blood does actually put away sin,
and that God, for Christ's sake, dealing with men on terms of divine mercy,
forgives the guilty and justifies them, not according to anything that He sees
in them, or foresees will be in them, but according to the riches of His mercy
which lie in His own heart. This we have preached, do preach, and will preach as
long as we live. "It is God that justifies"--that justifies the
ungodly; He is not ashamed of doing it, nor are we of preaching it.
The justification which comes from God himself must be
beyond question. If the Judge acquits me, who can condemn me? If the highest
court in the universe has pronounced me just, who shall lay anything to my
charge? Justification from God is a sufficient answer to an awakened conscience.
The Holy Spirit by its means breathes peace over our entire nature, and we are
no longer afraid. With this justification we can answer all the roarings and
railings of Satan and ungodly men. With this we shall be able to die: with this
we shall boldly rise again, and face the last great assize.
Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While by my Lord absolved I am
From sin's tremendous curse and blame.
Friend, the Lord can blot out all your sins. I make no shot
in the dark when I say this. "All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be
forgiven unto men." Though you are steeped up to your throat in crime, He
can with a word remove the defilement, and say, "I will, be thou
clean." The Lord is a great forgiver.
believe in the Forgiveness of Sins." Do
He can even at this hour pronounce the sentence, "Thy
sins be forgiven thee; go in peace;" and if He do this, no power in Heaven,
or earth, or under the earth, can put you under suspicion, much less under
wrath. Do not doubt the power of Almighty love. You could not forgive your
fellow man had he offended you as you have offended God; but you must not
measure God's corn with your bushel; His thoughts and ways are as much above
yours as the heavens are high above the earth.
"Well," say you, "it would be a great miracle
if the Lord were to pardon me." Just so. It would be a supreme miracle, and
therefore He is likely to do it; for He does "great things and unsearchable"
which we looked not for.
I was myself stricken down with a horrible sense of guilt,
which made my life a misery to me; but when I heard the command, "Look unto
me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is none
else"--I looked, and in a moment the Lord justified me. Jesus Christ, made
sin for me, was what I saw, and that sight gave me rest. When those who were
bitten by the fiery serpents in the wilderness looked to the serpent of brass
they were healed at once; and so was I when I looked to the crucified Saviour.
The Holy Spirit, who enabled me to believe, gave me peace through believing. I
felt as sure that I was forgiven, as before I felt sure of condemnation. I had
been certain of my condemnation because the Word of God declared it, and my
conscience bore witness to it; but when the Lord justified me I was made equally
certain by the same witnesses. The word of the Lord in the Scripture says,
"He that believeth on him is not condemned," and my conscience bears
witness that I believed, and that God in pardoning me is just. Thus I have the
witness of the Holy Spirit and my own conscience, and these two agree in one.
Oh, how I wish that my reader would receive the testimony of God upon this
matter, and then full soon he would also have the witness in himself!
I venture to say that a sinner justified by God stands on
even a surer footing than a righteous man justified by his works, if such there
be. We could never be surer that we had done enough works; conscience would
always be uneasy lest, after all, we should come short, and we could only have
the trembling verdict of a fallible judgment to rely upon; but when God himself
justifies, and the Holy Spirit bears witness thereto by giving us peace with
God, why then we feel that the matter is sure and settled, and we enter into
rest. No tongue can tell the depth of that calm which comes over the soul which
has received the peace of God which passes all understanding.