May 20, 2009

Watson on Priority of Justification

Watson - Justification precedes Regeneration

"We have, however, seen that regeneration does not precede justification; that till justification man is under bondage, and that he does not "walk after the Spirit," until he is so "in Christ Jesus;" that to him "there is now no condemnation;" yet faith, all acknowledge, must precede justification, and it cannot, therefore, presuppose a regenerate state of mind. The truth, then, is, that faith does not produce obedience by any virtue there is in it, per se; nor as it supposes a previous renewal of heart; but as it unites to Christ, gives us a personal interest in the covenant of God's mercy, and obtains for us, as an accomplished condition, our justification, from which flow the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the regeneration of our nature. The strength of faith lies not, then, in what it is in itself but in what it interests us in; it necessarily leads to good works, because it necessarily leads to justification, on which immediately follows our new creation in Christ Jesus to good works, that we may walk in are yet a few theories on the subject of justification to be stated and examined, which, however, the principles already established will enable us briefly to dismiss."

"That of the Romish Church, which confounds sanctification with justification, has been already noticed. The influence of this theory may be traced in the writings of some leading divines of the English Church, who were not fully imbued with the doctrines of the reformers on this great point, such as Bishop Taylor, Achbishop Tillotson, and others, who make regeneration necessary to justification; and also in many divines of the Calvinistic nonconformist class, who make regeneration, also, to precede justification, though not like the former, as a condition of it."

"In the established order in which God effects this mighty renovation of a nature previously corrupt, in answer to prayers directed to him, with confidence in his promises to that effect in Christ Jesus, there must be a previous process, which divines have called by the expressive names of "awakening," and "conviction;" that is, the sleep of indifference to spiritual concerns is removed, and conviction of the sad facts of the case of a man who has hitherto lived in sin, and under the sole dominion of a carnal and earthly mind, is fixed in the judgment and the conscience. From this arises an altered and a corrected view of things; apprehension of danger; desire of deliverance; abhorrence of the evils of the heart and the life; strong efforts for freedom, resisted however by the bondage of established habits and innate corruptions; and a still deeper sense, in consequence, of the need not only of pardon, but of that almighty and renewing influence which alone can effect the desired change. It is in this state of mind, that the prayer becomes at once heartfelt and appropriate, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." But all this is not regeneration; it is rather the effect of the full and painful discovery of the want of it; nor will "fruits meet for repentance," the effects of an alarmed conscience, and of a corrected judgment; the efforts to be right, however imperfect; which are the signs, we also grant, of sincerity, prove more than that the preparatory process is going on under the influence of the Holy Spirit."

"If regeneration, in the sense in which it is used in Scripture, and not loosely and vaguely, as by many divines, both ancient and modern, is then a concomitant of justification, it cannot be a condition of it; and as we have shown, that all the changes which repentance implies, fall short of regeneration, repentance is not an evidence of a regenerate state; and thus the theory of justification by regeneration is untenable."
(pg. 253)

Theological Institutes By Richard Watson

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