[Article IV(III):] Of Love and the Fulfillment of the Law
Written in Latin by Philip Melanchthon (1531)
Translated from the Latin into German by Justus Jonas (1531)
English Translation by Ambrose and Socrates Henkel (1851), Revised by W. F. Lehmann (1854)
Link to Bente/Dau Translation from Latin (1921)
[122(1)] On this point our opponents meet us with the declarations, Matt. 19:17: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;" and Rom. 2:13: "Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified;" besides many similar passages, relative to the law and to works. Before we reply to this, it is necessary for us to state our views concerning love and the fulfilment of the law.
[123(2)] It is written in the Prophet Jer. 31:33: "I will put my law in their inward parts;" and Rom. 3:31, Paul says: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." Again, Christ says, Matt. 19:17: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Paul also says to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 13:3: "If I have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." [124(3)] These and similar passages show that we must keep the law, when we are justified by faith, and thus increase more and more in the Spirit. We are not, however, speaking of the Mosaic ceremonies, but of the Ten Commandments, which require us to fear and love God truly, from the bottom of our hearts. [125(4)] Now, since faith is accompanied by the Holy Spirit, and produces in the heart a new light and life, it is true, and necessarily follows, that faith renews and changes the heart. What kind of a renovation of the heart this is, we learn from the Prophet, when he says: "I will put my law in their inward parts."
Accordingly, when we are born anew by faith, and know, that God will be merciful to us, and be our father and our helper, we begin to fear, love, thank, and praise him, to entreat and look to him for assistance, and to submit to his will in afflictions; then we also begin to love our neighbor. Then there is, within us a new heart, mind, and soul, through the Spirit of Christ.
[126(5)] These things cannot take place, before we are justified by faith and born anew through the Holy Spirit; because, in the first place, no one can keep the law, without the knowledge of Christ, nor can anyone fulfil the law, without the Holy Spirit. [127(6)] But we cannot receive the Holy Ghost, except through faith, as Paul says to the Galatians 3:14: "That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
[128(7)] It is, moreover, impossible for the human heart to love God by the agency of the law or works alone. The law manifests nothing but the wrath and severity of God, it accuses us, and shows how fearfully he will chastise sin with punishments both temporal and eternal. Hence, what the scholastics teach concerning the love of God, is a wild conceit; [129(8)] it being impossible to love God, before we know and embrace his mercy through faith. Then only does God become (objectum amabile) an amiable, lovely object.
[130(9)] Although reason may, to some extent enable us, by its innate light, to lead an honest life, and to perform the external works of the law, without Christ and the Holy Spirit, yet it is true, as we stated above, the principal parts of the divine law, that is, turning the whole heart to God, and reverencing him sincerely, (as required in the First Table, and in the First and Highest Commandment,) cannot be kept without the Holy Spirit.
[131(10)] But our opponents are rude, indolent, and ignorant theologians. They consider only the Second Table of Moses and its works; the First Table, however, in which are embraced the chief doctrines of theology, and on which all depends, they disregard entirely. Yes, this most important, exalted, and holy commandment, which exceeds all the understanding of men and angels, which concerns the highest service of God, yea, the Deity himself and the honor of the Eternal Majesty, and in which God commands us, sincerely to regard, fear, and love him, as our Lord and God, is treated by them as if it did not even belong to theology.
[132(11)] But Christ is given to us, that our sins may be forgiven and the Holy Spirit imparted to us, for his sake. This Spirit works new light, immortal life, and eternal righteousness in us, in order to manifest Christ in our hearts, as we find, John 16:14: "For he shall receive of mine, and show it unto you." He works other graces also, love, thanksgiving, chastity, patience, etc. No one is able, therefore, to fulfil the law without the Holy Ghost; for this reason Paul says: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law," Rom. 3:31; for we cannot fulfil and keep the law, until the Holy Spirit is given us.
[133(12)] And Paul remarks, 2 Cor. 3:15-17, that the veil which covers the face of Moses, cannot be removed, except by faith in Christ the Lord, through which the Holy Spirit is imparted. For thus he says: "But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now, the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." [134(13)] By the veil Paul means the opinions and misconceptions of men relative to the Ten Commandments and the ceremonies; namely, that the hypocrites suppose that the law can be kept and fulfilled by the observance of external works, and that the offerings and the various services of God, ex opere operato, justify us in the sight of God. [135(14)] But this veil is drawn from our hearts, that is, our false views are removed, when God reveals our wretchedness to our hearts, and makes us sensible of his wrath and our sins. Then do we first observe, how far we are from fulfilling the law, how securely and blindly all men continue to live, and how destitute they are of the fear of God; in short, how far they are from believing, that God created heaven, earth, and all creatures, that he sustains our breath, our life, and all creation continually, and protects them against Satan. Here we first learn, that unbelief, security, and contempt of God, are so deeply concealed in us. Here we first experience, that we believe very feebly or not at all, that God forgives sins, that he hears prayer, etc. When we now hear the Word and the Gospel, and know Christ through faith, we receive the Holy Spirit, and obtain proper views of God, fear and believe in him, etc.
From this it is evident, that we cannot keep the law of God without faith, without Christ, without the Holy Ghost. [136(15)] For this reason also we assert, that the law must be kept, and that every believer begins to keep it, and increases more and more in the love and fear of God, which is fulfilling the commandments of God indeed. And when we speak of the keeping of the law, or of good works, we include both, the good heart internally and good works externally.
Wherefore, our adversaries do us wrong, in charging us with being silent on the subject of good works; while we not only assert, that men must do good works, but also in particular point out, that the heart must be engaged therein, if they are not vain, empty, cold, hypocritical works. [137(16)] Experience teaches, that although the hypocrites undertake to keep the law by their own strength, they are unable to do so, or to prove it by their deeds. For to what extent are they free from hatred, from envy, contention, rage, anger, avarice, adultery, etc.? Can greater vices be found anywhere, than in monasteries? [138(17)] Human nature is much too weak, by its own strength, to resist the devil, his artifices and power; for he holds all those captive, who are not redeemed by Christ. [139(18)] Divine strength and the resurrection of Christ are necessary to overcome the devil. And since we know that we become participants of Christ's strength and victory through faith, we can pray God, upon the promise given, to protect and govern us by his Spirit, that the devil may not overthrow or ruin us; else we shall constantly fall into error and abominable vices.
Paul therefore says, not of us, but of Christ, Eph. 4:8: "He led captivity captive;" for Christ conquered the devil, and promised the Holy Ghost through the Gospel, that by his assistance we may overcome every evil. And in 1 John 3:8, it is written: "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil."
[140(19)] For these reasons, we teach not only how the law may be kept, but also how all that we do becomes pleasing to God, not because we are able, in this life, to keep the law so perfectly and purely, but because we are in Christ, as we shall hereafter show. It is evident, then, that our divines teach the truth concerning good works, [141(20)] and we add, that it is impossible for true faith, which comforts the heart and receives the forgiveness of sins, to be without the love of God. For, through Christ we approach the Father, and when we are reconciled to God through Christ, then only do we believe and determine fully in our hearts, that there is a true and living God, and that we have a Father in heaven, who is constantly looking down upon us, who must be feared, and should be loved on account of his unspeakable favors. Him we should always thank sincerely, and to him accord praise and honor, who hears our prayers, our sighs, and our groanings, as John says in his first Epistle, 4:19: "We love him, because he first loved us;" for he gave his Son for us, and remitted our sins. Here John clearly shows, that faith goes before, and love follows.
[142(21)] This faith, moreover, dwells in those, who are truly penitent, whose alarmed consciences feel the wrath of God and their own sins, and seek grace and remission of sin. And in this state of alarm, anxiety, and trouble, faith first exhibits itself, and must be cherished and increased. [143(22)] Faith cannot, for this reason, exist in carnal minded men, who feel secure, and live after the will and the lusts of the flesh. Paul says, Rom. 8:1: "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Again, verses 12, 13: "We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 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." [144(23)] Faith therefore which is found only in truly penitent souls, cannot co-exist with mortal sin, as our opponents assert. Consequently it cannot exist in those who live in a carnal manner after the world, according to the will of Satan and the lusts of the flesh.
[145(24)] From among these fruits and effects of faith our opponents select but one,--namely, love,--and teach that love justifies us in the sight of God; consequently they are nothing but preachers of works, and teachers of the law. They do not, in the first place, teach that we obtain the remission of sin through faith. They do not preach Christ, the Mediator, that through him we receive the mercy of God, but speak of our love and our works; and yet they do not tell us what kind of love it is, nor are they able to define it.
[146(25)] They boast of their ability to fulfil or keep the law, although the honor belongs to Christ alone. Thus they oppose their own works to the judgment of God, and maintain that they merit, de condigno, grace and eternal life. This is, indeed, a perfectly vain and impious confidence in their own works. For it is impossible in this life even for Christians and saints themselves, to keep the law of God perfectly; for evil inclinations and desires always remain in us, although the Holy Ghost resists them.
[147(26)] Some one of them may ask: "Since we acknowledge that love is the offspring of the Spirit, and since it is called a holy work and the fulfillment of the law, why we do not also teach that it justifies us before God?"
Reply,--First, most assuredly we do not receive the forgiveness of sins either through love or on account of it, but through faith alone for Christ's sake. [148(27)] Faith alone in the heart looks upon the promises of God; faith alone is the assurance, upon which the heart rests with certainty, that God is merciful-- that Christ died not in vain, etc. This faith alone overcomes the terrors of sin and death. [149(28)] He that still wavers, or doubts that his sins are remitted, does not confide in God, but he despairs of Christ; because he believes his sins to be greater and stronger than the death and blood of Christ; and yet Paul says, Rom. 5:20, that, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," that is, it was stronger, richer, and more powerful.
[150(29)] Now if any one expects to obtain the remission of his sins, on account of his love, he reviles and dishonors Christ, and will discover, in his last moments, when he must appear before the judgment seat of God, the vanity of such confidence. It is therefore certain, that we are justified by faith alone. [151(30)] And as we do not obtain the remission of sin by good works and virtues; such as patience, chastity, obedience to government, and yet these virtues follow faith; so we do not obtain remission of sin on account of love to God, although it must follow faith.
[152(31)] But when Christ declares, Luke 7:47: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven: for she loved much," he himself explains his words by saying verse 50: "Thy faith hath saved thee." Christ did not wish to leave the impression, that the woman merited the forgiveness of sins by her work of love; hence, he expressly declared that her faith had saved her. [153(32)] Now it is faith which relies on the mercy of God and his Word, and not upon works. If we believe that faith can rely both upon God and the works of men at the same time, we certainly do not understand what faith is. The alarmed conscience cannot be appeased by its own works, but must cry for mercy; and there are no other means, by which it can be consoled and relieved, but the Word of God. [154(33)] The narrative itself shows plainly in this place, what Christ calls love. The woman comes to Christ, confident of obtaining the remission of her sins from him. Truly this is acknowledging and honoring Christ; for greater honor than this no one can confer upon him. It is really confessing Christ, or the Messiah, to seek remission of sin from him; and to recognize Christ in this manner, to confess and receive him thus, is to believe on him sincerely.
But Christ did not use the words, "she loved much," while speaking with the woman, but when he spoke to the Pharisee. For Christ, the Lord, compared the whole honor, conferred on him by the Pharisee, with the offerings and works of the woman. He reproves the Pharisee for not recognizing him as Christ, although he was honored as a guest, and a pious and holy man. But he commends the worship of the woman, the confession of her sins, and her effort to obtain their remission from him. This noble example justly moved Christ to reprove the Pharisee, who, although a wise and honorable man, still did not believe on him. He reproached him with his unbelief, and admonished him by the example of the woman, as though he would say to the Pharisee: Shame upon thee, that thou art so blind as not to recognize me as Christ and the Messiah, although thou art a teacher of the law; while this woman, poor and without learning, recognizes me.
[155(34)] Here, therefore, he commends not only love, but the whole cultus, or service of God, faith with its fruits, while speaking to the Pharisee of the fruits. Because faith in the heart cannot be shown or exhibited to others, except by its fruits; these establish the truth before men, that faith is in the heart. Christ did not mean that love and works should be the treasure, by which our sins are recompensed;-- that treasure is the blood of Christ. [156(35)] The controversy, therefore, concerns an important and weighty matter, involving the highest, the surest, the eternal consolation of pious souls, namely, whether we should trust in Christ's merits, or in our own works. [157(36)] If we trust in our own works, we rob Christ of his honor, and he ceases to be the Mediator and Conciliator; and besides we shall finally learn, that such confidence is vain, and will lead consciences only into despair; for unless we obtain remission of sin and reconciliation to God through Christ, without our merit, then no one will obtain remission of sin, without having kept the whole law. For the law cannot justify us before God, while it is our accuser. [158(37)] Now, no one can boast of having satisfied the law. Hence we must seek consolation elsewhere,-- namely, in Christ.
[159(38)] Now we shall endeavor to reply to the question proposed above: why does not love, or dilectio, justify any one before God? Our opponents are correct in regarding love as the fulfillment of the law; hence it would be true indeed that love justifies us, provided we keep the law. But who dares to boast, who can say in truth, that he keeps the law and loves God as the law commands? We have shown above, that God gave us the promise of grace, because we are unable to keep the law. Paul, therefore, invariably says that we cannot be justified before God by the law.
Our opponents have certainly gone far astray on this point, and even mistaken the main question; because, in this matter they consider nothing but the law. Reason and the wisdom of man can come to no other conclusion, but that we must become godly through the observance of laws, and that whoever keeps the law externally is holy and just. The Gospel, however, turns us around, directing us from the law to the divine promises, and teaching that we are not justified by the law, which no one can keep; but by the gift of reconciliation for Christ's sake, which we obtain through faith alone. For before we can fulfil one tittle of the law, we must believe in Christ, through whom we are reconciled to God, and first obtain remission of sin. O, Lord! How dare these men, who deny that we obtain remission of sin through faith in Christ, call themselves Christians, or say that they have ever looked at or read the books of the Gospel? It is awful to a Christian even to hear this.
[160(39)] Secondly.--It is certain, that even those who are regenerated through faith and the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless not entirely pure, and do not keep the law perfectly, while this life continues. [161(40)] For, although they receive the first fruits of the Spirit, and though the new, yea eternal life has made a beginning in them, some portion of sin and evil desire still remains in them, and the law finds much whereof to accuse them. Hence, although love to God and good works shall and must dwell in Christians, still they are not justified before God on account of such works of their own, but for the sake of Christ, through faith. Confidence in our own fulfillment of the law, is pure idolatry, even blasphemy against Christ, and it must finally fail and lead us to despair.
[177(56)] It must, therefore, stand as impregnable ground, that we become acceptable and just before God, for the sake of Christ, through faith, and not on account of our love and works. This we shall endeavor to set forth in a clear, positive, and tangible form.
While the heart has no peace with God, it cannot be just; because it shrinks from the wrath of God, falls into despair, and feels unwilling that God should judge. Hence, the heart cannot be just and acceptable in the sight of God, because it is not at peace with him. Faith alone, then, pacifies the heart, which obtains rest and life, (Rom. 5:1,) when it freely and confidently relies upon the promises of God, for Christ's sake. But our works can never pacify the heart; for we continually find that they are impure; consequently it must follow, that through faith alone we become acceptable to God and righteous, when we are satisfied in our hearts, that God will be merciful to us, not on account of our works and our fulfillment of the law, but by grace alone, for Christ's sake.
What can our opponents allege against this argument? What can they contrive or devise in opposition to this manifest truth? For it is undoubtedly true, and experience very forcibly teaches, that our works or worship cannot afford peace to our consciences, when we truly feel the judgment and wrath of God, or fall in temptation. [326(205)] The Scriptures abundantly confirm this, as in Psalm 143:2: "Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." Here the Psalmist clearly testifies, that all the saints, all the pious children of God, having the Holy Spirit, unless God remit their sins through grace, have sins still remaining in the flesh. When David says in another place: "Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness," (Psalm 7:8,) he speaks of his cause, and not of his own righteousness; but his prayer is, that God would protect his cause and his Word,--since he says: Judge, Lord, my cause. Again, Psalm 130:3, he clearly asserts, that no one, not even the greatest saint, can bear the judgment of God, if he would mark iniquities, saying: "If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?"
[327(206)] And thus Job says, 9:28: "I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent." Again, verses 30, 31: "If I wash myself with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean; yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me." Again in the Proverbs of Solomon 20:9: "Who can say, I have made my heart clean?" [328(207)] And 1 John 1:8: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."-- Thus, in the Lord's prayer, even the saints pray--"Forgive us our debts," Matt.6:12; consequently they also are guilty and sinful. [329(208)] Again, Numb. 14:18: "The Lord is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgressions, and by no means clearing the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." Zachariah the prophet, 2:13, says: "Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord;" and Isaiah 40:6: "All flesh is grass,"--that is, the flesh and all the righteousness of which we are capable, cannot bear the judgment of God. [330(209)] And we find, Jonah 2:8: "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy." Wherefore mercy alone sustains us--our own works, merits, and power cannot help us.
These and similar declarations in the Scriptures, show that our works are impure, and that we need grace and mercy; therefore works do not afford the conscience peace, but mercy alone, which we apprehend through faith.
[162(41)] Thirdly.--Nevertheless Christ still remains the only Mediator and Conciliator, when we are thus born anew in him. Hence those are in error, who pretend that he acquires for us only primam gratiam, or the first grace, and that we must afterwards earn eternal life by our own works and merits. [163(42)] He remains the only Mediator, and we should entertain no doubt, that God is gracious to us for his sake alone, although we are even unworthy of it; as Paul says, Rom. 5:2: "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand." Our best works, even after we receive the grace of the Gospel, (as we said,) are still imperfect. For sin and the fall of Adam are not so insignificant, as human reason supposes. The terrible wrath of God, entailed upon us by disobedience, exceeds the understanding and all the conceptions of man. A most fearful corruption has come upon the whole nature of man, which no power but God's can restore. The Psalmist therefore says, 32:1: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven." Hence we stand in need of grace, of God's merciful goodness, and the forgiveness of sins, though we have performed many good works. That grace, however, is obtained only through faith. Consequently Christ alone continues to be the High Priest and Mediator; and whatever good we may do, or to whatever extent we may keep the law, this does not please God in itself, but because we cleave to Christ, and are conscious that God is gracious to us, not for the sake of the law, but of Christ.
[164(43)] Fourthly.--If we should maintain the doctrine, that, after we receive the Gospel and are regenerated, we must merit the continued favor of God by our works, and not through faith, our conscience could not be pacified, but must despair. [167-168(46-47)] For the law continually accuses us, because we are unable to keep it perfectly, as the universal, holy, Christian church, and all the saints have ever acknowledged, and still acknowledge. Thus Paul says, Rom. 7:19: "For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do," etc. Again, verse 25: "With the flesh I serve the law of sin." No one fears and loves God with his whole heart, as he is bound to do; no one bears the cross and affliction with entire submission to God; we all frequently doubt, in our weakness, whether God takes care of us, and regards us, and hears our prayers. We frequently murmur with impatience against God, when the ungodly prosper and the pious are afflicted. Again, who is it that performs his duty perfectly in his vocation, or who is not angry with God in temptations, when God withdraws himself? Who loves his neighbor as himself? Who is free from all manner of evil lusts? Of all these sins the Psalmist says, Psalm 32:6: "For this shall every one, that is godly, pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found." Here he tells us, that all the saints must pray for the remission of sins.
[169(48)] Therefore, those are perfectly blind, who maintain that the evil desires in the flesh are not sins. Paul says of them, Gal. 5:17: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;" [170(49)] for the flesh places no confidence in God, relies on the world and temporal goods, seeks man's consolation and aid in afflictions, even against God's will, doubts his mercy and assistance, and murmurs against him in crosses and temptations; all this is against the commandments of God. The Holy Ghost contends and strives in hearts of the saints, against the sin inherited from Adam, in order to remove and destroy the poison of the old Adamic nature,--the evil, desperate character of the heart,--and to produce in us another mind and disposition.
[172(51)] Augustine also says, "We keep all the commandments of God, when all is forgiven us that we do not keep." Hence he asserts that even the good works wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, are pleasing to God, only when we believe that he accepts us for Christ's sake, and not because they are in themselves worthy of his acceptance.
[173(52)] And Jerome says in opposition to Pelagius: "We are justified when we acknowledge ourselves to be sinners; and our righteousness does not depend on our merit, but on the mercy of God." [174(53)] For this reason, though, we abound in truly good works, and have thus begun to keep the law of God, like Paul when he preached faithfully, still we must have faith; we must trust that God is gracious and reconciled to us for Christ's sake, not on account of our works, because mercy cannot be embraced, except through faith alone. Those, therefore, who teach that we become acceptable to God on account of our works, and not for the sake of Christ, lead the conscience into despair.
[182(61)] From this it is sufficiently evident, that faith alone justifies us before God, that is, obtains grace and the remission of sins for the sake of Christ, and leads us to a new birth. Again, it is plain enough, that we receive the Holy Ghost through faith alone; that our works and our first efforts to keep the law, are not in themselves pleasing to God. We must therefore, although we abound in good works, like Paul and Peter, seek our righteousness elsewhere,--namely, in the promise of the grace of Christ. Moreover, as faith alone pacifies the conscience, it must follow that faith alone justifies us before God. For if we wish to teach the truth, we must always maintain that we become acceptable to God, not on account of the law, nor on account of works, but for the sake of Christ. Because the honor which belongs to Christ, should not be given to the law or to our miserable works.
Reply to the Arguments of Our Opponents.
[183(62)] Having now set forth the true principles of this subject, namely, the difference between the law and the divine promises, it is easy to refute the objections of our opponents. They introduce passages relating to the law and good works; those, however, which speak of the promises of God, they omit. [184(63)] But to all their quotations concerning the law, it may be briefly replied, that the law cannot be kept without Christ; and although works, externally good, may be performed without Christ, still God has no pleasure, on that account, in the person performing them. Hence those teaching, or preaching of good works, should always add, that faith must precede, that God accepts them solely for the sake of faith in Christ, and that these works are fruits and testimonies of faith.
This doctrine which we maintain is very explicit, and will bear the light, and a comparison with the holy Scriptures. It is here also clearly and correctly presented to those who desire information, and do not wilfully deny the truth. In order properly to understand the benefits of Christ and the great treasure of the Gospel, (which Paul so highly extols,) it is necessary for us to separate, as far from each other as heaven and earth, the promises of God and the proffered grace, on the one hand, and the law on the other. [185(64)] A desperate cause requires many and various comments; but in a good cause, one or two thorough expositions generally solve all imagined objections. So in the case before us, this one solution explains all the passages which are quoted against us, namely, that no one can properly keep the law without Christ, and that, though external good works are performed, we are not acceptable to God without Christ; [186(65)] for we maintain that the Scriptures hold forth these two doctrines of the law and the promises of grace.
But our opponents without the least hesitation trample under their feet the whole Gospel, and all the promises of grace in Christ. Thus they teach, that we obtain the remission of sins on account of our love and works, and not through faith. [187(66)] For the grace and assistance of God must be very doubtful, if they depend on our works; because we can never be certain, when we have done enough, or whether the works are sufficiently holy and pure.
Consequently the forgiveness of sins would likewise be uncertain, and the promises of God would be destroyed, as Paul says, Rom. 4:14: "If they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect." [188(67)] We, therefore, teach the heart and conscience to comfort themselves with the promises of God, which remain firm, offering grace and the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake, and not on account of our works.
Besides, we also teach in relation to good works and the law, not that we merit the remission of sins through the law, or that we are acceptable to God on account of the law, but that God would have good works. For we must (as Paul says, 2 Tim. 2:15) rightly divide and separate the Word of God, the law on the one side, and the promises of God on the other. We must observe what the Scriptures say of the promises, and what of the law; for while the Scriptures enjoin and recommend good works, they exalt the promises of God, and Christ, the real treasure, many thousand times higher.
[189(68)] We should and must do good works, because God requires them; they are the fruits of faith, as Paul says to the Ephesians 2:10: "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." [201(80)] For this reason good works should follow faith, as thanksgivings to God; that our faith may be exercised, increased, and strengthened through them, and that others may be admonished by our profession and good deportment. Therefore Paul says, that Abraham received circumcision, not that he might be justified on account of the work, but that he might have a sign on his body, to admonish him that he should ever increase in his faith, confess it to others, and incite them by his testimony to believe. [202(81)] Thus Abel made an acceptable sacrifice to God by faith, for the sacrifice did not please God, ex opere operato, but Abel felt assured that God was gracious to him, and performed the work for the purpose of exercising his faith, and inciting others by his example and profession to believe.
[203(82)] Now since good works ought to follow faith in this way, and in no other, those who do not believe that their sins are remitted unto them for the sake of Christ, without any merit of their own, perform their works with quite a different view. Because, when they see the good works of the saints, they judge the latter according to the manner of man, and imagine, that they have obtained the forgiveness of their sins, or that they were justified before God by their works. For this reason they imitate the saints in their works, thinking that they shall, in the same manner, obtain the remission of their sins and appease the wrath of God.
[204(83)] We condemn this manifest error and false doctrine concerning works: first, because, when we hold forth our works instead of Christ, as a treasure, as a reconciliation of the wrath of God, and as a compensation for sin, we deprive Christ, the true Mediator, of his honor, and give it to our feeble works: but the honor should belong solely to Christ, and not to our miserable works.
Secondly, the conscience cannot find peace in such works; for although men perform many good works, although they are zealous to do them, yet no work is so pure, important, or precious, as to propitiate God, or to secure eternal life, in short to give peace and joy to the conscience.
Thirdly, those who build upon their works, never become truly acquainted with God or his will; for he that doubts the grace of God, cannot believe that he will be heard, and as he cannot call upon God, he cannot realize divine assistance, nor learn to know God. [205(84)] But when we have faith, namely, the assurance that God is merciful to us through Christ, we can cheerfully call upon God, and learn to know him and his will.
[206(85)] The error, however, concerning his works, clings closely to the world. The heathens also have sacrifices which came originally from the Patriarchs. These sacrifices and works of the Fathers they imitated, knowing nothing of faith, and believing, that these works would secure to them the grace of God. [207(86)] The Israelites also devised works and sacrifices, with a view to propitiate God by their opus operatum; that is, by the mere work, without faith. We see how vehemently the Prophets reproved them, in the 50th Psalm, verse 8: "I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices," etc. Again, Jeremiah says, 7:22: "For I spoke not unto your fathers, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices." Here the Prophets do not condemn the sacrifices as such, because God had commanded these as external exercises among his people; but they reprove especially their ungodly hearts, sacrificing as they did, with a view thus to reconcile God, ex opere operato, whereby faith was suppressed.
[208(87)] Now, as no work can give the conscience true peace, the hypocrites are wont, at a blind venture, to contrive work after work, and sacrifice after sacrifice, all without the Word or command of God, and under the influence of an evil conscience, as we have seen in Popery. They are influenced principally by the examples of the saints; for when they imitate these examples, they think that they shall obtain the remission of their sins, as the saints did, etc.;--but the saints believed.
The children of Israel, seeing that the Prophets sacrificed in the high places and groves, imitated them for the purpose of appeasing the wrath of God by that work. But the Prophets made sacrifices at those places, not because they wished to merit the remission of their sins by these works, but because they preached and taught there. They offered these sacrifices, therefore, as an evidence of their faith.
[209(88)] Again, the people having heard that Abraham had offered up his son, offered up their sons too, in order that they might also do works afflictive and grievous to them. But Abraham did not offer up his son as a reconciliation, to justify him before God.
[210(89)] Thus Christ instituted the Eucharist in the church, offering therein the remission of sins through the divine promise, that we may be admonished, that our faith may be strengthened by the external sign, and that we may thus profess our faith before men, and exalt and preach the benefits of Christ; as Paul says, 1 Cor. 11:26: "For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." Our adversaries contend, however, that the Mass is a work, which justifies us in the sight of God, ex opere operato, and releases those from guilt and pain, for whom it is held.
[211(90)] Anthony, Bernard, Dominic, and other saints, by their particular mode of life withdrew from society, that they might have a better opportunity to read the holy Scriptures, or for the sake of other exercises. Nevertheless they maintained that they were accounted just before God through faith in Christ, and that they obtained the grace of God through Christ alone. But the great mass of people afterwards blindly rushed on, neglected faith in Christ, regarded only the example, without faith, and ventured to obtain the remission of their sins by these monastic works. [212(91)] Thus the reason of man always esteems good works too highly, and assigns them the wrong place. [213(92)] The Gospel opposes this error, and teaches that we are justified in the sight of God, not on account of the law or our works, but for the sake of Christ alone. [217(96)] No one, however, can embrace him, except through faith. Hence we also are justified before God, through faith alone.
[218(97)] In opposition to these views, our opponents quote the declaration of Paul, 1 Cor. 13:2: "Though I have all faith, etc., and have not charity, I am nothing." Here they exultingly proclaim and boast, that they are assured by this passage that, not only faith, but love also, justifies us before God. [219(98)] But we shall find no difficulty in replying, inasmuch as we have shown above what views we entertain in relation to love and works. Paul means in this passage, that Christians should love their neighbors, and this we also assert. For we have already said, that when we are regenerated, we begin to keep the law and to obey the commandments of God. Hence, if any one neglects Christian love, he has become cold,--though he may have had strong faith,--he has become carnal minded, he is destitute of the Spirit and faith; because the Holy Spirit is not, where Christian love and other good fruits are wanting.
[222(101)] But it does not follow from this, that love justifies us before God; that is, that we therefore obtain the remission of our sins through love; that love overcomes the terrors of sin and death; that love should be set up against the wrath of God and his judgment, instead of Christ; that love fulfils the law; that we are reconciled and become acceptable to God through love, and not for the sake of Christ. Paul says nothing concerning all these things; and yet our opponents invent them.
[223(102)] For, if by our love we can overcome the wrath of God, and if we become acceptable to him by our fulfilment of the law, our adversaries may also assert, that the divine promises and the whole Gospel are of no account; because it teaches that we have access to God through Christ alone, and that we are not acceptable to God for our works of the law, but on account of Christ, as the only Mediator and Reconciler.
[224(103)] Our adversaries, by making additions, as in this place, explain many passages of Scripture according to their own opinions, and contrary to the true import. This passage is sufficiently clear, if they only cease adding their own dreams, which are not in the Scriptures; for they do not understand what faith is, what Christ is, or how man is justified before God.
The Corinthians and others among them, had heard the Gospel, and received many excellent gifts; and, as is usually the case in matters of this kind, they were zealous and active in all things, in the beginning; but afterwards, when factions and sects arose among them, as Paul informs us, they began to scorn the true Apostles. Paul for this reason reproves them, and admonishes them to union and Christian love. Nor does he, in this place, speak of the remission of sins, or the manner of becoming just and righteous in the sight of God, or how a sinner is converted to Christ, or of love to God; but rather concerning the fruits of faith, and concerning love toward our neighbors.
Now it is most absurd to suppose, that the love we exercise on earth toward our neighbors, should justify us before God, when at the same time it is essential to that righteousness which avails in the sight of God, that we should obtain what will appease the wrath of God, and calm the conscience before him in heaven. None of these things can be effected through love, but through faith alone, by which we embrace Christ and the promises of God.
This is true, however, that he who loses love, loses also the Spirit and faith. Thus says Paul: If I have not charity, I am nothing; but he does not add the affirmative, that love justifies before God.
[225(104)] Yet they allege here, that love is preferred to faith and hope; for Paul says, 1 Cor. 13:13: "The greatest of these is charity." Hence, they contend, that the virtue which Paul calls the greatest, justifies and sanctifies us in the sight of God. [226(105)] But in fact, Paul is here speaking of love to our neighbors, and that love, he says, is the greatest, because it extends far and produces much fruit upon earth. Faith and hope are exercised in reference to God alone, but love holds intercourse with men on earth, and effects much good, by consoling, instructing, and giving assistance and counsel, both privately and publicly. Yet we grant, that to love God and our neighbor is the greatest virtue, because it is the Greatest Commandment: "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart," etc., Matt. 22:37-38. It does not follow from this, however, that love justifies us.
[227(106)] But, the greatest virtue, say they, must undoubtedly justify us.
Reply.--It might be true, if God were gracious on account of our virtue. Now it was shown above, that we are justified and become acceptable, on account of Christ, and not for the sake of our virtue, because it is impure. Yea, while the commandment is the greatest, "Thou shalt love God," yet this virtue,--love to God--cannot justify us in the least. For as this law and virtue exceed our capacity, we are not justified on account of love. Faith, however, justifies us, not on account of our deeds, but solely because it seeks and receives mercy, and will not rely on our own works; that is, we teach, that the law does not justify us, but the Gospel, which bids us to believe that God is merciful to us for Christ's sake, and not for the sake of our deeds.
[229(108)] Our adversaries, however, teach that love reconciles us to God, because they do not understand the Gospel, and regard nothing but the law, by which they wish to secure the grace of God on account of their own righteousness, and not through mercy for Christ's sake. Consequently, they must be teachers of the Law only, and not of the Gospel.
[231(110)] They also allege against us the declaration in Col. 3:14: "Put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." Hence they conclude that love justifies us in the sight of God, because it makes us perfect. We might here reply in various ways on the subject of perfection, but we shall be content with a simple exposition of Paul's declaration.
It is evident that Paul is speaking of love to our neighbors; hence no one has a right to think that Paul meant to say, that we should be justified before God, rather by the works of the Second Table than by those of the First. If, moreover, love is a perfection, or a perfect fulfilment of the law, there is no need of Christ the Mediator; but Paul teaches invariably, that we become acceptable to God for Christ's sake, not for the sake of our love, our works, or the law. Not even saints (as said above) fulfil the law perfectly. [232(111)] Now as Paul writes and teaches in every other place, that there is no perfection in our works during this life, it must not be imagined, that he spoke to the Colossians concerning personal perfection, but he referred to the unity of the church; and the word to which they attach the sense of perfection, signifies simply to be undivided or united. And his assertion, that love is the bond of perfectness, signifies that love binds, unites, and keeps together the different members of the church among themselves. For as union is preserved in a city or in a family, by the exercise of mutual forbearance, and as peace and tranquility cannot continue, unless we frequently overlook each other's faults and bear with one another; so Paul would exhort them to Christian love, patiently to bear each other's faults and imperfections, and to forgive one another, in order that unity might be preserved in the church, and that the mass of Christians might not be severed, separated, and divided into all manner of factions and sects; from which great mischief, hatred, and envy, all manner of bitter feelings and evil passions, might arise, and finally public heresy. [233(112)] For union cannot continue, when the bishops unnecessarily impose upon the people burdens that are too heavy. And when the people are disposed hastily to pass severe judgment upon the whole walk and conduct of the bishops or preachers, or when they rashly become dissatisfied with their preacher, perhaps on account of some slight imperfection, factions will likewise be readily created, and it must result in great mischief; for in their bitterness, they will immediately seek other teachers and preachers.
[234(113)] Again, perfection and unity are maintained, that is, the church remains undivided and entire, when the strong exercise patience and forbearance towards the weak, when the people have patience with their preachers, and when the bishops and preachers, on their part, know how to excuse the infirmities and imperfections of the people, according to circumstances. [235(114)] Respecting this mode of maintaining union, much is said throughout the books of the philosophers and moralists. For we must forgive each other and excuse many things for the sake of union. Of this Paul speaks in more than one place. Our adversaries are not right, therefore, in the conclusion that love must justify us before God; for here Paul is not speaking of personal perfection or holiness, as they imagine, but says, that love creates peace and harmony in the church. Thus Ambrose also explains this passage: "Precisely as an edifice is entire, when all its parts are connected," etc.
[236(115)] But it is a shame for our adversaries, that while they are writing and preaching so finely about love, and crying love, love, in all their books, they are manifesting none at all. What noble Christian love, to destroy the unity of the church, by their unheard of tyranny,--to attempt to influence his most gracious Majesty, the Emperor, to issue bloody edicts and promulgate cruel laws,--to murder priests and other pious, upright men, for no other reason, but simply for opposing manifest, infamous abuses! They desire the death of all those, who utter a single word against their ungodly doctrines. All this accords very imperfectly with their ostentatious display of love, of charity, etc. For if they had but a spark of love, peace and union might easily be secured in the church, provided they would not thus, in pure revengeful bitterness and pharisaic envy, defend their human traditions, (which are, at any rate, of no use to Christian doctrine or piety,) against the known truth, especially as even they themselves do not strictly observe their traditions.
[238(117)] They also allege the expression of the apostle Peter: "Charity shall cover the multitude of sins," 1 Pet. 4:8. Now it is evident, that Peter is here also speaking of love toward our neighbors; for he is dwelling in this passage upon the commandment of love, which requires us to love one another. Nor has it ever entered the thoughts of any Apostle, that love should overcome death or sin; or be a reconciliation, without Christ the Mediator; or be our righteousness, without Christ the Reconciler. Because love, though we possess it, is nothing more than legal righteousness; but it is far from being equivalent to Christ, through whom alone we are justified, when we believe that the Father is merciful to us for the Mediator's sake, whose merits are accounted to us. [239(118)] For this reason Peter previously admonishes us to adhere to Christ, and to be built on him as the cornerstone. He says: "He that believeth on him, shall not be confounded," 1 Pet. 2:6. We shall be confounded, indeed, before the judgment seat and the face of God, with our works and conduct; but faith, through which we receive Christ, releases us from these terrors of death, because we are perfectly assured by the promises, that our sins are remitted through Christ.
[240(119)] The language, 1 Peter 4:8: "Charity shall cover the multitude of sins," etc., is quoted from the Proverbs of Solomon, where it is said: "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins," Prov. 10:12. Here the text itself clearly shows, that Solomon is speaking of love toward our neighbors, and not of the love we owe to God.
[241(120)] And he means the same thing that Paul does in the subsequent passage to the Colossians, namely, that we should endeavor to live kindly and brotherly, bearing patiently with one another, and avoiding disaffection and schisms; as if he would say, schisms grow out of hatred, as we see a great fire often arising from a small spark.
The difficulties between Julius Caesar and Pompey were but small at first; and, had one yielded to the other, the great war would not have followed, in which there was so much blood-shed, so much misery and woe. [242(121)] But both of them being obstinate, unspeakable mischief and confusion in the whole Roman government of that time, resulted from it. Many heresies have also originated in the enmity of preachers against one another.
These words of Peter, "Love covers the multitude of sins," must therefore be understood in the sense, that love covers our neighbor's sins. Although differences arise among Christians, yet love bears all things, is willing to pass them by, yields to others, bears their faults with brotherly kindness, and is not censorious. Peter never meant to say, that love merits the remission of sins before God, that love reconciles us to God, without the mediation of Christ, or that we become acceptable to God, through love, without Christ the Mediator. His meaning is, that he, in whom Christian love dwells, is not obstinate, overbearing, or unkind, but readily overlooks the imperfections and faults of his neighbor, forgives him in a brotherly spirit, makes peace, reproves himself, and yields for the sake of peace, as the Proverb says: Amici vitia noris, non oderis, that is, thou shouldst know the faults of a friend, but not hate him on their account.
[243(122)] And the Apostles did not without good reason exhort them to this love, which the philosophers call epeikeian; for if men are to dwell together in unity, whether it be in the church, or in temporal government, they must not weigh each other's imperfections too rigorously, but let many of them pass by unnoticed, always bear with them, and as far as possible, have patience with each other in a brotherly spirit.
[244(123)] They also quote St. James, 2:24, and say: "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." Now they imagine that this passage very forcibly opposes our doctrine; but if they only drop their wild conceits, and make no arbitrary additions, there will be no difficulty in replying. The words of the apostle James are explicit, but our adversaries add the fiction, that we merit the remission of sins by our works. Again, they pretend that good works are a reconciliation, through which we obtain the mercy of God; that we can overcome the great power of the devil, of death, and sin, by good works; and that our good works as such, are so acceptable to God, and so highly esteemed by him, that we have no need of Christ the Mediator. None of these views ever entered into the mind of the apostle James, though our adversaries undertake to maintain them by this declaration of the Apostle.
[245(124)] In the first place, then, we must observe that this passage is more against our opponents than in their favor. For they teach that men become godly and righteous before God, through love and works. They have nothing to say concerning faith, by which we cleave to Christ the Mediator; nay, they will have nothing to do with faith, and even attempt to suppress this doctrine of faith with sword and fire. James, however, pursues a different course; he does not omit faith, but speaks of it, thus recognizing Christ as the treasure and the Mediator, through whom we are justified before God. Thus Paul, when he lays down the substance of Christian faith, also connects faith and love, 1 Tim. 1:5: "The end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of good conscience, and of faith unfeigned."
[246(125)] In the second place, this subject itself shows, that James is speaking of works, which follow faith; for he tells us, that faith must not be dead, but living, energetic, efficacious, and active in the heart. Hence it was not the meaning of James, that we merit grace or the remission of sins by our works; because he is speaking of the works of those, who have already been justified through Christ, are reconciled to God, and have obtained the forgiveness of their sins through Christ. Our adversaries, therefore, are much mistaken in inferring from this passage, that by our good works we merit grace and the remission of sins; or that James meant that we should have access to God through our works, without Christ the Mediator and Reconciler.
[247(126)] In the third place, St. James, speaking of spiritual regeneration before this, asserts that it is effected through the Gospel. He says, James 1:18: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." Now as he affirms that we are regenerated through the Gospel, he teaches that we are justified before God through faith. Because we take hold of the promises concerning Christ, through faith alone, when we are comforted by them against the terrors of death and sin. Hence, he did not mean that we should be regenerated through our works.
[248(127)] All this clearly shows, that this passage of James is not against us; for in it he is censuring slothful Christians, who had become too secure in their minds, and imagined that they had faith, while they really had none. [249(128)] He therefore makes a difference between living and dead faith, calling faith dead, when it does not produce all manner of good works and fruits of the Spirit, obedience, patience, chastity, love, etc.; but he calls that a living faith, which produces good fruits. Now we have frequently stated what we call faith; not a mere knowledge of the history of Christ, which even devils have, but the new light and power, which the Holy Ghost works in the heart, and through which we overcome the terrors of death, of sin, etc.
[250(129)] True Christian faith like this is not so insignificant, as our adversaries imagine, saying: Faith, faith! How easy is it to believe! Nor is it a thought of man, which he can produce in himself, but a divine power in the heart, through which we are regenerated, and by which we overcome the great power of Satan and of death, as Paul says, Col. 2:12: "Wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God," etc. This faith, because it is a new, divine light and life in the heart, through which we receive another mind and disposition, is living, efficacious, and abounds in good works.
It may therefore be said with propriety, that faith without works is not genuine. [251(130)] And though he says that we are justified by faith and works, he does not maintain that we are regenerated through works, nor assert that we are reconciled by our works as well as by Christ, but he is describing how Christians should live, after they have been regenerated through the Gospel.
[252(131)] As he is speaking of works which are to follow faith, it is proper to say, that he, who has faith and good works, is just; yea, not on account of works, but for the sake of Christ through faith. As a good tree should bear good fruit, and yet the fruit does not make the tree good; so good works must follow the new birth, although they do not render man acceptable to God; but as the tree must first be good, so man must first become acceptable to God through faith, for Christ's sake. Our works are far too insignificant for God to be merciful to us on their account, unless he were gracious unto us for the sake of Christ.
[253(132)] Thus James is not opposed to St. Paul, nor does he say that we merit the remission of sins by our works, or that our works overcome the power of the devil, death, sin, and terrors of hell, and are equal to the death of Christ. Neither does he say, that our works make us acceptable to God; or that they restore our hearts to peace, and overcome the wrath of God; or that works supersede the need of mercy. James asserts none of these things, and yet our opponents add them to his words.
[254(133)] They likewise produce still more passages against us; such as these:--In the 4th chapter of Daniel and the 27th verse, the text says: "Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor." And Isa. 58:7: "Deal thy bread to the hungry." Again, Luke 6:37: "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." [255(134)] And Matt. 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
[256(135)] We shall, in the first place, in regard to these and similar passages concerning works, reply that (as we have stated above) no one is able to keep the law without faith, and no one can therefore please God without faith in Christ, as he says, John 15:5: "Without me ye can do nothing." Again, Heb. 11:6: "Without faith it is impossible to please him." Again, as Paul says, Rom. 5:2: "By whom also we have access by faith into his grace." [257(136)] Consequently, when the Scriptures make mention of works, they invariably presuppose the Gospel concerning Christ and faith.
In the second place, nearly all passages, now quoted from Daniel and others, were declarations concerning repentance. First, they preach the law, point out sin, and exhort to reformation and good works. Secondly, there is, besides, a promise that God will be gracious. Now genuine repentance certainly requires, not only the preaching of the law, because the law only terrifies the conscience, but it requires the Gospel to be added, namely, that sin is forgiven for Christ's sake without merit,--that we obtain remission of sins through faith. This is so certain and clear, that if our adversaries assail it, and separate Christ and faith from repentance, they will be justly regarded as blasphemers of the Gospel and of Christ.
[261(140)] We ought, therefore, to apply these words of Daniel, the illustrious prophet, not merely to works--to alms--but we should also pay regard to faith. We must not regard the words of the Prophets, which were full of faith and spirit, in a heathen sense, as we would those of Aristotle, or some other heathen. Aristotle admonished Alexander not to employ his power to the gratification of his own arbitrary desires, but to the improvement of the country and of the people; this is proper and right; nor can anything better be preached or written concerning the office of a king. But Daniel speaks to his king, not of his royal office alone; but of repentance, of the forgiveness of sins, of reconciliation to God, and of the exalted, important spiritual things, which far transcend all the conceptions and works of men. Hence, his words must not be referred only to works and alms, which even a hypocrite can perform, but especially to faith.
And it is evident from the text itself, that faith is meant in the case under consideration, namely, to believe that God forgives sins through mercy, and not for the sake of our merit. First, because there are two parts in the discourse of Daniel; the one is a declaration of the law and punishment; the other is the promise of absolution. Now where there is a promise, faith is required; because the promise cannot be realized, except the heart rely on this Word of God, without regard to its own worthiness or unworthiness. Consequently Daniel required faith also; for thus reads the promise: "Thy sins shall be healed." These words are a truly prophetic and evangelical declaration, [262(141)] because Daniel knew that through Christ,--the future seed,--the forgiveness of sins, grace, and eternal life were promised, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. Otherwise he could not thus have consoled the king. For it is not the work of man to give an alarmed conscience full assurance of the remission of sins, and to persuade it that God will no longer be angry, which requires evidence as to the will of God, from his Word. In this way Daniel knew and understood the great promises relative to the future seed. Inasmuch, then, as he makes a promise, it is evident and clear that he requires the faith of which we are speaking.
But his declaration, "Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor," is the substance of a whole discourse, and means repent. Besides it is true, that if we repent, we shall be redeemed from our sins; for this reason his expression is correct, break off thy sins. But it does not follow from this, that we are redeemed from our sins on account of our works, or that our works are a recompense for our sins. Nor does Daniel call for works only, but he says: "Break off thy sins by righteousness." Now it is universally known, that righteousness in the Scriptures does not mean external works merely, but it includes faith, as Paul says, Rom. 1:17: "Justus ex fide vivet," "The just shall live by faith." Daniel, therefore, first requires faith, when he mentions righteousness, and says: Break off thy sins by righteousness, that is, by faith towards God, through which thou shalt be justified. In addition to this do good works also, namely, attend to thy office, be not a tyrant, but see that thy government be useful to the country and the people, maintain peace, and protect the poor against unjust power; these are princely alms, (eleemosynae).
[264(143)] Hence it is clear, that this passage is not opposed to the doctrine of faith. But our stupid adversaries add their appendages to all such passages, namely, that our sins are remitted for the sake of our works, and they teach us to rely on these works; yet these passages do not say this, but require good works, because indeed another and a better life must be wrought in us. These works, however, must not take the honor belonging to Christ.
[272(151)] In the same manner we may reply to the passage which is quoted from the Gospel: "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven," Luke 6:37; for it involves the same doctrine concerning repentance. The first part of this passage requires a reformation and good works; the other part affixes the promise. [276(155)] But we must not infer from this, that our forgiving others, merits for us, ex opere operato, the remission of sins. Because Christ does not assert this, but as in the Sacraments he attaches the promise to the external signs; so also in this place, he attaches the promise concerning the remission of sins to the external good works. And as we do not obtain the forgiveness of sins in the Eucharist, without faith, ex opere operato, so we do not in this work and in our forgiving; for, to forgive others is no good work, unless God has previously forgiven our own sins in Christ. God must, therefore, forgive us, before our forgiveness of others can please him. [275(154)] For Christ was wont thus to connect the law and the Gospel--faith and good works--in order to show, that there is no faith where good works do not follow; and at the same time to furnish us with external signs, to remind us of the Gospel and the remission of sins, for our comfort; thus to give full exercise to our faith.
Thus, then, such passages must be understood; else they would be directly in opposition to the whole Gospel, and our beggarly works would take the place of Christ, who alone must be our reconciliation, and must not be contemned.
Again, if they were to be understood as relating to works, the forgiveness of sins would be altogether uncertain; for it would rest on a loose foundation,--on our miserable works.
[277(156)] They also quote the passage, Tobit 4:10: "Alms do deliver from death, and suffereth not to come into darkness." We do not say that this is a hyperbole, although we would say so, in order to maintain the honor of Christ; for it is his office alone, to redeem from sin and death. But we shall recur to our former rule, namely, that neither the law nor works, without Christ, justify man in the sight of God. [278(157)] Alms therefore (which follow faith) become pleasing to God only after we are reconciled through Christ, and not before. For this reason they do not deliver from death, ex opere operato, but, as we have stated above on the subject of repentance, faith must be connected with its fruits. Thus we may say of alms, that they please God, because they are given by believers. [279(158)] Tobit is speaking of faith as well as alms; for he says, verse 19: "Bless the Lord thy God always, and desire of him that thy ways may be directed," etc. Here he is in fact speaking of the faith to which we refer, which believes that God is gracious to us, and that we are bound to praise him for all his great goodness and mercy. To him this faith also daily looks for help, and prays him to guide us in life and in death.
In this sense we may grant, that alms are meritorious in the sight of God, but we cannot admit that they are able to overcome death, hell, the devil, and sin, or to give peace to the conscience, (for this must be effected solely through faith in Christ,) but they merit for us the protection of God against future evil and danger of body and soul. This is the simple meaning, and corresponds with other passages of Scripture. Because, when good works are commended in the Scriptures, we must always be governed by the principle of Paul, that the law and works must not be exalted above Christ, and that Christ and faith transcend all works as far as heaven is above the earth.
[281(160)] Moreover they cite the declaration of Christ, Luke 11:41: "Give alms of such things as ye have; and behold, all things are clean unto you." Our adversaries being deaf, or dull of hearing, it is necessary for us frequently to repeat the rule, that the law without Christ justifies no one before God, and that no works are acceptable except for Christ's sake alone. Our opponents, however, exclude Christ on every side, act as though Christ were nothing, and impudently teach, that we obtain remission of sins through good works, etc.
[282(161)] But if we view this passage as a whole and in its connection, we shall find that it also speaks of faith. Christ reproves the Pharisees, because they imagined that they could become holy and pure before God by various baptismata carnis, that is, bodily baths, washings, and purifying of the body, of vessels, and garments, even as one of the Popes has inserted in his canons, an important papistic clause concerning holy water, that, when besprinkled with consecrated salt, it sanctifies and purifies the people from sins; and the glossary says, that it purifies from daily sins. The Pharisees also entertained similar errors, which Christ reproved, proposing two kinds of purification, and internal and an external, instead of those they had devised, and admonished them to be pure inwardly. This is effected by faith, as Peter says in the Acts of the Apostles 15:9. And Christ adds, with regard to external purity: "Give alms of such things as ye have, and behold all things are clean unto you."
[283(162)] Our adversaries do not correctly use the expression, all things; for Christ applies the conclusion to both propositions,--the internal purity and the external,--and says: All things are clean until you; that is, when you not only bathe your bodies, but believe God and are inwardly clean, giving alms outwardly, all things are clean unto you. And he shows that true external purity consists in the works which God has commanded; not in human ordinances, such as those traditions of the Pharisees were, and as the sprinkling and besprinkling with holy water, the snow-white vestment of the monks, distinctions in the meats, and the like, now are.
Our adversaries, however, sophistically apply this signum universale, general term, namely, the phrase, all things, to one part alone, and say: All things are clean unto you when you give alms, etc. It is like saying: "Andrew is here, therefore all the Apostles are here." In the antecedent or preceding part of this passage, both--believe and give alms--ought therefore to remain connected. For this is the object of the whole mission, the whole office of Christ; he came, that they might believe. [284(163)] Now when both parts are connected, faith and the giving of alms, it truly follows, that all things are pure,--the heart by faith, the outward walk by good works. Thus we ought to connect the whole discourse, and not pervert the one part, and explain it as meaning that our hearts are cleansed from sin by our alms. Some think, that Christ here spoke ironically against the Pharisees, as if he would say: "Yes, gentle sirs, rob and steal, then go and give alms, you shall soon be pure;" they think that he reproved their Pharisaic hypocrisy with some degree of severity and scorn. For, although they were full of unbelief, avarice, and all manner of evil, yet they observed their purifications, gave alms, and imagined that they were very pure and perfect saints. This explanation is not repugnant to the text.
What reply is to be made in regard to other similar passages, can easily be inferred from those which we have explained. For this rule explains every passage relating to good works, and shows that apart from Christ they avail nothing in the sight of God, that the heart first needs Christ, and must believe that it is acceptable to God for the sake of Christ, not on account of its own works.
[304(183)] Our adversaries also produce several arguments from the schools, to which it is easy to reply, when we know what faith is. Experienced Christians speak of faith far otherwise than the sophists do, as we have also shown above, namely, that to believe, is to trust in the mercy of God, that he will be gracious to us for the sake of Christ, without our merit: and this is believing the Article concerning the remission of sins. This faith is not a mere historical knowledge, for such the devils also have. The argument of the schools is therefore easily refuted when they say: "The devils also believe, therefore faith does not justify." Yes, the devils have a historical knowledge, but they do not believe the remission of sins.
[308(187)] Again, they maintain, that to be just means to obey. "Now," say they, "the performance of works is obedience; therefore works must justify." To this we reply: righteousness is the obedience which God accepts as such. Now God will not accept our obedience in works as righteousness, because it is not sincere obedience, inasmuch as no one truly keeps the law. He has, therefore, ordained obedience of another kind, which he will accept as righteousness, namely, an acknowledgment of our disobedience, and confidence that we are acceptable to God for the sake of Christ, not on account of our obedience. Hence we may here say, that to be just is to be acceptable to God, not on account of our obedience, but through mercy for Christ's sake.
Again, "It is sin to hate God; therefore, it must be righteousness to love God." True, to love God is righteousness according to the law; but no one fulfils this law. The Gospel, therefore, teaches a new righteousness, that we please God on account of Christ, although we do not fulfil the law; and yet, that we should begin to obey it.
[312(191)] Again, what is the difference between faith and hope? Reply: Hope awaits future blessings and deliverance from calamity; faith receives the present reconciliation, and is fully persuaded that God has forgiven our sins, and is now gracious to us. This is a noble worship of God, in which we serve him by giving him the honor, and holding his mercies and promises with such assurance, that we can receive and expect all manner of blessings from him, without merit. In this divine service the heart should be exercised and grow; but of this the ignorant sophists know nothing.
[316(195)] Hence it is easy to perceive, what we ought to hold in regard to merito condigni, respecting which our adversaries imagine, that we are justified before God by love and by our works, not even mentioning faith, but making our works, our fulfillment of the law, a substitute for Christ the Mediator. This is utterly inadmissible. [317(196)] For although we have stated above, that love certainly follows wherever the new birth has been effected through the Spirit and grace; yet the glory of Christ must not be transferred to our works; for it is certain, that both before as well as after them, provided we come to the Gospel, we are esteemed just for the sake of Christ, and he remains the Mediator and Conciliator before as well as after, and after as well as before them; [318(197)] yea, through Christ we have access to God, not because we have kept the law, and performed many good works, but because we so joyfully and confidently rely on grace, and so firmly trust that by grace we are esteemed just in the sight of God, for Christ's sake.
And the holy universal Christian church teaches, proclaims, and confesses, that we are saved through mercy; as we have shown above from Jerome. Our righteousness does not depend upon our own merit, but upon the mercy of God; and this mercy is apprehended through faith.
[319(198)] But here, let every intelligent reader observe, what would result from the doctrine of our adversaries. For if we maintain that Christ has merited for us only primam gratiam, that is, the first grace, (as they call it,) and that we must afterwards merit eternal life by our works, neither our hearts nor our consciences can be pacified, either in the hour of death or at any other time; nor can we ever build on sure ground, or know whether God is gracious to us. Thus their doctrine constantly leads the conscience to nothing but grief, and finally to despair. For the law of God is not a jest; it accuses us continually, when apart from Christ; as Paul says, Rom. 4:15: "The law worketh wrath." Thus, then, when our consciences feel the judgment of God, and have no sure comfort, they fall into despair.
And Paul says: "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin," Rom. 14:23. But those can do nothing in faith, who are to receive the grace of God, only after fulfilling the law with their works. For they will always waver, and doubt whether they have performed works enough, or whether perfect satisfaction has been rendered to the law. Yea, they will forcibly feel, that they are still indebted to the law; for this reason they can never feel assured that they have obtained the grace of God, or that their prayers are heard. Therefore they can never truly love God, nor can they expect any blessing from him, or serve him aright. For the soul, in which nothing but doubt, despondency, murmurs, dissatisfaction, and hatred of God, dwell, is, indeed, hell itself. Yet in that hatred, they hypocritically call upon God, as did Saul, the ungodly king.
On this point we may appeal to the conscience of every Christian, and to all that have experienced temptations. They must acknowledge, that such uncertainty and disquietude, such torment and terror, despondency and despair, result from this doctrine of our adversaries, who teach or imagine, that by our works, or fulfilment of the law, we are justified before God. They direct us to a by-path, to our feeble works, instead of the rich, blissful promises of grace, made to us through Christ the Mediator.
The conclusion stands strong as a wall, yea, firm as a rock, that although we may have begun to do the law, yet we are not acceptable to God, and do not obtain peace with him on account of such works, but for the sake of Christ, through faith; nor does God owe us eternal life for these works. For, even as remission of sins and righteousness are imputed to us for the sake of Christ, not on account of our works or the law; so eternal life, together with the righteousness, is offered on the same ground. 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." Again, verse 57: "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life."
Now we would ask our opponents, what advice they give to distressed souls in the hour of death: whether they encourage them to hope that they will fare well, be saved, and obtain the grace of God on account of their own merits, or by the grace and mercy of God for Christ's sake? For St. Peter, St. Paul, and such saints, cannot boast that God owes them eternal life for their martyrdom; nor did they rely on their works, but on the mercy promised in Christ.
And it would be impossible for a saint, however great and exalted, to endure the accusations of the divine law, the great power of Satan, the terrors of death, and finally, the despair and fear of hell, without seizing hold of the divine promises, the Gospel, as of a tree or branch in the great flood, in the strong, violent stream, among the waves, the surges, and pangs of death; or without holding by faith to the Word which proclaims grace, and thus obtaining eternal life without any works, without the law, by grace alone. This doctrine alone supports the Christian in temptations and in the agonies of death,--a doctrine of which our adversaries know nothing, and speak as the blind do of colors.
But now they will say: "If we are to be saved by mercy alone, what difference is there then between those that are saved, and those that are not? If merit avails nothing, there is no difference between the wicked and the good, and it follows that they are alike saved." This argument induced the schoolmen to invent the meritum condigni, because there must be a difference between those that are saved and those that are condemned.
In the first place, however, we assert, that eternal life belongs to those whom God regards as just, and when this is the case, they have become the children of God, and joint heirs with Christ; as Paul says to the Romans, 8:30: "Whom he justified, them he also glorified." Hence, none are saved, except those that believe the Gospel. But as our reconciliation with God would be doubtful, if it depended on our works and not upon the gracious promise of God, which cannot fail; so also would all our hopes be doubtful, if they were based on our merit and works. For the law of God accuses us continually, and our hearts are sensible only of this voice from the cloud and the flame of fire, Deut. 5:6 etc.: I am the Lord thy God, this shalt thou do, thou owest this, this will I have thee do, etc. No conscience can be at peace for a moment, when the law and Moses press upon the heart, before it embraces Christ by faith. Nor can it truly hope for eternal life, until it has obtained peace. For the doubting soul flees from God, falls into despair, and cannot hope. [345(224)] Now the hope of eternal life must be certain, and in order that it may not waver but be sure, we must believe that we receive eternal life, not through our works or merit, but by grace alone, through faith in Christ.
In temporal matters and worldly courts, there are found mercy and justice. Justice is made certain by the law and by judgment; mercy is precarious. With God, however, it is otherwise, because grace and mercy are promised by an indubitable Word, and the Gospel is that Word; it commands us to believe that God is gracious to us and will save us for Christ's sake, as we find John 3:17-18: "For 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," etc.
[346(225)] Whenever we speak of mercy, therefore, it must be understood, that faith is required; [347(226)] and this faith constitutes the difference between the saved and the damned, the worthy and the unworthy. Because eternal life is promised to none but those, who are reconciled in Christ. Now faith reconciles and justifies us in the sight of God, whenever we lay hold of the promise through faith. And during our whole life we should pray God and exert ourselves, that we may receive and increase in faith. [350(229)] For, as we said above, faith exists wherever there is repentance; but it is not in those who live after the flesh. This faith must also grow and increase during our whole life, amid various temptations. [349(228)] And they who obtain faith, are born anew, so that they also lead a new life, and do good works.
Now we say not only that true repentance must continue during the whole life, but also good works and the fruits of faith; although our works never become so precious, as to be equal to the treasure of Christ, or to merit eternal life; for 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 correctly says: "you must necessarily first believe that you cannot receive the forgiveness of sins, except through the grace of God; and then, that you can have and do no good works, unless God grant them to you; and finally, that you cannot merit eternal life by any good works, even if it were not given to you without merit." And a little further on, he says: "Let no one deceive himself; for if you would properly consider the matter, you would undoubtedly discover that you cannot, with ten thousand, meet him who is advancing against you with twenty thousand," etc. These declarations of St. Bernard are certainly most emphatic: let them believe these, if they will not believe us.
Therefore, in order that the hearts of men may enjoy true and infallible consolation and hope, we refer them, as Paul does, to the divine promise of grace in Christ; and teach them that they must believe, that God grants us eternal life, not on account of our works, or the fulfillment of the law, but for the sake of Christ; as the apostle John says in his 1 Epistle 5:12: "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
[334(213)] In this matter our adversaries have eminently manifested their great skill, in perverting the declaration of Christ: "When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants." [335(214)] They transfer this language from works to faith, saying: "Much more, are we unprofitable servants, when we believe all things." [336(215)] Verily! These are miserable sophists, perverting altogether the consolatory doctrine of faith. Say, ye dolts, how would you advise a dying man, who feels that he has no work that would be sufficient before the judgment-seat of God, and that he can depend on none? Would you also say to him: "Although you believe, yet you are an unprofitable servant, it will avail you nothing?" Surely the distressed conscience must fall into despair, when it knows not that the Gospel requires faith, for the very reason that we are unprofitable servants, and have no merit.
We should, therefore, beware of the sophists, who so blasphemously pervert the words of Christ. For it does not follow, that because works avail nothing, therefore faith also cannot help us. We must give these rude dunces a common example:--It does not follow that if a farthing avails nothing, therefore a florin is of no account. As a florin is much more valuable and efficacious than a farthing, we must know that faith is much greater and more efficacious than works. [338(217)] Not that faith is efficacious on account of its worthiness, but because it relies on the promises and mercy of God. Faith is powerful, not on account of its worthiness, but because of the divine promises. Therefore, Christ here forbids us to rely on our own works; for they cannot help. On the other hand, he does not forbid us to rely on the promises of God; nay, he requires this confidence in the promises of God, for the very reason that we are unprofitable servants, and that works cannot help us.
[341(220)] Hence, these deceivers are misapplying the words of Christ concerning reliance on our own worthiness, to confidence in the divine promises. [343(222)] This completely refutes and dissolves their sophistry. May Christ, the Lord, soon put to shame the sophists, who thus pervert his holy Word. Amen.
[356(235)] Our adversaries, however, attempt to show, that we merit eternal life by our works de condigno, on the ground that eternal life is called a reward. To this we shall briefly and correctly reply.
Paul calls eternal life a gift, (Rom. 6:23,) because, when we are justified through faith, we become sons of God and joint heirs with Christ. But in another place it is written: "Your reward shall be great" in heaven (Luke 6:35). Now if our adversaries think that these passages contradict each other, let them show it. [357(236)] But they do, as usual;--they omit the word gift, and everywhere pass by the chief point,--how we are justified before God. Again, they omit the doctrine, that Christ always remains the Mediator, and then wrest from its place, the word merces or reward, and explain it in the most artful manner, according to their own fancy, not only contrary to the Scriptures, but also to the usual mode of speaking; and they reason thus:--"Here the Scriptures say: your reward, etc., therefore our works are so worthy, that by them we merit eternal life." [358(237)] This is verily a new system of dialectics [a new mode of reasoning)]; here we have the single word reward; therefore our works completely satisfy the law; therefore our works make us acceptable to God, and we have no need of grace, or of the Mediator, Christ; our good works are then the treasure, with which eternal life is bought and obtained. [360(239)] We can, therefore, keep the First and Greatest Commandment of God, and the whole law, by means of our good works. Besides, we can also perform opera supererogationis, that is, works of supererogation, or more than the law requires. Hence, if the monks perform more works than their duty requires, they possess supererogatory merits, which they may share with others, or give for money; [361(240)] and, as the modern gods, they can institute the new Sacrament of Donation, to show that they have sold and imparted their merits, as the Franciscan monks and other orders have shamelessly done, putting the caps of their orders even upon corpses. These are strong conclusions, indeed, all of which, it seems they can spin out of the single word reward, to the disparagement of Christ and faith.
[362(241)] We are not, however, contending about the word reward, but for great, exalted, and most important matters, namely, where Christians should seek true and certain consolation; whether our works can calm our consciences or give them peace; and whether we should hold that our works are worthy of eternal life, or whether it is granted for Christ's sake? These are the proper questions in this matter; and unless properly informed on these points, we can have no sure comfort.
But we have satisfactorily shown, that good works do not fulfil the law; that we need the mercy of God; that faith makes us acceptable to God; and that good works, however precious, though they were the works of St. Paul himself, cannot give peace to the soul. Hence we must believe that we obtain eternal life through Christ, by grace, not on account of works or the law.
But what shall we say concerning the reward which the Scriptures mention? In the first place, if we should say that eternal life is called a reward, because it belongs to believers in Christ by reason of the divine promise, it would be perfectly correct. The Scriptures, however, call eternal life a reward, not that God is under obligation to grant it on account of our works, but that after eternal life is given otherwise, for other reasons, our works and tribulations are still recompensed, although the treasure is so great, that God can not owe it to us for our works; even as the son inherits all the goods of the father and they are a rich recompense and reward of his obedience; yet he receives the inheritance not on account of his merit, but because the father granted it to him, as a father, etc.
It suffices, then, that eternal life is called a reward, because it is a recompense for the afflictions which we endure, and the works of love which we do, although it is not merited by them. For there are two kinds of recompense, one is an obligation, the other is not; as, for instance, if the Emperor gives his servant a principality, the servant's labor is thus recompensed; yet the labor is not worth the principality, but the servant acknowledges it as a gratuity. So God does not owe us eternal life for our works; but yet, when he grants it for Christ's sake to believers, their afflictions and works are thereby recompensed.
[366(245)] We say, moreover, that good works are truly deserving and meritorious, not that they are to merit for us the remission of sins, or justify us before God; for they do not please him, unless performed by those whose sins are already forgiven. Nor are they worthy of eternal life. But they are meritorious with respect to other gifts, conferred in this life and the life to come. For God withholds many gifts till yonder life, where hereafter he will raise the saints to honor; for in this life he would crucify and mortify the old Adam with all manner of temptations and afflictions.
And to this the declaration of Paul applies, 1 Cor. 3:8: "Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor." For the blessed will be rewarded, one higher than the other. Their merit makes such a difference, according as it pleases God; and it is merit, because such good works are performed by those, whom God has accepted as children and heirs; so that they have a special merit of their own, as some children have in preference to others.
[370(249)] Our adversaries quote other passages also, to show that our works merit eternal life; such as these:--Paul says, Rom. 2:6: "Who will render to every man according to his deeds." Again, John 5:28-29: "All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life."
Again, Matt. 25:35: "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat." [371(250)] Reply:--All these passages which commend works, [372(251)] we must understand according to the principle which we have already laid down, namely, that works, apart from Christ, do not please God, and that we must by no means exclude Christ the Mediator. Therefore, when the text says, that eternal life is given to those who have done good, it declares that it is given to such as have previously been justified through faith in Christ. Because no good works are pleasing to God, unless accompanied by faith, through which we believe ourselves to be acceptable to God for Christ's sake; [373(252)] and they who are thus justified by faith, will surely bring forth truly good works and good fruits; as the text says: "I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat." In view of this it must be acknowledged that Christ meant not only the works, but required also that we give him our hearts, and that we entertain just views concerning God, and believe that we are pleasing to him through mercy. Thus, Christ teaches that eternal life is given to the righteous, saying: "The righteous shall go into life eternal." [374(253)] And yet he previously mentions the fruits, that we may learn that righteousness and faith are not hypocrisy, but a new life in which good works must follow.
[375(254)] We are not here making unnecessary distinctions, but it is very important to have proper information on these points. [376(255)] For, the moment we grant to our adversaries, that works merit eternal life, they spin out of this the crude doctrine, that we are able to keep the law of God, that we need no mercy, and that we are just before God; that is, acceptable to God through our works, not for the sake of Christ,--and that we can do works of supererogation, yea even more than the law requires. Thus, then, the whole doctrine of faith is entirely suppressed. [377(256)] But if the Christian church is to exist and continue, the pure doctrine concerning Christ and the righteousness of faith, must ever be maintained. [378(257)] We must therefore, oppose these great Pharisaical errors, in order to vindicate the name of Christ, his honor, and that of the Gospel, and to maintain for the hearts of Christians, true, constant, and unfailing consolation. [381(260)] For how can the heart or conscience possibly obtain peace or hope for salvation, when in temptations and in the pangs of death our works are altogether reduced to dust before the judgment and in the sight of God; unless it be assured through faith, that it is saved by grace for Christ's sake, not on account of our works, or our fulfilment of the law?
And surely St. Laurence, when lying on the flames, suffering as a martyr for the sake of Christ, did not believe that he thereby fulfilled the law of God perfectly and purely; that he was without sin, and had no need of grace or of Christ the Mediator. He evidently rested satisfied with the words of the prophet David: "Enter not into judgment with thy servant," etc., Psalm 143:2.
Nor does St. Bernard boast that his works were worthy of eternal life, when he says: "Perdite vixi, I have lived sinfully," etc. But he consoles himself by relying on the promises of grace; and believes that he has received the forgiveness of sins and eternal life on account of Christ; as the 32d Psalm says: "Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity," verse 2; and Paul says, Rom. 4:6: "Even as David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works." Thus, then, Paul says that he is blessed, to whom righteousness is imputed through faith in Christ, even without having performed good works. This is the true and enduring comfort, which will not fail us in our trials, and by which the soul can be strengthened and consoled; namely, that for Christ's sake, through faith, we receive the remission of sins, righteousness, and eternal life. Now when the passages which treat of works are understood as including faith also, they are by no means opposed to this doctrine. And faith must always be included, in order that Christ, the Mediator, be not excluded. But the fulfilment of the law follows faith, because the Holy Spirit, being present, effects a new life. This is sufficient in regard to this article.
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