Jazer: Assistance For The Weak In Faith

Letter 6: To Zadok—On Justification

My dear Zadok,

I know not a question of greater moment to a trembling sinner, than that which the Holy Spirit directed Job to propose, “how shall man be just with God?” And as I am persuaded of your solicitude to decide this question for yourself I write this epistle, with the hope of affording you a little assistance.

In order to place the subject in a clear light it is necessary to premise, that the state of mankind is a state of condemnation— that human nature has sunk into total ruin and depravity— and that “sin has entered into the world, and death by sin, so that death hath passed upon all men:”  these are facts which I trust you have not only admitted as important articles in your creed, but felt as your own deplorable case, so that while the righteous law of God charges you with offence, your own conscience pleads guilty, and cries out with the psalmist, “enter not into judgement with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Psalm 143:2.

Were I to direct you to repentance and reformation for justification, or to future obedience and morality, your own impotence and depravity, would cause you to despair of the former, and the word of God would flatly contradict the latter, for, “by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” Yet there is a way, clearly revealed in the sacred oracles, in which God is just and the Justifier of sinners; and it is of in­finite importance that the mind of the young Christian be well instructed respecting this way.

Know then my dear Zadok, that the justification of a sinner in the sight of God, is an act of rich and free grace; pursuant to the covenant engagement of Christ on his behalf, wherein the righteousness of Christ is placed to the sinner’s account, and his guilt transferred to the person of Christ, so that the Lord having laid on him the iniquity of all his people, they are considered complete in him as their covenant head. Justification has in scripture a threefold aspect; the first is toward God— the second in the sinner’s experience— the third in the sight of men; and it may throw some light upon the subject, if I offer a word upon it in each of these three distinct views.

Justification in the sight of God, is the unlimited approval of the sinner in the person of Christ, which refuses to recognize iniquity in him; lays no sin to his charge and accepts of him as pure and holy; which is evidently the meaning of the Holy Ghost, when he says, “he hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel,” and this induced the apostle to affirm, “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”

Concerning the time when the sinner’s justification takes place in the sight of God, it is surprising that there should be any difficulty or difference of opinion, for unless we suppose him to be a changeable being, it can­ not be a new view he takes of the sinner’s case, but one eternal and irrevocable purpose of the divine mind; for we can never suppose that he wrote the names of his people as condemned criminals in the book of life but as justified persons. Considered in themselves, they, could not thus be justified, for they were “children of wrath even as others,” but viewed in Christ (as the Father always regards his people;) I dare not fix a later date to their justification than the giving of them into the hands of Christ as their divine Surety.

Justification in the sight of God, is a covenant transaction, and it is absurd to suppose that it has no existence until made known to our hearts; as well might we suppose redemption had no existence, prior to the incarnation of the Son of God, while he is said to be “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

The Father could trust his co-equal Son for the payment of all that law and justice required on the sinner’s behalf; considering the ransom price as good as paid by his covenant bond, and leaving nothing for the sinner to discharge; there could then be no claim upon him as viewed in Christ, nor could any other state be recorded, in the book of life, but that of justification.

How delightfully is this view of the subject set forth by the inspired apostle, exclaiming “who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect, it is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?” Here election and justification are beautifully linked together, as the covenant transaction of the secret counsel of Jehovah, and fully warrants the inference, that all the chosen race were justified in the sight of God, when Jesus stood forth as their Surety, making himself responsible for their sins.

But this is only one aspect of justification, which I venture to call the celestial: let me now invite the attention of my dear young friend to the experimental aspect, which must be discovered before the former can be enjoyed: concerning this, the apostle presents a very clear view in the 3rd chapter of his epistle to the Romans and brings us to the happy conclusion, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law; that is, the existence of faith proves the sinner to be in a justified state, and the act of faith appropriates and trusts the justi­fying righteousness of Christ, to the entire renunciation of human merit, so that the self-condemned sinner, believing in the complete redemption which is in Christ Jesus, is “justified freely from all things, from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

Observe my dear brother, the distinction between this and the former view of justification; your faith does not create or merit your justification, but simply receives it, as the free gift of Jehovah’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The former, is a view of a special favour provided for you in Christ from all eternity— this, is a view of that favour communicated to you through Christ, and received by faith with Christ; and does it not afford peculiar delight to your mind, in the reception of this special blessing, to contemplate the antiquity with which it is stamped, and the everlasting love which provided it for you?

Contemplate the blessedness of this state a moment, and then search for its evidence in your own heart.

A sinner made free from the bondage of sin, delivered from the curse of the law and accepted of God in the beloved, as fully and affectionately as though he had never transgressed: all the perfections of Deity are propitious to him, all the threatenings of God’s word are averted from him, and all the precious promises secured to him: he is saved from wrath and hell— he is made free by the Son, and shall be free indeed— he is passed from death unto life, and shall not come into condemnation— in a word, “being justified by faith, he has peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Sin will grievously annoy him; but it cannot ruin him— Satan will tempt him; but cannot destroy him— the world will persecute him; but he shall overcome it— his heavenly Father may hide his face; but will never alter his mind, nor violate his promise— he may lose sight of Christ; but Christ will never lose sight of him— he may be left to grieve the Holy Spirit; but nothing can hinder the completion of his work— yea he may lose for a season all his sensible enjoyments; but his register is safe on high, and being justified he shall be eternally glorified.

Is it any matter of wonder, that the soul which is introduced to this happy state should cast off slavish fear; and, exclaiming “I know in whom I have believed,” draw nigh to a covenant God with holy assurance, to enjoy sweet fellowship with him? does not gratitude demand this? does not invitation warrant it? does not example encourage it? yea does not prophecy foretell it? “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”

Should my dear Zadok ask the important question, “How may I know for myself that I am justified?” I must refer him to my next letter addressed to his brother Olympas, for an answer at greater length, and content myself now with just pointing to the nature of justifying faith, which I trust you will find corresponding with that which the Holy Spirit hath planted in your heart.

Justifying faith renounces all pretensions to human merit, sees an all sufficiency in the merits of Christ, and rests on him alone for salvation: it is that which purifies the heart, works by love, and overcomes the world.

Moreover, justifying faith lives upon the fulness of Christ, it forms an union between the soul and Christ, and in proportion to its strength brings glory to Christ, scorns earthly objects, aspires to heaven as its home and maintains a successful war with the corruptions of the old depraved nature.

Let my dear young friend decide whether this faith dwells in him.

There is also a third aspect in which justification is set forth in the word of God, viz. As it is in the sight of men. To this the apostle James directs our attention, asserting, that Abraham and Rahab were justified by works, that is, their works were the effects and evidences of their living faith before men; they shewed their faith by their works. Neither faith nor works have any thing meri­torious in them, because the one is the gift of God, and the other the infallible consequence of that gift; nevertheless, the man who is justified freely by grace in the sight of God, and accepts or appropriates his justification by faith, will make it apparent before men, by excelling all others in zeal for good works, which will be worthy the appellation of “works of faith, and labours of love.”

I cannot persuade myself my dear Zadok, to close this epistle, without pointing you to the inseparable connection between your justification and your glorification, in order to fix your confidence and raise your expectations. “Whom he justified, them he also glorified.” See my dear friend, how secure the soul is that rests on Jesus; the very act of so trusting his righteousness, as to receive and appropriate it, proves your justification, and his irrevocable decree has linked your justification and your glorification together; nor can all the powers of darkness separate them. Anticipate the day, when with all the redeemed justified throng, you shall know what glorification means; and while looking for it and hastening to it, answer every accusation, which the law or conscience, or the accuser of the brethren may brings with “he is near that justified me.”

Shew your justification to the world by your zeal for good works— appropriate it by faith as the essence of your happiness— and glory in its eternity in the sight of God. Thus your experience will sweetly unite the strongest confidence, the most savory enjoyment, and extensive usefulness; seeming contradictions in scripture will be fully reconciled, and a firm foundation laid for the highest spiritual attainments. Boasting will be excluded, and its place supplied, with genuine humility, your love to Jesus will be inflamed, solid peace esta­blished, and everlasting glory anticipated; the consequences of all will be habitual holy familiarity with God the Father in the spirit of adoption, approximation to the likeness of God the Son in mind and spirit, and dedication of body and soul as the temple of the Holy Ghost, while the progress of your experience shall be the path of the just shining more and more to the perfect day. In the anticipation of this

I am, with much affection,

​​Yours, for Christ’s sake,


The grace which justifies a rebel man

Is free— eternal— personal— divine.

The sinner justified by grace, has pass’d

From death to life, and shall not be condemn’d:

Peace is his portion here— he rests on Christ—

And shall be glorified with him at last,

When time shall be no more— O blessed state!

Made free from guilt, deliver’d from the curse.

Complete in Jesus, own’d an heir of bliss:

All flowing from Jehovah’s sov’reign grace.

Hail favour’d sinner, let this matchless love

Dispel thy slavish fear, and cheer thy soul

Amidst the toils and conflicts of the way,

Till with thy Jesus thou art glorified.

Joseph Irons (1785-1852) was an Independent sovereign grace preacher, author and hymn writer. In 1819, he was appointed the minister of Grove Chapel, Camberwell, a position he held until his death thirty-three years later. John Hazelton wrote of him:

“Joseph Irons (1785-1852) was one of the ablest preachers of his day, and a powerful and prolific writer. His doctrinal teaching was pellucidly clear and consistent; he was a profound student and sound expositor of the Word of God, and many were influenced by his sermons, spoken and printed, and confirmed in the faith of God's elect. He was a determined foe of Romanism and Ritualism, deeply interested in the welfare of the young, and ready to aid any effort that commended itself to him on the basis of the faith for which he so earnestly contended. Many of his hymns have secured a permanent place in our hymnology, and his sermons are doctrinal, experimental, and practical in the best sense of the words. He never ceased to preach Christ, making Him the Alpha and Omega of all his discourses. He was born at Ware, in Hertfordshire, and brought up under the care and counsel of a godly father, who was a builder, and who trained his son in that trade. When he left his father's roof, he tells us the parting words were, "There's poor Joseph going to that wicked London. My heart bleeds while I bid him goodbye. I fear it will end in his ruin. You will be far away from a father's eye and a father's counsel, but never will I cease to pray for you that God may preserve and prosper you, although surrounded with so much that is evil." The youth was but eighteen when, in 1803, God led him to the Church of St. Mary Somerset, Thames Street, to hear W. Alphonsus Gunn, and there the arrow was directed into his conscience and he was brought to a saving knowledge of Divine truth. In 1808 his first sermon was preached over a smith's shop at Dulwich; he was actively engaged in business, but on most Sundays would walk from ten to twenty miles, preaching in various villages. "My only companions were my pocket Bible and its Divine Author, who often favoured me with the spirit of prayer on the way and shed many a ray of Divine light on the inspired page, so that I was furnished with a 'Thus saith the Lord.'"
After six years' service in Hertfordshire, he became pastor of the Church at Sawston, near Cambridge, and in January, 1818, he preached his first sermon in Camberwell. Ultimately, Grove Chapel was erected and opened on July 20th, 1819, and within its walls until the time of his death he continued proclaiming the Gospel; his mortal remains rest in a vault under the pulpit. In his last sermon, about ten days before his decease, he spoke of heaven in joyful terms: "I confess that my soul longs for it, and I anticipate meeting with prophets and apostles and patriarchs, and above all, with Jesus Himself, to behold Him face to face in glory, to be like Him, and to see Him as He is."
His published writings were numerous, some running into many editions. "Jazer," letters on Gospel doctrine; "Nathaniel," letters on Christian experience; "Nymphas," an exposition of the Song of Solomon; 611 original hymns; and a paraphrase of the Book of Psalms, are among the number. He established a Home Mission and other Societies for visiting and assisting the sick poor, and to the end of his life he was one of the best friends and helpers of the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society. This great man was no idler in the Lord's vineyard. He talked not about "working for Christ," but delighted to magnify his glorious Lord. His sermons should be models for our preachers to-day in their perspicuity, plainness and power. He could not cut and trim to the times. His faithfulness gave offence to many whose creed and conduct could not bear the blaze of truth and the pointed appeals he made to conscience. Many hard speeches were made against him, but he remained unmoved as an iron pillar. As a man he had very tender feeling and often smarted under the unkind treatment of those of whom better things might have been hoped; but neither the fawning of one party nor the frowns of the other could shake his firmness. When at home in his "Shepherd's Tent," Grove Lane, he used very frequently to visit his chapel; to him it was a peaceful, private promenade, after the close confinement of his study, in which he spent many hours every day. Covenant love, covenant blood and covenant grace were his constant theme. His dying desire, so graciously fulfilled, was that Grove Chapel "might never be desecrated with another gospel." Someone told him that he put too much in his sermons and should reserve ideas for future use. He replied, "Thank God I obtain my materials from heaven; my Master knows what things I have need of, and having called me, He will not allow me to work alone. I get my sermons on my knees with the Word of God before my eyes and if I empty my seed-basket to-day, I know He will fill it to-morrow; therefore I will, God helping me, tell it all out, or it would be like a fire in my bones, burning its way out." Grove Chapel recalls many memories of those who have gone before; in its schoolroom is a unique collection of portraits of free grace ministers of various sections of the one Church. In No. 5 pew in the Chapel is the spot where the Lord first met with the "Wayside Notes" writer, broke him down in contrition of heart and revealed Christ to him as all his salvation, and there are friends still with us who can testify to the power of Mr. Irons' ministry, when in their early years they sat under it.”