Does justification by faith lead to ungodliness?
Objection 5. If sinners be taught that they are to be saved without good works, they will the more be indulged in their wicked practices. In short it is a doctrine which will lead to licentiousness.
Answer. Such as allege this objection, are the true successors of the ancient calumniators of St. Paul. Sec Rom. 3, 8.
A work cannot be considered either as good, or laudable, unless it proceeds from a proper and free choice. If good works were a condition of eternal life, then the sinner would know if he did not perform them, he would be eternally damned. The dread of eternal damnation would compel him to do works, in which he would not otherwise delight. Now if this dread compels him to do those works, they cannot proceed from a free choice; hence they cannot be good works. Such as allege the above objection, might as well at once say, if it was not for the dread of eternal punishments, they would do no good works — if not, why do they conclude, that the doctrine of justification without works, would lead others to licentiousness? In this they show themselves like incarnate devils. For devils would do more harm if they were not restrained.
It has already been shewn, that when the sinner is justified, God renews his heart; so that it becomes a pleasure to him to do good works. They flow from a voluntary principle. When he is justified, he realizes the previous superabundant love of God. Love begets love. ‘We love him, because he first loved us.’ 1 John 4, 19. Where there is love, no compulsion is necessary to produce good works.
From David Henkel’s Fragments on Justification