« AnteriorContinuar »
ed:” (2) for he shews that there is no worship of God without an acknowledgement of his mercy, on which alone it is both founded and established. And this well deserves to be remarked, in order that we may know, not only that the true worship of God arises from a reliance on his mercy, but that the fear of God (which the Papists hold to be meritorious) cannot be dig. nified with the title of merit, because it is founded in the pardon and remission of sins.
IV. But the most futile of all their calumnies is, that men are encouraged to the practice of sin by our maintaining the gratuitous remission of sins, in which we make righteousness to consist. For we say that so great a blessing could never be compensated by any virtue of ours, and that therefore it could never be obtained, unless it were gratuitously bestowed; moreover, that it is gratuitous to us indeed, but not so to Christ, whom it cost so much, even his own most sacred blood, beside which no price sufficiently valuable could be paid to Divine justice. When men are taught in this manner, they are apprised that it is not owing to them that this most sacred blood is not shed as often as they sin. Besides, we learn that such is our pollution, that it can never be washed away, except in the fountain of this immaculate blood. Must not persons who hear these things conceive a greater horror of sin, that if it were said to be cleansed by a sprinkling of good works? And if they have any fear of God, will they not dread, after being once purified, to plunge themselves again into the mire, and thereby to disturb and infect, as far as they can, the purity of this fountain? “I have washed my feet,” (says the believing soul in Solomon)“ how shall I defile them?” (a) Now it is plain, which party better deserves the charge of degrading the value of remission of sins, and prostituting the dignity of righteousness. They pretend that God is appeased by their frivolous sutisfactions, which are no better than dung: we assert, that the guilt of sin is too atrocious to be expiated by such insignificant trifles; that the displeasure of God is too great to be appeased by these worthless satisfactions; and therefore that this is the exclusive prerogative of the blood of Christ. They say, that righteousness, if it ever be defective,
is restored and repaired by works of satisfaction. We think it so valuable that no compensation of works can be adequate to it; and therefore that for its restitution we must have recourse to the mercy of God alone. The remaining particulars that, pertain to the remission of sins may be found in the next chapter.
The Harmony between the Promises of the Law and those of
the Gospel. LET us now pursue the other arguments with which Satan by his satellites attempts to destroy or to weaken justification by faith. I think we have already gained this point with these calumniators; that they can no longer accuse us of being enemies to good works. For we reject the notion of justification by works, not that no good works may be done, or that those which are performed may be denied to be good, but that we may neither confide in them, nor glory in them, nor ascribe salvation to them. For this is our trust, this is our glory, and the only anchor of our salvation, That Christ the Son of God is ours, and that we are likewise in him sons of God, and heirs of the celestial kingdom, being called, not for our worthiness, but by the Divine goodness, to the hope of eternal felicity. But since they assail us besides, as we have observed, with other wea-: pons, let us also proceed to the repulsion of them. In the first place, they return to the legal promises which the Lord gave to the observers of his law, and inquire whether we suppose them to be entirely vain, or of any validity. As it would be harsh and ridiculous to say they are vain, they take it for granted that they have some efficacy. Hence they argue, that we are not justified by faith alone. For thus saith the Lord, “Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto
thy fathers; and he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee.” (6) Again, “ If ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not, neither walk after other gods; then will I cause you to dwell in this place,” &c. (c) I am not willing to recite a thousand passages of the same kind, which, not being different in sense, will be elucidated by an explanation of these. The sum of all is declared by Moses, who says that in the law are proposed “ a blessing and a curse, life and death.” (d) Now they argue, either that this blessing becomes inefficacious and nugatory, or that justification is not by faith alone. We have already shewn, how, if we adhere to the law, being destitute of every blessing, we are obnoxious to the curse which is denounced on all transgressors. For the Lord promises nothing, except to the perfect observers of his law, of which description not one can be found. The consequence then is, that all mankind are proved by the law to be obnoxious to the curse and wrath of God; in order to be saved from which, they need deliverance from the power of the law and emancipation from its servitude; not a carnal liberty, which would seduce us from obedience to the law, invite to all kinds of licentiousness, break down the barriers of inordinate desire, and give the reins to every lawless passion; but a spiritual liberty, which will console and elevate a distressed and dejected conscience, shewing it to be delivered from the curse and condemnation under which it was held by the law. This liberation from subjection to the law, and manumission, (if I may use the term,) we attain, when we apprehend by faith the mercy of God in Christ, by which we are assured of the remission of sins, by the sense of which the law penetrated us with legal compunction and remorse.
II. For this reason all the promises of the law would be ineffectual and vain, unless we were assisted by the goodness of God in the Gospel. For the condition of a perfect obedience to the law, on which they depend, and in consequence of which alone they are to be fulfilled, will never be performed. Now the Lord affords this assistance, not by leaving a part of righte
(6) Deut. vii. 12, 13.
(c) Jer. vii. 5-7.
(d) Deut. xi. 26. xxx. 15.
ousness in our works, and supplying part from his mercy, but by appointing Christ alone for the completion of righteousness. For the apostle having said that he and other Jews, “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, believed in Christ;" adds as a reason, not that they might be assisted to obtain a complete righteousness by faith in Christ, but “ that they might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law.” (e) If the faithful pass from the law to faith, to find righteousness in the latter, which they perceive to be wanting in the former; they certainly renounce the righteousness of the law. Therefore let whosoever will now amplify the rewards which are said to await the observer of the law; only let him remark, that our depravity prevents us from receiving any benefit from them, till we have obtained by faith another righteousness. Thus David, after having mentioned the reward which the Lord hath prepared for his servants, immediately proceeds to the acknowledgment of sins, by which it is annulled. In the nineteenth Psalm, likewise, he magnificently celebrates the benefits of the law; but immediately exclaims, “ Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.” (S) This passage perfectly accords with that before referred to where, after having said, “ All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies;" he adds,“ For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.” (s) So we ought also to acknowledge, that the Divine favour is offered to us in the law, if we could purchase it by our works; but that no merit of ours can ever obtain it.
III. What then, it will be said, were those promises given, to vanish away without producing any effect? I have already declared that this is not my opinion. I assert, indeed, that they have no efficacy with respect to us as long as they are referred to the merit of works; wherefore, considered in themselves, they are in some sense abolished. Thus that grand promise, " Keep my statutes and judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them;" (h) the apostle maintains to be of no value to us, if we rest upon it, and that it will be no more beneficial to us than if it had never been given; because it is inapplicable to the
holiest of God's servants, who are all far from fulfilling the law, and are encompassed with a multitude of transgressions. (i) But when these are superseded by the evangelical promises, which proclaim the gratuitous remission of sins, the consequence is, that not only our persons but also our works are accepted by God; and not accepted only, but followed by those blessings, which were due by the covenant to the observance of the law. I grant, therefore, that the works of the faithful are rewarded by those things which the Lord hath promised in his law to the followers of righteousness and holiness; but in this retribution it is always necessary to consider the cause, which conciliates such favour to those works. Now this we perceive to be threefold; The first is, that God, averting his eyes from the actions of his servants, which are invariably more deserving of censure than of praise, receives and embraces them in Christ, and by the intervention of faith alone reconciles them to himself without the assistance of works. The second is, That in his paternal benignity and indulgence, he overlooks the intrinsic worth of these works, and exalts them to such honour, that he esteems them of some degree of value. The third cause is, That he pardons these works as he receives them, not imputing the imperfection with which they are all so defiled, that they might otherwise be accounted rather sins than virtues. Hence it appears how great has been the delusion of the sophists, who thought that they had dexterously avoided all absurdities by saying that works are sufficient to merit salvation, not on account of their own intrinsic goodness, but by reason of the covenant, because the Lord in his mercy hath estimated them so highly. But at the same time they had not observed, how far the works, which they styled meritorious, fell short of the condition of the promise; unless they were preceded by justification founded on faith alone, and by remission of sins, by which even good works require to be purified from blemishes. Therefore, of the three causes of the Divine goodness, in consequence of which the works of the faithful are accepted, they only noticed one, and suppressed two others, and those the principal.
IV. They allege the declaration of Peter, which Luke re