John Brown of Wamphray (c. 1610-1679) on justifying faith

John Brown of Wamphray Life of Justification Opened

John Brown of Wamphray (c. 1610-1679) was a prominent Scottish Covenanter and minister in the village of Wamphray, Annandale, who, after the Restoration of King Charles II to the throne (1660) and the Act of Uniformity (1662), was forced by the authorities to flee his native Scotland due to his outspoken opposition to prelacy (i.e. Episcopal polity imposed on the Church of Scotland at the time). He went into exile for the rest of his life in the Netherlands (described by one author as “the asylum of the banished” at the time), where he settled in Rotterdam, industriously wrote in favour of the Covenanter cause, and produced a number of noteworthy theological works. One of Brown’s major works is his The Life of Justification Opened, published posthumously in 1695 with a preface written by the Utrecht professor Melchior Leydekker. In the excerpt below, the spelling and punctuation of which I have slightly edited for clarity, Brown discusses justifying faith:

“[F]aith is the man’s looking to Christ, as the stung Israelite in the wilderness did look unto the brazen serpent (Jn. 3:14, 15) and saying, as it is (Is. 45:24), ‘In the Lord have I righteousness’: and it is the believer’s putting-on of the Lord Jesus, that he may be found in Him, and clothed with His righteousness (Phil. 3:9). It is the man’s receiving of Christ (Jn. 1:12) and receiving of the atonement in Him, and through Him (Rom. 5:11) and of abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:17). Therefore it is called a ‘believing on His name’ (Jn. 1:12) and ‘on Him, whom the Father hath sent (Jn. 6:29; 7:35; 17:20; Acts 16:31; 19:25). And because faith laid hold on this righteousness of Christ, therefore is this righteousness called the ‘righteousness of faith’ (Rom. 4:11) and the ‘righteousness which is of faith’ (Rom. 9:30), and that, ‘which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith’ (Phil. 3:9) Now if this be the native work of justifying faith […] to receive Christ, and His righteousness, and consequently to carry the man out of himself, that he may find and partake of that all-sufficient righteousness of Christ, to the end he may with confidence stand before God, and expect pardon and acceptance, it cannot be said without destroying the native work of justifying faith, that faith is that Gospel-righteousness unto which they may lean, and upon the account of which they may expect justification.”

What Brown is noting in this last sentence, as he makes clear numerous times elsewhere in this work, is that believers are not justified on account of their faith, as if that constituted their “Gospel-righteousness”, but on account of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith as a mere instrument. He continues:

“Faith, in this matter, is as the eye of the soul, that seeth not itself, but looketh out to another. Beside, this would overturn the whole nature of the covenant of grace, and is irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Apostle Paul about justification […] Therefore, all who would live the life of justification must betake themselves to Jesus Christ, and lean on Him and to His righteousness: for with the robe of His righteousness must they alone be clothed, and in Christ alone must they be found, and they must think of standing before God, having on His righteousness, that God imputeth to believers, and which they receive by faith, in order to their justification.”

– John Brown of Wamphray (c. 1610-1679), The Life of Justification Opened, p. 58

For previous posts on justifying faith, see these by Henricus Siccama, H.C.G. Moule, William Ames, and Thomas Chalmers.

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