I have slightly edited his text, updating punctuation and citation, altering his bible quotes to the ESV, and only changing those words which could be misunderstood today.
II. The two-fold justification, the one before God, the other before the world.Without this distinction, the subject cannot properly be illustrated. There are sundry texts which exclude all good works with respect to our justification, whilst others include it as necessary. This perplexes some minds, and to reconcile this apparent contradiction, they conclude that both faith and good works are needed to justify a person in the sight of God. Nevertheless, this does not harmonize those different texts. For such a text as this- “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law,” Rom. 8:20- does not admit the least addition of works in the article of our justification. But as the Scriptures speak of a justification in the sight of the world, as well as in the sight of God, it is not difficult to discover a harmony between those apparent repugnant texts. This is elucidated by the following specimens:
1. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in (God’s) sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin,” Rom. 3:20. This text speaks of a justification in the sight of God, which positively excludes all legal works.
2. “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God,” Rom. 4:2. From this text it may be concluded that there is a justification by works; but not before God; hence it must be before the world. Just as the justification before God is without works, even so the justification before the world cannot be otherwise, but by works. It is said “God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, etc.,” I Tim. 3:16. Christ was justified in the spirit, but not in the sight of God; because He knew His son as just and holy from eternity. Through the spirit He wrought miracles- Matt. 12:28- which were calculated to justify Him the Messiah in the sight of the world. He therefore says, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father,” John 10:37-38. Again: “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt. 12:37. Now we know, that in the sight of God words are not necessary- either to justify or condemn us, because He knows all secrets of the heart before words are uttered- but so the world can be informed of the intention of the heart, words are necessary, and by which we either stand justified, or else convicted of an error.
3. It has been supposed by some that St. James- when he insists upon good works, in chapter 2, as necessary for justification- contradicted St. Paul, who excludes them. James does not allude to the same justification. “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works,” James 2:18. As this text speaks of showing one's faith by works, it must be a manifestation of our justification; hence such justification as is in the sight of the world. For we need not to show our faith to God, because He is omniscient. Again: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” James 2:21. Abraham, by yielding obedience to the divine mandate to offer his son Isaac, could not allude to a justification before God. Abraham was circumcised prior to the birth of Isaac, which is evident from the Scriptures; (see Gen 17) hence before he could offer him upon the altar. Now, Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised, Rom. 4:11. Hence, as Abraham was circumcised before he offered his son Isaac upon the altar, and as circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, it is evident that he was justified in the sight of God before he was about to sacrifice his son. As he was justified in God's sight before he performed this work, it must be concluded that he thereby showed himself as just in the sight of the world. This is confirmed by St. Paul: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God,” Rom. 4:2. Since Abraham might glory by his works, but not before God, the conclusion is that he might have a glory in the sight of the world.When St. Paul teaches that we are justified by faith, exclusive of all legal works, he does not by it mean an assent to any common truth, such as that God created the world, or the existence of angels; but a faith in Christ, not as a mere creator, but as a savior of sinners or, as he calls it “faith in his blood,” Rom. 3:25. But the faith which St. James denies as sufficient to justify one is not this faith, but the faith that there is One God, which he also represents as dead without works. “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe… and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” James 2:19-20. What does St. James call a useless faith? Not the faith in Jesus Christ, as a savior; for he says, “My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory,” 2:1. This shows that the faith in Jesus Christ has no respect to persons; hence it cannot be dead, but living. But the faith that there is one God in and of itself is dead. Why so? The truth that only one God exists includes no promise of salvation. Hence simply to believe this cannot engender a living principle. Unless a promise be made, the guilty creature does not expect a favor, and without which he has no inducement to love. Whereas the truth that there is a savior includes a promise of life, and salvation; the sinner that believes this must rejoice; and they have an inducement to love God; hence it must, because of this promise, be a living faith.To prove that the faith that there is one God is insufficient to justify, the apostle exhibits the example of devils, who are neither just nor happy, notwithstanding they believe this truth. According to the interpretation which the Jews gave of the idolatrous worship of the heathens, and confirmed by St Paul, I Cor. 10:19-21; it appears they invoked devils. The heathens did not consider their Gods as supreme beings, but as inferior mediators, called daimonia; nevertheless, those daimonia were devils. He must be an apostate spirit who requires divine honors from men, or will accept of such without reproving those by whom they are offered. Those devils that were honored by the heathens as Gods do not like them believe the doctrine of polytheism, but are convinced that there is but one God; and in this respect, are as orthodox as Abraham. But as they delight in being worshipped by humans, they are so far from being justified by this belief that their guilt is amplified; and they tremble, knowing that their usurped deities shall be destroyed, and they be punished. That such a faith as this should justify any one, St. Paul never taught. But St. James must have been acquainted with some who taught it; otherwise he would not so zealously have inveighed against it.
4. When our blessed Savior shall come in his glory to judge the world, he shall say to the saints, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me,” Matt. 25:34-36. In this text, good works are exhibited as a justification of saints on the Day of Judgment. But this judgment cannot be intended for God to discover the characters of men, because He is omniscient, and thus needs no information; hence it must be to reveal it to an assembled world. The good works of the saints will justify them in the sight of intelligent creatures. Nevertheless in the sight of God, they are otherwise justified. This is evident from our Savior’s declaration, for He calls them the blessed of His Father. But the Father has blessed them in Christ with all spiritual blessings, Eph. 1:3. “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith,” Gal. 3: 9. Thus as they were blessed by God by faith, it is evident they were justified by faith in His sight; and as such, they inherit the kingdom. Hence this text beautifully shows how saints are justified by works in the sight of an assembled world; and yet, how they were well-pleasing to God, because He had blessed them in Christ by faith.
All people are sinners, and as such only they may be justified before God; for a just person cannot be justified, because they are such already. “And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, one’s faith is counted as righteousness,” Rom. 4:5. How clearly this proves that God justifies the ungodly! But it might be asked, how can this be? Must not a sinner repent and believe in Christ before they can be justified? I answer that this is the reason why God only justifies the ungodly. A penitent sinner is one who is sensible of their sins, and justly hears the wrath to come, if not relieved; and as a believer they depend on a help not their own: hence upon Jesus Christ. Although God justifies one that is penitent; He still justifies one that is ungodly. The penitent sinner only differs from the impenitent in so far as they are sensible of their guilt, and are willing to accept pardon; whereas the other is insensible of it; and hence, does not perceive the necessity of a savior. Should the person that is sensible of their guilt not be guilty? To be sensible of one's guilt necessarily presupposes that one is guilty. “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains,” John 9:41. If we were blind in our own estimation, we should be sensible of our guilt, and thus perceive the necessity of being saved by Christ; but whilst we imagine we see, our guilt must remain.Where is the one who does not stand in need of this justification? Who are they that are not ungodly? Those who apparently are the vilest may be justified; for in the sight of God there is no difference: for all have sinned. How erroneous is the opinion, which many entertain, that they must prepare themselves with sundry good works, and a thorough reformation of the heart before they are entitled to believe, or hope to be clothed with God's righteousness. If this should be correct, then they would, as just people, be justified. How inconsistent!Faith works thru love, Gal 5:6; hence good works are the blessed result thru which we are justified before others, who will glorify our Father in heaven. The one who boasts of an abundance of faith, and yet is destitute of philanthropy, may be pronounced a hypocrite. But let no one conclude that because the Scriptures recommend good works, and because they demonstrate our motives to others, that therefore they are necessary to justify us before God. They are properly the blessed effects of our justification before God. “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17:10. If after doing all that we are commanded, we are to acknowledge ourselves unprofitable servants, it is evident that we are not thereby justified before God; hence we must be clothed with a righteousness which He Himself has prepared.