Book 3 - Chapter 8: Of Justification - by Herman WitsiusThe Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius
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Herman Witsius (1636-1708)
Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).
Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.
This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.
Chapter VIII: Of Justification
I. THAT faith, which we have in the last Chapter treated of, as saving, is usually also called justifying in the divinity schools. And since justification is its first memorable effect, it will by no means be improper to speak of it now, and that with the greater accuracy, as it so nearly concerns the whole of religion, that we stumble not in explaining this article. The doctrine of justification diffuseth itself through the whole body of divinity, and if the foundation here is well laid, the whole building will be the more solid and grand; whereas a bad foundation or superstructure threatens a dreadful ruin. The pious Picardians, as they were called in Bohemia and Moravia, valued this article at its true price, when, in their Confession of Faith, Art. 6, speaking of Justification, they thus write: “This sixth article is accounted with us the most principal of all, as being the sum of all Christianity and piety. Wherefore our divines teach and handle it with all diligence and application, and endeavour to instil it into all.” Let us, to the utmost of our power, imitate them in this, beginning with its name.
II. To justify, in Hebrew הצדיק, in Greek δικαιοῦν, is very frequently and ordinarily used in a declarative sense, and signifies to account, declare, prove any one just. Which is manifest from those places of Scripture, where it occurs as the act of a judge, as Psa. 82:3, “הצדיק do justice to (justify) the afflicted and needy;” and this is especially the case when it is opposed to condemnation, as Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15; Isa. 5:22, 23.
III. And doubtless this word has such a signification, when God is said to be justified, as Psa. 51:4: “That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest:” that is, that thou mightest be declared, proved, acknowledged to be just, when thou pronouncest sentence. In like manner, Matt. 11:19, “Wisdom is justified of her children:” that is, they who are truly regenerated of God by the Gospel, have accounted the wisdom of God, which the Scribes and Pharisees falsely accounted foolishness, to be, as it really is, the most consummate wisdom, and cleared it from the calumny of folly with which it was branded. In the same sense it is said, Luke 7:29, “All the people and the publicans justified God.”
IV. Nor can this word have any other than a forensic signification, when Christ is said to be “justified,” 1 Tim. 3:16: and still more fully, Isa. 50:8, where the Lord himself thus speaketh: “He is near that justifieth me, who will contend with me? Let us stand together; who is mine adversary? Almost in the same manner as the apostle speaks of the elect, Rom. 8:33, 34. How was Christ justified? 1st, When the Father declared that he was holy and without spot, according to his mind and will, and even such “in whom he was well pleased,” Matt. 3:17, and 17:5. 2dly, When he pronounced him innocent of all the crimes with which he was falsely accused, and for which he was unjustly condemned. 3dly, When he declared that he had made full satisfaction to his justice, and was no longer under the guilt of those sins which, as surety, he took upon himself. The two former acts of justification respect Christ as man; the last, as mediator. And in this view, he is called “the righteous or just servant of God,” Isa. 53:11; not only as holy and without sin in himself, but as one who had also fulfilled all that righteousness to which he bound himself by his voluntary engagement, whereby, though he was the son, yet he became the servant of God, and by his resurrection was declared to have performed the whole, and so was exalted to that state, that he might be able to justify many, or procure righteousness for many, by virtue of his own righteousness.
V. But we are not to imagine we have accomplished any great matter, when we have shown that justification is often taken in a forensic or law sense. For scarce any who love to be called Christians have such a bold front or stubborn mind as to deny it. Certainly the popish doctors themselves generally own it: Bellarm. de Justificat. lib. i. c. 1, Becan. Sum. Theol. T. II., Tract. 4, c. 3, Tirin. Controvers. xv. No. 1. Nor do they deny that Paul himself sometimes treats of justification in that sense: Estius, in Comm. ad Rom. 2:13, observes, that to be justified there is the same thing as to be “adjudged, declared, accounted righteous, according,” says he, “to the most usual language of Scripture.” Which interpretation Ruardus Tapperus also approves, ad Art viii. p. 32. I will do my* townsman the honour to quote his words. “As to what was aforesaid,” says he, “it is to be considered that, in Scripture, to be justified not only signifies to be endowed and adorned with righteousness, but sometimes also to be pronounced, declared, adjudged, allowed, and esteemed just or righteous. According to which interpretation blessed Augustine explains the apostle Paul’s expression.” The doers of the law shall be justified; “that is,” says he, “shall be accounted and esteemed just.” In like manner, Cornelius a Lapide, on Rom. 8:33. “It is God that justifieth,” thus comments: “It is God that acquits these elect persons; namely, his faithful people and true Christians from their sins, and absolves from the charge brought against them by sin and the devil, and pronounces them just or righteous. The state of the controversy, therefore, between us and the doctors of the church of Rome, is not whether justification be sometimes taken in a forensic or law sense; for that is confessed on both sides.
VI. What then? Are we thus to state the question? Namely, whether the term, to justify, has always in Scripture a forensic sense? But the most eminent protestant divines do not affirm this, and therefore it would be too harsh and inhuman to charge them with prevarication on that account. Beza on Tit. 3:7, thus comments: “I take the term justification in a large sense, as comprehending whatever we obtain from Christ, as well by imputation as by the efficacy of the Spirit in our sanctification, that we may be ἄρτιοι, that is, perfect and complete in him. Thus also the term justify is taken, Rom. 8:30. Much to the same purpose Thysius in SynoPsa. Purior. Theolog. Leyden. Disput. xxiii. §. 3: “Nor yet do we deny, that on account of their very great and close connexion justification seems sometimes to comprise sanctification also, as a consequent. Rom. 8:30, Tit. 3:7, &c.” I shall add one testimony more, namely, Chamierus Panstrat. T. III. lib. x. c. i. No. 6, who speaks to this purpose: “We are not such ridiculous judges of words as not to know, nor such impertinent sophisters as not to allow, that the terms justification and sanctification are put one for the other; yea, we know that they are called saints principally on this account, that in Christ they have remission of sin. And we read in the Revelations, ‘let him that is righteous be righteous still;’ which can only be understood of the progress of inherent righteousness; and we deny not that there may be a promiscuous use of the words perhaps in other places.”
VII. And indeed, this ingenuousness of these very great men is not to be too much canvassed, who, though they have granted so much to their adversaries, have yet, in the main question, happily triumphed over them. Nevertheless we see no sufficient reasons why they should have been so liberal to them. There had been no violence put on the alleged passages, if in them the term justification should be taken in the sense in which Paul commonly takes it; nor doth it appear that all things would have flowed less agreeably.
VIII. What should hinder us from explaining Rom. 8:30, in this manner? “Whom he did predestinate;” that is, whom by his most free and immutable decree he has chosen to grace and glory, “them he also called;” that is, by his word and Spirit he sweetly invited, and powerfully drew them from a state of sin and misery to communion with Christ, and being endowed with faith regenerated them: “and whom he called, them he also justified;” that is, as soon as they were united to Christ by the Holy Spirit and by faith, he, on the account of the merits of Christ imputed to them, acquitted them from the guilt of sin, and adjudged them to have a right to all the good things of Christ, as well in grace as in glory: “and whom he justified, them he also glorified;” that is, he not only gave them a right but also put them in actual possession of the greatest blessings, 1st, By sanctifying them, and transforming them more and more to his own image, and making them partakers of a divine nature, which doubtless is a great degree of glory. 2dly, By plentifully pouring in upon them the sweetest consolations of his Spirit, which are, as it were, the preludes of joy and happiness. 3dly and lastly, By making them perfectly happy, first in soul, and then in soul and body together.
IX. But we think it far more proper to comprise sanctification under glorification, than to refer it to justification. For it is familiar to the Holy Spirit, to delineate holiness under the names of beauty, ornament, and glory. Thus Psa. 93:5, “Holiness becometh thine house.” Psa. 110:3, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness”. Nay, by the very term glory, holiness and righteousness are expressed: Psa. 45:13, “The king’s daughter is all glorious within.” But what else is meant there by that glory but the genuine holiness of believers? Or as Peter speaks, 1 Epist. 3:4, “The hidden man of the heart in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price:” add Isa. 62:2. “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory.” Where these two words are used alternately one for the other, and justly, for the highest pitch of our glory consists in a perfect conformity to God, 1 John 3:2. But holiness is the image of God, Eph. 4:24; so that saints who accurately express or resemble that image, are on that account called the “glory of Christ,” 2 Cor. 8:23. Why then should we not account our conformity to God in holiness, as no contemptible first-fruits of glory? Certainly, Paul calls the progress made in sanctification a transformation, or a being changed from glory to glory,” 2 Cor. 3:18.
X. It is plain that with the same propriety, we may understand by justification, Tit. 3:7 absolution from guilt, and an adjudging to eternal life. For, the first work of a man, who is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, is the work of faith, the infallible consequent of which is, the remission of sins; this is either succeeded by, or attended with, the hope of the inheritance of eternal life. What probable reason is there then to make us depart from this sense? And if we would have sanctification contained in any of the words which the apostle makes use of, why shall we not rather refer it to “regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Ghost?” For really, sanctification differs no otherways from the first regeneration and renovation, than as the continuance of an act differs from the beginning of it. And we are sure, that the apostle exhorts the Romans, who had been for some time regenerated, to a progress in sanctification, when he writes, Rom. 12:2, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds,” and in like manner, Eph. 4:23, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” As the beginning of this renovation goes before justification, strictly so called, so the progress of it serves to promote the certainty and the sense of justification; and in both respects it was excellently well said by the apostle, that the elect are regenerated by the Holy Spirit shed on them abundantly; that being thus justified by his grace, that is, acquitted from sin, and conscious to themselves of absolution, they might lawfully, yea, in full assurance, hope for the inheritance of eternal life.
XI. As to Rev. 22:11, “He that is righteous, let him be righteous still,” it does not appear that any fuller sense can be put on these words than if we thus explain them: whoever is reputed righteous before God by faith on Christ, should think it his duty or concern to verify by his actions, this his justification before men and to his own conscience; and so by faith and the exercise of it, and by studying the word of God, he may have a more abounding consolation concerning his righteousness. And by this reasoning too, the forensic use of this term is still retained.
XII. Others also allege, 1 Cor. 6:11, “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” But even this testimony does not prove that justification is equivalent to sanctification, rather the contrary. For, after the apostle had said, that the “Corinthians were washed,” that is, delivered from the power of sin, he more particularly shows, wherein that washing consisteth. Now the power of sin over man is twofold. 1st, That it compels him to the servile works of wickedness. 2dly, That it condemns him. The dominion is destroyed by sanctification: the power of condemning by justification. Both these are bestowed on the elect “in the name of the Lord Jesus;” that is, on account of his merits, and by his authority and will, “and by the Spirit of our God,” who is the author of sanctification, and sweetly insinuates the sentence of justification into the minds of believers. Both these benefits are sealed in baptism, to the washing of which there is here an evident allusion. Nor should it offend us, that sanctification is here put before justification; a diligent enquirer cannot but know, that the Scripture does not always exactly observe that order, as that things first in time are set in the first place. Thus even Peter puts vocation before election, 2 Pet. 1:10. Besides, justification consists of various articles, as we shall show more distinctly in its place.
XIII. However, I cannot conceal that there are two places in which the term הצדיק justify, may seem to denote something more than a mere declaration of righteousness, though that be also included. The first is, Is. 53:11. “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant יצדיק לרבים justify many.” It is indeed true, that our Lord Jesus Christ is constituted judge by the Father, and consequently empowered to absolve his elect, who were given him: but here he is not represented as a judge, pronouncing sentence, but as the cause, which, both by merit and efficacy, brings and gives to his own people that righteousness, on account of which, they may be absolved at the bar of God; and the unusual construction of the word with ל, the article, of the dative case, calls for our notice. It is therefore the same as if the prophet had said, “יעשה הצדקה לרבים, he will make a righteousness unto many,” that which he himself performed as the cause of righteousness, he will communicate to many; and thus, “δικαιωμα, his righteousness, will redound to many, and unto justification of life,” as the apostle speaks, Rom. 5:18, which I would have to be compared with this passage.
XIV. The other testimony I hinted at, is Dan. 12:3, where the faithful preachers of the gospel are said to be “מצדיקו הרבים, justifying many.” None doubts that it belongs to the office of the ministers of the gospel to publish, in the name of God, absolution from sin to the contrite in heart. But the compass of their function is much more extensive, namely, that by their preaching, example, and prayers, they may bring as many as possible to such a state, as remission of sins may be preached, and that with special application unto them, who, by faith and repentance, are reconciled unto God, and are diligent in the practice of holiness. The ministry of reconciliation with which they were intrusted comprises all this. They who are diligent in the performance of these things, are said to justify many, because they stir them up to repentance, which is the beginning of righteousness or holiness; to faith, whereby they lay hold on the righteousness of Christ, on account of which they may be pardoned; to the practice of a holy life, which when they prove by their works, they may obtain fuller assurance of their justification by the ministers in the name of God.
XV. We have been the fuller on the signification of this word justify, that, at the same time, we might show the force of various testimonies of Scripture, nothing being more pleasant and useful than the study of this. But when treating of justification, we shall always take that term in the declarative sense. Which being observed once for all, let us now address ourselves to the more distinct examination of the thing itself.
XVI. The declaration of God concerning men, either regards some of their particular actions, or their whole state. The actions of men are considered, either in relation to the rule of the divine will, or in comparison with the actions of others, whether more or less evil. God pronounces absolutely on actions, when he declares them either evil, condemning man in them; as Nathan said to David in the name of God, 2 Sam. 12:9. “Thou hast despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight,” or good, justifying a man in them; in which sense David, having his eyes intent on the justice of his cause against his enemies, prays, Psa. 7:8: “Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is within me.” Thus God justified Job, when he declared that he “spoke of him the thing which is right,” Job 42:8.
XVII. The example of Phinehas is here very memorable, Psa. 106:30, 31: “Then stood up Phinehas and executed judgment; and so the plague was stayed. And that was accounted unto him for righteousness, unto all generations for ever more.” The fact of Phinehas was thus: Zimri, one of the princes of the tribe of Simeon, brought into his tent, with an incredible impudence, Cozbi, a daughter of the king of Midian, in the sight of the princes of his people, with an intent to pollute her and himself with whoredom; while Moses, with the whole congregation, stood in tears at the door of the tabernacle, to deprecate the vengeance of God already broke out. Phinehas, son of Eleazar, the high-priest, and himself a priest, could not bear this sight; but being inflamed with a mighty zeal, and moved with the indignity of the action, rushed from amidst the congregation, and taking up a javelin, thrust them both through in the very act of their whoredom.
XVIII. There were many things in this action, which to outward appearance were faulty. 1st, Phinehas was a priest, whom it did not become to imbrue his hands in human blood. For if it brought guilt on a priest, to be expiated by sacrifice, to have touched a dead body, much more to have made a living man a dead carcase. 2dly, He was none of the judges of Israel, whom Moses, at the command of God himself, deputed to punish the guilty, by hanging them up before the Lord, Numb. 25:4, 5. 3dly, He did not observe the due order or course of justice, because he began with the execution. 4thly, The whole seemed to breathe an enraged passion of mind, rather than a zeal tempered with due lenity. For these reasons, Phinehas might be thought to have been guilty of a horrid murder, and, on that account, to have forfeited the honour of the priesthood.
XIX. But it is plain, it appeared otherwise in the sight of God, who pronounced the action right, commending this zeal of his, and declaring, that he was so pleased with it, that therefore he averted his great wrath from the children of Israel. And Phinehas was so far from being divested of the priesthood on that account, that, on the contrary, God adjudged to him and his seed after him a perpetual priesthood, by a covenant of peace that was to last for ever, Numb. 25:11, 12, 13. And this is what David sings, “it was counted unto him for righteousness,” that is, it was judged that he had acted in a due and regular manner, and was therefore more worthy of praise and reward, than of blame and punishment.
XX. And as this man was justified in that absolutely, so others are justified in their actions, comparatively, or when compared with the actions of others which are worse. In this sense it is said, Jer. 3:11, “the backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.” That is, by her works hath showed herself more righteous and innocent, professing according to the sentiments of her heart, and not acting so hypocritically and deceitfully as the prevaricating and dissembling Judah, who would appear, as if she was converted to me, while in the mean time she profanes my name. In like manner, Ezek. 16:31: “Thou hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations, which thou hast done.” Thou hast behaved in such a manner, that, in comparison of thee, they may seem to be innocent.
XXI. Thus much for the declaration of God concerning the actions of men. On the other hand, his declaration as to their state, is of several kinds. For either God considers them as they are in themselves, according to inherent qualities, either vicious through corrupt nature, or holy and laudable through reforming grace; or as they are reputed in Christ the surety.
XXII. God can neither consider nor declare men to be otherwise than as they really are. For “his judgment is according to truth,” Rom. 2:2, and therefore they, who are still under the dominion of sin, and walk with delight, according to their depraved lusts, are judged and declared by God to be unregenerate, wicked, and slaves of the devil, as they really are; for “by no means does he clear the guilty,” Exod. 34:7; but they who are regenerated by his grace, created anew after his image, and heartily give themselves up to the practice of sincere holiness, are by him absolved from the sin of profaneness, impiety, and hypocrisy; and are no longer looked upon as dead in sins, slaves to the devil, children of the world; but as true believers, his own children, restored to his image and endowed with his life. It was thus he justified his servant Job, declaring, “That there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and esheweth evil,” Job 1:8.
XXIII. And this is still the case of all believers. The devil indeed, who is the accuser of the brethren, frequently charges them with hypocrisy before God, as if they did not serve him in sincerity; and he not only thus accuses them before God, but he also disquiets their conscience, as if all their faith and piety were only a mask and outward show, by which they have hitherto imposed, not only on others, but also on themselves. In order to calm the consciences of believers, when thus shaken by the false accuser, they have need to be absolved from this accusation, and justified from this false testimony before God; which God also daily does, assuring the elect of the sincerity of their conversion, by the testimony of his Spirit, and thereby showing, that the praise of a true Jew is of him, Rom. 2:29. This justification is, indeed, very different from that other, of which we shall presently treat, wherein the person is absolved from sins whereof he is really guilty, and which are forgiven him on Christ’s account. In this we are speaking of, he is acquitted of sins, which he is not chargeable with, and is declared not to have committed.
XXIV. The foundation of this justification can be nothing but inherent holiness and righteousness. For as it is a declaration concerning a man, as he is in himself, by the regenerating and sanctifying grace of God, so it ought to have for its foundation, that which is found in man himself: “He that doth righteousness is righteous,” says John, 1 John 3:7; and Peter says, Acts 10:34, 35, “of a truth, I perceive, that, in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with God.” And Luke, in the name of God, gives this testimony to the parents of John the Baptist, that “They were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless,” Luke 1:6. But yet inherent righteousness is not the foundation of this justification, from its own worthiness, or because it is a holiness exactly commensurate with the rule of the law, but because it is the work of the Holy Spirit in the elect, which God cannot but acknowledge and delight in as his own, and because the failings with which it is always stained in this world, are forgiven for Christ’s sake.
XXV. In this sense we think the apostle James speaks of justification, in that much controverted passage, James 2:21, 24, where he declares, that “Abraham was not justified by faith only, but also by works,” and insists upon it, that every man ought to be justified in this manner. For the scope of the apostle is to show, that it is not sufficient for a Christian to boast of the remission of his sins, which indeed, is obtained by faith only, but then it must be a living faith on Christ: but that besides, he ought to labour after holiness, that, being justified by faith only, that is, acquitted from the sins he had been guilty of, on account of Christ’s satisfaction, apprehended by faith, he may likewise be justified by his works, that is, declared to be truly regenerated, believing and holy; behaving as becomes those who are regenerated, believing and holy. Thus our father Abraham behaved, who, having been before now justified by faith only, that is, obtained the remission of his sins, was afterwards also justified by his works. For when he offered up his son to God, then God said to him, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me,” Gen. 22:12. And James insists upon it, that this last justification is so necessary to believers, that, if it be wanting, the first ought to be accounted only vain and imaginary.
XXVI. These things are evident from Scripture: but, lest any, after the manner of the world, should ridicule this, I inform the more unskilful, that this is no invention of mine, but that the most celebrated divines have, before me, spoken of such a justification according to inherent righteousness and of works. Bucerus, in altero Colloquio Ratisbonensi, p. 313, says, “We think that this begun righteousness is really true and living righteousness, a noble and excellent gift of God; and that the new life in Christ consists in this righteousness, and that all the saints are also righteous by this righteousness, both before God and before men, and that, on account thereof, the saints are also justified by a justification of works, that is, are approved, commended, and rewarded by God.” Calvin teaches much the same, Instit. lib. iii. c. 17, sect. 8, which concludes with these words, “The good works done by believers, are counted righteous, or, which is the same, are imputed for righteousness.” The very learned Ludovicus de Dieu has at large explained and proved this opinion, in Comment. ad Rom. 8:4. And he quotes, as agreeing with him herein, Daniel Colonius, formerly regent or professor of the French college at Leyden. The same is also maintained by the Rev. Dr. Peter de Witte, that very able defender of the truth, in Controversia de justificatione adversus Socinianos. And Triglandius explains the passage of James to the same purpose with us, making use of the very same distinction of justification, in Examine Apologiæ Remonstrantium, c. 21, p. 316.
XXVII. Let us now at length proceed to treat of the justification of man as a sinner, but considered as in Christ the surety. As this subject is the foundation of all solid comfort, so it is full of mysteries and perplexed with many controversies: nevertheless it is clearly delivered in the Scriptures, if men would only be satisfied with their simplicity, and not shut their eyes against the light which so freely shines upon them, nor give way to curious niceties, and the roving of a luxuriant fancy. We thus define the Gospel justification of a sinner: it is a judicial but gracious act of God, whereby the elect and believing sinner is absolved from the guilt of his sins, and hath a right to eternal life adjudged to him, on account of the obedience of Christ received by faith.
XXVIII. This is evident that all men, considered in themselves, are abominable sinners before God, and obnoxious to eternal death. Paul before proved both Jews and Gentiles to be all under sin; so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God, Rom. 3:9, 19. But since, as we observed before, the judgment of God is always according to truth, it cannot be otherwise but that God declare those, who in themselves are sinners and liable to death, to be really so in themselves; yet the Scripture declares that God justifies sinners, that is, acquits them from sin and from being liable to eternal death, and adjudges them a right to eternal life. And unless this were the case, the salvation and hope of all mankind had been at an end. But certainly, God does this agreeably to his truth and justice. It is therefore necessary that they, who are sinners in themselves, should appear in another light to a justifying God, namely as considered in another, whose perfect righteousness may be so imputed to them as, in virtue thereof, they may be reputed righteous. And this is the mystery of our justification in the faith of Christ.
XXIX. After all had sinned in Adam, and come short of the glory of God, the only-begotten son of God offered himself as surety to the Father, and promised, that, at the time appointed, he would fulfil all the demands of the law for the elect. And he also executed this with all fidelity: he was born of a virgin, without any spot of sin, being conceived by the Holy Ghost, and endowed with original righteousness, in order to remove the guilt of original sin, and make up the defect of original righteousness, which the elect are born without. Besides, from his very infancy, and through the whole course of his life, especially at the close thereof he endured all manner of sufferings, both in soul and in body, humbling, nay emptying himself, and being obedient to the Father unto death, even the death of the cross; that he might bear, in their stead, the punishment due to the sins of his chosen people; the dignity of the person who suffered abundantly compensating what was wanting in the duration of the punishment, which otherwise must have been eternal. In fine, he fully performed for his people all that the law required, in order to obtain a right to eternal life. Had the elect themselves, in their own persons, performed what Christ did for them, there is no doubt but they would have obtained that, for which they might have been justified by God, nay, they must have been so, at least according to the covenant.
XXX. Moreover, since whatever of this kind Jesus performed, he did it by a voluntary undertaking with the Father’s approbation, in the room and stead of the elect: it is deservedly imputed to them, and placed to their account: just as what a surety pays for a debtor, or in his stead, is accounted as paid by him to the first creditor. Paul, in the fifth Chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, has handled this point in an excellent and divine manner, the sum of which is contained, ver. 19: “As by one man’s disobedience many were made (constituted) sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made (constituted) righteous.”
XXXI. Moreover, to set the ground of this imputation in a clearer light, we must observe that Christ, according to the eternal counsel of the Father, not only undertook all these things for the elect, and fulfilled them agreeably to his undertaking, but also that the elect, before the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them for justification of life, are so closely united to him by faith, as to be one body, 1 Cor. 12:13, and which is still more indivisible, or indissoluble, one spirit with him, 1 Cor. 6:17; nor are they only united, but he and they are one, and that by such an unity or oneness, in which there is some faint resemblance of that most simple oneness whereby the divine persons are one among themselves, John 17:22, 23. But in virtue of this union or oneness, which the elect have with Christ by faith, they are accounted to have done and suffered, whatever Christ did and suffered for them.
XXXII. Elect sinners, destitute of any righteousness of their own, that is, not having in themselves that for which they have a right to eternal life, are by faith found in Christ, having that righteousness, which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith, Phil. 3:9: and that in this manner—they are acquitted from obnoxiousness to eternal death, on account of the voluntary sufferings of Christ, which were completed by a most cruel and dreadful death. Original sin is pardoned, and the soul presented unspotted before God, on account of his most pure nativity, being conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin. Eternal life is adjudged to be communicated to them in certain degrees of it, on account of the most perfect obedience of his whole life. This is the sum of this mystery, which, being comprehended in a few words, we have thought proper thus to lay before the reader’s contemplation, as it were, in one view. But there are not a few things which require fuller explication.
XXXIII. The JUDGE in this cause is God, Rom. 8:33, Is. 43:25. For he is “that one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy,” James 4:12. And as he alone has a right and power to inflict due punishment on the sinner, so likewise he alone has a right to acquit him, because he is “the judge of the whole world,” Rom. 3:6.
XXXIV. What is in general said of God, essentially considered, is especially appropriated to the Father, considered hypostatically or personally, who is “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” Rom. 3:26, and “who was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them,” 2 Cor. 5:19. Where the distinction made of God from Christ sufficiently shows, that God the Father is there meant. Reason also requires, that justification be especially ascribed to God the Father. For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, appears in judgment in behalf of the guilty, as surety, as advocate, and in fine, as furnishing them with those evident proofs, by which they may be able to demonstrate that divine justice has been satisfied for them. The Holy Ghost, by working faith in the guilty, makes them to lay hold on and present the surety and his satisfaction in judgment. And in this respect both stand on the side of the guilty. But the Father acts as Judge, who righteously, and at the same time mercifully, absolves the guilty, on account of the satisfaction of the Son, apprehended by the power of the Holy Spirit.
XXXV. But a certain person has rashly asserted, that the Son and Holy Ghost cannot, for the reasons above mentioned, act the part of Judge, and pronounce sentence; for in the economy of our salvation, the persons in the Trinity sustain various relations, which are to be reconciled with, and not placed in opposition to, each other. He who sometimes is described as surety, is at other times represented as Judge, John 5:27. And indeed, Christ himself claims the power of forgiving sins, Matt. 9:2. And, in the day of the general judgment, himself will peremptorily pronounce the justifying sentence upon the elect. Nor is it inconsistent for one and the same person to be both the meritorious cause of justification, and the advocate of the guilty, and at the same time, the Judge of the cause. All these relations agree in one Christ, and teach us that fulness of salvation which is to be found in him.
XXXVI. The Holy Ghost also hath his own proper office in this matter, for it is he who brings in and seals that sentence of absolution, pronounced in the court of heaven, to and upon the believing soul in the court of conscience, and so pacifies and cheers it; he shows it “the things that are freely given to it of God,” 1 Cor 2:12, and “bears witness with the spirit of believers,” Rom. 8:16, that they are reconciled to God. Hence it appears, that none of the divine persons is to be excluded from pronouncing sentence.
XXXVII. That thing for which we are justified, and which some call the matter of our justification, is the perfect righteousness of Christ alone; this Christ finished for his elect, “for their sakes sanctifying himself,” John 17:19. The Father imputes the same to his chosen people, as he imputed their sins to Christ: “he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Cor. 5:21. But it is impossible to explain how Christ was made sin for us, unless in that sense, in which our sins are imputed to him, that he might suffer for them; and we are made righteousness in him in the same manner that his righteousness is imputed to us, that, on account of it, we may receive the crow. It is evident that in Scripture, the righteousness of Christ is called our righteousness; for, he is “the Lord our righteousness,” Jer. 23:6: “he of God is made unto us righteousness,” 1 Cor 1:30. Now it is ours inherently, or by imputation, for there can be no third way: it is not ours inherently; for, in that sense, Paul opposes it to ours, Phil. 3:9, nor does the nature of the thing admit, that acts, performed by Christ, can inherently be ours. It therefore remains, that it is ours by imputation; God imputing to man righteousness without works, Rom. 4:6.
XXXVIII. Arminius, by his subtlety, frames vain empty quibbles, when he contends, that the righteousness of Christ cannot be imputed to us for righteousness, because it is righteousness strictly speaking; laying this down as a foundation, that what is imputed to us for righteousness, is not properly righteousness. Which none will admit who has considered, that every judgment of God is according to truth; whence it follows, that nothing can be imputed to any one for righteousness, which is not really righteousness. But it is imputed to us, that is, put to our account as if it was ours; for, though it was not performed by us, yet it was performed by Christ for us, and in our room. Nor in doing this, does God judge otherwise than as the thing is; for, he judges not, that we in our own persons have fulfilled that righteousness, which is not true; but that Christ has so fulfilled it for us, as that, by the merit thereof, we may justly be rewarded. This is so true, that it is the sum of the whole gospel.
XXXIX. And whereas that righteousness of Christ is in every respect complete, and God has acknowledged, that full satisfaction was made to his law to the very utmost, when he raised Christ from the dead, and called him his righteous servant; it is not necessary that any thing should come from us to acquire either freedom from punishment, or a right to life. I add, that it could not in justice be demanded of us; for the least farthing cannot be demanded by the principal creditor, after the surety has paid him in full for the debtor. It therefore appears, that they do injury both to the satisfaction of Christ and to the justice of God, who contend, that any thing is to be done by men, that is to be added to the merits of Christ as the matter of our justification. For if by the satisfaction of Christ, the demand of the law, which prescribes the condition of life is perfectly fulfilled, nothing can or ought to be joined thereto, that the glory may remain pure and entire to Christ alone. If there were but the least thing wanting in Christ’s satisfaction, which the law required for righteousness, it would not deserve even the name of satisfaction; nor would Christ have merited any thing, either for himself or for us. For nothing is admitted in this judgment, but what answers all the demands of the law.
XL. The Scripture confirms this truth, when it sets the grace of Christ in diametrical opposition to our works, maintaining, that there can be no mixture of the one with the other. “If righteousness comes by the law,” saith the apostle, that is, if, by our works, we can acquire a right to life eternal, “then Christ is dead in vain,” Gal. 2:21. And more clearly, Rom. 11:6. “And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” In order clearly to discern the force of the apostle’s inference, it is to be observed, that there are but two ways by which we can come to the possession of salvation, according to the two covenants entered into between God and man: either one has a right to life because he has fully satisfied the demand of the law, according to the covenant of works, and to him that thus “worketh is the reward reckoned of debt,” Rom. 4:4; or he hath a right to life, because the surety of a better testament has made satisfaction for him, which of pure grace and most unmerited favour is imputed to him, who worketh not, in order to acquire that right, ver. 5, according to the covenant of grace. As these covenants do in the whole essence of them differ, and in this respect are contradistinguished from, and set in opposition to, each other, it is evident they conjoin inconsistencies, who would join together our works with the grace of God, our righteousness with the righteousness of Christ, in the matter of justification.
XLI. And, indeed, the apostle expressly declares, that there is nothing in us which can here come into the account, Rom. 3:24. “justified freely by his grace.” In respect of God, it is of pure grace, which, as we just said, admits of no partnership with our works. In respect of us, it is freely, without any thing in us as the cause of it. For the adverb δωρεὰν, freely, signifies this: not so much hinting here, that justification is a free gift, as the apostle calls it, Rom. 5:16, (for that the following words denote, τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι, by his grace), as that there is nothing in us by which to obtain it. The Greek word, δωρεὰν, freely, answers to the Hebrew תנם, that is, without a cause, which in that case is found to be false and feigned; as Psa. 69:4, “שנאי הנם they that hate me without a cause,” which is the same thing as, “איבי שקר, my lying enemies.” The former is translated by the Septuagint, or Greek interpreters, μισοῦντες μὲ δωρεὰν. Just as John 15:25: “ἐμίσησάν με δωρεὰν, they hated me without a cause.” In like manner, Psa. 35:7, “הנם, δωρεὰν, without a cause have they hid for me their net in a pit.” Where δωρεὰν does not signify any donation or gift, but the absolute denial of any cause, which could render a man deserving of such treatment. When the apostle therefore says, we are justified δωρεὰν, freely, he teaches us, that there is nothing in us, upon which to found the gracious sentence of our justification, or for which we can be justified. Excellently well says the Greek Scholiast: “Δωρεὰν, τουτεστιν ἀνευσων κατοῥθωμάτων, freely, that is, without any merit in thee.”
XLII. And this reason may be added, that nothing can avail, in the business of justification, but what is entirely perfect, and can answer the law of God in all things. For in justification there is “a declaration of the righteousness of God,” Rom. 3:25, 26. But that requires “the righteousness of the law to be fulfilled,” Rom. 8:4. The righteousness of the law cannot be fulfilled, but by a perfect obedience. Chrysostom speaks well on this place: “What is righteousness? It is the end, the scope, the righteous action. For what does the law want, what does it always command? To be without sin.” But no person pretends to this, but the presumptuous and the liar, 1 John 1:8. We therefore conclude, that a sinner cannot be justified by any act of his own.
XLIII. The FORM of justification consists in these two acts. 1st, The discharging of unrighteousness. 2dly, The adjudging of righteousness.
XLIV. Unrighteousness or sin has a double power over the sinner. 1st, A power of condemnation. 2dly, A power of dominion. The law asserts both these powers: the former, by declaring him, who sins, to be guilty of death, Rom. 1:32; the other, by giving up the conquered, by a just sentence, to the conqueror, 2 Pet. 2:19. Wherefore it is said, that “the law is the strength of sin,” 1 Co. 15:56. Because sin has its power from the law, which pronounces the sinner accursed, and the servant of corruption. Nay, the most holy law of God itself is called be Paul, “the law of sin and of death,” Rom. 8:2. Not as if it allowed of any sin, much less commanded it; but because, by its righteous sentence, it gives up the sinner and his children to sin, that it may tyrannize over them as unworthy of the life of God both in holiness and glory. Now sin does this, both by pushing the sinner on to farther degrees of wickedness, and by hastening and aggravating his condemnation. Who can doubt but all these things are justly determined by God against the sinner? Why, then, should not this sentence, which is founded on the law of the covenant of works, be called a law? And seeing sin exercises, according to this law, a dominion over the sinner, and condemns him to death, very appositely and emphatically has Paul called it “the law of sin and death”. Sin, therefore, in the judgment of God, insists upon two things against the sinner, that it may condemn him, and for ever have dominion over him; and alleges for itself the righteous law of God. And indeed the law, so long as satisfaction is not made to it, cannot, in this action or process, condemn sin, that is, silence or extenuate its accusation, lay aside its claim, and pronounce it partial or unjust.
XLV. But now the satisfaction of Christ being substituted and apprehended by faith, by which the whole righteousness of the law is fulfilled, the man is then justified, and sin condemned, both its claims being rejected. God declares, 1st, That there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, that all their sins are pardoned, and that none of them shall avail to condemnation; because the surety has, in the fullest manner, undergone the punishment due to them. And in that respect, forgiveness of sin is called justification, Rom. 4:6, 7. 2dly, That sin shall no longer reign in their mortal body; for since Christ did also, of his own accord, subject himself to those laws, which were the handwriting of sin, they are no longer under the law of sin, but under grace, Rom. 6:14. This justifying sentence of man, and condemning sentence of sin, are founded on the same law of God, which, if the satisfaction of Christ be set aside, is “the law of sin and death;” but if that satisfaction be supposed, it is “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” delivering man with a liberal hand. For after Christ has once obeyed “in the likeness of sinful flesh” for the elect, God declares, that every thing which sin could possibly demand was done according to the law, and pronounces a sentence of liberty from sin to those who by faith receive this grace of the Lord Christ, both with respect to its condemning and dominant power, as the apostle, Rom. 8:1, 2, 3, divinely illustrates.
XLVI. This deliverance from the guilt and dominion of sin has, indeed, an indissoluble connexion with happiness; therefore they “whose iniquities are forgiven,” are declared “blessed,” Rom. 4:7: nevertheless this alone is not sufficient to happiness. For he who now is set free from sin, has not immediately a right to life; as is manifest in Adam while innocent, who, as long as he continued such, had no condemnation to fear, nevertheless had not yet acquired a right to eternal life. It is therefore necessary, that that right be also adjudged to man in justification. Which God does on account of a perfect obedience, agreeably to that promise of the law: “The man that doth these things shall live in them,” Lev. 18:5. But what Christ has done for his people, they are accounted, as we have already often said, to have done in their own person. And in this manner “grace reigneth through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord,” Rom. 5:21.
XLVII. The MEAN, by which we receive the righteousness of Christ, and justification depending thereon, is faith, and that only. For if there were any thing besides faith, it would by our own works, proceeding from the other Christian virtues. But Paul will have them entirely excluded, Gal. 2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Rom. 3:28, “Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.” All the Christian virtues or graces are contained in these two, faith and love, which comprehend every affection of a pious soul. It is the property of love to give up and offer oneself and all he has to God; of faith, to receive and accept of God freely giving himself to us. And, therefore, faith alone is adapted to receive and appropriate the righteousness of Christ, on account of which we are justified. And this is a truth so certain and clear, that not a few of the doctors of the school of Rome, and they the principal and of greatest reputation among them, have acknowledged it, from the very same passages of Scripture which we have advanced. Titelmannus, in his Paraphrase on Gal. 2, says: “We then firmly believe, that none can be justified before God by the works of the law, but only by faith in Christ.” Estius, in like manner: “It is evident, that the particle but is in Scripture often taken adversatively, to denote but only,” adding, that all the interpreters, both Greek and Latin, agree in this interpretation, and that it is gathered from what follows, and from Rom. 3:28. Sasbout is also express to the same purpose, who maintains, that Paul’s expression is an Hebraism, and that, according to the Hebrews, the negative particle not is to be repeated from what went before: “A man is not justified by works, not but by faith.” And he adds: “if you ask, whether it may be rightly concluded from that proposition, a man is not justified but by faith, therefore we are justified by faith alone? we are to say, It may.” A little after he adds: “In this our day the Catholic writers can, on no account, bear that proposition, imagining that there is poison concealed in that particle only, and therefore to be disused. Yet the ancients had no such aversion to that particle, nor Thomas Aquinas: if any, says he, were righteous under the old law, they were not righteous by the works of the law, but only by the faith of Jesus Christ. Paul’s true meaning is, not unless by faith, that is, by no merits of our own.” Thus Sasbout on Gal. 2:16.
XLVIII. But we are farther to inquire, how faith justifies. Not certainly in that sense, as if God graciously accepts the act of faith, and new gospel obedience flowing therefrom, in the room of the perfect obedience which, from the rigour of the law, we are bound to perform in order to justification; as the Socinians, and Curcellæus, who imitates them in this respect, explains it; understanding by faith the “observance of the precepts of the gospel, which God has prescribed by Christ.” For this is to make void the whole gospel. The gospel has not substituted our faith, but Christ’s obedience, by which the righteousness of the law is fulfilled, in the room of that perfect obedience which the law required in order to justification. It is also false, that faith and new obedience are one and the same thing. I own that faith is a virtue or grace, commanded by the law of God; and that a believer, by his very believing, obeys God. I likewise confess, that we are to look upon nothing as a true and living faith, which is not fruitful in good works. But yet faith is one thing, and the obedience flowing from it quite another, especially in the matter of justification, of which we now speak, where Paul always contradistinguishes the obedience of all manner of works to faith. For it is a rash attempt to confine to a certain species or kind of works, what the apostle says concerning them all in general. The force of truth extorted from Schlichtingius this assertion: “Faith, in its strict and proper signification, bears the same relation to obedience, as the cause to the effect, as the tree to the fruit, as the mother to the daughter,” contra Meisnerum, p. 325. In fine, neither the truth nor the justice of God allow our faith and our obedience, which are imperfect, to be admitted as perfect. For it is the will of God, that the righteousness of the law be fulfilled in our justification, and not that any thing be derogated from it, as we proved sect. xlii.
XLIX. Others think proper to say, that faith is here considered as a condition, which the covenant of grace requires of us, in order to our justification. A certain learned divine of ours, in a volume of disputations lately published, speaks thus: “Nothing can be said with greater probability, simplicity, and more agreeable to Scripture, than that justification is therefore ascribed to faith; because faith is the condition which the gospel requires of us, in order to our being accounted righteous and innocent before God.” And a little after: “Yea, since we affirm, that faith alone justifies, we do not intend, that the alone act of believing, taken precisely as it is opposed to acts of love and hope, and distinguished from repentance, is the condition which the new covenant or the gospel requires, in order to obtain remission of sin, and be absolved from them on account of Christ. For the hope of pardon, and love to God, sorrow also for sin, and purpose of a new life; in a word, all the acts requisite to a genuine and serious conversion, are also somewhat necessary, and altogether prerequisite, in order for any to be received into the favour of God, and from thenceforward to be accounted a justified person; yea, that a living faith that works by love, which we affirm alone to justify, includes and implies all these things.” And the learned person imagines these are such truths, as the doctors both of the Romish and reformed schools receive with common consent. He also adds: “As often as the apostle affirms, that we are not justified by works, but by faith, he intends nothing else, but that none can, on any account, be justified by such observance of the law as the legal covenant requires, in order to obtain life thereby, and escape the curse of God: but that God accounts as righteous, and out of mere grace freely forgives all the sins of those, who with sincerity receive the gospel, and from faith perform obedience thereto.” These things justly call for our animadversion.
L. 1st, With this very learned person’s leave, I doubt whether he can persuade any, who is not altogether unskilled in theological matters, that what he has proposed, is the received opinion of the reformed school. I find nothing of this in their confessions and catechisms; but there is a great deal, which does not differ much from the words of the learned person, in the writings of those, whose unhappy names and heretical principles, I from my very heart believe are detestable to him.
LI. 2dly, When the discourse is about the relation which faith bears to justification, the learned person does not seem with sufficient caution, to repeat so often the act of believing. For, it is well known, that the reformed churches condemned Arminius and his followers, for saying that faith comes to be considered in the matter of justification, as a work or act of ours; whereas, the Dutch confession speaks far more accurately; namely, that “faith is here instead of an instrument, whereby we are joined together with Christ in a partnership or communion of all his benefits.” I am well aware, that this is not very agreeable to the learned person, who maintains, that faith can be said to be the instrument of justification no other way, but as it is a kind of condition prerequisite on our part thereto. But when the remonstrant apologists, in order to relieve themselves from that strict expression of our confessions by their softening interpretations, wrote; that faith is therefore said to be the instrument of justification, “as it is a work performed by us according to the command and by the grace of God. For a condition, so far as it is performed, may in some measure be said to become a mean or instrument, whereby we obtain the thing promised on such a condition.” Apolog. p. 112 a, the reformed protested, that they were displeased with this explication. They deny not, that our master, Christ himself, says, John 6:29, that faith is a work: neither do they refuse that, in the matter of justification, the apprehending and receiving Christ is an act of faith; and that faith ought to be so far considered as active. Yet they deny, that faith justifies as it is an act prescribed by God (for thus it would stand in the same relation with the other works enjoined by the law); but they affirm, that we are justified by that act, as by it we apprehend Christ, are united to him, and embrace his righteousness. Which they usually explain by this similitude: a beggar’s stretching forth his hand, by which, at the command of a rich man, he receives the free gift of his charity, is the act of the beggar prescribed by the rich; but it doth not enrich the beggar, as it is an act, but as by this means he applies the gift to himself, and appropriates it or makes it his own. These things are too evident to be obscured by any quibbles or subtleties whatever.
LII. 3dly, Nor do I think it an accurate way of speaking, that faith is the condition which the gospel requireth of us, in order to be accounted righteous and without guilt before God. The condition of justification, properly speaking, is perfect obedience only; this the law requires: nor does the gospel substitute any other; but declares that satisfaction has been made to the law by Christ our surety; moreover, that it is the office of faith to accept that satisfaction offered to it, and, by accepting, appropriate the same. Which is quite a different thing from saying, (as the Socinians and Remonstrants do, and which I know not whether the learned person would choose to say), that, in the room of perfect obedience, which the law prescribed as the condition of justification, the gospel now requireth faith, as the condition of the same justification. Though some of the reformed have said, that faith is a “condition sine qua non, without which we cannot” be justified; yet they were far from being of opinion, that faith is a condition properly so called, on performing which man should, according to the gracious covenant of God, have a right to justification as to a reward. This is very far from the mind of the truly reformed. See what the celebrated Triglandius has fully, solidly, and perspicuously reasoned against the subtle trifling of the Remonstrants in Examine Apologiæ, c. xx., xxi.; and Isaac Junius in Antapologia, p. 236.
LIII. 4thly, Neither is it according to the mind of the reformed church, that the acts of hope and love, nay, all those which are required to a true and serious conversion, are included in justifying faith as justifying, and concur with faith, strictly so called, to justification. When the Remonstrants said in their confession, that “faith contains in its compass the whole of a man’s conversion prescribed by the gospel; nay, the prescript of faith can here be considered in no other light than as, by its natural propriety, it includes the obedience of faith, and is as a fruitful parent of good works, and the fountain and source of all Christian piety and holiness,” c. x. §. 2, 3: the Leyden professors in their censure remarked, that “the adversaries, who write in this manner, and throw off the mask, ascribe to faith the Socinian-Popish faith of justification, which Peter Bertius, a principal asserter of this, found to be the way to popery.” And this assertion of theirs they make out by solid arguments. And when the Remonstrant apologist foolishly said, that this his opinion differed not from the common doctrine of the reformed churches, the venerable Triglandius replied, that “it was clearer thin noon-day, that this was too barefaced an assertion.” The whole comes to this, that no faith justifies, but that which is living and fruitful in good works; that acts of love and holiness are required a fruits of faith, as testimonies of Christ dwelling in us, as marks of our regeneration, as what go before salvation, and without which there can be no full assurance of it. But that those acts of love, holiness, and conversion concur with faith to justification, and are included in justifying faith, as such, is a strange way of speaking to reformed ears, nor agreeable to Scripture, which always, in the matter of justification, sets faith in opposition to all works whatever.
LIV. 5thly, Some time ago I read in Socinus, before the sentiments of this celebrated person came to hand, the same exception which he makes, that by the works which Paul excludes from justification, is understood the perfect observance of the law, such as the legal covenant requires. For thus he says, de Servat. P. 4. c. ix.: “The works to which faith is opposed are not every kind of works, nor taken and considered in every light; but, as we have observed elsewhere, these works denote an absolute and perpetual observance and performance of the divine law, through the whole course of life.” But our divines openly declared against this exposition, who contend that all works, however considered, are opposed to faith. The apostle’s words are plain, “he that worketh not, but believeth;” and his mind or intention, as Lubbertus has learnedly observed, is to be considered from the state of the controversy then in debate. But the state of the controversy was not, whether a man could be justified by a perfect observance of the law, if there were any one who could keep it perfectly? This none in his senses will deny. Neither was it whether there are many who, since Adam’s first sin, have for the whole of their life done nothing amiss, but have attained to every perfection both of parts, degrees, and perseverance? Which none in his right mind will affirm. But the matter in question was, whether the Jews could be justified by that observance of the law, which they were able to perform? They certainly thought, that they could be justified if they only observed the moral law to the utmost of their power, and gave those satisfactions for their failings which the ceremonial law had prescribed. But the apostle denies this, resting his argument on that maxim, that the righteousness which can be valid at God’s tribunal, must be perfect in all its parts: but since none can pretend to any such works, he concludes that no works, of what kind soever, can contribute any thing to obtain justification. The apostle, doubtless, excludes those works in which they commonly trusted, who endeavoured to establish their own righteousness. But it is not credible, that any of them could say, that he kept himself pure, through the whole course of his life, from every, even the least, stain of sin. These things are evident.
LV. But I would not have it wrested to the worst sense, in that I have, in some things, compared the opinion of this celebrated person with that of Socinus and the Remonstrants. It was not with the view, to rank a man, in other respects orthodox, and usefully employed in the service of the church of God, with those perverters of our faith. This of all things is farthest from my mind and manner. But my design was only to warn those under my care, and who may reap benefit by the very learned labours of this person, with considerable increase of knowledge, against these and the like expressions; in which, through a disgust for controversy, and a too eager desire of laying disputes aside, he seems to yield rather too much to our adversaries. Peace, indeed, is to be pursued, but by no means at the expense of truth.
LVI. The genuine opinion of the reformed is this: that faith justifies, as it is the band of our strictest union with Christ, by which all things that are Christ’s become also ours, as we explained Sect. XXXI. Or, which is the same thing, as it is the acceptance of the gift offered, rendering the donation firm and irrevocable. And this is what the apostle intended when he wrote, Rom. 4:5, that “faith is counted for righteousness,” that is, faith is judged to be that with which the right of demanding the reward is connected; a way of speaking borrowed from merchants: thus in the book of God’s accounts there is set down what he hath given to us, and what we are indebted to him. But when in the other page our complete obedience, and the payment of the debt, could not be inserted, what is written there to balance the account? In the first place, our righteousness, or the righteousness of Christ wrought out for us: then our faith,* by which we receive that righteousness offered to us, and present it to God as ours.
LVII. It is moreover to be observed, that justification, if we take in whatever can be comprised under that name, consists of various articles or periods, which we will describe in the most pointed manner we can. And first, God’s sentence of absolution regards either all the elect in general collected into one mystical body, or relates to each in particular. I observe two articles with respect to that general sentence: the first of which commenced immediately upon the fall, when Christ, having entered into suretiship-engagements for elect sinners, obtained by his covenant, which the Father was assured he would most faithfully perform, that Satan should be condemned in the serpent; his right over man, which he acquired by wicked arts, be made void as to the elect; and the elect, on the other hand, who are comprehended under the seed of the woman, be declared, in Christ their Head, no longer friends or subjects, but enemies and conquerors, of the devil. For all these things are contained in the first gospel-promise; which pre-supposes that suretiship of Christ whereby he took upon himself all the sins of the elect, and on account of which God declared, he never intended to exact them from any of his chosen: because, on admitting a surety, the principal debtor is freed from all obligation to make satisfaction. And this is the first effect of Christ’s suretiship, the declaration of that counsel of God, by which he had purposed to justify the ungodly, and not to impute sin to those who are inserted as heirs in the testament.
LVIII. The other article of this general justification relates to the time, in which God declared that full satisfaction was made to his justice by a dying Christ. Of which Paul treats, 2 Cor. 5:19. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” He, together and at once, reconciled to himself the whole world of his elect; and declared that he would not impute their trespasses to any of them, on account of the perfect satisfaction of Christ. For when he raised Christ from the dead, he gave him a discharge, in testimony that the payment was made; and when he rent the veil of the temple he also tore the hand-writing consisting in ordinances, which till that time loudly proclaimed that payment was not yet made. But who can doubt, that a creditor, tearing the hand-writing or bond, and giving a discharge to the surety, declares, he will not, and even in law cannot, demand any satisfaction of the principal debtor?
LIX. But justification is not confined to these bounds. Besides that general declaration of God, there is also another, applied to every believer in particular. And this again has its distinct articles. The first is, when the elect person, who is redeemed, regenerated, and united to Christ by a living faith, is declared to have now actually passed from a state of condemnation and wrath to a state of grace or favour. For the elect sinner, though redeemed by Christ, and so far reconciled to God, as that He declares he is never actually to be condemned; yet that right, purchased by Christ, is not applied to him till he is regenerated, and united to Christ by faith. Till then he is in “the present evil world,” Gal. 1:4; “alienated and an enemy,” and “under the power of darkness,” Col. 1:13, 21. But immediately on his receiving Christ by faith, God declares in the court of heaven, that he is no longer under wrath, but under grace; though perhaps the justified person may yet be ignorant of it. And in this sense God is said to “justify the ungodly,” Rom. 4:5; him who is so in himself, and actually continues such till he is born again, when that faith is freely bestowed on him for which he is immediately justified.
LX. The second article is, when that sentence of God, which was pronounced in the court of heaven is intimated and insinuated to the conscience by the Holy Spirit; so that the believer knows, feels, and experiences that his sins are forgiven. To this David has an eye, Psa. 32:5. “And thou forgavest (or thou hast taken away) the iniquity of my sin;” that is, thou madest me to know and experience this, by speaking to my heart.
LXI. The third article is, when the sinner, being actively and passively justified, is admitted to familiar converse with God, and to the mutual participation of the most delightful friendship. For it may happen, that God may have removed the tokens of his anger from the elect sinner, and given him assurance of it, and yet not directly have admitted him to an intercourse of familiarity: in the same manner, almost, as David had forgiven Absalom’s parricide, and declared it by Joab, by ordering his return from Geshur to Jerusalem; yet he did not immediately admit him to court, much less to his presence-chamber, and least of all to the kisses of his mouth, 2 Sam. 14. David himself is an example of this. Nathan had told him, in the name of God: “The Lord hath put away thy sin,” 2 Sam. 12:13; and yet for some time he was racked with grievous sorrows, crying out from the bottom of a contrite heart, and a sense of broken bones: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions,” Psa. 51:1. That is, as he explains it, ver. 12, “restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” This near and intimate access to God, as the author of his most joyful exultation, is the real declaration of his justification. And it is to be observed, that such a declaration is often repeated. [For instance], when a believer happens to fall into some grievous sin, or into a languid and drowsy frame of soul, then his familiarity with God is not a little interrupted; but after he is roused out of that sin or from that drowsy frame by the preventing grace of God, and has been sufficiently exercised with the stings of conscience, then God applies that general sentence of the pardon of all his sins, which was pronounced immediately upon his regeneration, to this particular act or state, and suffers himself to be prevailed on at length to renew this most delightful friendship.
LXII. The fourth article is immediately after death; when God assigns to the soul, on its departure from the body, an eternal mansion in his own blessed habitation, Heb. 9:27: “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
LXIII. The fifth and last article is at the last day, which is therefore called “the day of judgment,” Matt. 12:36; when the elect shall be publicly justified, and, in the view of the whole world, declared heirs of eternal life. Which justification, indeed, may be called universal, as all those who are to be justified shall appear together before God’s tribunal; nevertheless it will be most particular, as every one shall be recompensed according to his works. “We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” 2 Cor. 5:10.
LXIV. Let us briefly explain the whole manner of this justification in the next world. Christ, the Judge, being delegated to that office by the Father, Acts 10:42; 17:32, will pronounce two things concerning his elect: 1st. That they are truly pious, righteous, and holy; and so far this justification will differ from the former: for by that “the ungodly is justified,” Rom. 4:5; whereas here God, when he enjoins his angels to summon one of the parties to be judged, says, “Gather my saints together,” Psa. 50:5; if, as many suppose, these words refer to the last judgment. See Matt. 13:40, 41, 43, 49. 2dly. That they have a right to eternal life, Matt. 25:35.
LXV. The ground of the former declaration is inherent righteousness, graciously communicated to man by the Spirit of sanctification, and good works proceeding therefrom. For on no other account can any person be declared pious and holy, but because he is endowed with habitual holiness, and gives himself to the practice of godliness. Matt. 12:37, “By thy words thou shalt be justified,” that is, be declared just or righteous; because words are indications of the mind, and signs either of the good or bad treasure of the heart. “When the Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart; and then shall every man have praise of God,” 1 Cor. 4:5.
LXV1. The foundation of the latter can be no other than the righteousness of Christ the Lord, communicated to them according to the free decree of election, which is succeeded by adoption, which gives them a right to take possession of the inheritance. The very sentence of the Judge himself leads us to this: “Come, ye blessed of my Father,” whom, on my account, he freely loved (for in Christ all the nations of the earth are blessed, Gen. 22:18. Eph. 1:3), “inherit”—possess by hereditary right, as the adopted sons of God, who, because ye are sons, are also heirs, Rom. 8:17, “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;”—ordained for you from eternity, whose palace was fitted up in the beginning for that purpose, by the hands of God the Creator.
LXVII. Meanwhile, in this respect, too, there will be room for mentioning good works, for they shall be produced, 1st, As proofs of faith, of the union of believers with Christ, of their adoption, of that holiness without which none can see God, and of friendship with God and brotherhood with Christ. 2nd, As signs of that sacred hunger and thirst, with which they desired happiness, and of that strenuous endeavour by which, not regarding the advantages of this life, and despising carnal pleasures, they had sought the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness: and it is inconsistent with the perfection of the infinitely holy God, to disappoint this hunger and thirst, and seeking after his kingdom. 3rd, As effects of divine grace, to which, the communication of divine glory will answer, in most wise proportion, when shall come to crown his own gifts. For the more abundant measure of sanctification any one has obtained in this life, and the more he has gained by the talent intrusted to him, it is also credible that the portion of glory will be the more exuberant which the Divine bounty hath appointed for him. And in this sense, we imagine, it is so often said in Scripture, that every one shall be recompensed according to his works, not that these works are, on any account, the cause of any right they will have to claim the reward; but as they are evidences of our adoption and of our seeking the chief good, and as they show that proportion of grace according to which the proportion of future glory will be dispensed.
LXVIII. In this judgment, therefore, there will also be grace mixed with justice. Justice will appear, because none will be admitted to the possession of the kingdom of heaven but he who can show, by undoubted evidences, that he is a partaker of Christ and his righteousness. Grace also will appear, because eternal happiness will be adjudged to him who has done nothing to acquire a right to it; because works, stained with so many infirmities, as justly make believers themselves blush, will then be celebrated with so great an encomium by the Judge. And, indeed, the apostle does in express words make mention of the mercy that will be shown on that day, 2 Tim. 1:18, “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.” It is certainly true, that by mercy is there understood the reward of that mercy which Onesiphorus had shown to Paul; but the reward of our mercy is not reckoned of “debt, but of grace,” Rom. 4:4. And as it is not merited on the part of him who receives it, so neither is it due from him who bestows it. For what doth God owe to man, but that of which he hath made himself a debtor to man by his gracious promises; or rather was willing to owe to his own goodness and truth, that man might expect from him a retribution for his holiness? Which debt is not opposed to, but supposes grace; it is to be derived from the “alone gracious will and truth of God the Father, who hath promised an unmerited reward to the labour of obedience which is the duty of all, and will have this to be only due on account of his promise.” As becomes a reformed teacher to speak, who returns to his sound mind.
LXIX. Whence it appears, that they do not speak rightly who affirm, that in the “last justification mere justice will take place, without any mixture of grace.” It is said, indeed, Heb. 4:10, “God is not unrighteous to forget your work,” &c. But that the reward of our works is of mere justice, without any mixture of grace, is language that sounds harsh in reformed ears, and is diametrically repugnant to our catechism, Quest. 63*. Ludovicus de Dieu, on Luke 1:2, 57, and on Luke 16:19, and on Rom. 3:4, has proved at large, that in the Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic languages, justice and truth denote one and the same notion, and generally are put one for the other. Thus צרקה, justice, or righteousness, when affirmed of God, in many places denotes his truth. But also אמת truth, is translated by the Septuagint, δικαιοσύνη, justice, or righteousness, Gen. 24:49; Isa. 38:19. And Grævius has proved, that the same phraseology obtained among the ancient Greeks, in his Lectiones Hesiod. And what is more suitable than by “the mammon of unrighteousness,” Luke 16:9, to understand the riches not true, such as the spiritual and heavenly are, for, ver. 11, the unrighteous mammon is opposed to the true riches. Is not that signification of the word clear from 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins;” that is, faithful and true? For who will say that God owes the pardon of sins in justice, without any mixture of grace, to him that confesseth them? So also in the place just quoted: “God is not unrighteous,” that is, deceives not in his gracious promises, by which he has adjudged a reward of grace to our labours of love. The celebrated Iac. Altingius gives us an excellent commentary on this place, as follows: “the obligation to the reward depends on the truth of the promiser, who is a debtor to himself, that what he was once pleased, in the promise, to determine the consequence of the work and reward, might always please him in the performance; thus the just and righteous God forgives the sins of the penitent (1 John 1:9), is the justifier of him that believeth,” Rom. 3:26. And a little after, “Every consideration of merit, therefore, is at an end; but a debt remains, which justice will have discharged in respect of what God has promised; who, on account of his truth, which is without repentance, or unchangeable, is debtor to himself to perform his promises (Rom. 3:3, 4; Deut. 7:9). This is the justice meant in this place, and God is denied to be unrighteous to forget good works, though he has decreed and promised, out of mere grace and mercy, that recompence.” All this is judicious, solid, and orthodox.
LXX. This manifestation of mere justice is not more strongly concluded from that day being called “the day of the righteous judgment,” Rom. 2:5. For, 1st, It is there called “the day of wrath.” And yet wrath will not be exercised only, without a manifestation of mercy. 2ndly, Even in the justification of a sinner, in this world, there is “a declaration of the righteousness of God,” Rom. 3:25; where, notwithstanding, as Paul expressly affirms, ver. 24, and all own, grace has the principal place; so also here, “Grace reigneth through righteousness unto eternal life,” Rom. 5:21. 3dly, As God will justly inflict punishments on the impenitent, so in like manner, agreeably to his justice, he will distribute rewards, and show grace to the godly, as we explained, sect. LXVIII. Justice and grace are here not to be opposed, but joined together.
LXXI. What is asserted, Rom. 2:11, viz. that with God there is no “respect of persons,” is still less sufficient to confirm this opinion. For because God does all things without respect of persons, does it follow that he exercises no grace? When Peter took notice of the piety and faith of Cornelius, and said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons,” Acts 10:34, did he ever intend, by these words, to deny that grace was shown to Cornelius? A non-respect of persons, excludes, indeed, injustice, and the consideration of these things, which ought to have no place in judgment; but it no ways excludes grace and mercy. These things have been so often confuted, that there is no occasion to consider them again.
LXXII. It is a new opinion and an extraordinary postulatum, to say that the works of those who are to be justified, and according to which they shall be judged, will be “perfect, yea, most perfect, that nothing may derogate from the righteousness of the judgment of that day.” It is a certain truth, that the persons then to be justified, will be perfect: 1st, In Christ, on account of his most perfect righteousness imputed to them, Col. 2:10. 2ndly, In themselves, being then perfectly sanctified; for they who had died before that time are called “just men made perfect,” Heb. 12:23; and they who shall, at that day, be alive, “shall be changed,” 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, and doubtless, obtain perfect holiness by that change, which the others obtained at death. But that the works which they performed in this life can then be said to be most perfect, is neither consonant with Scripture nor reason.
LXXIII. The scripture declares, that the works which were done by believers in this life, were not without blemish, because they who performed them had the old man still remaining, who mixed and tainted them with some corruption of his own, Rom. 7:22, 23, 24; Gal. 5:15. This is without dispute. But the Scripture nowhere says that these works shall appear otherwise at the last judgment than they did in this life; nay, it asserts the contrary, when it testifies that every one shall be judged “according to that he hath done in his body,” 2 Cor. 5:10; but it is certain that the things done in the body were imperfect. It is also contrary to reason, to say that actions, which were imperfect while they were performing and actually existing, should be declared to be perfect when they were no more; and perfect not only in the estimation of God the judge, but also by, I know not what sanctification really perfecting them, when they had no further existence. No doubt habits, which are holy when first infused, are perfected by a further sanctification; but that actions, which were imperfect while they existed, should become perfect, after they have ceased to be, is inconceivable.
LXXIV. Seeing what we are taught in Scripture concerning the perfection of believers by a progressive sanctification, and the death of the body, regards their persons, about the perfection of which there is no dispute, it is erroneous to apply it to their antecedent works. That God refines those works like gold, purging away all their tin and dross, so as to be altogether pure in his eyes, is an unscriptural fancy. The passages, Is. 1:25, Zech. 13:9, Mal. 3:3, do not treat of works but of persons, nor speak of their absolute perfection, nor have a reference to the day of the last judgment, but relate to the condition of the present life, as will plainly appear to any one who will peruse them; and can, therefore, with no probability be wrested to this sense.
LXXV. Indeed, the good works of those who die (in the Lord) are said to follow them, Rev. 14:13; but they are such as they were performed here, and they follow, not in themselves, but in their fruits and effects; in so far as God, in regard of their good works, does good to the pious even after death. For this end it is not requisite that they be perfect; it is sufficient that they be performed in faith, and by the spirit of Christ. I do not remember that the Scripture says that good works shall rise with them. They who speak thus mean no more, at least they ought to mean no more by that phrase, but that, in the resurrection of the just, the pious shall rejoice in the gratuitous reward of their holiness. It is said, indeed, that he who “hath begun a good work in believers, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Phil. 1:6. But by a good work is there meant the communication of the grace of Christ, revealed in the Gospel, as appears from ver. 5, which God perfects in certain degrees, till the finishing hand is put to it at the last day. There is nothing in that passage relating to the perfection of our actions, which are already over and gone.
LXXVI. In the last place, if good works are there to appear perfect, there can be no reason why they should not be meritorious. For that is certainly meritorious which satisfies every demand of the law; if merit is to be ascribed to such a work, which when a man does, he is to live therein, according to the law of the covenant of works. It is not required to meritorious works in the sense now in debate, that they are not due and properly our own, that is, that they are done in our own strength without the grace of God. For the papists themselves readily acknowledged that there are no such meritorious works. But by those meritorious works which are the present subject of dispute, are understood such actions, on performing which one has a right to life. But the only, or at least the principal reason why our works are not meritorious, is what the catechism assigns, because they are imperfect and stained with sin.*
LXXVII. Nor will the righteousness of the judgment of that day be in the least diminished, though the works of believers, by which they shall be judged, are imperfect. For they will not be mentioned as the causes of their right to claim the reward, to which perfection is requisite; but as effects and signs of grace, and of union with Christ, and of a living faith, and of justification by faith, and of a right to life, for which their unfeigned sincerity is sufficient. We, therefore, conclude, that the justification in the next world is not to be so very much distinguished from the justification in this world.
LXXVIII. As this doctrine of free justification, on account of the righteousness of Christ, apprehended by faith alone, is founded on clear testimonies of Scripture, soap it proves itself to every pious conscience, by its most excellent uses and fruits.
LXXIX. 1st, It tends much to display the glory of God, whose most exalted perfections shine forth with an eminent lustre in this matter. It sets forth the infinite goodness of God, by which he was inclined to procure salvation freely for lost and miserable man, “To the praise of the glory of his grace,” Eph. 1:6. It displays also the strictest justice, by which he would not forgive even the smallest offence, but on condition of the sufficient engagement or full satisfaction of the mediator, “That he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus,” Rom. 3:26. It shows further the unsearchable wisdom of the Deity, which found out a way for the exercise of the most gracious act of mercy, without injury to his strictest justice and infallible truth, which threatened death to the sinner: justice demanded that the soul that sinned should die, Rom. 1:32. Truth had pronounced, “Cursed is he that continueth not in all things,” Deut. 27:26. Goodness, in the mean time, was inclined to adjudge life to some sinners, but by no other way than what become the majesty of the most holy God. Here wisdom interposed, saying, “I will fully satisfy my goodness, and say to mine elect, ‘I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake,’ Isa. 43:25. Nor shall you, my justice and my truth, have any cause of complaint, because full satisfaction shall be made to you by a mediator.” Hence the incredible philanthrophy of the Lord Jesus shineth forth, who, though Lord of all, “was made subject to the law, not to the obedience of it only, but also to the curse; made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Cor. 5:21.
LXXX. Ought not the pious soul who is deeply engaged in the devout meditation of these things, to break out into the praises of a justifying God, and sing with the church, Mic. 7:17, “ ’Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by transgression?’ O the purity of that holiness, which chose rather to punish the sins of the elect in his only begotten Son, than suffer them to go unpunished! O the abyss of his love to the world, for which he spared not his dearest Son, in order to spare sinners! O the depth of the riches of unsearchable wisdom, by which he exercises mercy towards the penitent guilty, without any stain to the honour of the most impartial Judge! O the treasures of love in Christ, whereby he became a curse for us, in order to deliver us therefrom.” How becoming the justified soul, who is ready to dissolve in the sense of this love, with full exultation to sing a new song, a song of mutual return of love to a justifying God!
LXXXI. 2dly, This doctrine is likewise calculated for the humility of the sinner; from whom it cuts off all boasting, that the glory may remain unstained to God alone. “What hast thou, O man, to boast of? What wherewith thou canst stand before the tribunal of God? Good works? ‘But all thy righteousnesses are as filthy rags,’ Isa. 64:6. If thou leanest on them, they are, Pope Adrian VI. himself being judge, like the staff of a reed, which shall break, and pierce thy leaning hand. Perhaps thou wilt boast of thy faith, as if by the excellency of that thou canst please God. But even that is like a shaken and shattered reed, to which thou canst not safely trust; and whatever it be, it is the gift of God. Phil. 1:29: ‘Thou hast received: why dost thou glory, as if thou hast not received?’ 1 Cor. 4:7. Thou hast nothing of thine own to present to God. Indeed thou east a great deal of thine own: but it is either sin, or at east what is stained with sin; for which, if thou hast deserved any thing, it is only hell, or that which is worse than hell, if any such thing can be. And canst thou, O most wretched creature, boast of any such vanity? Rom. 3:27.”
LXXXII. 3dly, It conduces above all to the consolation of the afflicted soul, bewailing his sins with godly sorrow; whom we may address in this manner, from the very genius or nature of this doctrine: “Indeed, thy sins are both more numerous and greater than thou canst either conceive or express; but ‘behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.’ Every thing in thee is infected with much sin; but thanks be to God, the cause of thy justification is not to be sought for in thee: ‘We are justified freely by his grace.’ Thou hast to do with a most righteous Judge, who will not clear the guilty: but behold Jesus, the surety, who, by a full expiation, has brought it to pass, that he can justify the ungodly, without any violation of his justice. Having such a leader and guardian, approach without fear to this Judge, being assured, that Jesus, thy patron or powerful friend, will so plead thy cause, that thou shalt not be cast. Canst thou not yet venture? What should hinder? Do thy sins, thy nakedness, and thy pollution, affright thee? But take shelter behind Christ; hide thyself in his wounds; wrap thyself in his death and blood; receive, with the hand of faith, the offered fine linen, the righteousness of the saints. Is thy faith itself so weak that thou art ashamed and grieved? But again, thanks be to God, that thou art not to be justified for thy faith, or for any worthiness that is in it; but if it is true and sincere, however weak, it is the band of thy union and communion with Christ. And being united to him, present thyself to God without fear; undauntedly also before the devil, and all who take pleasure to accuse thee. Humbly confess whatever sin may be objected against thee; but add, that they shall no doubt triumph in the judgment, when they shall make it appear that the merits and satisfaction of Christ are not sufficient to atone for and remove them, or thou not suffered to plead those merits of Christ in judgment. I challenge the devil and all his accomplices: ‘Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth,’ &c. Dost thou believe these things? Thou dost, but with faltering and hesitation. Fight manfully against all the temptations of unbelief, and even now thou shalt receive that white stone and new name written thereon which none knoweth but he who received it; and the hidden manna, which having tasted, thou wilt enjoy thy life in patience, and death in desire.” This is comfort indeed: they, who build not on these foundations, are certainly, like Job’s friends, miserable comforters. It is memorable, what the reverend Voetius, Disput. ii. p. 754, relates of John Frederick, duke of Saxony, who acquainted Luther that George duke of Saxony comforted his son John in the agonies of death, with the righteousness of faith, desiring him to look to Christ alone, and disclaim his own merits and the invocation of saints. And when the wife of the aforesaid John (who was sister to Philip Landgrave of Hesse) asked duke George why these things were not thus publicly taught, he made answer, “O daughter, such things are to be said to the dying only.” O the force of truth, breaking forth even from the breasts of those who are set against it.
LXXXIII. 4thly, This doctrine is exceedingly powerful to promote godliness. 1. Because it lays, as a foundation, a submissive humility of soul, presuming nothing of itself, without which there is no holiness that deserves the name. 2. Because we teach that no faith justifies but what is the fruitful parent of good works. And can any one really believe, that he who is himself a most unworthy sinner, who is, without any merit of his own, received into the favour of God, delivered from the expectation of hell, and favoured with the hope of a blessed eternity, shall not be in every respect, and by all means, be obedient to so benevolent a Lord? Can he believe that God the Father spared not his own Son, that he might spare this slave: that God the Son bore so many things grievous to mention, and hard to suffer, that he might procure pardon for the guilty, and a right to life: that God, the Holy Ghost, should enter his heart, as the messenger and earnest of so great a happiness, and love those so ardently who had no love for him? Can he then provoke the Father by disobedience? Trample on the Son by his wickedness, and profane his blood? Can he grieve the Spirit, the comforter? Indeed, such a one knows not what faith is, who imagines that it consists in a strong persuasion, destitute of good works. 3dly, Because it teacheth a sublime pitch of holiness, by which a person, laying aside every mercenary affection, can love God and virtue for itself, direct every thing to the glory of God alone, and securely trust him with the free reward of his works. Here now we appeal to the conscience of our adversaries, which is the safer way, whether that which we point out to our people, or what they would have theirs to walk in? We both agree, that without good works none shall be saved. Now whether is it safer to say, do good works with a presumption of merit, or do them with all diligence and energy of soul, because you cannot be saved without them; yet, having done all, own thyself to be an unprofitable servant, and look for heaven as a free gift? If works merit nothing, doubtless he offends God who boasts of his merits. But if they deserve any thing, yet I, though performing them diligently, dare not arrogate any thing to myself from merit: of what detriment, pray, will that humility be? We conclude that a doctrine, whose advantages are so many and so considerable, cannot but be true.