YOU are aware that in our courts of law, a verdict of “not guilty” amounts to an acquittal, and the prisoner is immediately discharged. So is it in the language of the gospel; a sentence of “not condemned” implies the justification of the sinner. It means that the believer in Christ receives now a present justification. Faith does not produce its fruits by-and-by, but now. So far as justification is the result of faith, it is given to the soul in the moment when it closes with Christ, and accepts him as its all in all. Are they who stand before the throne of God justified today? So are we, as truly and as clearly justified as they who walk in white and sing his praises above. The thief upon the cross was justified the moment that he turned the eye of faith to Jesus, who was just then hanging by his side: and Paul, the aged, after years of service, was not more justified than was the thief with no service at all.
We are today accepted in the Beloved, today absolved from sin, today innocent in the sight of God. Oh, ravishing, soul-transporting thought!
There are some clusters of this vine which we shall not be able to gather till we go to heaven; but this is one of the first ripe clusters, and may be plucked and eaten here. This is not as the corn on the land, which, we can never eat till we cross the Jordan: but this is part of the manna in the wilderness, and part, too, of our daily raiment, with which God supplies us in our journeying to and fro.
We are now — even now pardoned; even now are our sins put away; even now we stand in the sight of God as though we had never been guilty; innocent as Father Adam when he stood in integrity, ere he had eaten of the fruit of the forbidden tree; pure as though we had never received the taint of depravity in our veins. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” There is not a sin in the Book of God, even now , against one of his people. There is nothing laid to their charge.
There is neither speck, nor spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing remaining upon any one believer in the matter of justification in the sight of the Judge of all the earth.
But to pass on: there is not simply present, but continual, justification. In the moment when you and I believed, it was said of us, “He is not condemned.” Many days have passed since then, many changes we have seen, but it is true of us today, “He is not condemned.” The Lord alone knows how long our appointed day shall be — how long ere we shall fulfill the hireling’s time, and, like a shadow, flee away. But this we know, since every word of God is assured, and the gifts of God are without repentance, though we should live another fifty years, yet would it still be written here, “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” Nay, if by some mysterious dealing in providence our lives should be lengthened out to ten times the usual limit of man, and we should come to the eight or nine hundred years of Methuselah, still would it stand the same — “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” “The just shall live by faith.” “He that believeth on him shall never be confounded.”
All these promises go to show that the justification which Christ gives to our faith is a continual one, which will last as long as we shall live. And, remember, it will last in eternity as well as in time. We shall not in heaven wear any other dress but that which we wear here. Today the righteous stand clothed in the righteousness of Christ. They shall wear the same wedding-dress at the great wedding feast. But what if it should wear out?
What if that righteousness should lose its virtue in the eternity to come?
Oh, beloved! we entertain no fear about that. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but his righteousness shall never wax old. No moth shall fret it; no thief shall steal it; no weeping hand of lamentation shall rend it in twain. It is, it must be eternal, even as Christ himself, Jehovah our righteousness.
Because he is our righteousness, the self-existent, the everlasting, the immutable Jehovah, of whose years there, is no end, and whose strength faileth not, therefore of our righteousness there is no end; and of its perfection, and of its beauty there shall never be any termination. Scripture, I think, very clearly teaches us, that he who believeth in Christ has received forever a continual justification.
Again, think for a moment: this justification is complete. “He that believeth on him is not condemned;” that is to say not in any measure or in any degree. I know some think it is possible for us to be in such a state as to be half-condemned and half-accepted. So far as we are sinners, so far condemned; and so far as we are righteous, so far accepted. Oh, beloved, there is nothing like that in Scripture. It is altogether apart from the doctrine of the gospel. If it be of works, it is no more of grace; and if it be of grace, it is no more of works. Works and grace cannot mix and mingle any more than fire and water; it is either one or the other, it cannot be both; the two can never be allied. There can be no admixture of the two, no dilution of one with the other.
He that believeth is free from all iniquity, from all guilt, from all blame; and though the devil bring an accusation, yet it is a false one, for we are free even from accusation, since it is boldly challenged, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” It does not say “Who shall prove it?” but “Who shall lay it to their charge?” They are so completely freed from condemnation, that not the shadow of a spot upon their soul is found; not even the slightest passing by of iniquity to cast its black shadow on them.
They stand before God not only as half-innocent, but as perfectly so; not only as half-washed, but as whiter than snow. Their sins are not simply erased, they are blotted out; not simply put out of sight, but cast into the depths of the sea; not merely gone, and gone as far as the east is from the west, but gone forever, once for all.
You know, beloved, that the Jew in his ceremonial purification, never had his conscience free from sin. After one sacrifice he needed still another, for these offerings could never make the comers thereunto perfect. The next day’s sins needed a new lamb, and the next year’s iniquity needed a new victim for an atonement. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” No more burntofferings are needed, no more washing, no more blood, no more atonement, no more sacrifice. “It is finished!” hear the dying Savior cry.
Your sins have sustained their death-blow, the robe of your righteousness has received its last thread; it is done, complete, perfect. It needs no addition; it can never suffer any diminution.
Oh, Christian, do lay hold of this precious thought; I may not be able to state it except in weak terms, but let not my weakness prevent your apprehending its glory and its preciousness. It is enough to make a man leap, though his legs were loaded with irons, and to make him sing, though his mouth were gagged to, think that we are perfectly accepted in Christ, that our justification is not partial; it does not go to a limited extent, but goes the whole way. Our unrighteousness is covered; from condemnation we are entirely and irrevocably free.
Once more. The non-condemnation is effectual. The royal privilege of justification shall never miscarry. It shall be brought home to every believer. In the reign of King George the Third, the son of a member of my church lay under sentence of death for forgery. My predecessor, Dr.
Rippon, after incredible exertions, obtained a promise that his sentence should be remitted. By a singular occurrence the present senior deacon — then a young man — learned from the governor of the gaol that the reprieve had not been received; and the unhappy prisoner would have been executed the next morning, had not Dr. Ripport gone post-haste to Windsor, obtained an interview with the king in his bed-chamber, and received from the monarch’s own hand a copy of that reprieve which had been negligently put aside by a thoughtless officer. “I charge you, Doctor,” said his majesty, “to make good speed.” “Trust me, Sire, for that,” responded the Doctor, and he returned to London in time, and only just in time, for the prisoner was being marched with many others on to the scaffold.
Ay, that pardon might have been given, and yet the man might have been executed if it had not been effectually carried out. But blessed be God our non-condemnation is an effectual thing. It is not a matter of letter, it is a matter of fact. Ah, poor souls, you know that condemnation is a matter of fact. When you and I suffered in our souls, and were brought under the heavy hand of the law, we felt that its curses were no mock thunders like the wrath of the Vatican, but they were real; we felt that the anger of God was indeed thing to tremble at; a real substantial fact.
Now, just as real as the condemnation which Justice brings, just so real is the justification which mercy bestows. You are not only nominally guiltless, but you are really so, if you believe in Christ; you are not only nominally put into the place of the innocent, but you are really put there the moment you believe in Jesus. Not only is it said that your sins are gone, but they are gone. Not only does God look on you as though you were accepted; you are accepted. It is a matter of fact to you, as much a matter of fact as that you sinned. You do not doubt that you have sinned, you cannot doubt that; do not doubt then that when you believe your sins are put away. For as certain as ever the black spot fell on you when you sinned, so certainly and so surely was it all washed out when you were bathed in that fountain filled with blood, which was drawn from Emanuel’s veins.
Come, my soul, think thou of this. Thou art actually and effectually cleared from guilt. Thou art led out of thy prison. Thou art no more in fetters as a bond-slave. Thou art delivered now from the bondage of the law. Thou art freed from sin and thou canst walk at large as a free man. Thy Savior’s blood has procured thy full discharge. Come, my soul, — thou hast a right now to come to thy Father’s feet. No flames of vengeance are there to scare thee now; no fiery sword; justice cannot smite the innocent. Come, my soul, thy disabilities are taken away. Thou wast unable once to see thy Father’s face; thou canst see it now. Thou couldst not speak with him, nor he with thee; but now thou hast access with boldness to this grace wherein we stand. Once there was a fear of hell upon thee; there is no hell for thee now. How can there be punishment for the guiltless? He that believeth is guiltless, is not condemned, and cannot be punished. No frowns of an avenging God now. If God be viewed as a Judge, how should he frown upon the guiltless? How should the Judge frown upon the absolved one?
More than all the privileges thou mightest have enjoyed if thou hadst never sinned, are thine now that thou art justified. All the blessings which thou couldst have had if thou hadst kept the law and more, are thine today, because Christ has kept it for thee. All the love and the acceptance which a perfectly obedient being could have obtained of God, belong to thee, because Christ was perfectly obedient on thy behalf, and this imputed all his merits to thy account that thou mightest be exceedingly rich through him who for thy sake became exceeding poor.
Oh that the Holy Spirit would but enlarge our hearts, that we might suck sweetness out of these thoughts! There is no condemnation. Moreover, there never shall be any condemnation. The forgiveness is not partial, but perfect; it is so effectual that it delivers us from all the penalties of the Law, gives to us all the privileges of obedience, and puts us actually high above where we should have been had we never sinned. It fixes our standing more secure than it was before we fell. We are not now where Adam was, for Adam might fall and perish. We are, rather, where Adam would have been if we could suppose God had put him into the garden for seven years, and said, “If you are obedient for seven years, your time of probation shall be over, and I will reward you.”
The children of God in one sense may be said to be in a state of probation; in another sense there is no probation. There is no probation as to whether the child of God shall be saved. He is saved already; his sins are washed away; his righteousness is complete: and if that righteousness could endure a million of years’ probation, it would never be defiled. In fact it always stands the same in the sight of God and must do so forever and ever.