God summons the repenting sinner before His judgement seat, and after having convicted him of his sins, and pronounced punishment over him, He justifies him, and in mercy forgives him all his sins, for the sake of the sinners having accepted by faith the merits of Christ, who has given to divine justice that satisfaction, which sin and its punishment had made requisite.
478. We have been considering man in his sinful state, in consequence of which state (if God would deal with him according to justice), he would be brought before the judgement of God, there to be convicted of sin, and condemned to eternal death. — We have now to look for the means by which he might be saved this emergency, delivered from his transgression, and the punishment consequent to it. As such means are to be considered Justification and forgiveness of sins. — In order to get a right view of this matter, we have tor attend to the following considerations. —
479. a. What it is, that is implied by the term “justify.” The proper meaning of this word is perfectly familiar to those who have any acquaintance with the proceedings of a court of justice; in the course of which only those criminals are looked upon as justified who, although they have been convicted of their evil deeds, and have been condemned to punishment, but have yet been liberated out of mere mercy, acquitted of their guilt, and looked upon and declared to be, just. Exactly so it is the case with mankind, who are all, without exception brought before God’s judgement throne, there to be convicted of sin, but out of mercy and for the sake of our Mediator, the Lord Jesus, to have their sins forgiven, — as If they had never committed sin, and to be looked upon as such. Such an act, and nothing else, is implied by the term “justification.”
480. We have also to consider:
b. the nature of this justification, and what it consists of; whereby we have especially to inquire, what it is that forms part of justification, and what not.
481. The fact is, that justification is nothing else, than a forgiveness of sins, and a remission of all punishment, where by men are considered and declared to be just, as if they had never committed sin, and never become guilty before God. But for the full understanding of this point, we shall here repeat once more the fact, that sinful man is brought before the judgement seat of God, especially for two ends, viz:
482. First, in order to exact from him the discharge of the debt which Adam hdd incurred even when in his state of perfectness, and before he had sinned, namely that of entire obedience. Men were bound to yield due obedience to all the laws which God had written into his heart, or which He might proffer him in any other way. Of this duty no man could possibly free himself, even after all men had rebelled against God by sin and disobedience. If therefore divine justice does exact this obedience of us, it follows that we cannot be justified unless we have settled this debt.
483. Thus the first act, or the first action of God’s Judgement is brought about, which consists in the fact, that the Lord Jesus has fulfilled the law in our behalf. He applies this justice on us, as if we had wrought out the same, and had fulfilled the law, as has been proved ##. 422, 423. Thus the believer is justified in that all the guilt of which be had been accused of, is entirely remitted; for the Lord Jesus having settled on his behalf his debt of due obedience, the sinner is looked upon as if he himself had’ fulfilled the whole law, and had paid the debt of obedience.
484. The second action of the divine judgement concerns the sins of which man has made himself guilty. It is impossible for him to give satisfaction for this guilt. This is evident from the proceeding statement, and will be still more established in the sequel of this treatise. It was therefore necessary for the Lord Jesus to intercede again in this respect, and to set all things aright. And because of his having, by his sufferings and death, borne our sins and suffered for them, these sins are not any more imputed unto us, but remitted as if we had never committed them. 1. John. 2, 1. 2: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world;” 2. Cor. 5, 21: “for he (God) bath made him to be sin for us who.knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
485. Thus in the act of our justification two different things are accomplished, namely, in the first place, the righteousness of Christ and his fulfilling the law are imputed unto man, as if he had done these things himself; and secondly, the sins which he had committed are not imputed to him, as if he had never committed the same. By the first act he is delivered from n debt, which he never possibly could have paid; whilst by the second he is freed from the burden of sin, which he never could have atoned for, and the punishment for which he could never have sustained. By these two acts he is delivered from the judgement of God, in such a manner, that henceforward he has not any more to fear either guilt or transgression, nor the evils which are a consequence of them.
486. In order to the establishment of the facts which we have just now stated, it remains for us to prove:
1. that justification is wrought out by the imputing unto us of the righteousness of Christ, and of his merits, and
2. by remission or forgiveness of sin.
487. 1. The first may be proved by the fact
i. that such we find clearly stated in scripture. Genes. 15, 6: ” Abraham believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness;” Rom. 4, 5: “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justified the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
488. ii. That we are justified by the righteousness of Christ. But of this righteousness we are only able to partake by its being imputed unto us; Rom. 5, 18. 19: “As by the offence of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation 5 even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life; for as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” — No other manner of righteousness is to be found stated in the word of God, than that which is brought about by imputing unto us the righteousness of Christ. Like as, for instance, a debtor, as soon as any other man has paid his debts for him, is free of all payment, because the payment another had made for him is imputed to his benefit, exactly, so we have forgiven our sins, after Christ had done satisfaction on our behalf for the same. For this satisfaction is imputed unto us, as if we ourselves had suffered punishment for our sins.
489. Christ has been made sin only because to him have been imputed our sins. For thus we are made just by the imputation of his righteousness.,Christ himself had no sin. “But he who knew no sin, was made by God to be sin for us,” 2. Cor. 5, 21; upon him He has laid all our sins, Isa. 53, 7. Christ has taken all our sins upon him, and borne them on his own body, John. 1, 29; 1. Pet. 2, 24. This could only be managed by our sins being imputed unto him, as if he had committed them himself; and therefore he has suffered the punishment of the same, as if he had committed these sins himself. And like as Christ, when he knew no sin had been made sin for us, in that the sins of others were imputed to him, so we when we were yet sinners, became justified, by the righteousness of another being imputed unto us. Thus it happened, as has been formerly stated, that by the righteousness of one many have been made righteous.
490. 2. Again justification is brought about by the remission and forgiveness of our sins. This appears especially evident from the fact that justification and forgiveness of sins are looked upon in scripture as one and the same thing. Thus St. Paul in speaking of justification, says: “the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying: blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin,” Rom. 4, 6. 7. 8. The same words David speaks in his Psalms, concerning forgiveness of sin, the Apostle Paul makes use of when speaking of justification, Act. 13, 38, 39: “Be it known unto you therefore, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” In this passage forgiveness of sins is treated in no way differently from justification. Rom. 5, 9: “We shall be saved, being justified by his blood.” 1 John. 1, 7: “the blood of Jesus Christ” etc. — Rom. 8, 3. 4: righteousness and forgiveness of sins are spoken as being identical “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us;” Rom. 3, 25: “to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”- From which it is easy to see, that justification consists in the remission of sins.
491. Exactly so the criminal is proceeded with in an earthly court of justice. If he is accused and convicted of guilt, but his sentence reprieved, so that he is henceforth to be looked upon as not having been a criminal at all — then he must be said to be justified by this. Nothing else is required to justify him.
492. From which follows:
a. that this righteousness of the sinner before the judgement of God, is by no means identical with God’s indwelling divine righteousness, because
i. Such is nowhere to be found in scripture;
ii. the same characteristics of that righteousness, by which we are justified before God, are not applicable to God’s essential righteousness. For our righteousness is imputed unto us: whilst God’s essential righteousness, in as far namely as it is not intended to dwell in men cannot be imputed unto men. Our righteousness is but a consequence of the remission of our unrighteousness and of our sins, whilst the essential righteousness of God cannot be said to proceed from the same source. Which proves that the righteousness whereby we are justified in the sight of God, to have no identity with God’s essential righteousness.
493. b. That the sinner’s righteousness in the eye of God, is not be looked upon as if now our nature had become so penetrated by purity and holiness, that henceforth we might be able to appear before God as holy and unblamable as the holy angels. For
i. righteousness is an imputation and but a forgiveness of sin, can therefore not be said to be a purity and holiness of our nature, etc. — Though a criminal has had reprieved his merited sentence, it yet remains sure that he has committed evil, although it has been forgiven him. Thus every sinner, whose sins have been forgiven, though he is justified, has yet remaining a blot upon him, that he has committed this evil, though the punishment consequent to the same is not imputed unto him.
ii. We know that sin is not so entirely rooted out of our nature, as that not every believer should be in circumstances to join St. Paul in his complaint, Rom. 7, 18. 19: “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I
find not; for, the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not I do.” v. 23: “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members,” Galat. 5, 16; “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one another: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” — But if man’s righteousness had the power to make our natures as pure as that of the holy angels, then such a complaint ought never to be heard of from the mouth o’ the saints. The renewed man would not be any more polluted by sin, nor would he have necessary to ask God to forgive him all his sins, which yet David declares to be most indispensable for every saint, Pslm. 32, 6.
494. c. Concerning the sources of this justification, we have again to consider, that
495. i. the first and principal source (principalis efficiens) of men’s justification is God, in that he does not deal with man according to his severe justice, but according to his great mercy; Rom. 3, 30: “It is one God, which shall justify;” Rom. 4. 5: “Believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly” ibid. 8, 33: “It is God that justifieth.”
496. ii. Another source of our justification is the Lord Jesus Christ, with his merits and acquired righteousness (meritoria). In this respect two things are to be kept in view, viz:
aa. that we are justified by God for the sake of the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, as is evident from what we read, Rom. 3, 24. 25: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.” Isa. 53, 2: “by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Jerem. 33, 6: “and this is the name whereby he shall be called, the Lord of righteousness;” 1 Cor. 1, 30: “Jesus, who is made unto our righteousness;” 2 Cor. 5, 19: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;” v. 21: “God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin etc.;” Rom. 5, 18. 19:”By the offence of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life; for as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one all shall be made righteous.”
497. bb. That, independent of Christ, no merit is able to justify us. And this can be done neither by our own merits, nor by those of others.
Not by our own merits, for such would have to be wrought out by works which we are either bidden to do, or which we chose to do for ourselves.
i. By the practice of works which we are bidden to do, we can deserve nothing, since we are bound to do them, and since God requires them of us with great threatenings. For He tells us that, if we do not all things, which he has commanded us to do, He is jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the father upon the children unto the third and fourth generation (Exod. 20, 5), who condemns us into hellfire (Deut. 27, 26: “Curseth be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.”) Now if a bondman executes every command which his lord lays upon him with many fearful threatenings, he cannot be said to have any merit in the sight of his master. Exactly so it is with us; we are not able to merit any thing in striving to do the will of our master; we do nothing, but our duty. And this we are taught by the Lord Jesus himself Luk. 17, 7. ff. “But which of you having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things, that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say: “”We unprofitable servant, we have done that which was our duty to do.”” To which must added that even our most noble and excellent works are polluted by sin, and that God, if He should deal with us after his justice, should rather have to give us punishment than reward. Isa. 64, 6: “We are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;”
498. The works we choose to do for ourselves, cannot have the merit to acquire for us from God the gift of righteousness and eternal life. For God is highly displeased if one, who has to serve him, endeavours to do things after his own sense, and has expressly forbidden such undertakings, Deut. 4, 2: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it.” Thus God was sorely displeased on the occasion of Jeroboam’s having erected a temple at Dan and Bethel, 1. King 12, 28 ff.; which undertaking he also punished by his prophet, ibid. 13, Iff. Nadab and Abihu, two sons of Aaron undertook to offer sacrifice in a manner different from that which God had commanded, and were therefore devoured by the fire, Numb. 10, 1. 2. Israel, in the time of Isaiah, was punished because of their having added to the worship of God, things of human invention, Isa. 1, 12: “When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?” And the Lord Jesus adjudges such things as follow: “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,’’ Matth. 15, 9.
From which we learn that all those works, which displease God and are punished by him, cannot possibly procure either righteousness or Salvation. All such works that man chooses to do from his own will, displease God and are punished by him, and are therefore not acceptable to him and can accordingly acquire no salvation for mankind.
499. Nor is it at all possible for the merits of others, to acquire for us our salvation. For if one be ever so holy yet sin cleaves to him, and he cannot work out even his own righteousness, but must pray God to forgive him his sins, Pslm. 32, 6. And even if he endeavours to do good works, — yet by them he only does his duty, nor can he acquire for himself any merit, much less for others. An experience which even David made: Pslm. 49, 8. 9: “None of them can by any means redeem him brother, nor give God a ransom for him, for the redemption of their soul is precious.”
500. The manner in which our justification is proceeded with it as follows. The righteousness is,
1. offered by God unto man, and
2. received and accepted by man.
Thus God offers his righteousness, unto man by means of His Gospel, and by the holy Sacraments, of which we propose to treat subsequently. From the last mentioned springs the faith by which the justification is accepted, as we intend to prove immediately. If man has offered unto him the justification, then he accepts of it by faith, which is, as it were, the spiritual hand, by which the grace of God, the merits of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, life and salvation are accepted and laid hold of.
502. I. The nature of faith. Three things are necessary for our belief, viz:
a. A knowledge of all that which God has revealed concerning our salvation; of which St. Paul writes, Rom. 10, 14: “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?”
b. An undoubted assent and conviction, as to the truth and inspiration of the divine word. If there is one, who has occasion to hear and to perceive that which God teaches, but considers it as a fable, contradicting it within his heart, — such a one cannot have faith. For he has no faith in God; he grieves the holy Ghost, putting away the word of God from him, and judges himself unworthy of everlasting life, Acts. 13, 46.
c. An unflinching confidence in God; whereby man has the firm assurance that God is able and willing to bring to pass all His kind promises for his benefit, and for that of all mankind.
503. Above all things it is necessary for man to acquire a thorough knowledge of all that which God has revealed to be necessary for our Salvation. More especially the Gospel promises with regard to his merciful purposes regarding sinful men; the message concerning the merits of Christ, which have been wrought out for the benefit of all mankind. For this is a testimony of God’s love concerning all men and of His will, that all men should be saved; for which purpose He has sent his only begotten Son into the world, who has tasted death for all men, and has become the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. All this is necessary for us to know, in order to get at a right understanding of the divine promises and explanation, and lies within the limits of that knowledge, upon which our faith must be founded.
Now if there is any one who hears, understands and believes this to be true, he will receive a firm conviction, that God will have mercy upon him, forgive him his sins, and make him an heir of everlasting life; that Christ the Lord has died for him, and in order to deliver him from his sins, to reconcile him to his heavenly Father and to prepare for him the way unto eternal life, as well as that Christ as suffered, and shed his blood for him, and that he had been delivered for his sins and raised again for his justification.
505. This faith has its source in the holy scriptures, which induce men to reason thus: It is the will of God that all men should be saved; He loves all men, and is exceedingly anxious that all should be saved and none perish. Christ has been given as a Saviour unto mankind, he has died for all, and reconciled them all unto God. Every one who bears a firm assurance of these facts in his breast, will have no doubts of his having found favour in the sight of God, and forgiveness of sins; as also that he is living in a state of salvation, and that he is to be one day heir of the kingdom of heaven and of everlasting glory. Such firm assurance and such confidence in God constitutes a true faith. By such a faith we are able to appropriate to ourselves the mercies of God and the merits of Christ; and like as God Himself declares that He desires all men to be saved, and that Christ has been given a ransom for many, so in his turn believing man argues again: God desires me to be saved; Christ has become a ransom for me.
506. In the same way all saints have manifested their confidence. Paul declares Galat. 2, 20: “The Son of God hath loved me and given himself for me;” — as also Mary Luk. 1, 47: “My spirit hath rejoiced in the God my Saviour;” — Isa. 53, 4: “He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;” 1. Cor. 1, 30: “Christ Jesus is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.” — Thus the believer appropriates to himself the divine grace and the merits of Christ, and thereby that faith by which he is justified.
507. II. The source of this faith, is to be found in the word of God, and in the holy Sacraments.
i. In the word of God for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Rom. 10, 17.
ii. In the holy Sacraments; for baptism “is the washing of regeneration,” Titus 3, 5. But regeneration cannot take place where there is no faith; hence faith comes by baptism. The holy Supper appropriates the merits of Christ’s to the Communicants in such a manner, that thereby, the Lord Jesus testifies to have given his body, as well as shed his blood for them. This every man is requested to apply to himself individually, as if the Lord Jesus did say to every one especially: this is my body which is given for thee, for the forgiveness of sins; and this is my blood, which is shed for thee, for the forgiveness of sins.
508. Now some might very properly ask: If faith has its source in the word, where is this word to he found? Is it to be found in the Bible only, or in the articles of the christian faith, laid down in the Apostolical creed? Or is there any other word intended? We answer, the word which alone is the source of faith, is the doctrine of the grace of God and the merits of Christ, the access to which is open to every one. This doctrine is the foundation and the source of our faith. But by this, it is by no means intended to exclude the other articles of faith; we are rather desirous of including them, inasmuch as they are requisite for a right understanding and perfection of the above mentioned doctrines of the grace of God and the merits of Christ, and as without which them faith could not have been established in the heart of men, with sufficient firmness.
509. To whom faith is given? faith is profferd and granted by God unto all men without exception. For He causes repentance and forgiveness of sins to be preached among all nations, Luk. 24, 27; he commands all men every where to repent; faith cometh by hearing, Rom. 10, 17. To this end He has given His word unto all men, that all men might receive faith by it. For this word is “the power of God unto Salvation to every one that believeth,” Rom. 1, 16. — Now God, on his part, and in as far as He is concerned in this transaction, offers faith to every man, by means of his word. He is dealing like a benevolent man who gives alms to all the poor collected before his door, although it is not accepted by all of them.
510. III. The question as to who is partaking of this faith and who not, will be more particularly explained in that Chapter which treats of conversion. In this place we shall only state that there are to be distinguished two kinds of men, to whom faith has been granted. There are either children; who have been regenerated by baptism; or adults, such as have come to years of discretion, so that by being instructed in the word, they receive faith.
511. Children who have been baptized are partakers of the faith, even before they have come to the full use and advantage of their own reason, for
i. the Lord Jesus himself testifies that they believe in him, Matth. 28, 6.
512. ii. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Mark. 10, 14: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven;” Now it must be remembered that none but those who have faith, can enter the, kingdom of heaven, as the Lord says Mrk. 16, 16: “He that believeth not shall be damned;” John. 3, 5: “except a man be borne of water and of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” v. 18: “he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of the father.”
513. iii. Whosoever does not believe remains under the curse; the unbelievers shall have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, Revel. 21, 8. — John. 3, 36: “he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” — But little children do partake of this blessing, Mrk. 10, 16: ” Jesus took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them and blessed them.”
514. iv. Little children moreover are children of God, who, if it should please Him, to cut them off in their infancy, makes them heirs of the kingdom of God, and fellow heirs with Christ. But this adoption is brought about by faith, Galat. 3. 26: “ye are the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.” John. 1, 12: “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name.”
515. v. Nor are we without instances of children having been mercifully gifted with the realities of the christian faith. Thus of those who had been circumcised on the eight day, we are told, that therewith they received, as Paul calls it, a seal of righteousness of the faith. Which proves them to have been possessed of righteousness and faith, else they could not have been sealed. — And we read of John the Baptist having leaped for joy in the womb of his mother, at the moment of Mary’s entering into the house of his mother, having conceived the child Jesus, Luk. 1, 41. 44. What could he have rejoiced for, but for the coming of his Saviour in the flesh, who was to redeem him (as well as all mankind) from sin.
By this circumstance we learn
aa. that God Is able to raise up faith even in little children, although they have not yet arrived at the full exercise of their reason; and
bb. that, as God, unter the old testament dispensation, has wrought faith in children by means of circumcision, so in our days, He works faith in little children by means of baptism, yea that He is able the work faith without any means at all, as in the case of John.
516. Adults, that is, such as have come to the full use of their reason, and are able to. be brought to the faith by the teaching of the word, receive faith, — but not all of them. The reason for this is not be sought by God. For he will have all men come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Timot. 2, 4; he calls every one that labours and is heavy leaden, to come to him, and to come to rest by him, Matth. 11, 28. — But the reason that not all men are receiving faith, lies with men; inasmuch as some men do resist the divine calling, and the word (which latter is the power of God unto Salvation to every one that believeth); in consequence of which the holy Ghost is not able to accomplish his work on such stiff necked and stubborn people. Thus Stephen admonishes the Jews, Act. 7, 61; “ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” And St. Paul speaking to the Jews at Antioch, who had persecuted him and Barnabas says: “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeng ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo we turn to the Gentiles,” Acts. 13, 46. — Yea the Lord Jesus adduces the same circumstance, as a reason for the Jews (of his time) not receiving the christian faith, — namely that they had rejected his proffered grace; Matth. 23, 37: “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
507. Thus we find that faith is given only to those, who allow themselves to be guided by the word of God, and who do not resist the same with enmity.
518. IV. In what manner are we justified by faith. Faith does not justify in such a manner, as if it was a meritorious principle. For in the work of our Justification and Salvation, faith is placed in opposition to merit, Rom. 3, 24. 25: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood etc;” ibid. 11, 6: if by grace, then is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace; but if it be of works, then it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work;” ibid. 4, 4. 5: “to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace but of debt; but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Since then all merit is excluded from our righteousness, and since works cannot, for the sake of their merits, procure righteousness, it follows that faith cannot be said to be a meritorious work, and as such to justify.
519. As to the manner in which faith is said to justify, we refer partly to that which has been advanced concerning the justification, which is brought about by our faith being imputed unto us, partly we recommend, for the better understanding of this point, the two following points being kept in view:
i. that faith is a confidence and an assurance. That confidence which a man, who is deeply afflicted, bears to him, who has promised to assist him out of his trouble, is the medium that ties the oppressed to him who is his helper; the first cleaves with the greatest confidence to the latter. Suppose this troubled man being brought before a court of justice; but his kind friend faithfully standing for him, and delivering him from every imputation; — the poor man accepting with the greatest thankfulness this assistance, not doubting that he could be helped and not loosing his confidence in his friend, until he is helped, and entirely delivered from every charge. He has not merited this benefit by his confidence, but he has merely accepted a benefit which he did not deserve at all. Thus it is with sinful man, when standing before the judgement seat of God. As long as he retains the firm confidence in his friend and Redeemer, that he has delivered him by his blood from condemnation, as long may he hope to be delivered from his misery, and if this confidence remains with him to his death, he will be saved even unto the end. But we have done nothing by this our faith, but received the grace which the Lord Jesus has offered unto us, and made the same our own, by a firm assurance.
520. This, we are taught in scripture concerning the firm assurance of our faith; John. 16, 33: “in the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world; Heb. 4, 16: “let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need; ibid. 10, 22: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled” etc.; Ephes. 3, 12: “in whom, (Christ) we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.”
521. B. That by unbelief, justification is rendered impossible, because by it men reject the grace of God and eternal life. Acts. 13, 46. Which proves that as unbelief is an obstacle to justification only by rejecting the same, and along with the same the grace of God, so on the other hand, is faith a means of justification in that man, who does not reject the grace of God, but with due obedience accepts of it.
522. This can be made clear by the following illustration. Suppose two felons being thrust into a prison for debt, where they would have to remain all their lives, unless they found somebody to sympathize with them. But a certain rich, kindhearted man, undertakes to pay the debts which they had contracted, and causes the communication to be made to the prisoners, that they have been released from prison, and that they were accordingly at liberty to leave it. Suppose that one of the two prisoners believes this message to be true, and prepares himself immediately to leave the prison, to which there is no obstacle; — but that the other cannot be induced to believe, that his debts have been discharged by another person, yea that he is bold enough to deny having ever been in debt, or, in case he confesses himself a debtor, he maintains being able to discharge every debt of his by his own powers and exertions; — to that he sets his hopes upon friends and acquaintances, to work out his deliverance, — thus putting no trust and confidence whatsoever in the above named individual, who was said to have really discharged the debt of this prisoner. Such a one must be said, to have rejected the pardon that had been wrought out for him, and to loose all the benefits of the same, and there would remain nothing for him, but to perish in his prison.
523. Exactly the same is done by the unbelievers, who look upon the grace which has been given unto us through Christ, as an invention, or who have no desire to put their hope in Christ, but rather trust in the holiness of other men, or in their own works, and who are bold enough to maintain, that they had no sins whatsoever etc. Such must remain in their sins, and perish for ever; whilst others who accept of the joyful message of the forgiveness of their sins as a truth, and put their confidence in Christ, the propitiator of their sins, are freed from their miserable state and become heirs of eternal Salvation.
524. From the arguments already produced, it will appear that justification is not by any means to be ascribed to man as a virtue, but that it is nothing else than a fruit of faith; Rom. 3, 28: “We conclude, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law;” Galat. 2, 16: “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ;” Rom. 4, 5: “to him that worketh not but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Here we find nothing else but faith and works put in opposition to each other; nor is there any where a third object spoken of having as any connection with Salvation. Now we find works expressly excluded from the work of Salvation, and thus we find faith to be the only and proper source of Salvation. — We have to consider also (cf. #. 479):
525. c. the fruits of justification. They are twofold, viz:
aa. the peace of conscience, so that he that is justified, has to fear no evil from God; as he formerly felt his conscience burdened on account of his sin, so now, after his sins have been forgiven him, he lives in the enjoyment of peace and rest. Rom. 5, 1: “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;” Rom. 8, 16: “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
526. bb. A new obedience, a godly life and good works, Rom. 6, 11: “Iikewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Christ Jesus, our Lord.” v. 13. “Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God;” v. 18: “being made free from sin ye became the servants of righteousness;” 20 ff.: “when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness; what fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” — And concerning faith, the Apostle writes, Galat. 5, 6: “faith worketh by love.”
527. It remains now for us to consider more especially the fruits which are produced by faith and righteousness conjointly, namely the good works; and we have to inquire
i. which works may really be called good works,
ii. whether such good works be perfect,
iii. whether they are necessary,
iv. whether they are entitled to a reward, and of which nature this reward may be.
i. Good works may be called such works, as are performed from a obedience and in accordance with the will and ordinances of God.
ii. Whether such good works be perfect. The good works, are the fruits of righteousness are imperfect, for
528. Sin cleaves to every good work, which is polluted thereby. For all our righteousness is, according to Isa. 64, 6 and Sirach 27, 5., like “filthy rags.” Rom. 7, 17:”to will is present with me; but now to perform that which is good I find not, for the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do;” v. 21: “I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me;” Gaiat. 5, 17: “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit” etc.
529. Because along with the good works always evil works are performed. For nobody may say: “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin,” Proverb 20, 9; for “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Rom. 3, 23; — every saint even must pray for forgiveness, Pslm. 32, 6. And although some one did keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is said to be guilty of all, James 2, 10; his obedience is of no avail, since God desires entire obedience. For every man is subject to the curse, who does not fulfil the whole law, Deut. 27, 26; Galat. 3, 10.
iii. As to the necessity of good works, we answer in the affirmative; but not so as if they did justify, or work out righteousness, as has been proved already, but:
That by them Gods will, which requires of us good works might be, as much as possible, obeyed. God commands us, Coloss. 1, 10: “Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work;” 1. Pet. 2, 24: “Who (Christ) bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness;”- Titus 3, 8: “These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.”
531. That after God has adopted us as His people. His name might be, by our good works, gloried amongst all nations, and others also be induced to godliness; Matth. 5, 16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they might see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven.”
532. That we might not again pollute ourselves with works of unrighteousness, and thus bring down upon us the wrath of God and eternal condemnation; 2. Pet. 2, 20. 22: “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning; it has happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned etc.; Rom. 8, 13: “for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye, through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live;” 1. Cor. 6, 9: “know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters etc. shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.”
533. That the reward promised to good works might not be lost by us. Good works have their reward, as well in this world, as also in that to come; Isa. 3, 10: “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings;” 1. Timot. 4, 8: “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
Godliness has great promises, with reference to the life that now is; Isa. 1, 19: “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land;” Eccles. 2, 26: “God giveth a man that is good in His sight, wisdom, and knowledge, and joy.” And God blessed (Deut. 28, 1 ff.) the children, of Israel as follows: “And it shall come to pass if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee; blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed, shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep; blessed shall be thy basket and thy stone; blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.”
534. Godliness with reference to the life to come, has the following promises: Isa. 57, 1: “The righteous perisheth and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering, that the righteous is taken away from, the evil to come; he shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds;“- Proverb 10, 7: “the memory of the just is blessed;” 1. Cor. 3, 8: “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour;“- 2. Cor. 5, 10: “We must all appear before the judgement 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.” 1. Cor. 4, 5: “until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God;”- Matth. 19, 29: “every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethern, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”
535. But this reward is not to be looked upon, as being given by God as a reward, which his justice might induce him to bestow upon us, for the sake of our good works. No, it is, and remains an undeserved reward, a gift of God’s grace and mercy. Thus a father rewards, from mere parental love, with a special gift that obedience of his child, which he is bound in duty to yield to him; his parent might as well not have rewarded him at all. In the same way God rewards, out of mere fatherly kindness, without his being bound to do so, our godliness and piety. For, in the first place there is not a saint upon earth, who durst ask from God his daily bread as his due, as if he had deserved it; on the contrary he must pray and ash for it, “Our father who art in heaven, give us day by day our daily bread.” And secondly there is not one who never had occasion to confess with Jacob: “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant,” Genes. 32, 10; and with Paul: “who hath first given to him (God) and it shall be recompensed unto him again?”‘ Rom. 11, 35.
536. Now the circumstance that the scriptures nevertheless promises man, that his good works should meet with a reward, can be sufficiently explained by the fact, that a reward though undeserved, is still a reward. Thus God speaks to Abraham: “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward,” Genes. 17; it will be admitted that Abraham never could deserve such a reward. Pslm. 127, 3: “Lo children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his great reward.” — The same is implied whenever the prophets speak of a reward, and it is for this reason, the Psalmist calls it “God’s reward.”