In most cases we should think it unnecessary and inexpedient to contend about the meaning of a word, when they who used it, explained the sense in which they take it; but, here it is exceedingly important, to ascertain the scriptural meaning of the word justification; for this is the point from which men’s opinions are most apt to diverge from the dictates of divine revelation. And if we put a wrong sense on the word, it will be sure to favour the dangerous doctrine of human merit.
We would, therefore, lay it down as a truth, capable of the clearest proof, that justification, as used in Scripture, does not mean any change wrought within us, but a change of our relation or standing under the law. As condemnation does not signify the making a man wicked, but declaring him guilty; so justification, which is the very opposite of condemnation, does not mean the infusion of holiness or justice into the hearts of men; but, it is the sentence of a judge, declaring that the person to whom it appertains, is acquitted from every charge, and stands right in the view of the law. It is then the act of the Judge of the universe, by which it is declared, that all condemnation is removed, and that the sinful man is accepted as righteous in the eye of the law.
Archibald Alexander, A Brief Compend of Bible Truth, 120-121