This is probably a tad bit heavier than I generally will post for obvious reasons. None more obvious than the fact that probably only 1% of people who visit my blog will actually read this, and that 1% will most definitely wonder why they read it, after they have done so. It takes a great amount of concentration to follow Girardeau on this subject, but if you follow him, you won’t regret it. I post this mainly because I have been engaged in a conversation with a gentleman on the subject of justification by faith, and I pray that he reads this.
It is indispensable to a just apprehension of this vitally important subject [Federal Theology], to notice that what was a covenant of redeeming grace to [Christ’s] seed was a covenant of works to Christ (Hence, we are saved by works, but they are Christ’s and not ours). It was they, not he, who needed to be redeemed; they, not he, who were to be debtors to grace. He stood under the covenant, as the second Adam, a probationer, required and undertaking to render perfect personal obedience to every demand of law, in order to the justification of his seed in him. This exhaustive obedience he performed. (Christ did not mystically bring a righteousness down from heaven by which we are justified. Rather, the imputed righteousness of Christ came from this exhaustive obedience that Girardeau speaks of.) Bold emphases mine
But the question is in regard to his obedience considered as that of the head and representative of his elect seed. What, in that capacity, did his obedience secure? In the general, the answer must be: all the benefits of redemption. But foremost among these blessings – the special answer is – he secured justification for himself and for his seed in him.
The elect seed of Christ having been thus, in the court of heaven, virtually justified in him their representative, were invested with a right and title to eternal life. Then, when their earthly history emerges, their righteous Advocate and priestly Intercessor, at God’s appointed time, sues out for them the gift of the Holy Spirit, who, imparted to them by their mediatorial King, enters into the, convinces them of their sin and misery, illuminates them in the knowledge of Christ as a Savior, regenerates them, and enables them to exercise that faith which conditions their conscious and actual union with Jesus. Not now are they, for the first time, federally and representatively, but subjectively and consciously justified. This is their actual, in contradistinction from their virtual, justification. In the order of production it succeeds regeneration, as, in that order, virtual precedes it.
Girardeau, John L. The Federal Theology: Its Import and Its Regulative Influence. Greenville, SC: Reformed Academic Press, 1994.