The whole of that in which we appear before God, justifies us. But we appear before God, not only by Faith, but also by Works. Therefore, we are justified before God, not only by Faith, but likewise by Works.
A man who is ignorant of those things which are here the order of the day, and who reads this article, will undoubtedly think, that, in the point of justification, I favour the party of the Papists, and am their professed defender. Nay, he will suppose, that I have proceeded to such a pitch of impudence, as to have the audacity to maintain a conclusion directly contrary to the words of the Apostle, who says, |We conclude, therefore, that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law.| But when he shall understand the origin of this article, and why it is charged on me, then it will be evident to him that it arises from calumny and from a corruption of my words. I deny, therefore, that I made that syllogism, or ever intended to draw that conclusion, or to propound those things from which such a conclusion might be deduced.
This brief defense would suffice for all upright minds, to give a favourable interpretation, if perchance anything had been spoken which could give occasion to unjust suspicion. But it will be labour well bestowed, for me to transcribe my own words from a certain disputation on JUSTIFICATION, from which this article has been taken; that it may appear with what kind of fidelity they have made their extract. The Ninth Thesis in it is thus expressed:
|From these things, thus laid down according to the Scriptures, we conclude, that JUSTIFICATION, when used for the act of a judge, is either purely the imputation of righteousness, bestowed, through mercy from the throne of grace in Christ the Propitiation, on a sinner, but on one who believes; or that man is justified before God, of debt, according to the rigor of justice, without any forgiveness. Because the Papists deny the latter, they ought to concede the former. And this is so far true, that, how highly soever any one of the saints may be endowed with faith, hope, and charity, and how numerous soever and excellent may be the works of faith, hope, and charity, which he has performed, yet he will not obtain from God, the judge, a sentence of justification, unless He quit the tribunal of His severe justice, and place Himself in the throne of Grace, and out of it pronounce a sentence of absolution in his favour, and unless the Lord of his mercy and pity, graciously account for righteousness the whole of that good with which the saint appears before Him. For woe to a life of the greatest innocence, if it be judged without mercy! This truth even the Papists seem to acknowledge, who assert, that the works of the saints cannot stand before the judgment of God, unless they be sprinkled with the blood of Christ.|' (Public Disput. XIX.)
Thus far my Thesis. Could any person imagine that the major in this article can, according to my sentiments and design, be deduced from it, |The whole of that in which we appear before God, justifies us;| how can this be deduced, when I say, |that not even this good, which the Papists are able or know how to attribute to the most holy men, can obtain from God a sentence of justification, unless He, through mercy from the throne of grace, reckon this graciously for righteousness.| Who does not perceive, that I grant this through sufferance and concession?| |God considers and esteems for righteousness all this good in which, the Papists say, the saints appear before God.| I yield this, that I may the more firmly confute them; and I thus obtain, |that not even that total can be accounted for righteousness, except graciously and through mercy.| This conduct is real malignity, and a violent distortion of my words; on account of which I have indeed no small occasion given to me of complaining before God of this injury. But I contain myself, lest my complaint to God should be detrimental to their souls; I would rather beseech God to be pleased to grant them a better mind.
The matter, with regard to me, stands thus; as if any one should say to a Monk or a Pharisee, who was boasting of his virtues and works of his faith, hope, love, obedience, voluntary chastity and similar excellences: |O man! unless God were to omit the severity of his justice, and unless from the throne of Grace, He were to pronounce a sentence of absolution concerning thee, unless He were graciously to reckon all that good of thine, however great it may be, and thus to account it for righteousness, thou wouldst not be able to stand before Him, or to be justified.| I declare, and before Christ I make the declaration, that this was my meaning. And every man is the best interpreter of his own expressions. But let it be allowed, that I have said these things from my own sentiments; was this proposition [of their fabrication] to be deduced from my words? If it was, they ought to have proceeded thus according to scientific method. They ought to have briefly laid down the enunciation which I employed, and which might be in this form: |Unless God graciously account for righteousness the whole of this good in which a saint appears before Him, that saint cannot be justified before God.| From which will be deduced this affirmative proposition, |If God graciously accounts for righteousness this good in which a holy man appears, then this holy man can be justified before God,| or |he will then be justified before God| The word |the whole,| has a place in the negative proposition; because it conduces to the exaggeration. But it ought not to have a place in that which is affirmative. Let this question, however, have a place here: Why have my brethren omitted these words? |The Lord graciously of his mercy, from the throne of his Grace, having omitted the severity of judgment, accounts that good for righteousness.| And why have they proposed only these? |The whole of that in which we appear before God, justifies us.| This is, indeed, not to deny the fact; but a pretext is thus sought for calumny, under the equivocation of the word |justifies,| as justification may be either of grace, or of debt or severe judgment. But I have excluded that which is of debt or severe judgment from my expressions, and have included only the justification which is of grace. Let these remarks suffice for the major proposition.
I now proceed to the assumption that they have subjoined to this proposition, which is theirs and not mine. It reads thus: |But we appear before God, not only by Faith, but also by Works| Then is it your pleasure, my brethren, to appear thus before God? David was not of this opinion, when he said:
|Enter not into judgment with thy servant. For in thy sight shall no man living be justified,| or |shall justify himself.| (Psalm cxliii.2.) Which is thus rendered by the Apostle Paul, |For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.| (Gal. ii.16.) But perhaps you will say, that you do not appear before God |by the works of the law, but by works produced from faith and love.| I wish you to explain to me, what it is to appear by faith, and what to appear by works; and whether it can possibly happen, that a man may appear both by faith and works. I know, the saints who will be placed before the tribunal of the Divine Justice, have had Faith, and through Faith have performed good Works. But, I think, they appear and stand before God with this confidence or trust, |that God has set forth his Son Jesus Christ as a propitiation through Faith in his blood, that they may thus be justified by the Faith of Jesus Christ, through the remission of sins.| I do not read, that Christ is constituted a propitiation through Works in his blood, that we may also be justified by Works.
My desire indeed is, to appear before the tribunal of God thus, [with this confidence or trust in Christ, as a propitiation through Faith in his blood] and |to be graciously judged through mercy from the throne of grace|. If I be otherwise judged, I know I shall be condemned; which sore judgment may the Lord, who is full of clemency and pity, avert according to his great mercy, even from you, my brethren, though you thus speak, whether the words which you use convey your own meaning, or whether you attribute this meaning to me. I also might thus draw wonderful conclusions from this assumption, which is laid down, if an accusation were to be set aside by retaliation or a recriminating charge, and not by innocence. But I will not resort to such a course, lest I seem to return evil for evil; though I might do this with a somewhat greater show of reason.