Then Job answered and said,…
How is man justified before God? We speak of man as he is now found in the world — fallen, guilty, and polluted. Man was made upright at the first. The first action of his nature, in its several parts, was in harmony with the laws pertaining to each, and so for a short time it continued. When I speak of the laws pertaining to each part, I mean those of matter and of mind, of body, sense, and intellect. God had laid a prohibition upon him, and to the observance of this He had promised His continued favour, and to the non-observance He attached the forfeiture of that favour. The trial here was not whether man would attain to the Divine favour, but whether he should retain it. The danger to be apprehended, for danger is involved in the very notion of a probation, was, that Adam might fall, not that he might not rise, as is the case with us, his descendants. How was Adam kept, as long as he stood in a state of acceptance before God; i.e., how Adam was justified, so far as the term justification can be predicated of him? He continued in the Divine favour as long as he obeyed the law. He was justified by works. There is nothing evil necessarily in the idea of justification by works. Conscience naturally knows of no other mode of justification, and where that is impossible, she gives the offender over to condemnation and despair. Conscience knows of no justification but that of works. When it is possible, the first, the obvious, and the legitimate, the natural mode of securing the Divine favour is by a perfect obedience, in one's own person, to the Divine commands as contained in the moral law. How are Adam's posterity justified? Not in the same way that he was. Their circumstances are so different. He was innocent, they are guilty; he was pure, they are impure; he was strong, they are weak. The Gospel mode of justification cannot be by works. But what is it positively? A knowledge of this subject must embrace two things, namely, what God has done to this end — to make justification possible; and what man does when it is become actual. It has pleased God to save us, not arbitrarily, but vicariously. He has not cancelled our sin, as a man might cancel the obligation of an indebted neighbour, by simply drawing his pen across the record in his ledger. This may do for a creature in relation to his fellows. We are told in Holy Writ that God the Father has given His Son to be a "ransom" for us, a "sacrifice for our sins," a "mediator between Him and us," the "only name under heaven amongst men whereby we can be saved." The Father hath laid in His atoning death the foundation of our hopes, the "elect cornerstone" of our salvation. By the Holy Spirit and through that Son, He hath also granted to mankind, besides an offer of pardon, an offer of assistance, yea, assistance in the very offer. The mediatorship of the Spirit began the moment the Gospel was first preached to fallen Adam. So indeed did the Mediatorship of Christ, i.e., God began immediately to have prospective regard to the scene one day to be enacted upon Calvary. But the mediatorship of the Spirit could not be one moment deferred. In order to render the salvation of men subjectively possible, the Spirit must be actually and immediately given. What then is necessary on the part of man? This may appear to some a dangerous way of viewing the subject. I am not about to establish a claim of merit on the part of man. When a man is justified, as justification takes place on the part of God, there must be something correlative to it on the part of man — man must do something also. This great act of God must find some response in the heart of man. There must needs be, in a fallen, guilty, and polluted creature, emotions which were at first unknown in Paradise. Deep penitence befits him, pungent sorrow, bitter self-reproach, and utter self-loathing. If we look to the honour of God, or the exigencies of His moral government, we come to the same conclusion. As His honour requires that the obedient should continue obedient, so does it require that, having disobeyed, they should repent, and cease to be disobedient: it is, in truth, the Same spirit in both cases, only adapted to the adversity of the circumstances. If God should, in mercy, justify the ungodly, it must be in such a manner as shall not conflict with these first and manifest principles; and the Gospel, therefore, must have some contrivance by which men may attain to justification without impairing the Divine government, or degrading the Divine character, or thinking highly of themselves. What then is that contrivance? It is not the way of works. What suits Adam in Paradise cannot suit us, driven out into the wilderness of sin and guilt. We are inquiring, as the correlative to justice and law on the part of God is obedience on the part of man, what is the correlative to merely and atonement? it cannot be that self-satisfied feeling which belongs to him who has fulfilled the law. His present obedience, however perfect, could not undo past disobedience. The correlative to the Divine acts of justification cannot be human acts in obedience to law. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." But may not man be justified by obedience to a mitigated law? Is not the Gospel, after all, only the moral law with some abatements designed to bring it down to the level of our infirmity? This is the most plausible and deceptive supposition that could be made. It suits exactly man's natural pride, his fondness for his idols, and has withal an air of mingled mercy and justice. But, however specious, it is utterly unfounded in reason or Scripture. It supposes the law, which we regard as a transcript of the Divine character, to be found faulty, and its requirements in consequence to be cut down to the true level. Neither the violation of the law, nor yet its observance in its original or any mitigated form, can be the ground of our justification before God, in our present state, what way then remains to this infinitely desirable object? Are we not shut up to the way of faith? "Being justified by faith." Nothing that is morally good either precedes justification, or is simultaneously instrumental of it; all real good follows it. By faith we understand a reliance upon Christ as our atoning sacrifice, and the Lord our righteousness, for acceptance before God. It is reliance on another. There is no self-reliance or self-complacence here. This principle consults and provides for every interest involved in a dispensation of mercy to fallen creatures through a Divine Redeemer. It humbles the sinner. It exalts the Saviour. Holiness is promoted. If such then be the nature and tendency of faith, if it be the sole instrument of justification, and if it is only in a state of justification that man can render real and acceptable obedience, how earnest and ceaseless ought to be our prayer, "Lord, increase our faith!"
(W. Sparrow, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Job answered and said,
WEB: Then Job answered,