The caution of conservatism is always wise, and conservative men are always the best reformers. Those who lack the wisdom, and therefore the caution, of conservatism are apt to react too far, and reform too much. They are rarely satisfied till they have thrown out the baby with the bath water. They see a deep-seated error, and think only of removing themselves as far from it as they can, but in so doing they proceed to an equal error on the opposite side, passing by the truth, which lies midway between the two errors.
Martin Luther was just such a warm-blooded man as was in peculiar danger here. He saw the deep-seated legal theology of the papacy, and reacted so strongly against it that he threw out the baby with the bath water, and entrenched himself in a theology which was as antinomian as the papal had been legal. The baby which was thus thrown out with the dirty bath water was that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Not that Luther meant to throw this out, but he spoke of justification by faith in so extreme and unguarded a manner as to practically accomplish it. The doctor's [Luther's] wife said to him one day: 'Doctor, how is it, that under popery we prayed so frequently and so fervently, and that now our prayers are so cold and unfrequent?' We do not admire Luther's answer. The doctor replied: 'Popery is the devil's worship, and the devil incessantly urges on his servants to practise that worship.' Perhaps he does, but does not God urge his servants to practice the true worship? Does not Scripture urge them even to Pray without ceasing? Luther's answer is lame. We suppose the truth of the matter is that antinomian theology always tends to apathy and carelessness in religion. It always tends to destroy practical piety. Only let men believe that nothing depends upon their piety, and their piety will soon decline.
Now Luther was the father of Protestantism. He set the tone and direction of Protestant theology. He fixed its terminology. All Protestants in Luther's day were called Lutherans. They were thus labelled by way of reproach, but the label was accurate, for they all followed in Luther's wake, and all adhered, in general, to the theology of Luther.
Now what concerns us in the present article is Luther's doctrine of justification by faith only. The Bible plainly teaches justification by faith, but it never mentions justification by faith only, so as to imply the exclusion of everything else. The plain fact is, the expression faith only is used only once in the Bible with any reference to justification, and in that one instance we are plainly told that justification is not by faith only. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:24). We suppose this plain statement of the book of James was the real and only reason that Luther could not brook this epistle, but ejected it from the canon of Scripture as an epistle of straw, and affirmed that it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.
In citing his reasons for believing James no apostolic work, he says, First: Flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture, it ascribes righteousness to works, and says that Abraham was justified by works, in that he offered his son Isaac, though St. Paul, on the contrary, teaches, in Romans iv, that Abraham was justified without works, by faith alone, before he offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis xv. Now although this Epistle might be helped and a gloss be found for this work-righteousness, it cannot be defended against applying to works the saying of Moses in Genesis xv, which speaks only of Abraham's faith, and not of his works, as St. Paul shows in Romans iv. This fault, therefore, leads to the conclusion that it is not the work of any apostle.
Thus wrote Luther in 1522, in the first edition of his German New Testament. The portion in which he called James an epistle of straw was omitted in subsequent editions, as were some other depreciatory remarks upon the epistle of James, but the doctrine which moved him to pass so unjust and derogatory a sentence upon the work of the Holy Ghost was yet maintained. That doctrine was justification by faith only. This doctrine was the cornerstone of Luther's theology. This it was which he called the article by which the church stands or falls.
We believe in justification by faith, as the Bible plainly teaches it, but Luther's doctrine is not the doctrine of the Bible, but an immoderate reaction against the legal theology of Rome----a reaction which passed by the Bible doctrine of a repenting, living, working faith, and entrenched itself in the doctrine of faith alone, without the repentance, righteousness, or holiness upon which the Bible conditions our salvation. There is but one single point, says Luther, in all theology----genuine faith and confidence in Jesus Christ. This article comprehends all the rest.
Thus all the rest of Scripture is practically made a dead letter, and in this point Luther has a great following to this day. Nor is it Scripture alone which Luther's faith only sets aside, but Scriptural holiness also. To Melancthon he said, Sin, sin mightily, but have all the more confidence in Christ; rejoice more vehemently in Christ, who is the conqueror of sin, of death, and of the world. While we are in this world, we can do no other than sin, we must sin. ...
I am now full of the doctrine of the remission of sins. I grant nothing to the law, nor to all the devils. He who can believe in his heart this doctrine, is saved.
But in fact, no man is saved by believing any doctrine whatsoever, much less any such doctrine as this. John writes that ye sin not. Where does the Bible say anything like Sin, sin mightily, but have all the more confidence in Christ? If this be not the direct reverse of the language of Holy Scripture, then what I have been reading these thirty-five years is not the Bible at all. What is this but to say, Let us continue in sin, that grace may abound?----a thing which the Bible roundly condemns.
But observe, all of this slighting of Scripture and of Scriptural holiness is the legitimate offspring of Luther's doctrine of justification by faith only. We know that for five centuries this doctrine has been the sacred cow of Protestantism. We know that, especially in this day, to hint that it may not be true is to lay our poor neck on the chopping block, while we hand the broad-axe to all the defenders of antinomian orthodoxy. But we rest our cause, and our neck too, upon the Bible, and those who will take off our head must chop off half the Book with the same stroke. Nor will it be the Old Testament only which they must eliminate, but much of the New Testament also, including the epistles of Paul. Indeed, if they would but interpret my writings with the same wanton dexterity with which they interpret those of Paul, they would have no more controversy with me than they have with him. But me they take at face value. Paul they wrest.
To return to Luther, it is a plain and demonstrable fact that he couched his doctrine of justification in language which was unscriptural. The Bible speaks of justification by faith, but never in one instance does it mention justification by faith only. The nearest it comes to this is far indeed, for it affirms that our justification is not by faith only. Now I have long observed that when a man is obliged to state his doctrine in terms which are not Scriptural, this is an almost certain indication that the doctrine so stated is no more Scriptural than the terms are. I do not now refer to such doctrinal terms as Trinity, which we all know is not in the Bible, but which does not set aside the terminology of the Bible. I refer rather to altering the terminology of Scripture itself, by adding to it, taking from it, or substituting something else in its place, so that the actual terminology of Scripture is impugned as inadequate or misleading. I vividly recall a dispute I once had with a certain man, over a certain text of Scripture, in which I answered every one of his arguments by simply quoting the text. He, on the contrary, was absolutely unable to quote the text as it stood, but as often as he referred to it must either add or subtract, invert or alter, substitute or rearrange, so that in the course of that altercation he must have quoted the text six or eight different ways, but never once the right way. This, I say, was proof enough that his position was false, though we never had another clue. The words of the Bible itself are set aside as inadequate or misleading. They must be augmented or diminished, thus compelling the Book to say something more or less than it does say, so to bring it into conformity to an unwarranted doctrinal extreme.
Now this is precisely what Luther's faith only does. Only is Luther's word, not God's, and Luther added it not only to his theology, but to his Bible also. Where the Bible speaks of justification by faith, Luther must compel it to say faith only. In Romans 3:28 an exactly literal translation of the Greek reads thus:
We reckon therefore a man to be justified by faith without [the] works of [the] law.
The common English version slightly alters the grammatical structure of the sentence, without altering its sense, thus:
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Luther, however, revamps the structure of the verse, saying, in his 1522 New Testament,
So halten [email protected] nu, [email protected] der mens< gere<tfertiget werde, on zu thun der wer> [email protected] gese}@, alleyn dur< den glawben.
This, rendered as literally as possible into English, only altering his infinitive to a gerund, is,
So hold we it now that the man is justified without doing the work of the law, only through faith.
The insertion of this word only caused great offense. Luther defended it with his usual scorn, and his usual intemperate obstinacy, saying, If your papist will make himself a thorough pest about the word sola, 'alone,' tell him directly, Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and he says, A papist and an ass are one thing. Sic volo, sic jubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas. [So I will, so I command: let my will stand for a reason.] ...
Let this be the answer to your first question, and pray, answer such asses in no other way concerning their vain braying about the word sola than this: Luther will have it so, and says, He is a doctor above all the doctors in all popedom. So shall it remain. Henceforth will I hold them in complete contempt, and have them held in contempt as long as they are such people----I should say, such asses.
Luther defended his innovation on the basis of the requirements of the German tongue, arguing at length that full and clear German requires the insertion of only, but this defense is really lame. The Codex Teplensis, the Mentel Bible, DeWette's version, and Darby's Elbefeld New Testament are all German, and none of them saw any reason to add only here. If Luther had not restructured the verse, he also could have dispensed with it.
We suppose there is no difference between German and English in this point, yet William Tyndale, while adhering to Luther's doctrine of faith only, did not follow him in his translation, but rendered very properly,
We suppose therefore that a man i| iu\ified by fayth with out the deed| of the lawe.
Neither did Luther himself add only in numerous other places, where clear and powerful German would have required it as much as here. And taking all this together, we are unable to suppose the requirements of the German tongue were his reason at all, but only an excuse made after the fact. There is a great deal of doctrinal content in this word only, and Luther's doctrine was his ultimate purpose for adding it. He admits this, and vigorously defends the insertion on doctrinal grounds also.
I was not, he says, merely following and relying upon the nature of language when I inserted solum, 'alone, in Rom. 3. Rather, the text and the meaning of S. Paul demanded and forcefully necessitated it. For here he deals with the main part of Christian doctrine, namely, that we are justified by faith in Christ without all works of the law, and he cuts away all works so completely that he also says of the works of the law (which is indeed God's law and word) that they do not aid justification. ... But when we cut away works so completely, this must be the meaning, that faith alone justifies. Whoever would speak clearly and plainly about this cutting away of all works must say, 'Faith alone justifies us, and not works.' The matter itself, besides the nature of the language, compels this.
But concerning the doctrine of this text, the works which Paul excludes are the works of the law, while the introduction of the word only naturally excludes the works of repentance and faith also----neither of which have anything to do with the law----and thus turns Paul directly against himself, who preached everywhere he went, from the beginning to the end of his career, to the Jews and to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 26:20). The works of repentance and faith certainly embrace obedience and righteousness, though not the perfect righteousness which the law requires. The third chapter of Romans does not stand in direct contradiction to the rest of Paul's writing, nor to the uniform message of his preaching. His subject in Romans 3 is the works of the law, as a cursory glance at the chapter is sufficient to establish. In the very next verse (the 29th) he says, Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not of the Gentiles also? Why this?----why here?----except that it is the works of the law which fill his mind. It is the works of the law which he means to exclude----the law which the Gentiles never had. It is certainly none of his thought to exclude works meet for repentance, when he assures us elsewhere that this is the very thing he preached wherever he went through all his life.
That Paul everywhere insisted upon this obedience and righteousness, as necessary to salvation, must be perfectly plain to anyone who has ever read his epistles, in which he says, for example, in Romans 8:13, For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live----who says in Ephesians 5:5, For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God----and again in Galatians 5:21 that they which zdo such things (such 'works of the flesh') shall not inherit the kingdom of God. No man can inherit the kingdom of God, nor have any hope of it, till he ceases to do such things.
Now the plain fact is, any doctrine of faith only, which allows salvation to consist with such works of the flesh, makes void the doctrine of Paul as much as ever it does the law of Moses. The doctrine is no more Scriptural than the terminology. And yet both the terminology and the doctrine of Martin Luther have so far prevailed among Protestants that the whole movement has struggled, like a bull in a net, for five centuries, trying to reconcile the plain doctrines of the Bible with Luther's extreme doctrine and unscriptural terminology of salvation by faith only. To the more sound and Scriptural theologians the supererogatory word only has been a cumbersome burden, to be maintained only at the expense of speaking such a brand of double-talk as has practically made only to mean nothing at all, while the antinomian theologians have been only too glad to embrace the word as a queen and a goddess, and allow her to reign supreme, and to determine all things----yet all alike have maintained this dear word only as a sacred cow, and defended it as though it were the very word of God. To maintain justification by faith only, some of the sounder theologians have so weighted and freighted faith as to make it equivalent to the fulfilling of all righteousness, while the faith of the antinomian theologians is no more than an empty notion in an empty head, yet they all hold by Luther's word only.
How much better to cast aside the gratuitous word only, and return to the terminology of the Bible, which tells us peremptorily that our justification is not by faith only,----to preach with the apostle Paul, repentance toward God, AND faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ----to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God as he preached it himself (Mark 1:1), saying, Repent ye, AND believe the gospel.
But men find this course simply impossible. They shun it as heresy. Since Luther's supererogatory only has been superimposed upon the Bible, the very mind of the church has been dyed with it, and men cannot shake it off. How easily they can shake off the crystal clear statements of the Bible!----yet Luther's only must remain.
Well----I may be thought most presumptuous to affirm that the great Reformer's doctrine of justification was an unwarranted extreme, but I am not the first to think so. Luther's most devoted friend and ally evidently thought so about five centuries before I did. I refer, of course, to Melancthon. In listing the principal points of difference between Melancthon and Luther, Melancthon's biographer writes, Melancthon conceived that Luther carried his doctrine respecting justification by faith only to such an extent as to nullify the importance and obligation of good works, so that his statements required explanation. Luther's statements, that is, required to be so explained as to make them square with the plain statements of the Bible. The theology of the present day, however, has long since abandoned any such endeavors to explain Luther. His doctrine of justification by faith only has so long been established as the standard of orthodoxy, that it is the business of the present generation to so explain the Bible as to make it square with the unscriptural terminology of Luther----and many and miserable are the shifts by which the Bible is thus emptied of its plain meaning, in order to maintain inviolate the one-sided and unguarded doctrine of Martin Luther.
The Protestant church did not follow Melancthon, but Luther. The controversies of the Protestants with the Romanists, which prevailed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, served to perpetuate the reactionary spirit of Luther, and to entrench all of Protestantism in a one-sided doctrine of justification by faith only, which was strongly antinomian in tendency, and which of necessity made void much of the word of God. Various doctrines which are as plain as day on the face of Scripture came to be shunned as heresy or popery, and woe be to the man who stood for the truth of the Gospel. John Wesley was called a papist, and accused of dreadful heresy by no less than Lady Huntingdon, and the orthodox antinomians accused Richard Baxter of having done more to strengthen Popery, than ever was done by any Papists. We think these great pillars of the church would be called papists today also, if modern Fundamentalism only knew a little more of what they preached. But the modern church, like the ancient Jews, builds the sepulchres of the dead prophets, while it stones the living ones, though there may not be a whit of difference between them.
Yet observe, Luther was not a consistent antinomian. His antinomianism was doctrinal. He would have abhorred the practical antinomianism which prevails in the church today, and he would have recoiled likewise from the sweeping doctrinal antinomianism of the present, which unblushingly makes void the Scriptures at every turn of the path. Of Luther's antinomian tendencies the biographer of Baxter writes, So much importance did Luther attach to this doctrine ['gratuitous justification'], that he not only viewed it as the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiæ; he himself looked at the law with something like suspicion of its being unfriendly to the grace of Christ. Jealousy for the honour of the main principle of his system, led him frequently to employ language about the law, unguarded and dangerous in its tendency; and to speak of James and his epistle, as if he considered them inimical to his sentiments. Notwithstanding this, the general views of Luther were too enlightened and scriptural to consist with any important or practical error. He took care to obviate the inferences men might draw from some of his statements, by explanations, or caveats, that sufficiently mark the limits within which they must be understood. We cannot endorse all of this, but in general it is not far from the truth. We quite agree that Luther's language was dangerous in its tendency, and we think it had been far better for him to repudiate that dangerous language, than to be continually obliged to so explain it as to keep men from running to dangerous extremes with it.
The excellent, wise, and thoroughly evangelical Richard Cecil says, Man is a creature of extremes. The middle path is generally the wise path; but there are few wise enough to find it. Because Papists have made too much of some things, Protestants have made too little of them. ... The Popish heresy of human merit in Justification, drove Luther on the other side into most unwarrantable and unscriptural statements of that doctrine.
But query: where can we find today a man who would pronounce Luther's language unwarrantable and dangerous? The fact is, almost the whole of modern Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism has embraced all the most dangerous of Luther's hazardous speech, and pursued it to extremes which Luther himself would have abhorred. His prudent explanations have been discarded, and his most antinomian tendencies have been pursued to further extremes, and established as the standard of orthodoxy. Here and there a feeble voice is raised against this, but those voices are all too few, and generally all too vague. I know some who sincerely aim to combat the evils of antinomianism, but who are so steeped in it themselves that all their efforts are ineffectual. They remind us of an ecumenical Anglican standing against Romanism, or a man swinging a fly swatter with the flapper gone. They may lop off an occasional branch of antinomian doctrine or practice, but they religiously maintain the roots of it.
One of those roots is certainly the prevailing doctrine of justification by faith only----without contrition, repentance, or works meet for repentance----without doing the will of God----without obedience, righteousness, or holiness. Not that Luther meant all this by it, but his language at any rate implied it. Another root of the prevailing antinomianism is the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, without human responsibility. Another is the false doctrine of human inability. And in addition to all these, many drag in an unscriptural form of dispensationalism, by which they thrust out head and shoulders the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, declaring that Christ did not preach the Gospel at all, but only the law.
That all this is usually done with the worthiest of motives we can readily grant. It is done to exalt God, and Christ, and grace, and faith, and the gospel, and to debase sinful man. But with what result? God is so far exalted as to make him the author of sin. Christ is so far exalted as to make him the minister of sin. The grace of God is so far exalted as to make it an excuse for sin. Faith is so far exalted as to make it indifferent to sin. The gospel is so far exalted as to make it establish the works of the devil, instead of destroying them. Man is so far debased as to deny the image of God in him, making him a mere lifeless puppet, or a mere inert piece of clay. And by all these miserable extremes the Bible itself is utterly made void, and the plain terms of salvation which it everywhere demands are altogether abrogated. However worthy the motive, this is will-worship, and no one will have the thanks of God for it.
Not that we would accuse most men of consistency in such horrendous doctrines. It must be a near impossibility for a good man to be consistent in such doctrines, and therefore throughout the history of Protestantism we see good men building up these doctrines with their right hand, while they tear them down with their left. They hold these extreme and unscriptural notions indeed, supposing them to be derived from the Bible, but at the same time they hold those sounder doctrines which are derived from the Bible in fact, and many and curious are the shifts by which they seek to reconcile the two. Many others do not seek to reconcile them at all, but hold them both intact, apparently never thinking so far as to discern that they cannot both be true. It may be that when they look at the glories of Christ and the gospel, and the deformities and the wickedness of the human race, then they sing in rapturous tones of free salvation, unconditional grace, and justification by faith alone. But when they see the awful effects of their extreme notions, they are ready to become legalists again, and preach repentance, obedience, and holiness.
Such was the case with Luther himself. In the eloquent strain of John Fletcher, As for St. James, I need not quote him. You know that, when Luther was in his heat, he could have found it in his heart to tear this precious epistle from among the sacred books, and burn it as an epistle of straw. He thought the author of it was an enemy to free grace, an abettor of Popish tenets, an antichrist. It is true, the scales of prejudice fell at last from his eyes; but, alas! it was not till he had seen the Antinomian boar lay waste the Lord's flourishing vineyard all over Protestant Germany. Then he was glad to draw against him St. James's despised sword.
From another pen I cull another statement of both the extreme nature of Luther's doctrine, and his moderation of it in later life. Luther himself, in his late years, very much modified and mitigated those statements to which this stigma [of antinomianism] attaches... In this matter, as in many others, he must divide the blame with his opponents. The extreme, and therefore false, teaching of the Papal doctors of the times immediately preceding the Reformation on the subject of good works, and the practical abuses which resulted from that teaching, naturally produced a violent reaction. That Luther pushed this reaction into the opposite extreme is not to be wondered at, or too severely blamed. He wrote and taught on this subject, as on all others, one-sidedly, with a hatred----blind, impetuous, and reckless----of that error which had well-nigh slain his own soul, and which he honestly believed to be slaying the souls of thousands around him.
And here I take my leave of Luther. Before doing so, however, I must avow that I would be very sorry if any of my readers should imbibe any prejudice against the man from the things which I have written. Let them understand that I have nothing but the profoundest love and veneration for Martin Luther. He was a man of God, and one of the greatest of them. Yet he was a man, and so subject to infirmity and error. I believe he was mistaken in the matter which I have rehearsed above----faulty, too, in the manner in which he maintained his ground----yet not to be too severely blamed, considering all the facts of the case. In spite of all infirmities, he was a man of God.
But I must yet speak of the shifts by which good men have endeavored to reconcile Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone with the plain doctrines of the Bible. John Wesley held that ...previous to justifying faith, there must be repentance, and, if opportunity permit, 'fruits meet for repentance.' Yet he must reconcile this with justification by faith only, and so must add,
And yet I allow you this, that although both repentance and the fruits thereof are in some sense necessary before justification, yet neither the one nor the other is necessary in the same sense, or in the same degree, with faith. Not in the same degree; for in whatever moment a man believes (in the Christian sense of the word) he is justified, his sins are blotted out, 'his faith is counted to him for righteousness.' But it is not so at whatever moment he repents, or brings forth any or all the fruits of repentance. Faith alone, therefore, justifies; which repentance alone does not, much less any outward work. And, consequently, none of these are necessary to justification, in the same degree with faith.
Yet John Wesley was one of the few Protestants who ever had the discernment or the courage to explicitly call in question Luther's doctrine of justification. He wrote, Being alone in the coach, I was considering several points of importance. And thus much appeared clear as the day:----
...That a pious Churchman who has not clear conceptions even of Justification by Faith, may be saved. Therefore, clear conceptions even of this are not necessary to salvation: That a Mystic, who denies Justification by Faith, (Mr. Law for instance,) may be saved. But if so, what becomes of articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ? [A doctrine by which a church stands or falls.] If so, is it not high time for us
Projicere ampullas, et sesquipedalia verba;
[To throw aside big bombastic words;]
and to return to the plain word, 'He that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him?'
Jonathan Edwards wrestled with the same point, and while affirming in the most explicit manner possible that faith is not the only condition of salvation, yet sets himself to uphold Justification by Faith Alone, saying in a sermon by that title, From these things we may learn in what manner faith is the only condition of justification and salvation. For though it be not the only condition, so as alone truly to have the place of a condition in an hypothetical proposition, in which justification and salvation are the consequent, yet it is the condition of justification in a manner peculiar to it, and so that nothing else has a parallel influence with it; because faith includes the whole act of unition to Christ as a Saviour. This is probably the best that can be done to reconcile justification by faith alone with the plain doctrines of the Bible, but we can see no reason to learn to speak such double-talk, solely to save the word only, which is not the word of God at all.
Richard Baxter stands on the same ground as Edwards, saying in the first place, I ever held that it is onely faith, and not works, that is the receiving of Christ, and that faith being the onely receiving Grace, ... it was therefore by God peculiarly destinated, or appointed to the office of justifying, as fittest to the glorifying of Free-Grace, and of God-Redeemer therein. Thus faith is held to be peculiarly appointed to be the actual means of justification, yet it is certain that Baxter held repentance and sincere obedience to Christ to be equally necessary. The full title of his book from which we quote is, Rich: Baxter's Confession of his Faith, Especially concerning the Interest of Repentance and sincere Obedience to CHRIST, in our JUSTIFICATION & SALVATION. It is the purpose of this book of well over 500 pages to insist upon the necessity of repentance and obedience to our justification and salvation. The book, like most of Baxter's controversial writing, is so abstract and technical, so full of nice distinctions and Latin terms, as to offer but little which I can quote in an article such as the present, yet the reader may take the following as a sample.
Nothing but sin needeth pardon by Christ: And he never pardoneth any while they are in their Rebellion, and under the full dominion of sin: But when they in heart and Covenant Return to their Allegiance, to their rightful Lord by the Redeemer, then doth he pardon all sins past while they were in Rebellion, and putteth them in a sure way of the pardon of their future imperfections of obedience: so that all their future pardon [is] but of imperfections, or sins consisting with their Allegiance, which still imply sincere obedience.
And further, Yea, this Righteousness, which consisteth in Remission of our past sins, doth in order of Nature follow our inherent Righteousness; There is no Adult person that ever partaketh of this, commonly called Imputed Righteousness, till he have first the inherent Righteousness of Faith and Repentance, which contains a resolution, for future New Obedience; though yet he have not actually so obeyed: yea, and that actual obedience followeth in the same minute of time according to the opportunity of exercising it, and thats ever in forbearing evil; and as soon as may be in doing good. Translated into plain English, the remission of sins is conditioned upon a resolution of obedience, and upon actual obedience, so far as opportunity affords----that is, in the language of Paul, upon repentance and works meet for repentance.
In summarizing his belief, Baxter says (among other things), That all the foresaid Conditions, Faith, Repentance, Love, Thankfulness, sincere Obedience, together with final Perseverance, do make up the Condition of our final Absolution in Iudgement, and our eternal Glorification.
Much more does Baxter write in the same vein, and though this is ponderous writing and heavy reading, the importance of what he has to say is such that I venture to quote him once more:
There is so great Ambiguity in the term Works, that I think it occasioneth much of our contentions. 1. By works may be meant in general, any good action. ... [The term may be taken also] 7. For sincere obedience to the Lord that bought us, according to the gracious terms of the Gospel. 8. For the External part of this obedience, distinct from Love, Trust, &c. ...
1. Paul never took Works in the first sence, so as to exclude them from being conditions of Justification: For then he should have excluded Faith and Repentance.
2. Nor did he so take them in the seventh or eighth sence, excluding them from from being conditions of our final Justification.
But we must bring this treatise to a close. We have given the reader the plain facts as to the origin of the expression justification by faith only. It is not the word of God, but an unwarranted alteration of that word, stemming from the reactionary doctrine and spirit of Martin Luther, and stamping Protestantism from that day to this with an inveterate tendency to antinomianism. Most of the best and greatest men of Protestantism have opposed that tendency, but they have generally failed to oppose the terminology and the false assumptions which lay at its root. Many have vigorously defended the root, while vigorously opposing the fruit. We suggest a sounder method. Let Luther's only be banished, and let the church of God return to the doctrine of Paul, of repentance toward God, AND faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Let the heralds of salvation return to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who preached, Repent ye, AND believe the gospel. With all the modern preaching of faith only, surely we might expect the modern preachers to manifest a little more of faith in the plain word of God, without accretion or alteration. For this we plead.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon