Jonathan Edwards on Justification

“We become ‘free of guilt’ by receiving ‘pardon.’ Nevertheless justification does not consist only of pardon, but, says Edwards in Miscellany 812:

It does not in strictness consist at all in pardon of sin but in an act or sentence approving of him as innocent and positively righteous and so having a right to freedom from punishment and to the reward of positive righteousness. Pardon as the word is used in other cases signifies a forgiving one freely though he is not innocent or has no right to be looked on as such. There is nothing of his own he has to offer that is equivalent to innocence, but he justly stands guilty; but notwithstanding his guilt he is freed from punishment. But the pardon we have by Christ is a freeing persons from punishment of sin as an act of justice and because they are looked upon and accepted as having that which is equivalent to innocence . . .

Justification consists in imputing righteousness. To pardon sin is to cease to be angry for sin. But imputing righteousness and ceasing to be angry are two things. One is the foundation of the other. God ceases to be angry with the sinner for his sin because righteousness is imputed to him….
Persons cannot be justified without a righteousness consistent with God’s truth for it would be a false sentence. It would be to give sentence concerning a person that he is approvable as just that is not just and cannot be approved as such in a true judgment. To suppose a sinner pardoned without a righteousness implies no contradiction, but to justify without a righteousness is self contradictory.”

2 responses to “Jonathan Edwards on Justification

  1. I guess the only thing I would want to point out here…is the difference between the pardons of men and the righteousness we are given in Christ.

    When a criminal is pardoned, he has paid for at least some of his crime… But the punishment none the less is placed on the criminal. It’s just that someone stops it short and excuses the personal from full penalty of the crime. Cleans up his legal records…though it really never goes away. Even a pardoned mans life is changed forever because of his crimes…and not generally in a good way.

    With God however, He is truly just and demands punishment for our crimes. We don’t just get off without someone paying the full penalty for sin.

    He judged us guilty. And someone must pay…fully.

    He pronounced a sentence. Death.

    BUT…He himself served our sentence. He Himself, the judge paid for our crimes. He judged us fully guilty, (as we would expect a just judge to do as we are all guilty) then paid the penalty Himself. Paid in full and placed on Him. The Judge.

    I’ve never seen a judge here on earth condemn someone to death, then take off his robe and march down death row himself. Ever.


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