Another mode of justification is handed down by the scholastic theologians when they teach that we are righteous through a habit infused by God, which is love, and that, aided by this habit, we observe the Law of God outwardly and inwardly and that this fulfilling of the Law is worthy of grace and of eternal life. This doctrine is plainly the doctrine of the Law. For that is true which the Law says: Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, etc., Deut.6, 5. Thou shalt love thy neighbor Lev.19, 18. Love is, therefore, the fulfilling of the Law.
But it is easy for a Christian to judge concerning both modes, because both modes exclude Christ, and are therefore to be rejected. In the former, which teaches that our works are a propitiation for sin, the impiety is manifest. The latter mode contains much that is injurious. It does not teach that, when we are born again, we avail ourselves of Christ. It does not teach that justification is the remission of sins. It does not teach that we attain the remission of sins before we love but falsely represents that we rouse in ourselves the act of love, through which we merit remission of sins. Nor does it teach that by faith in Christ we overcome the terrors of sin and death. It falsely represents that, by their own fulfilling of the Law, without Christ as Propitiator, men come to God. Finally, it represents that this very fulfilling of the Law, without Christ as Propitiator, is righteousness worthy of grace and eternal life, while nevertheless scarcely a weak and feeble fulfilling of the Law occurs even in saints.
But if any one will only reflect upon it that the Gospel has not been given in vain to the world, and that Christ has not been promised, set forth, has not been born, has not suffered, has not risen again in vain, he will most readily understand that we are justified not from reason or from the Law. In regard to justification, we therefore are compelled to dissent from the adversaries. For the Gospel shows another mode; the Gospel compels us to avail ourselves of Christ in justification, it teaches that through Him we have access to God by faith; it teaches that we ought to set Him as Mediator and Propitiator against God's wrath; it teaches that by faith in Christ the remission of sins and reconciliation are received, and the terrors of sin and of death overcome. Thus Paul also says that righteousness is not of the Law, but of the promise, in which the Father has promised that He wishes to forgive, that for Christ's sake He wishes to be reconciled. This promise, however, is received by faith alone, as Paul testifies, Rom.4,13. This faith alone receives remission of sins, justifies, and regenerates. Then love and other good fruits follow. Thus, therefore, we teach that man is justified, as we have above said, when conscience, terrified by the preaching of repentance, is cheered and believes that for Christ's sake it has a reconciled God. This faith is counted for righteousness before God, Rom.4, 3.5. And when in this manner the heart is cheered and quickened by faith, it receives the Holy Ghost, who renews us, so that we are able to observe the Law; so that we are able to love God and the Word of God, and to be submissive to God in afflictions, so that we are able to be chaste, to love our neighbor, etc. Even though these works are as yet far distant from the perfection of the Law, yet they please on account of faith, by which we are accounted righteous, because we believe that for Christ's sake we have a reconciled God. These things are plain and in harmony with the Gospel, and can be understood by persons of sound mind. And from this foundation it can easily be decided why we ascribe justification to faith, and not to love; although love follows faith, because love is the fulfilling of the Law. But Paul teaches that we are justified not from the Law, but from the promise which is received only by faith. For we neither come to God without Christ as Mediator, nor receive remission of sins for the sake of our love, but for the sake of Christ. Likewise we are not able to love God while He is angry, and the Law always accuses us, always manifests to us an angry God. Therefore, by faith we must first apprehend the promise that for Christ's sake the Father is reconciled and forgives. Afterwards we begin to observe the Law. Our eyes are to be cast far away from human reason, far away from Moses upon Christ, and we are to believe that Christ is given us, in order that for His sake we may be accounted righteous. In the flesh we never satisfy the Law. Thus, therefore, we are accounted righteous, not on account of the Law but on account of Christ because His merits are granted us, if we believe on Him. If any one, therefore, has considered these foundations, that we are not justified by the Law because human nature cannot observe the Law of God and cannot love God, but that we are justified from the promise, in which, for Christ's sake, reconciliation, righteousness, and eternal life have been promised, he will easily understand that justification must necessarily be ascribed to faith, if he only will reflect upon the fact that it is not in vain that Christ has been promised and set forth, that He has been born and has suffered and been raised again; if he will reflect upon the fact that the promise of grace in Christ is not in vain, that it was made immediately from the beginning of the world apart from and beyond the Law; if he will reflect upon the fact that the promise should be received by faith, as John says, 1 Ep.5, 10 sq.: He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. And Christ says John 8, 36: If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. And Paul, Rom.5, 2: By whom also we have access to God; and he adds: by faith. By faith in Christ, therefore, the promise of remission of sins and of righteousness is received. Neither are we justified before God by reason or by the Law.
These things are so plain and so manifest that we wonder that the madness of the adversaries is so great as to call them into doubt. The proof is manifest that, since we are justified before God not from the Law but from the promise, it is necessary to ascribe justification to faith. What can be opposed to this proof, unless some one wish to abolish the entire Gospel and the entire Christ? The glory of Christ becomes more brilliant when we teach that we avail ourselves of Him as Mediator and Propitiator. Godly consciences see that in this doctrine the most abundant consolation is offered to them, namely, that they ought to believe and most firmly assert that they have a reconciled Father for Christ's sake, and not for the sake of our righteousness, and that, nevertheless, Christ aids us, so that we are able to observe also the Law. Of such great blessings as these the adversaries deprive the Church when they condemn and endeavor to efface, the doctrine concerning the righteousness of faith. Therefore let all well-disposed minds beware of consenting to the godless counsels of the adversaries. In the doctrine of the adversaries concerning justification no mention is made of Christ, and how we ought to set Him against the wrath of God, as though, indeed, we were able to overcome the wrath of God by love, or to love an angry God. In regard to these things, consciences are left in uncertainty. For if they are to think that they have a reconciled God for the reason that they love, and that they observe the Law, they must needs always doubt whether they have a reconciled God, because they either do not feel this love, as the adversaries acknowledge, or they certainly feel that it is very small; and much more frequently do they feel that they are angry at the judgment of God, who oppresses human nature with many terrible evils, with troubles of this life, the terrors of eternal wrath, etc. When, therefore, will conscience be at rest, when will it be pacified? When, in this doubt and in these terrors, will it love God? What else is the doctrine of the Law than a doctrine of despair? And let any one of our adversaries come forward who can teach us concerning this love, how he himself loves God. They do not at all understand what they say they only echo, just like the walls of a house, the little word |love,| without understanding it. So confused and obscure is their doctrine: it not only transfers the glory of Christ to human works, but also leads consciences either to presumption or to despair. But ours, we hope, is readily understood by pious minds, and brings godly and salutary consolation to terrified consciences. For as the adversaries quibble that also many wicked men and devils believe, we have frequently already said that we speak of faith in Christ, i.e., of faith in the remission of sins, of faith which truly and heartily assents to the promise of grace. This is not brought about without a great struggle in human hearts. And men of sound mind can easily judge that the faith which believes that we are cared for by God, and that we are forgiven and heard by Him, is a matter above nature. For of its own accord the human mind makes no such decision concerning God. Therefore this faith of which we speak is neither in the wicked nor in devils.
Furthermore, if any sophist cavils that righteousness is in the will, and therefore it cannot be ascribed to faith, which is in the intellect, the reply is easy, because in the schools even such persons acknowledge that the will commands the intellect to assent to the Word of God. We say also quite clearly: Just as the terrors of sin and death are not only thoughts of the intellect, but also horrible movements of the will fleeing God's judgment, so faith is not only knowledge in the intellect, but also confidence in the will, i.e., it is to wish and to receive that which is offered in the promise, namely, reconciliation and remission of sins. Scripture thus uses the term |faith,| as the following sentence of Paul testifies, Rom.5, 1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. Moreover, in this passage, to justify signifies, according to forensic usage, to acquit a guilty one and declare him righteous, but on account of the righteousness of another, namely, of Christ, which righteousness of another is communicated to us by faith. Therefore, since in this passage our righteousness is the imputation of the righteousness of another, we must here speak concerning righteousness otherwise than when in philosophy or in a civil court we seek after the righteousness of one's own work which certainly is in the will. Paul accordingly says, 1 Cor.1, 30: Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us Wisdom and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption. And 2 Cor.5, 21: He hath mode Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. But because the righteousness of Christ is given us by faith, faith is for this reason righteousness in us imputatively, i.e., it is that by which we are made acceptable to God on account of the imputation and ordinance of God, as Paul says, Rom.4, 3.5: Faith is reckoned for righteousness. Although on account of certain captious persons we must say technically: Faith is truly righteousness, because it is obedience to the Gospel. For it is evident that obedience to the command of a superior is truly a species of distributive justice. And this obedience to the Gospel is reckoned for righteousness, so that, only on account of this, because by this we apprehend Christ as Propitiator, good works, or obedience to the Law, are pleasing. For we do not satisfy the Law, but for Christ's sake this is forgiven us, as Paul says, Rom.8, 1: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. This faith gives God the honor, gives God that which is His own, in this, that, by receiving the promises, it obeys Him. Just as Paul also says, Rom.4, 20: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. Thus the worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive from God gifts, on the contrary, the worship of the Law is to offer and present our gifts to God. We can, however, offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage too, brings the greatest consolation, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to wish to receive remission of sins, grace, and righteousness. Of this worship Christ says, John 6, 40: This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life. And the Father says, Matt.17, 5: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him. The adversaries speak of obedience to the Law; they do not speak of obedience to the Gospel, and yet we cannot obey the Law, unless, through the Gospel, we have been born again, since we cannot love God, unless the remission of sins has been received. For as long as we feel that He is angry with us, human nature flees from His wrath and judgment. If any one should make a cavil such as this: If that be faith which wishes those things that are offered in the promise, the habits of faith and hope seem to be confounded, because hope is that which expects promised things, to this we reply that these dispositions cannot in reality be severed, in the manner that they are divided by idle speculations in the schools. For also in the Epistle to the Hebrews faith is defined as the substance (exspectatio) of things hoped for, Heb.11, 1. Yet if any one wish a distinction to be made, we say that the object of hope is properly a future event, but that faith is concerned with future and present things, and receives in the present the remission of sins offered in the promise.
From these statements we hope that it can be sufficiently understood both what faith is and that we are compelled to hold that by faith we are justified, reconciled, and regenerated, if, indeed, we wish to teach the righteousness of the Gospel, and not the righteousness of the Law. For those who teach that we are justified by love teach the righteousness of the Law, and do not teach us in justification to avail ourselves of Christ as Mediator. These things also are manifest namely, that not by love, but by faith, we overcome the terrors of sin and death, that we cannot oppose our love and fulfilling of the Law to the wrath of God, because Paul says, Rom.5, 2: By Christ we have access to God by faith. We urge this sentence so frequently for the sake of perspicuity. For it shows most clearly the state of our whole case, and, when carefully considered, can teach abundantly concerning the whole matter, and can console well-disposed minds. Accordingly, it is of advantage to have it at hand and in sight, not only that we may be able to oppose it to the doctrine of our adversaries, who teach that we come to God not by faith, but by love and merits, without Christ as Mediator; and also, at the same time that, when in fear, we may cheer ourselves and exercise faith. This is also manifest, that without the aid of Christ we cannot observe the Law, as He Himself says John 15, 5: Without Me ye can do nothing. Accordingly, before we observe the Law, our hearts must be born again by faith. [From the explanations which we have made it can easily be inferred what answer must be given to similar quotations. For the rule so interprets all passages that treat of good works that outside of Christ they are to be worthless before God, and that the heart must first have Christ, and believe that it is accepted with God for Christ's sake, not because of its own works. The adversaries also bring forward some arguments of the schools, which are easily answered, if you know what faith is. Tried Christians speak of faith quite differently from the sophists, for we have shown before that to believe means to rely on the mercy of God, that He desires to be gracious for Christ's sake, without our merits. That is what it means to believe the article of the forgiveness of sin. To believe this does not mean to know the history only, which the devils also know. Therefore we can easily meet the argument of the schools when they say that the devils also believe, therefore faith does not justify. Aye, the devils know the history, but they do not believe the forgiveness of sin. Again, they say: To be righteous is to be obedient. Now, to perform works is certainly obedience; therefore works must justify. We should answer this as follows: To be righteous is a kind of obedience which God accepts as such. Now God is not willing to accept our obedience in works as righteousness; for it is not an obedience of the heart, because none truly keep the Law. For this reason He has ordained that there should be another kind of obedience which He will accept as righteousness, namely, that we are to acknowledge our disobedience, and trust that we are pleasing to God for Christ's sake, not on account of our obedience. Accordingly, to be righteous in this case means to be pleasing to God, not on account of our own obedience, but from mercy for Christ's sake. Again, to sin is to hate God; therefore, to love God must be righteousness. True, to love God is the righteousness of the Law. But nobody fulfils this Law. Therefore the Gospel teaches a new kind of righteousness, namely, that we are pleasing to God for Christ's sake, although we have not fulfilled the Law; and yet, we are to begin to do the Law. Again, what is the difference between faith and hope? Answer: Hope expects future blessings and deliverance from tribulation; faith receives the present reconciliation, and concludes in the heart that God has forgiven my sin, and that He is now gracious to me. And this is a noble service of God, which serves God by giving Him the honor, and by esteeming His mercy and promise so sure that without merit we can receive and expect from Him all manner of blessings. And in this service of God the heart should be exercised and increase, of which the foolish sophists know nothing.]
Hence it can also be understood why we find fault with the doctrine of the adversaries concerning meritum condigni. The decision is very easy: because they do not make mention of faith, that we please God by faith for Christ's sake, but imagine that good works, wrought by the aid of the habit of love, constitute a righteousness worthy by itself to please God, and worthy of eternal life, and that they have no need of Christ as Mediator. [This can in no wise be tolerated.] What else is this than to transfer the glory of Christ to our works, namely that we please God because of our works, and not because of Christ? But this is also to rob Christ of the glory of being the Mediator who is Mediator perpetually, and not merely in the beginning of Justification. Paul also says, Gal.2, 17, that If one justified in Christ have need afterwards to seek righteousness elsewhere, he affirms of Christ that He is a minister of sin, i.e., that He does not fully justify. [And this is what the holy, catholic, Christian Church teaches, preaches, and confesses, namely, that we are saved by mercy as we have shown above from Jerome.] And most absurd is that which the adversaries teach, namely, that good works merit grace de condigno, as though indeed after the beginning of justification, if conscience is terrified, as is ordinarily the case, grace must be sought through a good work, and not by faith in Christ.
Secondly, the doctrine of the adversaries leaves consciences in doubt, so that they never can be pacified, because the Law always accuses us, even in good works. For always the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, Gal.5, 17. How, therefore, will conscience here have peace without faith, if it believe that, not for Christ's sake, but for the sake of one's own work, it ought now to please God? What work will it find, upon what will it firmly rely as worthy of eternal life, if, indeed, hope ought to originate from merits? Against these doubts Paul says, Rom.5, 1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God; we ought to be firmly convinced that for Christ's sake righteousness and eternal life are granted us. And of Abraham he says Rom.4, 18: Against hope he believed in hope.
Thirdly, how will conscience know when by the inclination of this habit of love, a work has been done of which it may affirm that it merits grace de condigno? But it is only to elude the Scriptures that this very distinction has been devised, namely, that men merit at one time de congruo and at another time de condigno, because, as we have above said, the intention of the one who works does not distinguish the kinds of merit; but hypocrites, in their security, think simply their works are worthy, and that for this reason they are accounted righteous. On the other hand, terrified consciences doubt concerning all works, and for this reason are continually seeking other works. For this is what it means to merit de congruo, namely to doubt and, without faith, to work, until despair takes place. In a word, all that the adversaries teach in regard to this matter is full of errors and dangers.
Fourthly, the entire [the holy, catholic, Christian] Church confesses that eternal life is attained through mercy. For thus Augustine speaks On Grace and Free Will, when indeed, he is speaking of the works of the saints wrought after justification: God leads us to eternal life not by our merits, but according to His mercy. And Confessions, Book IX: Woe to the life of man, however much it may be worthy of praise, if it be judged with mercy removed. And Cyprian in his treatise on the Lord's Prayer: Lest any one should flatter himself that he is innocent, and by exalting himself, should perish the more deeply, he is instructed and taught that he sins daily, in that he is bidden to entreat daily for his sins. But the subject is well known, and has very many and very clear testimonies in Scripture, and in the Church Fathers, who all with one mouth declare that, even though we have good works yet in these very works we need mercy. Faith looking upon this mercy cheers and consoles us. Wherefore the adversaries teach erroneously when they so extol merits as to add nothing concerning this faith that apprehends mercy. For just as we have above said that the promise and faith stand in a reciprocal relation, and that the promise is not apprehended unless by faith, so we here say that the promised mercy correlatively requires faith, and cannot be apprehended without faith. Therefore we justly find fault with the doctrine concerning meritum condigni, since it teaches nothing of justifying faith, and obscures the glory and office of Christ as Mediator. Nor should we be regarded as teaching anything new in this matter, since the Church Fathers have so clearly handed down the doctrine that even in good works we need mercy.
Scripture also often inculcates the same. In Ps.143, 9: And enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified. This passage denies absolutely, even to all saints and servants of God, the glory of righteousness, if God does not forgive, but judges and convicts their hearts. For when David boasts in other places of his righteousness, he speaks concerning his own cause against the persecutors of God's Word, he does not speak of his personal purity; and he asks that the cause and glory of God be defended, as in Ps.7, 8: Judge me, O Lord, according to Thy righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me. Likewise in Ps.130, 3, he says that no one can endure God's judgment, if God were to mark our sins: If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? Job 9, 28: I am afraid of all my sorrows [Vulg., opera, works]; v.30: If I wash myself with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean, yet Thou shalt plunge me in the ditch. Prov.20, 9: Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? 1 John 1, 8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, etc. And in the Lord's Prayer the saints ask for the remission of sins. Therefore even the saints have sins. Num.14, 18: The innocent shall not be innocent [cf. Ex.34, 7]. Deut.4, 24: The Lord, thy God, is a consuming fire. Zechariah also says, 2, 13: Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord. Is.40, 6: All flesh is as grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it, i. e., flesh and righteousness of the flesh cannot endure the judgment of God. Jonah also says, chap.2, 8: They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy, i.e., all confidence is vain, except confidence in mercy; mercy delivers us; our own merits, our own efforts, do not. Accordingly, Daniel also prays, 9, 18 sq.: For we do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousnesses but for Thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do it; defer not for Thine own sake, O my God; for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name. Thus Daniel teaches us in praying to lay hold upon mercy, i.e., to trust in God's mercy, and not to trust in our own merits before God. We also wonder what our adversaries do in prayer, if, indeed, the profane men ever ask anything of God. If they declare that they are worthy because they have love and good works, and ask for grace as a debt, they pray precisely like the Pharisee in Luke 18, 11, who says: I am not as other men are. He who thus prays for grace and does not rely upon God's mercy, treats Christ with dishonor, who, since He is our High Priest, intercedes for us. Thus, therefore, prayer relies upon God's mercy, when we believe that we are heard for the sake of Christ the High Priest, as He Himself says, John 14, 13: Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. In My name, He says, because without this High Priest we cannot approach the Father.
[All prudent men will see what follows from the opinion of the adversaries. For if we shall believe that Christ has merited only the prima gratia, as they call it, and that we afterwards merit eternal life by our works, hearts or consciences will be pacified neither at the hour of death, nor at any other time, nor can they ever build upon certain ground; they are never certain that God is gracious. Thus their doctrine unintermittingly leads to nothing but misery of soul and, finally, to despair. For God's Law is not a matter of pleasantry; it ceaselessly accuses consciences outside of Christ, as Paul says, Rom.4, 15: The Law worketh wrath. Thus it will happen that if consciences feel the judgment of God, they have no certain comfort and will rush into despair.
Paul says: Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Rom.14, 23. But those persons can do nothing from faith who are first to attain to this that God is gracious to them only when they have at length fulfilled the Law. They will always quake with doubt whether they have done enough good works, whether the Law has been satisfied, yea, they will keenly feel and understand that they are still under obligation to the Law. Accordingly, they will never be sure that they have a gracious God, and that their prayer is heard. Therefore they can never truly love God, nor expect any blessing from Him, nor truly worship God. What else are such hearts and consciences than hell itself, since there is nothing in them but despair, fainting away grumbling, discontent, and hatred of God, and yet in this hatred they invoke and worship God, just as Saul worshiped Him
Here we appeal to all Christian minds and to all that are experienced in trials; they will be forced to confess and say that such great uncertainty, such disquietude, such torture and anxiety, such horrible fear and doubt follow from this teaching of the adversaries who imagine that we are accounted righteous before God by our own works or fulfilling of the Law which we perform, and point us to Queer Street by bidding us trust not in the rich, blessed promises of Grace, given us by Christ the Mediator, but in our own miserable works! Therefore, this conclusion stands like a rock, yea, like a wall, namely, that, although we have begun to do the Law, still we are accepted with God and at peace with Him, not on account of such works of ours, but for Christ's sake by faith; nor does God owe us everlasting life on account of these works. But just as forgiveness of sin and righteousness is imputed to us for Christ's sake, not on account of our works, or the Law, so everlasting life, together with righteousness, is offered us, not on account of our works, or of the Law, but for Christ's sake as Christ says, John 6, 40: This is the Father's will that sent He, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him may have everlasting life. Again, v.47: He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. Now, the adversaries should be asked at this point what advice they give to poor consciences in the hour of death: whether they comfort consciences by telling them that they will have a blessed departure, that they will be saved, and have a propitiated God, because of their own merits or because of God's grace and mercy for Christ's sake. For St. Peter St. Paul, and saints like them cannot boast that God owes them eternal life for their martyrdom, nor have they relied on their works, but on the mercy promised in Christ.
Nor would it be possible that a saint, great and high though he be, could make a firm stand against the accusations of the divine Law, the great might of the devil, the terror of death, and, finally, against despair and the anguish of hell, if he would not grasp the divine promises, the Gospel, as a tree or branch in the great flood in the strong, violent stream, amidst the waves and billows of the anguish of death; if he does not cling by faith to the Word, which proclaims grace, and thus obtains eternal life without works, without the Law, from pure grace. For this doctrine alone preserves Christian consciences in afflictions and anguish of death. Of these things the adversaries know nothing, and talk of them like a blind man about color.
Here they will say: If we are to be saved by pure mercy, what difference is there between those who are saved, and those who are not saved? If merit is of no account, there is no difference between the evil and the good and it follows that both are saved alike. This argument has moved the scholastics to invent the meritum condigni; for there must be (they think) a difference between those who are saved and those who are damned.
We reply; in the first place, that everlasting life is accorded to those whom God esteems just, and when they have been esteemed just, they are become, by that act, the children of God and coheirs of Christ, as Paul says, Rom.8, 30: Whom He justified, them He also glorified. Hence nobody is saved except only those who believe the Gospel. But as our reconciliation with God is uncertain if it is to rest on our works, and not on the gracious promise of God, which cannot fail, so, too, all that we expect by hope would be uncertain if it must be built on the foundation of our merits and works. For the Law of God ceaselessly accuses the conscience and men feel in their hearts nothing but this voice from the fiery, flaming cloud: I am the Lord, thy God; this thou shalt do; that thou art obliged to do; this I require of thee. Deut.5, 6 ff. No conscience can for a moment be at rest when the Law and Moses assails the heart, before it apprehends Christ by faith. Nor can it truly hope for eternal life, unless it be pacified before. For a doubting conscience flees from God, despairs and cannot hope. However, hope of eternal life must be certain. Now, in order that it may not be fickle, but certain, we must believe that we have eternal life, not by our works or merits, but from pure grace, by faith in Christ.
In secular affairs and in secular courts we meet with both, mercy and justice. Justice is certain by the laws and the verdict rendered, mercy is uncertain. In this matter that relates to God the case is different; for grace and mercy have been promised us by a certain word, and the Gospel is the word which commands us to believe that God is gracious and wishes to save us for Christ's sake, as the text reads, John 3, 17: God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned.
Now, whenever we speak of mercy, the meaning is to be this, that faith is required, and it is this faith that makes the difference between those who are saved, and those who are damned, between those who are worthy, and those who are unworthy. For everlasting life has been promised to none but those who have been reconciled by Christ. Faith, however, reconciles and justifies before God the moment we apprehend the promise by faith. And throughout our entire life we are to pray God and be diligent, to receive faith and to grow in faith. For, as stated before, faith is where repentance is, and it is not in those who walk after the flesh. This faith is to grow and increase throughout our life by all manner of afflictions. Those who obtain faith are regenerated, so that they lead a new life and do good works.
Now, just as we say that true repentance is to endure throughout our entire life, we say, too, that good works and the fruits of faith must be done throughout our life, although our works never become so precious as to be equal to the treasure of Christ, or to merit eternal life, as Christ says, Luke 17, 10: When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants. And St. Bernard truly says: There is need that you must first believe that you cannot have forgiveness of sin except by the grace of God; next, that thereafter you cannot have and do any good work unless God grants it to you; lastly, that you cannot earn eternal life with your works, though it is not given you without merit. A little further on he says: Let no one deceive himself; for when you rightly consider the matter, you will undoubtedly find that you cannot meet with ten thousand him who approaches you with twenty thousand. These are strong sayings of St. Bernard; let them believe these if they will not believe us.
In order, then, that hearts may have a true certain comfort and hope, we point them, with Paul, to the divine promise of grace in Christ, and teach that we must believe that God gives us eternal life, not on account of our works, but for Christ's sake, as the Apostle John says in his Epistle, 1, 5, 12: He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.]