THE RELATION OF FAITH AND GOOD WORKS
BY E. HUBER, D. D. (DOC)
We are falsely accused of having prohibited good works; but our writings on the Ten Commandments and other subjects show that we have given good and useful instructions and admonitions in respect to various Christian relations, duties and works; respecting which, prior to this time, little had been taught, but almost every sermon urged continually the necessity of puerile and needless works—as rosaries, worship of saints, monastic vows, pilgrimages, stated fasts, holidays, fraternities, etc. Works so needless even our opponents do not extol so highly now as formerly; besides, they have also learned to treat of faith now, concerning which in former times they preached nothing at all; they teach now, however, that we are not justified before God by works alone, but add faith in Christ, saying faith and works justify us before God—a doctrine which may afford more consolation than one teaching confidence in works alone.
Now the doctrine concerning faith, which is the principal Article in the Christian Creed, not having been inculcated for so long a time, as all must confess, but the doctrine concerning works alone having been preached everywhere, the following instructions on this subject are offered by our divines:
First, that our works cannot reconcile us to God and merit grace, but these things are effected through faith alone, if we believe that our sins are forgiven us for Christ’s sake, who alone is the Mediator, reconciling the Father. He, therefore, that expects to effect this reconciliation by works, and to merit grace, contemns Christ and seeks a way of his own to God, contrary to the Gospel.
This doctrine of faith is clearly and explicitly inculcated by Paul in many places, especially in Ephes. ii. 8, 9. ” By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast,” etc. And that a new signification is not introduced here, may be shown from Augustine, who has treated this subject carefully, and who in like manner teaches, that we obtain grace and are justified before God, through faith in Christ, and not by works, as his whole book, “De Spiritu et Litera,” clearly shows. Although this doctrine is despised very much by the thoughtless, yet it will befound that it is very consoling and salutary to timid and alarmed consciences; for our consciences cannot secure tranquillity and peace by works, but through faith alone, when they feel in themselves an assurance, that for Christ’s sake they have a merciful God, as Paul says, Rom. v. i: ” Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” Heretofore this consolation was not administered in sermons, but the wretched consciences of men were driven upon works of their own, and various works were taken in hand; for conscience drove some into monasteries, with the hope of acquiring grace there by a monastic life; others devised works of another kind, for the purpose of meriting grace and of making satisfaction for sins. Many of these have experienced, that peace could not be secured by these things. It was, for this reason, necessary to preach and enforce with diligence this doctrine of faith in Christ, that it might be known that through faith alone, without merit, the grace of God is secured.
It is also inculcated, that the faith here spoken of is not the faith which devils and the ungodly possess, who believe the historical fact that Christ has suffered and risen from the dead ; but it is the true faith—the faith which believes that we obtain grace and the forgiveness of sins through Christ. And hence, whoever knows that he has a merciful God through Christ, knows God, calls upon him, and is not without God, like the Gentiles. For the devil and the ungodly do not believe the article concerning the remission of sins; for this reason they are enemies to God, unable to call upon him, or to hope for anything good from him; and, as just now shown, the Scripture, speaking of faith, does not style faith such a knowledge as devils and wicked men possess; for it is taught concerning faith, in Heb. xi. i, that to have merely a knowledge of the facts of history is not faith, but to have confidence in God that we shall receive his promises. And Augustine also reminds us that we should understand the word faith in Scripture, to mean a confidence in God that he is merciful to us, and not a mere knowledge of the fact—a knowledge which devils also possess.
It is taught further that good works should and must be performed, not with a view of placing confidence in them as meriting grace, but in accordance with his will, and for the glory of God. Faith alone constantly secures grace and forgiveness of sins. And because the Holy Spirit is given through faith, the heart becomes qualified to perform good works. For before this, while it is without the Holy Spirit, it is too weak ; besides, it is in the power of Satan, who urges frail human nature to many sins ; as we see among the philosophers, who resolving to live honorably and unblamably, were unable to effect it, and fell into many great and open sins. So it happens with all men who attempt, without true faith and without the Holy Spirit, to govern themselves by their own strength alone. Wherefore, the doctrine concerning faith does not deserve censure as discouraging good works, but should much rather be applauded as teaching the performance of good works, and as offering assistance by which good works may be performed. For without faith, and out of Christ, the nature and ability of man are much too weak to do good works, to call upon God, to have patience in sufferings, to love his neighbor, faithfully to execute commissions, to be obedient, to avoid evil lusts. Such exalted and righteous works cannot be performed without the assistance of Christ, as he himself says, John XV. 5, “Without me, ye can do nothing.”
THE Article which it falls to our lot to consider at this time is an answer to the charge of prohibiting good works—a charge of sufficiently serious character to warrant the full and earnest reply made to it by our Confessors at Augsburg. For, if substantiated, it overthrows our doctrine concerning justification by faith, and thus deprives us of our chief reason for existing as a distinct church, destroys the main foundation upon which our superstructure is reared, cuts the central root that gives subsistence and richness to our life, and leaves us as witnesses of God in the unenviable position of persons occupying the various thoroughfares of life cruelly and wickedly engaged in showing men, who ask the way to heaven, into the broad road that leads to death and hell.
This charge is one that was very common in the time of the Reformation, but is not confined to that period, as it continues to be repeated even to this day, and that not by Catholics only, but frequently also by Protestants themselves. On this account we propose to consider this Article independently of the circumstances under which it originated, and irrespective of time, place or creed accord the privilege of a hearing to all who, expressly or by implication, have anything to say in substantiation of the immoral effects of our teaching on the subject of faith.
In the first place, let us seek to attain to a definite understanding of the nature of the offence with which we stand charged. “Our writers,” says the Article itself, “are falsely accused of prohibiting good works.” Now by good works here are not meant the unprofitable things generally understood by the term in its technical Romish sense, but everything whatever thatGod has commanded us to become and to do in his word; not the works justly characterized by our Article as childish and needless, such ” as keeping of holidays, set fasts fraternities, pilgrimages, worshiping of saints, the use of rosaries, monkery, and such like things,” but the moral virtues, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and the righteous conduct and Christian life thence proceeding.
Now these works, thus understood, they accuse us of forbidding. By this, however, they do not mean to charge us with disapproving and condemning the good works themselves, and therefore discountenancing and opposing them for their own sake, but, that we hold and teach such views concerning justification as virtually and practically amounts to the prohibition of the very graces and duties enjoined by God himself
The attack, accordingly, is aimed at the very citadel of our Protestant faith—the Article gloried in as the one with which the Church stands or falls; and the charge of prohibiting good works is merely the weapon with which our stronghold is to be demolished—the evidence that justification as taught by us is an invention of man and not a truth of the word that endureth forever.
That the point of assault is where we have represented, is evident from the whole contents of our Article, which is, from beginning to end, a setting forth and defence of the doctrine of faith: as also from the Romish Confutation in which this Article of our Confession is entirely rejected on the ground that it teaches “that good works do not merit the remission of sins.”
Understanding now what the indictment is which is preferred against us, let us ascertain what proof they propose to furnish to sustain the same. The arguments mainly relied on to convict us of guilt may be reduced to the three following: 1. The manners and lives of those who hold that we are justified by faith, are corrupt and ungodly; therefore the doctrine itself must be false and immoral. 2. In various passages in which faith is spoken of, the leading Reformers have plainly and expressly declared that good works are of no consequence if only men do not cease to believe. 3. The logical and inevitable tendency of the doctrine that faith alone justifies, is to produce indifference to righteousness and holiness; for if by faith, without the deeds of the law, we are forgiven, accepted of God, and made heirs of eternal life, then we have need of nothing further. Or, as Luther himself has put this last objection, ” If faith does everything and by itself suffices for our justification, why then are good works commanded?”
That the three specified propositions contain the substance of the arguments ordinarily employed in support of the charge that the Protestant view of justification discourages morality, may be seen from the following specific statements and facts gathered from various sources.
Cardinal Bellarmine, one of the most eminent ofRoman Catholic theologians and controversialists, who lived in the latter half of the 16th century and a part of the 17th, is quoted by Bishop Davenant of the English Church, as follows: “We prove that Luther used to deny the necessity of good works, from the lives and manners of his followers: who, in consequence of this teaching, abandoned themselves to all wickedness with such incredible licentiousness that it became quite needful for Luther to praise good works and to exhort to the practice of them.” Here the excessive wickedness said to be prevalent among the followers of the great Reformer, is boldly ascribed to the peculiar doctrine taught by him in opposition to that of the Church of Rome.
Archbishop Spalding, of this country, in his History of the Protestant Reformation, devotes a long chapter to the influence of the Reformation on morals. In this he professes to give an analysis of the testimony of the leading Reformers themselves as to the practical moral results of their own teaching. This testimony is gathered by the Dublin Review from a work by Dr. Dollinger, and inserted by Spalding in the chapter referred to. Luther is the first and most important witness. He testifies as follows: “Everything is reversed, the world grows worse every day for this teaching; and the misery of it is that men are nowadays more covetous, more hard-hearted, more corrupt, more licentious, and more wicked, than of old under the papacy. * * * Our evangelicals are now sevenfold more wicked than they were before. In proportion as we hear the gospel, we steal, lie, cheat, gorge, swell, and commit every crime.” The writer of the article in the Review further adds that “it could hardly be expected that Luther would himself attribute this universal depravity, the presence of which he thus frankly acknowledges, to the influence of his own gospel. But he cannot and does not conceal that such was the popular impression concerning it. * * * Indeed, not to multiply evidence of a fact so notorious, he himself acknowledges that the peasants, through the influence of the gospel; have become utterly beyond restraint, and think they may do as they please. They no longer fear hell or purgatory, but content themselves by saying, ‘I believe, therefore I shall be saved;’ and they become proud, stiff-necked mammonists and accursed misers, sucking the very substance of the country and the people.”
Not having access to the work of Dollinger’s from which the extract is collected, we are not in a position to verify it by comparison with Luther’s writings; but, damaging as the testimony may be, we presume its genuineness must be admitted from the character of the several writers, from the evidence furnished by the style, which is evidently that of Luther, as also from the fact that the state of things described is confirmed by statements derived from Protestant sources, as, for example, that of Kostlin, which will be given a little further on.
Melanchthon is next called up, and he bears witness as follows: “In these latter times the world has taken to itself a boundless license; very many are so unbridled as to throw off every bond of discipline, though at the same time they pretend that they have faith, that they invoke God with true fervor of heart, and that they are lively and elect members of the church; living meanwhile in truly Cyclopean indifference and barbarism and in slavish subjection, and adulteries, murders and atrocious crimes.”
This frightful state of morality, according to the authority from whom Spalding quotes, ” is attributed without disguise even by the Lutherans themselves to the doctrines of Luther already alluded to.”
Kostlin, the Protestant author of a recent life of Luther, gives a picture of the spiritual condition of Wittenberg, the very centre of Protestant light and life, but little less dark than the representations given in Spalding’s awful chapter. He says, ” But more painful and harrassing to him (Luther) than even the threats of the Romanists and the attacks upon his teaching, which his own words, he was convinced, had long since refuted, was the condition of Wittenberg and the university. It was a favorite reproach against him of the Catholics that his doctrine yielded no fruits of strict morality. Notwithstanding all the rebukes which he had uttered for years, we hear of the old vices still rampant at Wittenberg—the vices of gluttony, of increasing intemperance and luxury, especially at baptisms and weddings: of pride in dress and the low-cut bodices of ladies; of rioting in the streets; of the low women who corrupted the students; of extortion, deceit, and usury in trade; and of the indifference and inability of the authorities and the police to put down open immorality and misdemeanors.” Elsewhere the fact is mentioned that the condition of things described by Kostlin was so intolerable to Luther that he had made up his mind to quit the place, and was with difficulty dissuaded from this purpose “by the united intercessions of the Elector and of the authorities of the university and of the town.”
From the admirable work of Archdeacon Hare on Luther we learn that even the character of the great Reformer himself was frequently assailed in the Church of England, for the purpose of bringing discredit upon the peculiar truths brought to light and so ably and successfully established by his voice and pen. The period referred to is the second quarter of the present century—a period made memorable in the English Church by the rise and spread of Tractarianism and the excited controversies that broke out in consequence.
Referring to this movement Mr. Hare says: “Moreover, since that disastrous cloud has come over the religious minds of England, which leads so many of our divines to decry the Reformation and its authors, the most unfounded charges against Luther have found acceptance with many, who catch them up with a parrot-like volubility in repeating ugly words. Therefore, seeing that Luther’s character is so closely connected with that of the Reformation, it must needs seem desirable that Luther’s name should be cleared from all unmerited stigmas.”
Again near the close of this volume this same writer, in justifying the size to which his book had grown, says, “But the question of Luther’s character is intimately connected with the miserable controversies which are now disturbing our church; and though the decision of these controversies ought to turn on wholly different points, the enemies of Protestant truth have always felt they were gaining an advantage, if they could, by whatever artifices, detract from the fame of its first and greatest champion.”
Facts such as those thus far given show very plainly that in opposing the truth concerning justification, the adversaries place no little dependence upon the argument based upon the establishment of the immoral character of its advocates and professors.
The second argument relied on by our gainsayers is that the very leaders of the Reformation in discussing faith have said expressly that good works are of no consequence, provided only that men do not cease to believe. The inference is very plain. If the people are taught to regard faith as the only thing that is essential, and good works are spoken of disparagingly by the side of faith, then the neglect of the moral law will follow as a natural consequence.
The passages relied on to establish the fact of this direct and express immoral teaching are, however, far from being as numerous and plain as is desirable for the purpose intended; in truth, they are significantly few when it is remembered how ample is the field from which they might be gathered, Luther alone having published no less than seven hundred and fifteen different works during his lifetime, “sending them forth at one period,” as Mr. Hare says, “almost like flights of birds.” But few as they are, all that is possible has been made out of them to the detriment of a doctrine humiliating and hateful to the pride and self-righteousness of the unrenewed heart. But let us hear the accusers themselves.
Cardinal Bellarmine says : “Protestants think that man can be saved although he does no good works, nor observes the divine commands. This I prove from the words of Luther; for in his book on Christian Liberty he thus writes: ‘Good works do not make a man good, nor bad ones make him bad.’ Also, in another passage he says: ‘Where there is faith, no sin can hurt.'” Concerning these extracts Davenant says: “These and other things of the same kind, Bellarmine has scraped together from parts of Luther’s writings, to make it be supposed that the necessity of good works is entirely set aside by the Reformer.”
Moehler, theological professor at Munich, in his celebrated work on Symbolism, cites for condemnation the following passage of Luther’s from his ” Babylonish Captivity:” “Now thou seest how rich is the Christian or the baptized man; for though he will, he cannot lose his salvation, however great his sins may be, unless he refuse to believe. No sin can damn him but unbelief alone.”
In a foot note this same author gives another extract from a letter by Luther to Melanchthon: “Sin lustily, but be yet more lusty in faith and rejoice in Christ, who is the conqueror of sin, of death, and of the world. Sin we must, so long as we remain here. It suffices that through the riches of the glory of God, we know the Lamb which taketh away the sins of the world; from him no sin will sever us, though a million times in a day we should commit fornication or murder.” This certainly seems to grant all the license to sin that the most depraved heart could ask for.
Nampon, in his ” Catholic Doctrine,” quotes the same passage, giving parts not found in the preceding extract: “If you preach grace, preach the reality and not the appearance of it; if grace be a reality, bring it a true and substantial sin (to cure) and not a mere semblance of sin. Sin then and sin stoutly, but still more stoutly trust and rejoice in Jesus Christ, who is the conqueror of sin and death and the world.” Then after stating that sin. however often committed, will not separate us from Christ, he concludes his quotation with the following sentence: “Can you believe that a Lamb so precious has not superabundantly paid the ransom of all our crimes?”
Melanchthon is also cited by these two authors as expressing sentiments almost equally as objectionable as those taken from Luther. These extracts are, of course, produced by these writers for the purpose of showing that, as Moehler expressed it, “by the side of faith the greatest sins can be committed.”
Again, Moehler in his chapter on good works, after having asserted that we deny all internal connection between salvation and holiness, illustrates and supports his assertion by the opposition excited against George Major for teaching that good works are necessary to salvation. Though Major’s object was to counteract the neglect of the divine precepts, so prevalent among members of the church, yet he was finally obliged to give up the use of this form of expression.
Melanchthon also at one time approved and employed this same formula, to prevent misapprehension of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but subsequently omitted it from his writings.
At a colloquium held in Worms by appointment of King Ferdinand, in hope of bringing about a union between the Catholics and the Lutherans, this hostility to the necessity of good works for salvation was again manifested, especially on the part of the Saxon deputies. These more rigid Lutherans insisted on it that, before entering into a conference with the Catholics, certain errors, claimed to be held by a considerable portion of the adherents to the Augsburg Confession, should be condemned. One of these errors thus to be rejected is our famous proposition—good works necessary to salvation. To this demand Melanchthon ultimately, and after much hesitation, agreed, though not soon enough to prevent our Weimar theologians from withdrawing from the conference.
Besides it is a well-known fact that the Formula of Concord, one of the acknowledged Confessions of the church, rejects this proposition as inconsistent with the words of the apostle Paul. Now in this determined opposition to the formula before us and in its final total rejection, there does seem to be plain and decided evidence in favor of the charge that our doctrine does “prohibit good works,”
The last argument, and the one mainly relied upon to make good the accusation of favoring immorality, is that the logical and inevitable tendency of the doctrine of justification by faith alone is to produce neglect of the moral law. Owen, in his work on justification, speaking of several things which are generally pleaded against this doctrine by Papists, Socinians, etc., says: “The first and fountain of all others is that the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, renders our personal righteousness needless and overthrows all necessity of a holy life.”
The Christian Observer, an able periodical of England and a staunch and powerful defender of the evangelical faith against the whole Oxford school of divinity, remarks, in the volume for 1836, “that parties who taught justification by faith and something else accused all who opposed it of sapping the foundation of moral virtue.”
Bossuet in his “Variations of Protestantism” says, speaking of Melanchthon: “He saw himself always pressed with this question of the Catholics: ‘If we are agreeable to God independently of all good works, and all fulfilling of the law, even of that which the Holy Ghost works in us, how and whereto are good works necessary?’ Melanchthon perplexed himself in vain to ward off this blow and to elude this dreadful consequence: ‘therefore good works according to you are not necessary.'”
Nampon, already referred to, writes thus: “When men wish to emancipate themselves upon a system from all laws human and divine, they may imagine many such systems.” Then after having mentioned Pantheism and Fourierism as two of these systems, he describes a third according to which “men may acknowledge sin, recognize it in themselves, but proclaim that it,is necessary, unavoidable, * * * and at the same time perfectly compatible with the friendship of God, predestination to life, and with salvation. Of these three systems the last seems to me to be the worst. It is degrading, void of consolation, inconsistent and immoral; nevertheless it is that which was eagerly adopted by the leading doctors of the Reformation, by the Lutherans and still more by the Calvinists.”
Here the audacious assertion is made that the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith is a system devised for the express purpose of setting men free from all laws, human and divine—a system framed designedly to allow men to live according to all the lusts of their evil hearts and yet at the same time enable them to cherish the hope that they are in favor with God and shall inherit everlasting life. Socinus charges Protestant divines with teaching “that God justieth the ungodly, not only those that arc so and whilst they are so, but although they continue so; that they required no inherent righteousness or holiness in any one, nor could do so on their own principles, seeing the imputed righteousness of Christ is sufficient for them, although they live in sin, are not washed nor cleansed, nor give themselves up to the ways of duty and obedience to God whereby he may be pleased, and so bring in libertinism and antinomianism into the Church.” These plainly expressed views of this bold heretic are gathered by Owen from a treatise written by Socinus in opposition to the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s satisfaction.
Even the Quakers, as shown by Moehler in citations from Barclay and other Friends, who have confounded justification and sanctification very much after the manner of the Catholics, making the former to depend on a work wrought in us and corresponding in degree to the progress of that internal work, whilst commending Luther for opposing the mere external works of the Catholic Church, yet censure him for going to the opposite extreme and denying the necessity of good works.
Goodsir, a clergyman of the Established Church of Scotland, declares: “It is impossible to get rid of the fact that there is in this dogma an insoluble puzzle, paradox, or contradiction, and that one of its contradictory propositions is armed in a logical sense with an irrestible antiomian force.” The dogma he is speaking of is that of justification by faith alone.
The same writer says: “Absolutely every reason and motive proving the necessity for entering on a new life and living in obedience to the commandment of the Lord, is flatly contradicted by the explicit statement of the doctrine of justification or salvation set forth authoritatively in the Westminster Confession of Faith.”
Concerning our own symbol he uses the following language: “It came clearly into view in my examination of the Augsburg Confession that a most disastrous collision between justification or salvation and the divine commands enjoining righteousness and holiness, is the direct and inevitable result of making the great gospel benefit a purely external or imputative, as well as a purely gratuitous thing. For, whereas the divine commands, promulgated by the gospel, declare that repentance, regeneration, righteousness and holiness are necessary in order to the reaching and enjoying of eternal life; this is flatly contradicted by the declaration that these graces are neither elements of justification or salvation, for it is external or imputative; nor conditions of justification or salvation, for it is as well gratuitous, as the undoubted ground or title for the attainment and enjoyment of eternal life.” The objection of this writer to the Confessions mentioned, is, in short, the following: from the idea of justification, that of sanctification is absolutely excluded, and then whatever there is left in it is bestowed gratuitously, or, which is the same thing, unconditionally, or at the most upon condition of a mere instrumental faith from which, in like manner, every moral quality has been carefully eliminated. And yet the effect of such a justification thus bestowed is nothing less than forgiveness of sin and a title to everlasting life, and all accomplished without the need of any sanctifying element in the justification bestowed, or any moral virtue in the faith through which alone it is received. Verily, this does look as though at last we had found a way of salvation without being obliged to give up sin—a way of getting into the”kingdom of heaven without any change in our moral character.
Bishop Jebb and Alexander Knox, a layman of the Anglican Church, regard justification by faith as a mere notion or cold abstraction, and therefore a nonentity. They then infer that as a notion it can have no effect upon the heart, no moral influence on the mind and conduct. To remedy this defect they propose to adopt the Romish expedient of confounding justification with sanctification. Such is substantially the account of the Christian Observer of (the views of) these two friends in their correspondence with each other. This is, in general, also the view of the Tractarians, as Bishop Mcllvain has demonstrated in his excellent work on Righteousness by Faith, in which he proves that the Oxford divinity was very largely the development of rudimental principles set forth in Knox’s “Remains.”
Prof Ritschl, of the University of Gottingen, in his able work on justification and reconciliation, regards the attempt of Protestant writers to show that the faith which justifies involves also the ability and the inclination to well doing, as a failure, thus leaving a missing link between justification and obedience. Of Zwingli’s definition that saving faith is at the same time the disposition to perform good works, he says: “The combination is merely asserted, but not vindicated.” Prof. Ritschl, it must be remembered, is not a Catholic theologian.
Dr. Godet, Professor ofTheology in Neuchatel, and the author of many most thoughtful and helpful books, also a Protestant, expresses himself as follows on the subject under consideration: “Protestantism, we must confess, has always shown itself weak and embarrassed when called upon to point out precisely the organic connection between these two elements of salvation—forgiveness and holiness.
Theologians of this way of thinking have generally looked for this connection in the feeling of gratitude, or else have contented themselves with simply adding on the exposition of the law to that of grace, without seeking to discover the inner relation which connects the latter with faith and the former with obedience.” The juxtaposition he judges insufficient, and the feeling of gratitude does not constitute a proper foundation for the duty of Christian sanctification.
Beard, in the Hibbard Lectures for 1883, on the “Reformation in its relation to Modern Thought and Knowledge,” declares that antinomianism follows logically from a hard and external interpretation of justification by faith.
Swedenborg, himself the son of a Lutheran bishop of Sweden, gives it as his decided conviction that the doctrine of justification by faith is subversive of morality and extremely pernicious to all practical Christianity, and, accordingly, in his “True Christian Religion” he opposes it with all his power, in season and out of season. He assures us, on the authority of an angel, that those who embrace the doctrine here are doomed to take up their abode hereafter in a desert in which there is no grass, whilst those who rely on both faith and charity are permitted to dwell with the angels. And he further informs us that as the result of his own persistent efforts with him, Luther himself has become convinced that his favorite doctrine had been taken, not from the word of God, but from his own intelligence, that he frequently laughs at his former dogmas as diametrically opposed to the Bible, and, admitting that he seized upon the idea of faith to break away from the Catholics, wonders however how one crazy man could make so many others crazy, so that they could not see that the Scriptures were against his doctrine.
Of course, if this testimony is to be admitted against us, if it must be conceded that our heroic leader, who while on earth feared neither devils nor flames, has struck the flag, and if residence in a monotonous, grassless plain is the just award of heaven to such as hold this doctrine,-then it is all up with justification by faith alone. But when we remember that this same witness also testified that the Christian Church had come to an end on the 19th of June, 1770, and that information to that effect had been sent out by Christ himself to the whole spiritual world, and that a new church should be raised up among the Gentiles, there is some hope that his testimony against Lutherans may be ruled out.
A stronger argument, however, against the moral effects of our doctrine than that brought from the regions visited by this wonderful dreamer, is involved in the well established fact that many of the staunchest and most devoted friends of justification felt and acted on the conviction that there ought to be some modification in the form of its expression. Thus, for example, Osiander proposed to include sanctification as an element in justification. Melanchthon, Major Menius and others, wished to guard the doctrine as ordinarily stated, by the declaration that good works, whilst not necessary to justification, were necessary to salvation. Others, while adhering to the approved mode of expression, sought to prevent antinomian consequences by extending the meaning of faith so as to make it really equivalent to faith and works. Such was the course advocated by Lauterwald. of Upper Austria, and Bishop Bull, of England. The same desire for a qualified statement of this important doctrine manifested itself among English Protestants. J. T. Goodsir, of the National Church of Scotland formerly, makes the declaration that for a period of a hundred and twenty-five years, to the adoption of the Westminster Confession of Faith in 1646, “controversies were caused in the Protestant world by the collision between an external and gratuitous justification and the moral requirements of revealed religion, and that it was urged in these controversies that righteousness and holiness were not merely necessary, but necessary either as elements or conditions of justification, and consequently necessary to the enjoyment of eternal life.”
But even after the settlement of the controversy in favor of an unconditional justification by the adoption of the Westminster Confession, and especially its eleventh chapter, the desire for a change or qualification continued to manifest itself, and in about seventy five years afterward was influential enough in the Assemblies of the Church of Scotland of 1720 and 1722, to pass an act declaring “good works to be necessary to everlasting salvation;” thus materially modifying the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as well as diminishing its influence indefinitely. Now, as already remarked, this persistent agitation in favor of some more guarded statement seems plainly to denote that in the judgment of many of its most faithful friends the doctrine of justification in its present form was easily susceptible of such interpretation as to lend encouragement to evil doers to continue in their sinful course.
Having now set forth the nature of the charge brought against us, with sufficient minuteness and fullness to enable us to understand definitely what the accusation involves and also to appreciate the force thereof, let us next proceed to inquire what defence may be set up against the indictment preferred.
Our Article unhesitatingly declares the charge to be false, and promptly and energetically goes on to justify itself for pleading not guilty. The writings of the accused are summoned to prove that useful instruction has been imparted in regard to the duties of men in the various relations of life; and that this instruction has even had the happy effect of bringing about a decided improvement in the preaching of the adversaries, causing them to say less about the childish and unprofitable things before discussed, and more about faith. Next there follows a re-statement of the doctrine assailed, and a confirmation of the same from the Scriptures and the Fathers.
Then there is given a full definition of the faith to which justification is ascribed. This is felt to be a vital point in the defence. For if faith be merely a belief that what is revealed in the Scriptures is true, then it would indeed become a most difficult thing to maintain that the faith which justifies does also sanctify. But faith has an element beyond belief, viz., “trust which comforts and lifts up disquieted minds.”
After this comes an explanation as to the manner in which faith produces good works. By faith the Holy Spirit is received; by the Holy Spirit the heart is renewed and new affections are begotten, the fruit of all which is the very thing we are accused of prohibiting —viz., good works.
The line of defence thus adopted by our Confessors is in every respect admirable, having unquestionably been based upon and suggested by an experimental knowledge of the workings of faith as observed in their own hearts and lives. We shall use the long-tried weapons laid up in this arsenal of truth in attempting to resist the attack upon the faith delivered to us by these faithful soldiers of the cross.
The portion of our Article which consists in a re-statement and confirmation of the doctrine of justification need not be dwelt upon in this discourse, it being sufficient to refer the reader to the able and satisfactory discussion thereof in the Holman Lecture on the Fourth Article of the Augsburg Confession, published in the October number of the Evangelical Quarterly Review for 1869. The design and advantage of its introduction into this Article must not, however, by any means be passed by without due consideration; for it is inserted here as part of the answer to the charge stated at the beginning, and involves a most important argument in our favor. They mean to say, we can show that our doctrine concerning faith is taught in the Scriptures, and being a Scripture truth it cannot possibly give encouragement to evil doing nor prove a hindrance to works of righteousness and holiness. Having established it as a doctrine from God, we can say it is holy, just and good; and if in any case it is claimed that that which is good was made death to any one, we insist upon it that it was not the doctrine concerning faith that deceived and slew him, but his own sins wrought death in him by that which itself is good. Whatever is done, therefore, to show that this doctrine as held and expounded by our Church is derived from the Scriptures, is so much done to vindicate it and us from the charge of forbidding good works. For if the fact that justification hinders good works is proof that justification is not true, then also the fact that the doctrine is true becomes proof that it is not and cannot be detrimental to the cause of morality. The other arguments contained in our Article will all be made use of at the proper time, in our answer to the charge to which our Confessors refused to plead guilty.
Believing that all the evidence furnished by our adversaries to substantiate the charge they have made, is contained in the three propositions mentioned near the beginning of this lecture, we shall proceed to consider these and in the order in which they were before enumerated:
I. The first of these is an argument from the character of the professors of any particular doctrine to the character of the doctrine itself, or from the character of the effect to that of the cause. The doctrine of justification by faith alone, it is maintained, must be immoral and false, because the manners and lives of those who have embraced it are corrupt and ungodly.
In replying to this, let us first hear the answer Bishop Davenant gives to this objection as made by Cardinal Bellarmine: “What frivolous arguing! Many Lutherans live wickedly, therefore Luther denied the necessity of good works. As if many Papists, many cardinals, yea Roman Pontiffs, did not live very wickedly, although the necessity of good works is by no means denied in the Roman Church. * * * And lastly, what outstrips all the folly is that a Romanist should infer error of doctrine from corrupt manners; a process of reasoning by which Rome herself, the chief seat of all wickedness (as all the world can testify) must be concluded to be herself the very sink of all errors.” It is certainly not going beyond the truth to say with Owen that “those who at present oppose this doctrine do not in holiness or righteousness, in the exercise of faith, love, zeal, self denial and all other Christian graces, surpass those who adhere to it;” or with Bishop O’Brien that “this doctrine has no reason to fear the result of a comparison of what those who hold it have been enabled to do and to suffer in the cause of Christ, with any sacrifices or any labors which have been the fruits of any other view of the gospel.”
And that a very considerable portion of Catholics are far from being worthy to have their names appear in the calendar of saints, is evident from admissions by Catholic writers themselves. Dr. Milner, for example, an able controversialist of the Church of Rome, writes as follows in his “End of Controversy:” “I, as well as Baronius, Bellarmine, and other Catholic writers, have unequivocally admitted that some few of our pontiffs have disgraced themselves by their crimes and given just cause of scandal to Christendom. I acknowledge with the same unreservedness that the lives of very many Catholics in this and in other parts of the Church are a disgrace to that Holy Catholic Church which they profess to believe in—unhappy members of the true religion by whom the name of God is blasphemed among the nations.”
Now from this frank acknowledgment it appears that the lives of those who adhere to the supposed true faith are, to say the least, no better than those of the members of the Protestant Church. If, therefore, the Lutheran view of justification is false and immoral because the lives of many of its adherents are sinful, then it follows likewise that the Catholic view is false and immoral, for the lives of its adherents are corrupt likewise. Accordingly, there is neither justification by faith without works, nor justification by faith with works. This of course is an absurdity, and so is the argument that leads to it.
But besides its being absurd, necessitating a conclusion known to be false, the argument is also impracticable and therefore without value. In the case of the persons whose immoral lives are to prove the immoral effects of justification, it must certainly be shown that they had indeed actually embraced the doctrine taught by Luther; not merely that they had in swarms renounced the Catholic faith, and professed the Lutheran, but that they had, from the heart and with a correct understanding, adopted the same. The establishment of this single fact in the case before us is by no means a simple matter when the peculiar circumstances of the period referred to are taken into consideration; and yet the demand that the fact be established is just as reasonable as the demand that before the death of any individual be charged to the mal-practice of a certain physician, it should be shown that the deceased had actually been under his treatment and had made use of his prescriptions.
Then again, after having shown the co-existence of belief in Luther’s theory of salvation and general corruption of manners in the same subjects, it ought to be made to appear that the corruption was really produced by their belief, and not by any one of the many other causes that give rise to it. And when it is remembered that the neglect of good works complained of is found where no theory whatever as to the way of salvation has been adopted, yea, even where the Catholic view itself is held, it can readily be seen that it is a matter of extreme difficulty by any mere process of reasoning to show to a certainty that the persons referred to by Bellarmine would have lived better lives had they not come under the influence of Luther’s doctrine concerning justification. On account of the difficulties involved in this method of argument by deduction, it becomes simply impracticable and therefore useless. If the connection between belief in justification as taught by the Lutheran Church and disregard for the requirements of the moral law can be established at all, it must be done in some other way than the one now under consideration. The only effectual method, in fact, of arguing from the conduct of the adherents to a certain faith against the faith itself, is by the process of induction. Cases must be adduced of persons or communities that before adopting said faith were living in obedience to the will of God but afterwards manifested a total disregard of the same.
Now this very thing is attempted to be done in the work by Dr. Dollinger on the “Reformation as to its Interior Development and Effects,” as may be seen in the extracts taken from it by the Dublin Review for Sept., 1848, and inserted in Spalding’s History of the Reformation. By means of exclusively Protestant testimony, it is claimed that the people ofGermany in general, who, under Catholic influence, had been virtuous and pious, became licentious and ungodly to an unusual degree upon adopting the Protestant faith. Luther declares that ” nowadays men are more corrupt, covetous, hard-hearted, licentious and wicked than under the papacy. * * * Our evangelicals are sevenfold more wicked than before.” Melanchthon says, that never in the days of our fathers had there existed such gluttony as now. Althamer writes: “Nobody cares to instruct his child, his servant, his maid, or any of his dependents, in the word ofGod or his fear. And thus our young generation is the worst that ever existed.” It is further claimed that the testimonies gathered from Protestant documents describe the social condition, not only of a portion of Germany under the Reformation, but of the country in general, specially naming the following: Saxony, Hesse, Nassau, Brandenburg, Strasburg, Nurenburg, Stralsund, Thorn, Mecklenburg, Westphalia, Pomerania, Friesland, Denmark and Sweden.
It is further asserted that “districts in which crimes were unknown were scarcely initiated in the principles of the Reformation till they became corrupted to the heart’s core.” Ditmarsen in Holstein is cited as a remarkable instance.
The universities are declared to have become more corrupt after the Reformation than before, being pronounced by Protestants themselves “asylums of dishonesty and vice,” and “dens of immorality, to which parents feared to send their children.” And from Wolfgang Menzel, Spalding shows that the imperial court of Vienna afforded, by its dignity and morality, a bright contrast to the majority of Protestant courts. Now here we are furnished with a fearful array of evidence, gathered exclusively from Protestant sources, which seems abundantly sufficient to prove the immoral effects of the Reformation of the 16th century. Admitting, as I suppose we must, that the state of things in Germany is correctly represented in this testimony, do the facts furnished necessitate the conclusion our opponents draw therefrom in regard to the tendency of the Protestant faith? We maintain they do not, and for the following reasons:
The facts relied on to verify their theory are taken from too narrow a strip of the entire field of investigation to justify a conclusion as to the character of the whole. True, this at first glance does not seem to be the case, inasmuch as the testimony is taken from common life, from life in the universities and at the courts of the nobles and of the reigning princes; not from one section of Germany merely, but from no less than fourteen different countries which are specifically enumerated; not from one institution of learning only, but from all; not from one Protestant court, but from the majority of them. This certainly does look as though the experiments were sufficiently varied and general to justify the conclusion that what was true in so many cases, must be true in all, or at all events in a majority of cases, and reveal the existence of a law to the effect that the adoption of the doctrine of justification by faith is followed by the neglect of God’s commandments.
Nevertheless, on closer examination it will be found that, in spite of the long list of particulars, the experiment is really but one made of one people, one country, one period, and one general condition of things. The people examined, whether taken from the court, the university, the field or the shop, from German or Scandinavian lands, all belong to one common family—the Gothic.
The time in which the experiment is made is the remarkable period of transition from the bondage of the papacy to the freedom of the gospel. This one circumstance, that the numerous facts adduced are supplied by one people, subject to one common influence, goes very far toward overthrowing the whole argument based upon the evidence so laboriously collected by Dr. Dollinger in his History of the Reformation.
Then again the testimony of the facts is not uniformly in favor of the theory to be proved, even in the one period and country from which they were obtained, for it is a truth beyond question that among those who professed the new faith there were found many most godly men and women whose holy and devoted lives reflected great credit on the religion they had embraced. This is a second circumstance calculated to vitiate the argument we are examining.
And when the experiment is made, as it must be to have any value, in other nations and in other periods, it will be found that there are many instances in which countries adopting the Protestant faith were not only improved thereby, but attained to a moral and religious condition not easily paralleled in the best Roman Catholic country in the world. This, with the other considerations presented, is enough completely to overthrow the argument by induction from experiments made “in the circle of the Lutheran Confessions,” and to prove beyond a doubt that whatever the facts may signify, they do not serve to establish it as a general truth, that the acceptance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone results in neglect of the law of God. They really, formidable as they appear from their number and character, prove nothing more than that the introduction of the Reformation into the various countries of Germany was accompanied by an apparent deterioration of the public morals, and this result can be most satisfactorily accounted for by the peculiar circumstances under which the Reformation was brought about, without any admissions derogatory to the moral tendency of the glorious doctrine which our church has the honor to have given back again to the world.
The circumstances we refer to as accounting for the facts adduced by Dr. Dollinger are the following:
The long-forgotten truth which Luther was raised up to set forth and defend is one of the things of the Spirit of God which the natural man cannot receive, because spiritual discernment is required’, a doctrine to the reception of which a genuine inner religious experience is essential.
Besides, it had to be set forth in terms peculiarly liable to be misunderstood.
Mr. Beard, in the Hibbert Lectures for 1883, well says: “All the words to which faith answers have in different proportions an intellectual and a moral side. On one side they rise into ‘trust,’ and imply a personal affection; on the the other they sink into ‘belief,’ and may mean no more than an intellectual assent. But unhappily ‘glaube’ alone covers the whole ground. It is faith and belief too.”
On this account justification by faith may very readily be taken to mean no more than justification by belief, which, as any one can perceive, is a very different thing from what Luther maintained.
Again, many of the teachers of this doctrine were not competent to exhibit it with the clearness and correctness necessary to a proper apprehension of it on the part of the hearers. “Most of the preachers,” writes Bucer, “imagine that if they inveigh stoutly against the anti-Christians (the Papists) and chatter away on a few unimportant fruitless questions, and then assail their brethren also, they have discharged their duty admirably.” Seckendorf assures us that some preached of nothing but forgiveness and faith, neglecting the doctrine concerning sanctification and good works, and thus weakened the desire of holiness. Ledderhose, in his life of Melanchthon, informs us that Melanchthon was commissioned to prepare a manual of instructions for the ministers in the Electorate of Saxony. The very fact of such a work being ordered, as well as the instructions given in the same, show clearly that the teachers themselves needed to be taught. This is a second circumstance that must be considered in accounting for the exceptional moral effects attending the first introduction of the Reformation.
And lastly, this highly spiritual doctrine, to a great extent entrusted as a matter of necessity to men poorly fitted to teach it, was to be lodged in the understandings and brought to bear upon the lives of a people still less prepared to receive it. Luther complained of the condition of things in Saxony:” Help, dear Lord, what frequent distress have I seen, because the common people, particularly in villages, know nothing at all of Christian doctrine, and it is but too true that many ministers are unskillful and unfit to teach. And yet all are called Christians, are baptized, and enjoy the holy sacraments, and do not even know the Lord’s Prayer, or the Creed, or the Ten Commandments, and live on like the brutes.”
Melanchthon often went out and wept, as he writes himself: “What can be offered in justification, that these poor people have hitherto been left in such great ignorance and stupidity? My heart bleeds when I regard this misery. Often when we have completed the visitation of a place I go to one side and pour forth my distress in tears. And who would not mourn to see the faculties of man so utterly neglected, and that his soul, which is able to learn and grasp so much, does not even know anything of its Creator and Lord.” Seckendorf, as quoted by Hare, declares ” that through the sloth or unfaithfulness of their priests before Luther began to preach, the great body of the common people were kept in ignorance of religion and merely urged to a servile observance of ceremonies.” That most of them were so rude “as not even to recognize enormous sins to be such, nor have any thought of avoiding them, being accustomed to rely upon the outward expiations hitherto practiced, by means of confession and ecclesiastical satisfactions.”
Now take all together: a doctrine requiring a true knowledge of self and of the Saviour of mankind, is to be taught by men in many cases ill-fitted for the work, to a people such as described by the testimony above given, and what conception is it likely that they would form in the main of the grand truth whereby the world was to be made glad? Uninformed and undisciplined in mind, ignorant of the most essential parts of God’s word, morally so abased as almost to have lost the very power of discriminating between right and wrong in the clearest instances, accustomed to a method of forgiveness after sinning which instead of regarding amendment of life as at all essential made light of it and attached all importance to mere outward observances, such as confessions, repeating Pater Nosters, fastings, bodily mortifications and other mere external ceremonies, is it to be wondered at that people in such a case would by a free justification understand their former doctrine of penance to be meant with the penance left out; or in other words, that they would conceive Luther’s doctrine to denote that they could sin as before and be spared the trouble besides of making confession to a priest and submitting to the penalties imposed by him? The practical effect of such a view by such a people would in all likelihood be a state of things very much like that depicted by Dr. Bollinger’s plain-spoken and faithful witnesses. Not to the legitimate effect of the soul-comforting doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, but to the degraded intellectual and moral condition of the people to whom it was proclaimed, must the results complained of be attributed— a condition of things that Luther and the Reformation inherited, but did not create.
We have thus far proceeded on the supposition that the fact asserted by our opponents in respect to the superior moral condition of the German people before the Reformation was correct—a supposition absolutely essential to their argument—and yet have been able, as we think, to make it appear that, granting what they assert, their testimony does not prove our doctrine guilty of prohibiting good works. But we honestly believe that too much was admitted: that notwithstanding appearances, the people in reality were just as corrupt before the Reformation as after it. Like an unruly son held in check by the strong hand of a determined father, the masses were restrained in a measure from overt acts of sin by penances, purgatory, and hell; but as soon as the fear of these things was taken away they acted out the evil nature in them without let or hindrance, just as the morally uncultured boy referred to gives free reins to his untamed passions the moment he leaves the parental home for college. In both cases there seems to be a change for the worse, but the change is only apparent; they were not saints before nor afterwards.
In the case of Saxony the testimony we have produced before shows that its moral condition was as low as it could well be conceived to be. In respect to Ditmarsen, a district in Holstein, it is claimed that it was remarkably free from certain crimes before the Catholic religion was abolished in 1532, but that in less than ten years after, “public crimes prevailed so universally that neither preaching, teaching, instruction, menaces, nor the terror of God’s wrath and his righteous judgment, was of any avail.” Now will any man in his senses believe that if these people had been as harmless and pious as represented they would so soon thereafter have become so fearfully corrupt? Verily, it requires a total renunciation of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints to accept a claim like this. And what we have good reason to believe as to Saxony and the district in Holstein specially singled out, is, no doubt, true also in regard to the other countries of Germany and Scandinavia—they were fully as bad in reality before their conversion to Protestantism as afterwards; and we feel sure that if Catholic writers had been as frank as ours were in describing the moral condition of their people, it would not have required the indefatigable application of a Dollinger to have collected a mass of evidence from their own writings equal in all respects to that contained in the famous work on the Inner Development of the Reformation. The true verdict to be given in the case under consideration we believe to be that drawn up by Beard in the Hibbert Lectures, in a note at the end of his fourth chapter, where, in commenting on Dr. Dollinger’s work, he speaks as follows: “Again in a certain way the Reformation inherited the sins of the preceding age. It arose in part out of the dissolution of morals in which mediaeval Christianity had ended, and with which it had more or less successfully to cope. May not the worst that can truly be said of it be, that it had to deal with a corrupt generation, and left it little better than it found it? The monasteries were full of monks and nuns without vocation, who embraced Protestantism for the sake of the liberty which it offered to them, and were afterwards its disgrace.” Or, in other words, many of the converts to the new doctrine who had been left in a fearfully corrupt moral condition by the religion under which they had been reared, are afterwards made to furnish evidence by their unimproved morals against the faith they have professed, but whose transforming power they have not experienced.
II. Having now disposed of the objection to our faith based upon the character of its adherents, let us see what force there is in their second charge, which accuses Protestants of favoring immorality by their direct and express teachings.
So far is this from being the fact that the very opposite is the case. Our confessors in the Article under consideration refer to their writings on the Ten Commandments as proof of the useful instruction imparted by them in respect to the various Christian relations, duties and works. In the Article itself they say with the utmost plainness that good works should and must be done.
A separate Article—the sixth—is introduced into the Augsburg Confession, setting forth the necessity of good works as the fruits of faith. The works of Luther and Melanchthon abound in passages enjoining obedience to the precepts of God’s word.
“Both subjects,” says Luther, “even faith and works, ought to be diligently taught and urged. For if works alone are taught, as is the case in the papacy, faith is lost sight of; if faith alone is taught, immediately carnal men imagine that good works are not necessary.” Archdeacon Hare regards Luther’s concluding remarks on the Ten Commandments in the Larger Catechism as in themselves a sufficient answer to the charges of antinomianism made in Hallam’s Literature of Europe. The passage quoted by Mr. Hare sets forth the superior excellence of the Commandments with great force and beauty. Ranke’s admirable words also deserve a place in this connection: “It is in this that Luther seeks his chief glory, in applying the principles of the gospel to common life. More especially did he deem himself bound to instruct the various classes of society—the magistrates and those under authority, fathers and other members of families—concerning their duties from a religious point of view. He displays an incomparable talent for popular teaching. He directs the parsons how they are to preach, so as to edify the common people; the school-masters, how they are to instruct the young in the several stages, to combine secular knowledge with religion, to avoid all exaggeration; the masters of families, how they are to train their households in the fear of God. He draws up a series of texts to guide all in right living, the clergy and the laity, men and women, parents and children, servants and maids, young and old. He gives them a form for blessing and grace at table, for morning and evening prayer. He is the patriarch of the severe and devout domestic discipline and manners of the families in Northern Germany.”
Equally decided as that of Luther is the testimony borne by Melanchthon, by Chemnitz, and many others, in behalf of the importance and obligation of obedience to the moral law. Osiander himself a Lutheran theologian, entertained the idea that according to Melanchthon and others God justified the believers without making any change in their moral condition. This charge was repudiated by his opponents, who denied that by justification they intended such a judgment passed by God upon the sinner as leaves him inwardly unchanged. They affirmed, on the other hand, that with the declaration that the believer is righteous, is immediately connected the working of the Holy Spirit toward illumination, renovation and new obedience. They also pointed out to Osiander that they maintained, as a result of God’s sentence of justification, a real union of Christ and the Holy Spirit with the believer. Such is the account Prof. Ritschl gives of the difference between Osiander and Melanchthon on the subject of justification.
In addition to this testimony of leading individuals, we have the evidence of our confessional writings as to what was taught in our churches on the subject of good works. The Augsburg Confession in Article Sixth says: ” Also they teach that this faith should bring forth good fruits, and that men ought to do the good works com-manded of God, because it is God’s will.” “We should and must do good works,” says the Apology, “because God requires them: they are the fruits of faith.” The Formula of Concord declares: “We believe, teach and confess that all men, but especially those who are regenerated and renewed by the Holy Ghost, are under obligation to do good works * * * * Faith is first enkindled in us by the Holy Ghost in conversion, through the hearing of the gospel. This faith apprehends the grace of God in Christ, through which the individual is justified. Afterward he is also renewed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost. And after such renewal and sanctification the fruits or good works follow. This is not to be understood as if justification and renewal are separated from each other, so that true faith can sometimes exist in connection with an evil design for a season; but here the order alone is exhibited according to which the one precedes or succeeds the other.” Moehler, the Catholic author of “Symbolism,” admits that there is another side to the Lutheran principle of faith, whereby it becomes the fruitful mother of love and good works. Bossuet, another Catholic divine, also acknowledges: “Luther did not exclude from justification a sincere repentance, namely, the horror of sin and the will to do good, and, in short, the conversion of the heart, and judged it as absurd as we do to be justified without contrition or repentance.”
Now from the foregoing extracts it is evident that the general tone and spirit of Protestant writers is decidedly favorable to morality and holiness; and knowing their general intention to be to commend and encourage the cause of righteousness, we can feel sure that if any passages are found in any of their writings of an opposite character, they must be capable of an interpretation consistent both with true morality and sound doctrine; or if there is a real departure from the truth, it must be regarded not as a wilful sin on their part, but one of infirmity, such as any man, however advanced in the divine life, is liable to commit. In regard to the passages commonly cited to show that Luther and Melanchthon maintained sentiments immoral in themselves, and therefore necessarily promotive of vice, it will be found on due examination that there is nothing in them to warrant the unfavorable conclusion often drawn therefrom.
Bellarmine, as we have already seen in the former part of this lecture, criticises the following sentence from Luther’s Treatise on Christian Liberty: ” Good works do not make a man good, nor bad ones make him bad.” That this expression, properly understood, contains no error, but a most important truth, can be seen at a glance by any unprejudiced mind. The correctness of this judgment will appear quite readily when the whole passage of which it forms a part, is examined. It is found in Luther’s Primary Works, recently issued by the Lutheran Publication Society, on page 121, and reads as follows: “A bishop when he consecrates a church, confirms children, or performs any other duty of his office, is not consecrated as bishop by these works; nay, unless he had been previously consecrated as bishop, not one of these works would have any validity; they would be foolish, childish and ridiculous. Thus a Christian, being consecrated by his faith, does good works; but he is not by these works made a more sacred person, or more a Christian. That is the effect of faith alone; nay, unless he were previously a believer and a Christian, none of his works would have any value at all; they would really be impious and damnable sins. True, then, are these two sayings; good works do not make a man good, but a good man does good works. Bad works do not make a man bad, but a bad man does bad works. Thus it is always necessary that the substance or person should be good before any good works can be done, and that good works should follow and proceed from a good person. As Christ says, a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. * * * As then trees must exist before their fruit, and as the fruit does not make the tree either good or bad, but on the contrary a tree of either kind produces fruit of the same kind; so must first the person of the man be good or bad before he can do either a good or bad work; and his works do not make him bad or good, but he himself makes his works either bad or good. We may see the same in all handicrafts. A bad or good house does not make a bad or good builder, but a good or bad builder makes a good or bad house. And in general, no work makes the workman such as it is itself; but the workman makes the work such as he is himself. Such is the case, too, with the works of men. Such as the man himself is, whether in faith or in unbelief, such is his work, good if it be done in faith, bad if in unbelief.” Now in all this there certainly is nothing worthy of condemnation, for it is but an exhibition of the truth taught by Christ himself in Matthew vii. 17, 18, that if any man would do the works commanded of God, his first concern must be to be renewed in the spirit of his mind by the grace of Christ through the operation of the Holy Ghost. Yea, instead of being held up to the scorn of the world for uttering ungodly sentiments. Luther deserves no little praise for being able to enter so fully into the profound meaning of our Lord’s deep saying, and setting it forth so clearly and plainly. There is in it a world of wisdom and practical instruction for all who are concerned either to make themselves or others better. The world over, the first and instinctive impulse is to begin at the wrong end in the improvement of character—by putting off the bad fruit and trying to force the production of good fruit. This holds good of ministers, teachers, parents, and men in general; the great majority of laborers in the Master’s vineyard are wasting time and effort in trying to do two impossible things—making corrupt trees bring forth good fruit and turning bad trees into good ones by first making them bear good fruit. Wi.se to win souls is the man who sees as Luther did, that good works do not make a man good, nor bad ones make him bad, and who consequently feels the absolute necessity of first committing every tree into the hands of the Lord of the vineyard to be transformed by the power of his might, regarding it as his great and chief business not to counsel men to attempt the impossible task of making themselves better by their own works, but to point them and urge them to the Lamb that taketh away the sin of the world.
Another saying of Luther’s condemned by Bellarmine is this: “Where there is faith no sin can hurt.” This same passage is quoted more fully for censure by Prof Moehler, and at still greater length by Nampon. Ward, an English writer, also harps on this same string. The passage is taken from Luther’s treatise on the Babylonish Captivity, and may be seen in the work already referred to, Wace’s Luther’s Primary Works, on page 185. The subject of which Luther is speaking is baptism, and his object is to persuade men when they have sinned to rely for forgiveness upon the promise of God made to them in their baptism, instead of depending upon any satisfactions they can perform themselves. H is own words will best show his design as well as his meaning. “The first thing we have to notice in baptism is the divine promise which says, he who believes and is baptized shall be saved. This promise is to be infinitely preferred to the whole display of works, vows, religious orders, and whatsoever has been introduced by the invention of man. On this promise depends our whole salvation, and we must take heed to exercise faith in it, not doubting at all that we are saved, since we have been baptized. Unless this faith exists and is applied, baptism profits us nothing; nay, it is hurtful to us, not only at the time when it is received, but in the whole course of our after life. For unbelief of this kind charges the divine promise with falsehood, and to do this is the greatest of all sins.” This promise, he goes on to say, ought to be studiously inculcated by preaching, because having been once conferred upon us its truth continues to the hour of death; the penitent’s heart will be comforted and encouraged to hope for mercy if he fixes his eyes upon that divine promise once made to him, which could not lie, and which still continues entire, unchanged and unchangeable by any sins of his. And then, after illustrating his point by the case of the children of Israel, who when they returned to God in repentance first of all called to mind their deliverance from Egypt, he utters the sentiment censured by our opponents: “We see then how rich a Christian or baptized man is, since, even if he would, he cannot lose his salvation by any sins however great, unless he refuses to believe, for no sins whatever can condemn him, but unbelief alone. All other sins, if faith in the divine promise made to the baptized man stands firm or is restored, are swallowed up in a moment through that same faith, yea, through the truth of of God, because he cannot deny himself if thou confess him and believingly cleave to his promise. Whereas contrition, confession and satisfaction for sins, and every effort that can be devised by men, will desert thee at thy need and make thee more miserable than ever, if thou forgettest this divine truth and puffest thyself up with such things as these. For whatever work is wrought apart from faith in the truth of God is vanity and vexation of spirit.” The case that Luther has under consideration is that of a believer or baptized person who has fallen into grievous sin since his baptism. How shall such an one obtain pardon and get back again the lost grace and the lost right to heaven? By the sacrament of penance, says the Church. The virtue of your baptism has come to an end by the sin you have committed; the ship of baptism is wrecked. Henceforth your only hope is in the plank of penance; which the Church throws out to keep you from perishing. Or, in other words, it has set up a tribunal on earth to dispose of the cases of persons sinning after baptism. The priest, as the appointed vicar of Christ, has full authority to try such cases, pronounce judgment, and determine the penalty. Before this tribunal of the Church every man who has sinned after baptism must appear, exercise contrition, confess his sins, and perform the satisfaction imposed on him by his confessor. Otherwise there is no salvation. Now what Luther teaches in the passage objected to is diametrically opposed to all this, and entirely subversive of this priestly court. When the Church says to the penitent seeking pardon. Do penance, Luther bids him exercise faith in the divine promise given him in his baptism. When the Church answers that the virtue of baptism has ceased. Luther declares it continues till the hour of death. When the Church further argues that one mortal sin is sufficient to annul the grace and salvation secured in baptism, Luther then insists on it that “a baptized person cannot, even if he would, lose his salvation by any sins however great, unless he refuses to believe, for no sins whatever can condemn him, but unbelief alone. All other sins, if faith in the divine promise stands firm or is restored, are swallowed up in a moment through that same faith ; yea through the truth of God, because he cannot deny himself, if thou confess him and believingly cleave to his promise.” In short, Luther here teaches that sins after baptism are remitted in the same manner as those committed before — through faith in the promise of God in Christ ; that the old ship has not been dashed to pieces as was supposed, but still sails safely on its course, and need not be exchanged for one of the fragments into which it has been broken. Thus summarily does Luther turn this whole sacerdotal court out of doors b’ his doctrine concerning baptism, and it is not to be wondered at that the view set forth and advocated by him should fail to find favor in the eyes of those whose jurisdiction is thus overthrown.
The third passage of Luther’s that has often been employed to prove him guilty of favoring immorality by direct teaching, is that in which he seems to counsel and urge the commission of sin on the ground that however often and however greatly we may sin we yet shall not be separated thereby from the love of Christ; yea, even though a thousand fornications and murders were committed in a single day. This certainly seems to deserve the severe condemnation which it has so often received; yet as in the case of the other passages, it admits of very satisfactory explanation. The expression is taken from a letter written by Luther to Melanchthon, a circumstance which at once puts the whole matter into a more favorable light. According to Hare, who bases his views upon Bauer’s reply to Moehler, Luther in the letter referred to discusses the question whether the reception of the communion in one kind only is sinful. He expresses his gratification that at Wittenberg it is celebrated in both kinds, as instituted by Christ. Then he goes on to speak of fearful calamities which appear to him to be hanging over Germany. Immediately after this occurs the passage that has given so much offence, in which Melanchthon is apparently urged to commit the most abominable crimes and with the utmost possible frequency, inasmuch as through the riches of God’s grace they will all be forgiven. When it is borne in mind that, just before, Luther had expressed his apprehensions in regard to calamities that threatened his native land, we cannot suppose that, “unless some evil spirit had actually taken possession of him, he could just then have cried out to Melanchthon, Come, brother, let us sin, let us wallow in sin, so that our enemies may indeed have good reason to exult and triumph over us, and that all lovers of godliness may be offended.” The following paraphrase by Mr. Hare, we believe, sets forth the true meaning of this notorious passage, and we will therefore give it in his own words: “When we look back to the previous argument about the eucharist, it seems evident that Melanchthon must have been insisting on the sinfulness of receiving in one kind. This, Luther speaks of as a fictum peccatum, and says: You who are a preacher of grace, remember that the grace you are to preach of is not a make-believe but a mighty reality, and that it is not bestowed on us for the forgiveness of artificial peccadilloes, but of those awful, cleaving sins of which every man with an awakened conscience must acknowledge himself guilty. God sent his Son into the world to save real sinners—not fictitious sinners. Therefore be a sinner, and sin boldly. Acknowledge that thou art a sinner, but be of a good heart notwithstanding. Do not torment thyself about peccadilloes; let not the consciousness of thy sins drive thee to despair; believe in Christ and rejoice in him who is the conqueror of sin, of death and of the world; and let this faith prevail over the consciousness of thy sins. We needs must sin as long as we are in our present state. This life is not the habitation of righteousness, but we look, St, Peter tells us, for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. It is enough that through the riches of the glory of God we have known the Lamb that taketh away the sins of the world. From him sin shall not separate us, even though we committed fornication and murder a thousand times; yea a thousand times in a single day.” Whether this explanation of Mr. Hare’s be satisfactory to all or not, one thing is certain from the very force of the passage, and that is, that Luther does not mean to exhort any one to the commission of these crimes ; and not any the less sure is it that he does not mean to say that a believer can be guilty of these enormous sins and yet not be deprived of the fellowship of Christ. He undoubtedly aims to magnify the grace of God to the utmost possible extent. Having unlimited confidence in its efficacy, he assures us that nothing can be too hard for it. No matter how aggravated the sin, the grace of God can forgive and wash it away. And then, supposing an extreme case, he declares that though one should be guilty of fornication and murder a thousand times in a single day, even such a sinner could be washed, sanctified and justified in the name of our Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. There is in this whole passage nothing whatever to alarm the friends of morality; it is the effort of a great soul struggling after language to express the exalted conception it has formed of the Gospel of Christ; it is only Luther’s way of saying, where sin aboundeth grace doth much more abound.
One other expression demands examination under the head of favoring immorality by direct teaching: it is the one asserting the necessity of good works to salvation. As shown in the former part of this lecture, our Church was not willing to sanction the use of this formula, and for its rejection has received censure, as if opposed to that which is right and good. The unwillingness to tolerate this famous proposition, we believe, can be accounted for without being obliged to acknowledge that it indicates hostility to good works themselves. Let the object of their opposition be clearly distinguished. It is not good works that they objected to. On the contrary they insist on it that these are necessary and should be done; necessary for various reasons, but not for salvation, in the sense in which the phrase was invariably understood in those days. The opposite proposition, that good works are pernicious to salvation, they reject with the utmost promptness and emphasis, “because thereby discipline and decency are impaired, and a barbarous, savage, secure, Epicurean life is introduced and strengthened.” They give as a reason for not approving the expression under consideration: “That it is not in accord with the form of sound doctrine and with the word, and has been always and still is set over against our Christian faith by the Papists, in which we confess that faith alone justifies and saves.”
Bishop Davenant makes the following sensible remarks upon this point: “In contending with the Romanists about justification it is not wise or safe to use or admit these propositions—that good works are necessary to salvation.” And he assigns as a reason that, when they are nakedly propounded, the Papists always understand by them that works are necessary as being from their real and intrinsic worthiness meritorious causes of man’s salvation, which is most false.” He then goes on to point out various senses that may be given to this proposition that are not true, and on this account the formula in its unqualified form is to be rejected. The long and short of the matter is, that this proposition is susceptible of an interpretation and an application that are erroneous and misleading. There are conditions and states of mind in religious experience in which the counsel involved in our formula would be unwise, impracticable, and calculated to lead to despondency and despair. Our Reformers were Augustinian, and not Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian, in their conceptions of the state of mankind since the fall. They did not merely regard man as stubborn and unwilling to do what he ought, but they also considered him as sick and helpless. They accordingly felt that what a man, unable to raise an arm for very weakness, needed, was not commands and incentives to quit his bed and go about and attempt the work of one in perfect health, but encouragement and admonition most urgent to commit himself at once, before doing another thing, into the hands of the good Physician who came to heal them that are sick. Persuaded of the folly and misery of dealing with a condemned and helpless sinner as you would with a righteous holy being, they could not tolerate any utterance or teachings that put the halt, the blind, the sick and impotent to work to heal themselves by doing good work, and as this expression was always interpreted to mean that a sinner must save himself by his own working, they rightly and to the comfort of many troubled hearts rejected the proposition—not because they were opposed to good works, but to the consummate folly of setting a multitude of impotent folk to work to cure their impotency by vigorous exercise and labor, or as Luther has tersely put it, in his Christian Liberty: “It is not from works that we are set free by the faith of Christ, but from the belief in works.”
In concluding this portion of our subject let us call to mind the several facts that have now come into our possession: The Reformers expressed themselves with the utmost fullness and freeness upon the various subjects of religion, and what they spoke or wrote was proclaimed to the ends of the earth; out of all their numerous sayings and writings only a very small number of passages have ever been objected to on the ground of their discouraging virtue and promoting vice; these passages thus censured and condemned have been found not only to admit of a satisfactory explanation, but of such interpretation as to be made to teach most precious and important truth. Now when all these circumstances are considered, does it not seem miraculous that these men should not have offended more frequently and more decidedly, and do we not in this fact alone have proof conclusive that they knew from inner consciousness whereof they affirmed, and that they spake as they were taught and moved of the Holy Ghost?
III. We have now disposed of two of the arguments commonly relied on to prove that the Protestant faith prohibits good works, that based upon the lives of Protestants, and that drawn from the professed teachings of several of the leading Reformers.
The third and only one yet remaining to be examined is that based upon the natural tendency of the doctrine of a free justification, which tendency it is claimed is unavoidably antinomian. Men, it is urged, will have no motive to obey the precepts of God’s word, when they are assured that without the deeds of the law they shall be justified and saved by faith alone.
The chief reasons assigned for charging our doctrine of justification with antinomian tendencies are the two following: The prominent external motives that constrain men to avoid wrong-doing and follow after righteousness are the threatening of punishment and the promise of reward, and the force of these is taken away by belief in the theory of faith advocated by our churches. These external influences being removed, internal impulse alone must be depended on to produce the conduct required by God’s word. This, in the case of the consistent Protestant believer, must all come from his faith, for that is the only internal quality made necessary to justification; and this faith, it is confidently maintained, has no moral power in it at all adequate to the production of a righteous course of conduct. Accordingly, there being no force within or without to constrain to a life of obedience, man, left to himself, will naturally walk after the lusts of his unrenewed heart and continue in the ways of sin.
Let us look at these reasons in the order above given. The first is that the force of the punishments threatened against disobedience and of the rewards promised to righteousness is annulled by the Protestant view of faith. The Protestant Christian is taught to believe that the moment he turns to God in faith he obtains remission of sins, acceptance with God, and a right to eternal life, not on account of anything he has done or can do himself, but solely on account of what Christ has done in his behalf Thus from the first step toward the Father’s house he may have hope and peace, instead of doubt and tormenting fear. The Catholic, on the other hand, is taught that he is not justified until, and in so far as, he is also sanctified. His justification, being based on his having been made inherently righteous, follows his sanctification, and as any man’s obedience is always imperfect and doubtful, there is always more or less uncertainty as to his acceptance before God and his final salvation. This uncertainty, it is claimed, begets a wholesome fear, which acts as a continual restraint upon wrong doing and an incentive to righteousness, whilst the Protestant’s more confident and more cheerful view of his relation to God and eternal life has the opposite effect, and renders him careless about his conduct. As Bishop Davenant says: “The Papists object that this doctrine of the assurance of faith, which we lay down, puts men at their ease, and that the effect is that men take occasion hence to give the reins more boldly to unholy lusts. Father Paul tells us that in the debates in the Council of Trent on the certainty of forgiveness and grace, it was maintained that uncertainty was profitable and meritorious besides; that otherwise a “Christian would become drowsy, careless, and negligent to do good.”
Now in considering this objection it must be distinctly borne in mind that it can apply to none but believers, for none others are freed from the fear in question by our teaching on the subject of justification. According to our doctrine, also, as well as that of our opponents, the fear of eternal condemnation can be brought to bear upon the minds of impenitent men to bring them to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In further noticing the objection now before us we have the following considerations to present: That while disposed to admit that the threatening of punishment has a restraining effect upon wrong-doing under all circumstances, we nevertheless feel that the value of this motive to the cause of religion may very easily be overrated, and that when it is constantly present to the consciousness, or exists in a high degree, it actually hinders, and sometimes even paralyzes, activity, instead of promoting or producing it. Prof Wace, in the Boyle Lectures for 1874-1875, in speaking of the doctrine of justification as favoring amendment of life, ascribes this result to the fact that the doctrine delivers men from fear and establishes confidence between the soul and God. He must have very different ideas as to the effects of fear on morality from the Tridentine theologians, who pronounced it both profitable and meritorious. This is what he says on the subject: “If I have at all succeeded in explaining the meaning of the doctrine (justification), it will not seem wonderful that it should have such an influence. Its very object, as we have seen, is to remove from the soul every fear, to banish those shadows of guilt which render it timorous in action and in thought, and to restore it to perfect confidence in a just and in an almighty God. This is the Protestantism which, in the mouth of Luther, gave a new lite to the world. The proclamation of the Reformer was that it is the design of God to have dauntless, calm, and generous sons, in all eternity and perfection, who fear absolutely nothing, but by confidence in his grace triumph over and despise all things, and treat punishments and deaths as sport. The rest he hates as cowards, who are confounded by the fear of everything, even by the sound of a rustling leaf”
Again, the facts of religious experience, as far as they bear upon the question under discussion, do not favor the view that uncertainty as to our acceptance with God is conducive to piety; for these facts indicate very clearly and decidedly that the stronger a man’s conviction is that he is in favor with God and is in possession of the gift of grace, the stronger is his desire for holiness and the greater and steadier his effort to attain it.
The inspired writers, in appealing to men to cultivate holiness, evidently do not apprehend any unfavorable results from the assurance of faith. Thus the apostle exhorts the Corinthian Christians to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit because they have the promise that God would receive them and be a Father unto them. St. John uses the fact that we are sons of God now and shall be like him hereafter as a reason why every man should purify himself St. Peter, having first reminded his readers that the divine power has given them all things belonging to life and godliness, assures them these exceeding great and precious promises are given that by them we might become partakers of the divine nature. Now all these appeals are addressed, not to the feeling of fear begotten by our uncertainty as to our relation to God, but to the feeling of confidence produced by the conviction that God is truly our Father and that we are his children indeed.
The objection against the doctrine we are seeking to defend bears equally hard upon the blessed Gospel of the Son of God, if the apostle Paul’s representations as to its design are to be trusted. He declares in the epistle to the Hebrews that it was the purpose of Christ to destroy the devil who had the power of death, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. In his epistle to the Romans he says: Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. How well this accords with Luther’s expression, quoted by Wace: “It is the design of God to have dauntless, calm, and generous sons, who fear absolutely nothing, but by confidence in his grace triumph over and despise all things and treat deaths and punishments as sport.”
Lastly, the faith through which the fear in consideration is cast out, itself calls into play other influences, which, to say the least, are fully as efficacious in preventing the believer from acting contrary to the will of God, as the uncertainty which our opponents pronounce so wholesome in its effects. The restraints referred to are the following, and their operations are so well understood that the bare enumeration of them is sufficient to our purpose. The conviction that God is ever near us and sees all we do; the desire to enjoy the esteem and good will of one so exalted in character and power as God; the fear of displeasing God and thus bringing upon ourselves his paternal chastisement; the fear of being deprived of the Holy Spirit’s presence and assistance; the dread of the sense of guilt, shame and misery that sin produces; the aversion to the very nature of sin, and the doubt that any act of disobedience begets as to whether we are in the faith or not. These various motives to righteous conduct, which faith calls into activity, will more than compensate for the loss sustained through the casting out of that fear that hath torment, and remove all occasion for uneasiness as to any injury the cause of morality and religion may suffer by its expulsion.
All things considered, the fact that our faith delivers men from this slavish spirit should be regarded, not as an argument against our view of justification, but as satisfactory evidence in favor of its truth and excellence.
But, interpose our opponents, not only is the motive of fear counteracted by your doctrine of justification, but that of hope also. What is there to stir up a man to do his best in the cultivation of spiritual graces, or to stimulate him to zealous exertion in the service of Christ, in the case of a person who believes himself accepted of God and entitled to eternal glory in consideration of what another has done in his behalf? Does not faith break off the connection between our efforts here and our destiny hereafter, and thus rather impede than help in completing Christian character and performing Christian works? The argument is that the believer has no incentive to exertion in the attainment of holiness and in the rendering of service, inasmuch as admittance into heaven is not made to depend upon these things, but upon the work and righteousness of Christ.
The believer is supposed to say within himself, “Since by faith in Jesus I am in possession of a title to heaven, it matters not whether I am diligent in the culture of my inner life and in the performance of duty or otherwise; the result is all the same in either case—it is a penny a day, whatever the amount or character of the service rendered.”
In examining this objection let us inquire whether it is a fact that, on the supposition that our right to heaven depends upon the work of Christ for us and not.upon the merit of our own doings, a greater or less degree of fidelity and activity in the pursuit of moral excellence and the discharge of Christian obligation makes no differ ence in our future condition. We think it will turn out far otherwise. We feel assured that it can be made to appear from the word of God that the outward circumstances of the saved will differ very materially hereafter, even as they are known to do in the present life. The Scriptures furnish various representations that indicate with much clearness that there are differences in external condition in heaven as well as upon earth. For instance, the apostle Paul in the 15th chapter of first Corinthians sets forth the great variety that exists in the objects of this world; all flesh is not the same flesh, but differs in the case of men, of beasts, of fishes, and of birds. So also there is a difference between celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial. The sun, moon and stars differ in glory; and again one star from another. Then he adds, “so also is the resurrection of the dead.” The idea of the apostle seems to be that different kinds of nature take upon themselves different outward forms. The higher the nature the nobler the body assumed. And there is every reason to believe that what holds good in respect to the different kinds of nature is a law also in respect to different degrees of the same nature. The nobler the nature the nobler the external form in which it is clothed. Consequently the higher the degree of holiness—which is the sum of all moral excellence—the nobler and better the resurrection body. Superiority of inner life will express itself in superior external form. This is already of itself a difference in outward condition, for superior bodily excellence is an advantage by no means to be despised. But having reason to believe that hereafter there will be a perfect adjustment between the nature of all God’s creatures and their external circumstances, we feel confident that superiority in outward condition may be inferred from superiority of character.
Still more decided and clear however is the evidence in support of this position furnished by the teachings of the Saviour in the parable of the pounds and of the talents. The parables in general reveal to us the unseen things of the kingdom of heaven by means of the known things of this world.
The Saviour, before whose eye both worlds lie equally open, tells us what he sees in the one by comparison with what we know in the other. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man going into a far country who delivered his goods into the hands of his servants, directing them to trade therewith till his return. After a long time he cometh again and reckoneth with them. Now let us see carefully on what principles he deals with them, for like him is the kingdom of heaven, or as this noblemen dealt with his servants, so will the Saviour deal with his likewise. In the parable in the 25th of St. Matthew, that of the talents, the following are the facts given. One of the servants had received five talents; with these he traded, and made therewith other five talents. The percentage of gain is exactly one hundred. The reward is commendation for fidelity and the assurance that he shall be made ruler over many things. Another servant has received only two talents, gains therewith two talents more. The percentage of increase is one hundred, the same as in the case of the first servant. The reward is precisely the same as in the former instance, expressed in precisely the same words. The reason undoubtedly is that the diligence and fidelity were exactly the same in both servants.
Now in St. Luke, the 19th chapter, we have the parable of the pounds, very similar in many respects to that of the talents. Here all the servants are entrusted with a like amount—one pound. The first one reports a gain of ten pounds ; the second of five, or only one-half as much on the same capital. As the sum traded with is the same, there must have been twice the activity and faithfulness in the case of the first servant as in that of the second. Will there be any difference in the reward? or will the declaration of the Saviour be precisely the same to the second as the first, as we found it to be in the parable by St. Matthew? Read the 17th and 19th verses, “Well, thou good servant, because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.” That is what he said to him that gained ten pounds. “Be thou also over five cities,” is what he said to him that had gained five pounds. Here is no word of commendation; he is not called good servant; he is not pronounced faithful, for that would not have been true, as with precisely the same abilities and opportunities he ought to have accomplished as much as the first, with equal application. Now we for our part believe that the Saviour is not careless in the use of expressions, and that the distinctions perceived in his language were designed by him, and designed because he wanted to teach mankind that reward in his kingdom would correspond with the utmost nicety to the degree of faithfulness manifested in his service.
Nor is there, as is commonly supposed, in the parable of the laborers who wrought different lengths of time but received the same compensation, anything to conflict with the teaching of the two we have considered. That only teaches this additional principle that the motives of the laborers, and their opportunities, are taken into consideration in fixing the rate of compensation, and not merely the length of the service or the amount of work.
The following extract from Prof Bruce’s Training of the Twelve expresses the same truth, “The kingdom of glory will be but the kingdom of grace perfected, the regeneration begun here brought to its final and complete development. But the regeneration, in its imperfect state, is an attempt to organize men into a society based on the possession of spiritual life, all being included in the kingdom who are new creatures in Christ Jesus, and the highest place being assigned to those who have attained the highest stature as spiritual men. This idea has never been more than approximately realized. The visible church, the product of the attempt to realize it, is and ever has been a most disappointing embodiment, in outward visible shape, of the ideal city of God. Ambition, selfishness, worldly wisdom, courtly arts, have too often procured thrones for false apostles, who never forsook anything for Christ. Therefore we still look forward and upward with longing eyes for the true city of God, which shall as far exceed our loftiest conceptions as the visible church comes short of them. In that ideal commonwealth perfect moral order will prevail. Every man shall be in his true place there; no vile men shall be in high places, no noble souls shall be doomed to obstruction, obscurity, and neglect; but the noblest will be the highest and first, even though now they be the lowest and last. ‘There shall be true glory, where no one shall be praised by mistake or in flattery; true honor, which shall be denied to no one worthy, granted to no one unworthy ; nor shall any unworthy one ambitiously seek it, where none but the worthy are permitted to be.'” The last sentence Prof Bruce quotes from Augustine.
The argument is undoubtedly supported also by reason and experience. That men should be rewarded according to their excellence and works, no unprejudiced mind will deny. That the qualities and actions of men have much to do in determining their outward circumstances in this world, is a matter of common observation. To a great extent every man makes his own surroundings, and similar causes will have like results always and everywhere.
But not only will there be differences in external condition, graduated according to the degree of moral character, but even under precisely the same outward circumstances the man that has made the greatest progress in holiness will enjoy the largest amount of satisfaction and of good.
Happiness is by no means proportioned to the means of happiness which our circumstances afford us, but depends very much also upon our own state of mind, and our dispositions. There are feelings and affections that will make happiness impossible under any circumstances however favorable, and there are others again that will keep the mind in a state of peace and joyfulness under the hardest external condition. Happiness accordingly comes very largely from within, and not exclusively from without. On this subject Chalmers says most excellently and truly: “Virtue is not the price of heaven—it is the very substance and being of heaven. * * * All who refuse a life of virtue, do in fact refuse the only heaven of eternity—the heaven of the New Testament; for search far and wide over all the domains of infinite space, and there is positively no other heaven to be found than a heaven of righteousness and true holiness. Were it only a musical heaven, we ask of what use and enjoyment it could be to the deaf? or were it only a heaven of beauty and splendor, a panorama of glorious spectacles over which the delighted eye might expatiate, of what use could the privilege of entry into such a heaven be to the blind? or were it only an intellectual heaven, how could it prove a heaven at all to those bereft of understanding? or finally, being what it is, a moral or spiritual heaven, it can be no heaven to the wicked, or the secular, or the earthly ; and that it might be a heaven to us there must be an adaptation of the subjective to the objective, or in plainer language we must be sanctified, we must be moralized.”
Again, our ability to derive profit and enjoyment from any opportunities the providence of God may afford us, depends also upon the degree of cultivation bestowed upon the various faculties through which we perceive and appreciate the excellencies of the objects around us. A man’s ability to derive pleasure from the beautiful, the grand, the sublime in nature, depends upon his taste for these glories of the world in which we live; one will be unaffected by the scene that thrills the soul of another with delight. A man’s ability to derive enjoyment from the noblest productions of literature depends altogether upon his ability to apprehend and appreciate the thoughts and feelings that are expressed therein. The book that one reader will thrust aside as dull and tedious, another will hang over with deepest interest and attention and lay aside with regret when finished. And thus it is with every means of rational enjoyment; he whose powers have been most highly disciplined by faithful exercise thereof will, other things being equal, derive the highest degree of pleasure and profit from any circumstances calculated to furnish these.
From these considerations it appears that the cultivation of all our various faculties, moral and intellectual, constitutes an important element in every man’s happiness; and that the measure of cultivation of mind and heart becomes the measure of enjoyment and advantage that our external surroundings will yield. Now it can readily be shown that both character and mental culture are the product of our own actions while in a state of discipline here on earth; and that thus we ourselves create the constituent elements that enter into our happiness, here and hereafter.
And, first, moral character is the outgrowth of our daily conduct. Any desire, whether good or evil, that arises in the soul, impels to action corresponding in character to that of the desire itself If the desire, by the consent of the will, passes over into an outward act, it gains strength by the gratification afforded. The act being continuously repeated, the desire becomes established as a habit or permanent disposition of the mind, and this is character. Now in the school of life it has been so ordered that demands are made almost hourly upon the virtuous feelings, as self-control, self denial, forbearance, benevolence, zeal for God, and many other Christian affections. According as we respond to these demands, gaining victories over evil dispositions and indolence, so we advance in moral character, and that, as before shown, is an important and essential element in happiness, whether on earth or in heaven.
So also it is in respect to the improvement of all our mental powers ; every pursuit in life calls them into play, and the man that is most careful and faithful to put his whole soul into his work will acquire the highest degree of discipline. Faithful performance of any work, whatever, will involve the best use of all the intellectual faculties we possess, and such use will always bring with it increased power of the kind that was called into activity. The man, consequently, who employs his gifts most faithfully on all occasions that require their exercise, is the man in whom these will become most fully developed, and superior development always enables him to derive greater satisfaction and benefit from any circumstances in which he may be placed. He that hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly.
Summing up our argument, then, we find that in the future life our external condition will be pleasant and profitable in a higher or lower degree in proportion as we have attained to a higher or lower degree of excellence of character, and have manifested greater or less zeal and fidelity in the service of God ; likewise, that even out of the same circumstances we shall be able to derive more or less of enjoyment and advantage according as our moral and intellectual faculties have been more or less improved by cultivation ; and lastly that the degree of moral and intellectual development we attain depends upon the manner in which we discharge the duties of every-day life, and the use we make of the opportunities for self-discipline with which God continually surrounds us. In short, happiness corresponds with character, and character is the product of fidelity in respect to opportunity and duty. Thus, after all, even on the admission that our works do not purchase a right to heaven, it turns out that our reward hereafter varies according to the deeds done in the body, and that the Protestant Christian is not deprived of the stimulus to duty which comes from the hope of eternal recompense. We conclude this part of our subject with another most excellent extract from Dr. Chalmers: “Now our safety, our state of salvation, or which is the same thing, our state of spiritual health, and so of spiritual enjoyment, lies in a state of earnest, progressive, aspiring holiness, along a career in which the greater our holiness the greater will be our happiness also; or in other words the more virtuous here the greater will be our preferment there—the more we multiply and heighten our graces on this side of death, the greater will be our moral and spiritual treasures through all eternity. Thus ought we to understand the precepts of laying up our treasures in heaven; and the virtues of the new creature, instead of being the price which we give in exchange for these treasures, or only the evidence of their being in reserve for us by the time that we enter into Paradise, are the very treasures themselves which regale and satisfy the spirits of the celestials. Holiness is more than the way to some better and higher landing-place ; holiness is itself the landing-place, and our restoration to holiness the great object of the economy under which we sit. Christianity does not begin with virtue and end with justification—it begins with justification and ends with virtue.”
Again, it is argued, that not only are the threatenings and promises of God’s word made ineffective by our doctrine of justification but that all moral elements having been carefully excluded therefrom, there remains in it no moral force that is at all adequate to the production of obedience and holiness. The connection between justification and sanctification, it is claimed, cannot be vindicated.
From the elements that constitute justification the Protestant view shuts out sanctification, retaining forgiveness of sin, restoration to God’s favor, adoption into his family and heirship in the kingdom of heaven. These our opponents regard as external things, not necessarily involving any moral change in the justified. Thus, in their opinion, the only element that involves a change of character is carefully eliminated from our doctrine. And not only this, but we do not admit any moral quality, they say, into the condition by which a sinner becomes justified. The condition is a single thing — faith; and that faith justifies, not as Bishop Bull holds, because it is a complex quality including all the works of Christian piety, but because it is the instrument by which the righteousness of Christ is embraced. Thus, the Apology admits ” that faith is efficacious not on account of its worthiness but because of the divine promises.” The Formula of Concord declares, “that faith, in the case of justification before God, relies neither on contrition, nor on love, nor on other virtues, but on Christ alone. For faith justifies, not because it is a work of great value and an eminent virtue, but because it apprehends and receives the merit of Christ in the promise of the Gospel.” Thus it seems we are obliged to look to faith alone not only to justify us but also to sanctify us and to take our stand with Luther when he says, “Justifying faith is trust, comes first, justifies by itself, and then gives birth to all graces.” Faith is the one thing of all the parts of justification that is within us, and thus becomes the only point of attachment for all the Christian virtues and the Christian works that the word of God requires. Will the existence of justifying faith insure the various effects involved in sanctification?
Let us, in seeking to answer this question, distinctly bear in mind that the object that must be secured is sanctification, or the production of holiness and obedience to the divine will, and this must somehow be the fruit of faith. Now, holiness is not a mere logical process, but, in the words of Prof Wace, “something created and developed in us by the influence of a personal Spirit on our souls.” According to the Scriptures it is Christ that has undertaken to save his people from their sins; that gave himself for the church that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and present it to himself at last as a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. This purification Christ brings about by the agency of the Holy Spirit, for, as Dr. Newman well says: “Since his ascension Christ has ceased to act by his own hand, but sends his Spirit to take his place, he himself coming again by his Spirit. This is evidently the truth taught by the Saviour himself in John xiv. 16-18.”
The Holy Spirit, bestowed by Christ, takes up his abode permanently in the soul of the believer, brings him under the influence of the truth, and works in him that love which is the fulfilling of the law. We need not stop to show that these agencies and means, expressly appointed for this purpose, will prove adequate to the production of holiness and obedience. Proof of this will be furnished in the further discussion of this subject ; besides, the efficiency of the instrumentalities is generally admitted. The point to be established here is that faitji brings us into connection with them—unites us to Christ, secures the gift of the Holy Spirit, subjects us to the power, of truth, and begets in us that love to God and to man on which hang all the law and the prophets. If faith can accomplish this connection, then our question is decided in the affirmative, and the fact is established that the faith which justifies also sanctifies, and the charge that it prohibits good works must be withdrawn.
And, first, will faith bring us into union with Christ so as to secure his active co-operation in the work of delivering our souls from the dominion of sin? The union contemplated will require the consent of both parties concerned—that of Christ, who is to save, and that of the penitent, who is to be saved; and the moment both are willing the union is consummated, and the work of deliverance from sin is begun. Just as the physician and the patient have come together, when the former has agreed to undertake the sick man’s cure, and the latter has concluded to submit himself into the physician’s hands for treatment, so Christ and the lost sinner have come together when Christ consents to undertake the sinner’s salvation from sin, and the sinner himself has decided to surrender himself to Christ to be healed of all his spiritual diseases.
As far as Christ is concerned, he is ever ready and willing to perform his part in the work. He gave himself for the church, to sanctify and cleanse it, and he will not be remiss in the office he has taken upon himself He came to seek and to save that which is lost; he went about doing good. And he has expressly and emphatically declared, “him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” Christ, as shown, being always willing to accept men for salvation, it only remains for the sinner to consent to commit himself into Christ’s hands in order to complete the union, and to bring into action the various agencies and appliances appointed for man’s deliverance from sin and his restoration to holiness. This is clearly the teaching of Christ himself in various declarations that fell from his own lips. “How often would I have gathered tliy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not.” And to the Jews he said on another occasion with the utmost plainness, “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” Both these passages teach that if men had been willing, their salvation would have been assured. This fact simplifies the question to be answered and reduces it to this form : Will faith, wherever it exists, secure the believer’s consent to submit himself into the hands of Christ for spiritual treatment? The physician stands ready. Will the sick man accept him? Will faith make him willing to submit himself into his hands?
To answer this question let us determine what conditions of mind are necessary to induce this willingness and self-surrender. We say there must be in the first place a sincere desire for the salvation that Christ has to bestow—a desire for the pardon of sin and restoration to the friendship of God—a desire also for deliverance from sin and restoration to holiness. Unless a man is sincerely concerned to secure the blessings which Christ came to impart, he certainly will not take the trouble of going in pursuit of them. Again, this desire must be sufficiently strong to make a man willing to accept the blessings wished for in any way and on any conditions according to which it may please Christ to communicate them. Many a young man appreciates the advantage which a full course at college secures, and would like to possess them, but unfortunately he does not desire them sufficiently to subject himself to the laborious and self-denying process involved in such a course. Before his desire will lead to any practical results it must rise to a height in which it will accept the course notwithstanding the hard work and the self-denial that belong to it. So in respect to the vastly greater blessings of holiness, one must desire them to such a degree as to be willing to submit to the entire discipline Christ in his wisdom may see fit to ordain. This, as any one can see, implies a complete surrender of one’s self into the hands of the Saviour, and involves an act of the will.
To this desire another element, however, must be united in order to produce this willingness; and that element is trust in Christ. At his hands we are to receive the unspeakable gift of salvation. But we are sinners, under sentence of condemnation; and can we in such a case look for favors at the hands of Christ? It is evident that before we can come to him for the gift of his Holy Spirit to accomplish our sanctification, we must trust in his mercy and believe in his willingness to forgive us our sins. So likewise trust is necessary to induce us to make the complete self-surrender required to our salvation. No man will unqualifiedly subject himself to the control of another unless he has unlimited confidence in his wisdom and good will. Nor will any man agree in all things to follow the directions and submit to the requirements of Christ unless he is persuaded that Christ is more competent to direct him than he is himself, and that Christ is truly his friend, and aims at his advantage in all that he ordains. From this examination we find that in order to beget the willingness which will lead a man to submit himself into the hands of Christ for sanctification, there must be an honest and unqualified desire for the blessing he has to bestow, and at the same time full confidence in his wisdom and goodness.
Now, does faith include in itself these two elements—of desire and trust? Does it include desire? Faith presupposes contrition in respect to sin; never exists unless contrition has previously existed. And contrition unquestionably constitutes desire for reconciliation with God, as also for freedom from the power of sin. In the opinion of our Confessional teachings, contrition and faith are the two parts of repentance, using the word repentance in its larger sense. Faith, therefore, necessarily presupposes contrition, that being the first part of repentance. Luther says, “Faith is inseparable from contrition.” The Apology declares, “Faith dwells in those who are truly penitent, whose alarmed consciences feel the wrath of God and their own sins.” The Formula of Concord says, “A true and saving faith, therefore, does not dwell in those who entertain no contrition and sorrow, and who have the evil design to remain in sin and to persevere in it.” Accordingly in every case in which faith is known to exist, in every such case we are assured that contrition has preceded. Now this contrition which always accompanies faith is described as including acknowledgment of sin, sorrow for sin and abstinence therefrom; and a state of mind like this, as all who have experienced it can testify, certainly contains an earnest and honest desire for deliverance from sin, or as the Apology expresses it: “Such a heart or conscience that has fully felt its wretchedness and sins and is truly alarmed, will not relish or seek the lusts of the world.” Where there is anything like a true realization of the evil of sin, its degradation, its guilt, its ruinous tendency, and where, in addition, there is a sense of personal sinfulness, depravity and peril, there will arise a strong desire for deliverance from the punishment and from the power of sin. The contrition presupposed by faith accordingly supplies the element of desire needful to move the mind in search of a deliverer.
But, faith also includes in itself the trust that will result in the believer committing himself into the hands of Christ for salvation. The anxiety awakened in the contrite spirit gives the mind no rest! it is in misery and must have deliverance. This feeling of wretchedness will impel to unceasing efforts after peace and joy. Trust in Jesus will turn these efforts in the direction of Christ, and eventuate in the sinner’s committing himself into the hands of Christ. For, according to the Lutheran view of faith, it is not a mere knowledge of the things to be believed concerning Christ; nor mere approving assent to the truthfulness of scripture declarations concerning him, but it is confidence in Christ—an act of the will’s resting in him and embracing him as our present good and as the cause of the forgiveness of sins and of eternal life. That faith will thus result in the entrusting of the soul of the believer into the care of Jesus, will appear from a consideration of the circumstances of the case. Faith involves desire to be freed from the misery sin has occasioned; it is accompanied also by a feeling of our own inability to deliver ourselves, and constrains us to look for help from without; in casting about for a deliverer it perceives in Christ the helper it needs—one who can and will save. Now we maintain that the combined effect of this longing for relief from present wretchedness, this conviction that we cannot rescue ourselves by anything we may attempt, and the persuasion that Christ both is able and willing to deliver us, will lead such a soul to surrender itself to the friend of sinners for salvation in whatever way and by whatever discipline his love and wisdom may conclude to employ. And when this self-surrender has once taken place, then the union between Christ and the penitent is an accomplished fact.
Our faith, whose effects we are seeking to ascertain, in so far as we have now traced its operations, has been instrumental in inducing the sinner to commit himself into the hands of Jesus, and has thus brought about a union between himself and one that is mighty to save. In the act of sinking, all hope in self utterly gone, he surrendered himself to Christ and cried, Lord, save me. Immediately, as in Peter’s case, Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him. There is where we want him. With the hand of Jesus on him we know he is safe, and that ere long there will come to us a joyful shout: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all mine iniquities; who healeth all my diseases; and redeemeth my life from destruction.”
Now when an individual, desirous of salvation, and convinced of the uselessness of undertaking the work himself, has entrusted himself into the hands of Jesus by faith, then the Holy Spirit is given him to abide with him continually, to enlighten his mind through a knowledge of the truth, and to incline his heart to do the things that are agreeable to the will of God. Thus in consequence of our faith in Jesus we obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost to the end that we may be sanctified. Accordingly we are taught in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession that ” we cannot receive the Holy Spirit except through faith. * * * The veil which covers the face of Moses cannot be removed except by faith in Christ the Lord, through whom the Holy Spirit is imparted.” Our Article also declares that the Holy Spirit is received by faith. This is also the teaching of Scripture: John vii. 38-39; Acts ii. 38; x. 43-45; xi. 15-17; XV. 8-9; xix. 2, and Galatians iii. 2-5 and 14. From these Scripture declarations it is clear that after attaining to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the believer in consequence of his faith receives the permanent gift of the Holy Spirit. But it is not on account of a direct faith in the Holy Ghost that the Spirit is communicated, but because we have been justified through our faith in Christ; the gift of the Spirit is the purchase of Christ’s atonement, and is imparted permanently only to them who are reconciled to God through faith in the Lord Jesus. Meyer on Gal. iii. 14, pronounces the reception of the Spirit as the consequence of justification and an aim of Christ’s redeeming death—faith thus becoming the apprehending cause both of justification and the reception of the Spirit. Dr. Eadie, speaking on the same passage, says: “The reception of the spirit implies justification, and is a blessing either dependent on it or collateral with it.” Or, in other words, the habitual presence of the Holy Spirit is not to be enjoyed by any one who is not in right relationship to the Father through Christ. The gift of the Holy Spirit in its permanent form is in reality an indwelling of a divine being in the human soul, and this can take place only after reconciliation with God through the acceptance of Christ. That the Spirit comes to us not directly, but through the mediation of Christ, is evident from numerous and plain passages of God’s word. Matt. iii. 11; John vii. 39; xiv. 16, 26; xvi. 7; xiv. 18. The last passage very clearly implies that in some mysterious way the coming of the Spirit is also the coming of the Saviour—that the Lord Jesus comes again to his disciples by and through his Spirit. All these passages in the most emphatic manner make the bestowment of the Spirit dependent upon the work and will of Jesus, and from previous passages we learn that it is the will of Christ to give the Holy Spirit to them that are justified through faith in his name.
It is also the constant teaching of our Confessions that we become partakers of the Holy Ghost by means of faith. Now then, having connected the reception of the Holy Spirit with faith in Jesus, can it be made to appear that from this abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in one who is in the state of mind denoted by faith, obedience and holiness will invariably ensue ? We feel that we can make our minds easy as to the sanctification of the man that has become a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If faith in Jesus secures the inhabitation of the spirit of Christ, we run no risk in predicting that faith will sanctify.
Says Bishop O’Brien in his work on Faith: “The Bible is express in referring the sanctification which it promises to those whom God justifies, to the direct exercise of the power of his everlasting Spirit continued to the very end of their mortal career, distinctly ascribing every advance in holiness which believers make, every act of obedience that they perform, every Christian grace that they acquire, all holy counsels by which they are directed, all good works that they bring forth, all to the continued exercise of the same power by which it has been first given to them to believe in the Redeemer.”
From Luther on Gal. ii. 18, we quote the following: ” Now after that a man is once justified and possesseth Christ by faith, and knoweth that he is his righteousness and life, doubtless he will not be idle, but as a good tree he will bring forth good fruits. For the believing man hath the Holy Ghost, and where the Holy Ghost dwelleth he will not suffer a man to be idle, but stirreth him up to all exercises of piety and godliness, and of true religion to the love of God, to the patient suffering of afflictions, to prayer, to the exercise of charity towards all men.” Says our Article: “Faith alone constantly secures grace and forgiveness of sins. And because the Holy Spirit is given through faith the heart becomes qualified to perform good works. For before this, while it is without the Holy Spirit it is too weak,” etc., etc. The Smalcald Articles declare ” That Paul in Rom.vii. 14-25 shows that he wars with the law in his members, etc:., and this not by his own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Ghost that follows the remission of sins. This gift daily cleanses and purges the remaining sins, and works so as to render man pure. * * * For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be completed, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes.” The testimony of Scripture is to the same effect. “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth,” Eph. v. 9. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Gal. v. 22 ; Acts xv 8-9; I Pet. i. 22.
From the foregoing examination we find it to be the teaching of our church, grounded on the testimony of God’s infallible word, that the faith to which we ascribe justification brings about a union between Christ and the believer, by begetting in the latter a state of mind disposing him to commit himself unqualifiedly into the hands of Jesus for deliverance from his spiritual diseases, and that in consequence of this union, resulting from justification by faith, the habitual presence and operation of the Holy Spirit is secured to the Christian, the result of which indwelling must necessarily be his deliverance from sin and his complete restoration to holiness. The personal influence of Christ exerted upon the believer by means of the Holy Spirit is sufficient cause to account for sanctification in the case of all who believe.
But this view of faith, which unites to Christ, secures pardon and reconciliation, and sends the individual forth anew on his course with the gift of the Holy Ghost in his heart, involving as it does an exercise of the affections and an action of the will, and accounting so satisfactorily for all the internal changes necessary to sanctification, is of course stoutly combated by all who are opposed to our doctrine of justification. They regard faith as an act of the understanding only—a mere intellectual assent to the truths revealed in the Scriptures, having no moral side and no sanctifying power until made perfect or effective by the addition of charity. Thus the Apology complains, “Our adversaries think that faith consists in a knowledge of, or an acquaintance with, the history of Christ, hence they teach that we can believe even when sunk in mortal sin.” Luther declares, ” Moreover these perverters of the Gospel of Christ do teach that even that faith which they call faith infused, that is faith not received b)’ hearing or gotten by working, but created in man by the Holy Ghost, may consist with deadly sin, and that the worst men may have this faith; therefore they say if it be alone (not informed by charity), it is idle and utterly unprofitable.” Davenant says, “That misshapen faith which the Papists denominate orthodox, Christian and justifying, is found to be in most cases idle and buried in sleep. Bellarmine, while vehemently contending that justifying faith is nothing else than an assent to what is contained in the word, at the same time confesses, yea, contends, that this justifying faith consists with the fact of those endowed with such a faith remaining wicked.” Of course if this be the correct view of faith, then there is in faith itself no sanctifying power, and wicked men and devils may possess it. As the practical effects of faith will be entirely different if our opponents’ definition of faith be adopted, we must be sure, in order that our argument may be valid, that all we have claimed for faith is actually in it. That there is in faith in Jesus something more than mere belief in the truthfulness of scripture testimony, is the opinion of Protestant writers generally. Those who are not willing to admit that trust is an element of faith, yet insist on it that it is an invariable, inseparable consequent thereof — that where there is sincere and genuine faith there a “trustful reception of Christ, though not one of faith’s essential elements, is certainly one of its immediate and unfailing results; that therefore a trustful reception of Christ as he is offered in the Gospel is essential to the nature, or at all events, inseparable from the acting or exercise of faith in Christ.” The practical effect is the same, whether trust or confidence be regarded as is most generally done, as a component part, or as an inseparable concomitant of faith. Virtually, therefore, Protestant writers are of one mind in regard to the nature of faith. But let us hear the testimony of various writers on this subject. And first that of Luther himself, in that celebrated description of faith which has elicited praise from such a sturdy opponent as Moehler. ” Faith,” says he, ” is a divine work in us which changes us and regenerates us of God, and mortifies the old Adam, making us quite different persons in heart, mind, disposition and in all our faculties, and bringing with it the Holy Spirit. Oh, this faith is a living, active, efficacious, powerful principle; it must incessantly perform that which is good. It never asks whether good works are to be performed, but before the inquiry is made, it has done them, and it is always in action. * * * Hence men without constraint become willing and desirous to do good unto all, to serve all and to endure all things to the honor and praise of God who manifested this grace to him ; so that it is impossible to separate works from faith, yea, as impossible as it is to separate heat and light from fire.”
Schmid, in his Dogmatics, gives knowledge, assent, and confidence as the essential elements of faith. Confidence he defines as “an act by which the will rests in Christ, the Mediator, as our present good and the cause of another good, namely the remission of sins and the attainment of eternal life.” This confidence the author claims is to be regarded as the most essential element of faith, the element that embraces and appropriates salvation. This statement as to the nature of faith the author supports by the declarations of various eminent theologians, who all speak of confidence as an act of the will, desiring and seeking mercy, embracing and receiving Christ. The writers referred to are Chemnitz, Quenstedt, Hollazius and Baier. Meyer on Rom. i. 5, says: “Faith is, according to Paul, the conviction and confidence (Assensus and Fiducia) regarding Jesus Christ as the only perfect mediator of the divine grace and of eternal life, through his work of atonement. Faith alone is the apprehending cause of the salvation promised and obtained through Christ; but because it transfers us into living and devoted fellowship with him, altogether of a moral character, it becomes the subjective moral power of the new life regenerated through the power of the Holy Spirit, of the life in Christ, which, however, is the necessary consequence, and never the ground of justification.”
Davenant says: “Faith which Scripture acknowledges to be justifying has in itself the complicated act of the will and the intellect. For to apprehend Christ to be the Redeemer of the world and to assent to this proposition, ‘Whosoever believeth shall be saved,’ truly appertains to the intellect; but this faith, though at once beholding and acknowledging the Redeemer, does not justify, before the sinner has drawn, as it were, Christ to his own home and joined himself to the Mediator; and this does not happen unless by that act of confidence which, we assert, belongs also to the will.” Similar views may be cited from Owen, who speaks of faith as a trusting in Christ—receiving Christ—committing ourselves to Christ, a proper reception of Christ and his salvation, and Julius Hare, who throughout holds and ably vindicates the Lutheran view of faith as including trust in Christ. Bishop O’Brien describes faith in the blood of Christ as faith in a remedy ; faith in the Lord Jesus as similar to faith in a physician, in an advocate, or in a friend. Ciawford says: “The fiducial trust and acquiescence of the heart is comprehended in faith, either as one of its constituent elements or as one of its proper fruits.” Citations of like import from Chalmers, Prof Wace, Boyle Lectures, Griffiths, Divine Foot Prints, and Melville, Golden Lectures, must be omitted for want of space. Prof Hill in his “Divinity” says: “The Gospel bringing a remedy for the present state of moral evil, the mind is not disposed to accept of the remedy until a change upon the will and the affections be produced by the Spirit of God. Hence faith stands opposed to the love of sin which produces an aversion to the remedy ; to that love of the world which produces an indifference about it ; to that pride and self-confidence which make it appear unnecessary.” Dr. Hodge says: “Faith is a complex act of the soul, involving the concurrence of the understanding and the will. Assent to a moral truth is a moral act; assent to a promise made to ourselves is an act of trust. * * * The disposition to believe testimony or moral evidence, has its foundation in the will Actual trust in a promise is an act of the will, and not a simple judgment as to its trustworthiness. * * * The specific act of saving faith which unites to Christ and is the commencement, root and organ of our whole spiritual life, terminated upon Christ’s person and work as Mediator, as presented in the offers and promises of the Gospel.”
Dr. Valentine, in the Holman Lecture on ” Justification,” says: “The essential thing, which itself constitutes the reality and fulness of faith, is trust or confidence. It is the “fiducia” of the old theologians, and expresses the act in which the penitent reposes in the merit and grace of the Redeemer. In it he accepts Christ who is a perfect Saviour and lays an appropriating hold on him, as he has been made unto him wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. It brings the believing soul and Christ together. * * Faith must therefore be regarded as apprehending the gracious work and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Hence Luther’s expression. Faith taketh hold of Christ and hath him present and holdeth him enclosed as the ring doth the precious stone,” Evan. Rev., Oct., 1869. Dr. Sprecher, in his Groundwork of Lutheran Theology, says: “Thus true faith involves both knowledge and feeling; it embraces an act of the intellect and a movement of the susceptibility. But it is also connected with an act of submission to God, which is manifestly an act of the will. Therefore, knowing, feeling, and willing operate together in faith. *** It has an object, and consequently it has a cognitive element ; it approves that object, and consequently it has an emotional element ; it assents to that object and surrenders itself to it, and consequently it must have a volitional and active element.”
The testimony of the leading Protestant Confessions is in harmony with the view here advocated. Besides the emphatic declaration in our Article that the faith here spoken of is not the mere belief of a historical fact concerning Christ, which devils and the ungodly possess, the Apology says explicitly, “And that no one may suppose that it is mere knowledge, we will add further, it is to wish and to receive the offered promise of the remission of sins and of justification. * * * Again, Faith is not only knowledge in the intellect, but also confidence in the will, that is, it is to wish and to receive that which is offered in the promise, namely reconciliation and remission of sins.” It may be well to remark at this point that many of these declarations concerning the nature of faith as existing in the intellect and the will were made at a time when it was customary to regard the mind as divided into two parts only, viz., intellect and will—the affections and desires being regarded as parts of the latter. The Heidelberg Catechism (in its definition of faith), also adds the element of confidence to the knowledge whereby we hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word. The Westminster Confession speaks of faith as a receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness. The principal acts of saving faith, according to it, are accepting, receiving and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life by the covenant of grace. The English Homilies define the faith spoken of in the Thirty-Nine Articles as follows: “True lively faith is not only the common belief of the articles of our faith, but it is a true trust and confidence in the mercy ofGod through our Lord Jesus Christ, and a steadfast hope of all good things to be received at God’s hands. * * * It is not only to believe that Holy Scripture and all the articles of our faith are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence in God’s merciful promises.”
That trust in Christ is an essential element of the faith that saves, likewise has the clear support of God’s word, as will become evident by considering the following scripture passages, in which the term faith occurs. In Matt. vi. 30, viii. 26, xiv. 31, and xv. 28, various individuals are reproved for the weakness of their faith, and others commended for the greatness of theirs, and by examination of the circumstances in each case it will be found that it is want of trust that is censured and the exhibition of it that is extolled.
In Luke xvi. 1 1 ; John ii. 24; i Thes. ii. 4 ; Gal. ii. 7 ; i Tim. i. 1 1: and 2 Tim. i. 12, the verb corresponding to the Greek noun for faith is used, and in all these cases Mr. Crawford claims that the word means ” not merely the belief that a certain person is trustworthy, but the consequent reliance that is placed in him to the effect of consigning important interests to his care.”
Various synonymous terms and figurative expressions are employed to denote believing in Jesus, such as receiving Christ, coming to him, eating the bread of life, of which expressions the same writer says, “Their meaning is not exhausted by a mere belief respecting Christ that he sustains a certain character, has performed a certain work, and is fraught with certain blessings. There is further implied a trustful reception of him and a personal application to him for such blessings as he has to bestow.” Of the passage in John v. 40 the author says: “Here is not only unbelief in a statement, but the wilful refusal of an offer, which ought to have been trustfully and cordially accepted.” Again in i John v., the apostle speaks of a record or testimony to be believed. The testimony is that God hath given us eternal life and that this life is in his Son, and concludes therefrom, “He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life.” This passage plainly teaches that believing on the Son of God is not merely assenting to what Scripture testimony asserts concerning Christ, but is the actual having of the Son himself, without which, the having of eternal life is not possible. Merely to assent to the ability and willingness of Christ to save sinners, without the trust that actually commits the sinner into his hands, has no more virtue in it than the consenting to all the testimony kind friends may bear in favor of the skill of a physician, without an actual surrendering of ourselves into his hands for treatment.
In James ii, the faith which is mere assent to the truthfulness of Scripture doctrines is decidedly rejected. The person holding a mere belief in scripture propositions is represented as professing to believe that there is but one God, as if this settled his claim to be regarded a believer in the Christian sense. This faith in the unity ofGod is commended and is praiseworthy, especially at a time in which the prevalent and popular opinion was that there were gods many and lords many. Yet according to James this is not enough. There is an element wanting to constitute faith in Christ, and what can that be but this important element of trust in Jesus, which begets a willingness to comply with the whole discipline of the Gospel unto salvation.
We may appear to have given more testimony on the nature of faith as involving trust and an action of the will, than was necessary, but our justification is that our whole argument to establish the connection between faith and sanctification hinges upon this point — that if our opponents are right in their definition of faith they can safely defy us to show that faith necessarily begets a life of obedience and true holiness. Besides, the testimony is interesting in itself and varied in expression, and bears upon a subject which is not only vital to our argument but, what is infinitely more important, to the salvation of immortal souls also.
Again, faith, beside bringing us under the personal influence of Christ and of his Holy Spirit, also brings us under the power of divine truth and under the influence which the realities of the whole spiritual world are capable of exerting upon the mind. The beings, objects and occurrences of the invisible realm revealed in the Scriptures have an effect upon us according to their nature, similar to that which the objects and events of the sensible, visible world are able to produce. This we will not stop to prove, as few will be disposed to question it, but will proceed to inquire whether it is to faith that we are indebted for bringing our minds into connection with these unseen spiritual verities. Now we feel confident that this can be established respecting faith inasmuch as it is by it that we attain to a knowledge of the existence of the invisible world with its beings, objects, and events, and to such a realization of the same as to experience their influence upon our minds and conduct. As proof of this assertion respecting the office of faith, we refer to the word of God, which describes faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, hereby teaching that it is by means of faith that we attain to certainty in regard to the existence of unseen things and confident expectation of obtaining that which we hope for, thus having to do with objects that sense cannot lay hold of By faith Moses looked out toward a recompense of reward so far in the future and so unlikely, that neither the power of reason or sense extended to the same. By faith he endured as seeing him who is invisible. Faith brought God near to him and made him as real to his spiritual eyes as was the king of Egypt to his bodily vision. In John iii. 11 f. we are assured that Christ came to tell us of heavenly things, and likewise that it is by faith that his testimony is to be received. This is equivalent to saying that for our knowledge about heaven and heavenly things we depend upon our faith in the veracity and competency of Christ as a witness. From these several passages of Scripture it is plain that faith is the instrumentality by means of which we know, realize and appreciate the persons and things that make up the world beyond the sphere of sense. Archer Butler represents faith as the realizing power in respect to spiritual, things. He says, ” Its office is to make us see the unseen; to be the visual sense of the Spirit; beholds God around us even now; sees this world pervaded by the providence of God and haunted by his angels. The spiritual system that encompasses us as Christians is the constant sphere of faith. And beyond them both stretches out into infinity that everlasting world which faith accepts with equal certainty.”
Alexander Knox says. “What is faith but an apprehending of divine things as realities? He who finds himself in a storm on shipboard needs not argue himself into alarm, nor strive to recollect all the various circumstances of danger. If, therefore, divine and eternal things do once impress themselves as facts, religion will grow out of that impression by a necessity of nature, and in proportion to its strength it will influence all the movements of the inner and the outward man. The making then of this impression is the great operation of divine grace. Man cannot give it himself * * * To have faith then is to have that lively sense of divine things which makes them efficient on our hearts, tempers and conduct. * * * All men would shudder at feeling the shock of an earthquake, and would alike avoid a pestilential contagion. The things of eternity rightly impressed upon the mind, are at least as much fitted to subdue all minds and work upon all tempers as either the earthquake or the pestilence.”
To this argument, however, it is objected that it involves an inconsistency, inasmuch as the faith which connects with and brings under the influence of the whole truth of God’s word is a very much more comprehensive thing than the instrumental faith to which Protestants ascribe justification; that in order to establish a connection between faith and sanctification we find ourselves under the necessity of quietly introducing into faith elements, which it was to our purpose to exclude when speaking of the faith that justifies because it simply apprehends the merits of Christ.
Moehler, for instance, claims that even Luther in his celebrated description of faith is in most amiable contradiction with the Lutheran theory of justification; that he became entangled in his own distinctions, ascribing to faith as the moral vivifying sentiment, the power of justification; whereas according to the whole tenor of his system it is to faith as the organ which clings to the merits of Christ that he must impute this power. Goodsir, in his examination of the Westminster Confession, cites passages from Melanchthon’s writings to show that he uses the term faith in an ambiguous sense—sometimes making it equivalent to trust or a part of faith, and sometimes using it in its full sense; that he, for example, ascribes forgiveness and comfort of heart to trust, and yet elsewhere says that by this faith which comforts our hearts the Holy Spirit is received. He says further that trust is no more faith than a part is the whole, and that it is contrary to fact to describe the faith which receives the Spirit and works righteousness as identical with the trust which, according to Melanchthon, receives justification. He passes a similar criticism on the authors of the Westminster Confession, maintaining that in the chapter (14th) on saving faith, they reintroduce everything done by faith itself, the act of believing and evangelical obedience, which they had carefully excluded from justification in the eleventh chapter, thus putting in place of that instrumental faith from which every moral quality had been eliminated, a full and rich faith which is the fruitful mother, under divine grace, of all Christian acts and habits. The substance of this writer’s objection is summed up in the following words: “Absolutely nothing about faith has any connection, either as an element or condition, with the external justification of salvation, except that so-called instrumental part or function of faith. What then, is this part or function of faith? And, if it can be pointed out, how is it connected with the other parts or functions of faith and with the internal elements in general, which along with the external or imputative elements constitute our redemption?” He claims that it is utterly impossible to answer these questions satisfactorily.
The gist of the objection made by these several writers is that we have a certain kind of faith which receives forgiveness and reconciliation by apprehending Christ, and that when we are called on to show how this faith—the only part of justification that has its seat in the mind—produces sanctification, we at once and boldly slip other elements into it, and thus make it an entirely different thing from the faith by which we are justified.
In replying to this objection we admit in the first place that the fiducia or trust to which we attribute justification is not identical with the term faith in its other sense, in which it is equivalent to belief in all the truths revealed in the Bible; yea, so different are they that the first alone has the power of producing pardon and restoration to God’s favor, while the second may exist in the hearts of men who continue in sin and end in destruction. But while trust or faith in Jesus is different from the mere belief in the truth of Scripture, yet the former is never without the latter, as the latter may be and often is without the former. By this we mean to say that the faith which trusts in Jesus and forms the condition of justification always involves and presupposes belief in the testimony of Scripture; in short, that where the fiducia or trust exists there the fides or faith is also necessarily found. And herein, we feel assured, consists the connection between what Goodsir calls the part and the whole, and which connection he confidently asserts cannot be pointed out.
In I John iii. two faiths are spoken of—believing on the Son of God, and believing the record or testimony that God gave of His Son. It is very plain that the former, the believing on the Son, expressed afterwards as having the Son, is distinct from believing what God says concerning the Son. Just as distinct as confidence in a physician whom we knew not before and for ourselves, is distinct from the testimony of the friend who induced us to entrust our life into his hands. And yet at the same time it is equally clear that the two things are connected, that the believing on the Son ensues because we make not God a liar but believe the testimony he gives in behalf of his Son. Such, then, is the connection of the faith called trust and the faith which is equivalent to belief of Scripture testimony, that wherever the former exists the other must have previously existed, that faith in Christ is an evidence and guarantee of faith in the truthfulness of all that is contained in the Scriptures.
Accordingly, Chalmers says, “It is impossible that any one should believe in one thing on the ground of finding it in the Scriptures and not believe in everything which he finds to be there; or that he should believe in one saying of God because of confidence in his truth, and yet not believe in all his sayings.” Bishop O’Brien in his Ten Sermons on Faith says: “Confidence in Christ is grounded upon the testimony of God’s word and requires of course a belief in that testimony ; but it is manifestly distinct from such belief”
Our conclusion, therefore, is that whoever believes that Christ has had mercy on him, because of what the Scriptures say of his goodness and love, is in a state of mind in which he must necessarily believe everything to be true which the Bible sets forth as true; and faith in Christ will, as we have claimed, gradually bring a man under the influence and operation of all the facts and doctrines made known m the word of God, and whoever has come under the influence of truth has come under an influence that sanctifies; for the Saviour himself prays, ” Sanctify them through the truth; Thy word is truth,” cf I Pet. i. 22.
We have thus far, in following up the working of faith, ascertained that it brings into personal union with Christ, and as a consequence receives the personal gift of the Holy Ghost; also that it brings us under the operation of-the various truths revealed in the word of God. We will yet further show that faith also begets and establishes the principle of love within our hearts, by which love we are constrained to do the things that are pleasing unto God. As to the effectiveness of love in producing and controlling our actions, there can be no question. The Saviour declares that love to God and love to man virtually constitute the sum total of human requirements; on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. The apostle Paul, after mentioning various commandments which Christians are bound to observe, adds, “And if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” and reaches this general conclusion, “Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Elsewhere he says, ” The love of Christ constraineth us.”
In reference to the influence of love, Alexander Knox says, “Our love is ourselves. If we love base things we are base; trifling, we are triflers; earthly, we are worldly ; divine and eternal things, we are spiritual and heavenly. Faith then is such an apprehension of divine things as makes the things apprehended the object of supreme love.”
Jacob Abbott has such confidence in the transforming power of love that he sums up his directions to parents in moulding their children, somewhat as follows: “Secure their love and then be in their presence what you want them to be.” Archbishop Whately has a most excellent discourse on the subject, ” Love toward Christ as a motive to obedience.” In it he says that one of the most striking peculiarities of the religion of Christ is its continual appeal to the affections. He admits that Christ and his apostles also address themselves to the reason and the interest of men, but, especially in the case of believers, they chiefly insist upon love toward Christ as the mainspring of all their conduct.
The Catholic system, as is well known, attributes nearly everything in the matter of sanctification to the power of charity (love) which is the chief part of the inherent righteousness that expels sin and brings forth the works of righteousness.
The power of love in producing obedience to the divine precepts being universally admitted, there remains but one point further to be decided. Does this love owe its origin to faith, or may faith at times exist independently of love?
St. John declares that we love God because he first loved us, thus basing our love toward God upon his previous love to us. Now it is self-evident that this love to God could not possibly spring up out of the love of God toward us, unless we also believed that God did really love us as claimed. St. Paul in Galatians says, “faith worketh by love.” Here evidently a close connection is affirmed between faith and love; yea, to faith a habitual working is ascribed as though it were its nature to operate by means of love. It is true that Cardinal Bellarmine argues that this passage ought to be read in the passive voice, meaning that faith is wrought or perfected by love. Boyse in his work entitled “Wrought Gold,” has very satisfactorily and briefly answered this objection, by pointing out that the objection disagrees herein with the Fathers, and with their own Vulgate which is made binding on Catholics by the Council of Trent, as also with the English translation approved by the Church of Rome.
Again, the case of the woman at Simon’s house teaches very plainly and emphatically that love is the result and fruit of forgiveness, as forgiveness is the fruit of faith. Thus the Saviour in the question he puts to Simon concerning the two debtors clearly intimates that love will follow forgiveness, and from his approval of Simon’s answer it is equally clear that in his judgment, love not only flows from forgiveness, but is exactly proportioned to the extent of the forgiveness. And from this principle, that love is in proportion to the greatness of the sins forgiven, he argues that this woman’s sins were many, for she loved much. And then, that the love might not be viewed as the cause of the pardon, instead of the consequence, he says very plainly in verse 50, “Thy faith has saved thee.” This passage (Luke vii. 36-50) is in itself abundantly sufficient to prove the point made, that faith is the cause of love. But as this is a vital point in the controversy between Rome and Protestantism, as it in fact decides the dispute against Rome and all who with her say that faith cannot be depended upon to account for and to produce sanctification, they naturally make most desperate attempts to prove that faith does not invariably and necessarily bring forth love. Bellarmine accordingly discusses this proposition, “Whether justifying faith can be .separated from love.” He undertakes to maintain the affirmative of this question, but as Davenant asserts, shrewdly changes it into another, “True and Christian faith which justifies per modum dispositionis can be separated from love and other virtues.” Dominic Soto, another theologian of Rome, maintains the proposition in this form, “True and orthodox faith and that which is necessary for justification, can exist without charity.” Davenant over against them defends the Protestant view that faith and love invariably go together. We will not stop to follow out his argument, as enough has already been said to establish the fact that according to the Scriptures, love is the natural and inevitable product of faith; that constituted as is the human mind, where there once exists a sense of guilt and misery through sin, and this is followed up by the conviction that through the merciful intervention of Christ, this guilt and its punishment has been remitted, and that in due course of time even the stains of sin are to be completely wiped out—there can be no other state of mind than that of grateful love toward him who has delivered us.
The teaching of our Confessions is very clear and strong on the subject of the relation which faith and love bear to each other. Thus the Apology declares, “It is extremely foolish and improper on the part of our adversaries, to contend that even those who deserve eternal wrath, obtain forgiveness of sin through love or self-selected works of love; whereas it is clearly impossible to love God until the heart has taken hold of the remission of sins through faith. For a heart filled with anxiety and truly feeling the wrath of God, can never love him until he gives it relief and comfort and assures us of his grace. * * * What the Scholiasts say concerning the love of God is a wild conceit; it being impossible to love God before we know and embrace his mercy through faith. Then only does God become an object amiable, lovely. * * * How is it possible for us to love God when involved in such great terror and unspeakable agony, or feeling the great and terrible displeasure and wrath of God, which are then more forcibly felt than any one on earth is able to express or describe.” Even Alexander Knox, who with Bishop Jebb regards justification by faith as a mere notion and nonentity, having no effect upon the heart and the affections, admits that “it may be the legitimate parent of feeling” in instances ” where through error or ignorance there is a despair of divine mercy,” and allows “that for this malady the truths included in the forensic system are perhaps the specific.” From this admission it is very natural, with the Christian observer, to infer that if this doctrine is a specific for the very lowest forms of depression, a cure for the severest types of spiritual diseases, it will be an efficient remedy in all other cases.
Finally, in summing the points we have established in respect to faith, we find that wherever the faith that justifies exists, there will be the following results as a consequence of that faith. Faith brings the believer to a willingness to surrender himself completely to the control of Christ; this effects a union between the believer and Christ, and secures the personal effort of Christ for the believer’s salvation from the dominion of sin. In consequence of this union, the Saviour having now engaged himself to accomplish the believer’s restoration to holiness, puts him permanently in charge of the Holy Spirit, who, taking up his abode in the believer’s heart, is continually at hand to instruct, to guide, to correct, to restrain from every wrong doing and to incite to righteousness—in short, to superintend and carry on the whole process of sanctification and salvation. By faith the believer is further brought into contact with, and under the operation of all the objects and beings that make up the whole invisible world around us, as far as these objects and beings are revealed in the Scriptures; or in other words, it brings him under the influence of all revealed truth, that truth which is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and makes the man of God complete and thoroughly furnished unto all good works. This truth the Holy Spirit makes use of as a means of promoting the holiness of the individual given into his charge. This truth contains the most powerful motive force that can be brought to bear upon the human mind, whether to beget or regulate activity. Besides, faith also supplies an impulse from within in the direction of holiness — the impulse of love, the most constant and powerful principle that we have any knowledge of—a principle which, according to Christ, is the sum and substance of the Ten Commandments, the essence of the whole duty of man. Through faith then the believer is brought under the operation of the most powerful inner impulse in existence; under the operation of the mightiest external motives in the universe, and under the personal care and supervision of the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of sanctification ; and if these combined influences are not adequate to guarantee the believer’s holiness, then we feel very confident that nothing that the ingenuity of Rome has ever been able to suggest in place thereof, is worthy of a moment’s consideration.
We conclude this discussion then in the words of our Article, “From all this it is manifest that our doctrine, instead of being charged with prohibiting good works, ought much rather to be com-mended for teaching the manner in which truly good works can be performed.”