Lecture 10. The Office of Justifying Faith

{223} JUSTIFICATION consisting in the Presence of Christ within us, and that Presence manifesting itself in newness of heart and conduct, the question arises, where, under such a view of the doctrine, Faith is found, what is its position, what are its bearings upon the points already settled, and how are its claims satisfied as acknowledged in our Formularies? This is the subject which shall now engage our attention.

Our eleventh Article says that "we are justified by Faith only;" agreeably with which we are told in the Homily on the Passion, that Faith is the one mean and instrument of justification. "As it profiteth a man nothing," says its very perspicuous author, "to have salve, unless it be well applied to the part affected, so the death of Christ shall stand us in no force, unless we apply it to ourselves in such sort as God hath appointed. Almighty God commonly worketh by means, and in this thing He has also ordained a certain mean whereby we may take fruit and profit to our souls' health. What mean is that? forsooth it is faith. Not an unconstant or wavering faith, but a sure, stedfast, grounded, and unfeigned faith. 'God sent His Son into the world,' says St. John. To what end? 'That whosoever believeth {224} in him should not perish, but have life everlasting.' Mark these words, 'that whosoever believeth in Him.' Here is the mean, whereby we must apply the fruits of Christ's death unto our deadly wound. Here is the mean, whereby we must obtain eternal life, namely faith." Then, after quoting other texts of Scripture, he continues, "By this, then, we may well perceive that the only mean and instrument of salvation required on our parts is faith, that is to say, a sure trust and confidence in the mercies of God." He adds, towards the end of the homily, "Let us, then, use that mean which God hath appointed in His word, to wit, the mean of faith, which is the only instrument of salvation now left unto us. Let us stedfastly behold Christ crucified with the eyes of our heart;" and so he concludes in a very serious and impressive strain.

In the judgment, then, of this Homily, faith is certainly in some distinct and important sense the sole mean and instrument of justification. The question is, in what sense.


Now, on the one hand, I observe, what all will allow, that the faith spoken of is not any faith, but a lively faith. This indeed is implied in the passage just quoted, which speaks as concerning "not an unconstant or wavering faith, but a sure, stedfast, grounded, and unfeigned faith." Faith which does not trust, as the devil's faith,—or faith which does not love, though it could "remove mountains,"—or faith which cannot work, such as his to whom "to will is present," but "not to perform that which is good,"—all such faith does not justify. {225} It is, then, not mere faith, but faith under certain circumstances or conditions, faith when it trusts, loves, and lives, a fruitful faith, which is the sole mean and instrument of justification.

On the other hand, I do not understand faith to be a general term, meaning nothing more or less than trust, love, life, and all other excellences of the new mind or creature together. When the Homily calls it "the sole mean," it speaks by way of contrast with other graces. The writer would not call it the sole mean, if it were the sole grace. By faith is not meant religiousness generally, nor obedience, nor spiritual life, nor love, nor hope, nor trust; whatever is meant, something is meant distinct from all these. I do not deny that faith often stands for these in Scripture, in the Homilies themselves, and elsewhere; nay, I will not deny that the Homily before us, as being a popular discourse, does speak of faith, as if it were something more than faith, viz. trust, confidence, hope, and perseverance, because it is really inseparable from them, and one with them; still, when it is called the sole instrument of justification, it must stand in contrast with them, and be contemplated in itself as being one certain property, habit, or act, of the mind. This is explicitly stated by another Homily, when it says that faith "doth not shut out repentance, hope, love, dread, and the fear of God, to be joined with faith in every man that is justified; but it shutteth them out from the office of justifying." [Note 1]

Here I draw an important conclusion; that the instrumental power of Faith cannot interfere with the {226} instrumental power of Baptism; because Faith is the sole justifier, not in contrast to all means and agencies whatever, (for it is not surely in contrast to our Lord's merits, or God's mercy), but to all other graces. When, then, Faith is called the sole instrument, this means the sole internal instrument, not the sole instrument of any kind.

There would be nothing inconsistent, then, in Faith being the sole instrument of justification, and yet Baptism also the sole instrument, and that at the same time, because in distinct senses; an inward instrument in no way interfering with an outward instrument. Baptism might be the hand of the giver, and Faith the hand of the receiver. However, this is not the exact relation of faith to baptism, as is plain, for this reason,—that Baptism occurs but once, whereas justification is a state, and faith "abides." Justification, then, needs a perpetual instrument, such as faith can be, and Baptism cannot. Each, then, has its own office in the work of justification; Baptism at the time when it is administered, and faith ever after. Faith secures to the soul continually those gifts, which Baptism in the first instance conveys. The two Sacraments are the primary instruments of justification; faith is the secondary, subordinate, or representative instrument. Or we may say, varying our mode of expression, that the Sacraments are its instrumental, and Faith its sustaining cause [Note 2]. {227}

Faith, then, being the appointed representative of Baptism, derives its authority and virtue from that which it represents. It is justifying because of Baptism; it is the faith of the baptized, of the regenerate, that is, of the justified. Justifying faith does not precede justification; but justification precedes faith, and makes it justifying. And here lies the cardinal mistake of the views on the subject which are now in esteem. In those views faith is considered as the sole instrument, not after Baptism but before; whereas Baptism is the primary instrument, and causes faith to be what it is and otherwise is not, giving it power and rank, and, as it were, constituting it its own successor.


That this is the doctrine of our Church appears from the Homilies. These are addressed, not to heathens but to Christians, they are practical and popular exhortations to Christians. They inform a baptized congregation, or, as they speak, "dear Christians," "good Christian people," how they may be saved, not how God will deal with the heathen. They are not missionary discourses, directing pagans how to proceed in order to be justified, but are composed for the edification of those who through God's mercy are already "dearly beloved in Christ." And, as regards the point before us, they lay down "what the lively and true faith of a Christian man is." Clear, however, as this is, at first sight, I will make some extracts from them, to impress it upon the mind.

Take, for instance, the very passage I quoted in the opening, in which faith is called the sole instrument of {228} justification; it will be found that the writer is teaching a Christian congregation what they must do. He does not, cannot, say with St. Peter, "Be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins;" that sacred remedy has been long ago applied, and may not be repeated. What is left, then, after sinning, but, as it were, to renew our Baptism, at least its virtue, by faith, as "the only instrument of salvation now left unto us"? And this is why stress is laid upon "a stedfast, not a wavering faith;" he does not simply say lively, but stedfast, because faith is to be the abiding, sustaining means of justification, or, in the words of St. Paul, "By faith we stand;" as Moses' uplifted hands continued on the victory of his people over Amalek. The writer says so in express words, "Here we must take heed that we do not halt with God through an unconstant and wavering faith, but that it be strong and stedfast to our lives' end … Peter coming to Christ upon the water, because he fainted in faith, was in danger of drowning. So we, if we begin to waver or doubt, it is to be feared lest we should sink, as Peter did, not into the water, but into the bottomless pit of hell-fire." All this, I say, shows that, when the Homily speaks of faith as an instrument, it means a sustaining instrument; what the primary instrument is, being quite a separate question. Those who now speak of faith as the sole means of justification, too commonly consider the mass of Christians unregenerate, and call them out of their supposed heathen state through faith, as the sole initiation into Christ's kingdom. How different is the tone of this Homily! Attend to the very words which precede the strongest of {229} the passages cited above. "Therefore, dearly beloved, if we chance at any time, through frailty of the flesh, to fall into sin ... and if we feel the heavy burden thereof to press our souls ... let us then use that mean which God hath appointed in His word, to wit, the mean of faith, which is the only instrument of salvation now left unto us."

But, it may be said, there is nothing about Baptism here; let us then turn to the Homily on Salvation or Justification, to which the 11th Article refers, where we shall find that doctrine clearly stated, though it does not enter into the scope of the Homily already cited. "Infants, being baptized and dying in their infancy, are by this Sacrifice washed from their sins, brought to God's favour, and made His children, and inheritors of His kingdom of heaven. And they which in act or deed do sin after their Baptism, when they turn again to God unfeignedly," that is, come to God in faith, as the Homily forthwith goes on to say, "they are likewise washed by this Sacrifice from their sins. Here is distinct mention of faith justifying after Baptism, but no mention of its justifying before Baptism; on the contrary, Baptism is expressly said to effect the first justification. The writer proceeds: "This is that justification or righteousness which St. Paul speaks of, when he saith, 'No man is justified by the works of the Law, but freely by faith in Jesus Christ.'" So it seems that St. Paul too, when he speaks of justification through faith, speaks of faith as subordinate to Baptism, not as the immediate initiation into a justified state.

And as Holy Baptism, in the judgment of the {230} Homilies, is the immediate initiation into God's grace, so is Holy Communion, not the initiatory, but still an immediate and proper instrument of receiving it also; though this is not the place for proving it [Note 3]. Here the question before us simply is, in what sense faith is the "sole instrument;" and I have answered it by showing from the Homilies, that it is the sole, not as opposed to external means, but to the other graces, and as preceded and made an instrument by the secret virtue of Baptism. As to the Holy Eucharist, in whatever sense it justifies, certainly faith, as taking the place of Baptism, can as little interfere with its office as Baptism itself interferes. One proof, however, may be mentioned by the way, that our Church assigns to faith the same subordinate function as regards the second Sacrament, as it bears towards the first [Note 4]. I mean the Rubric in the Service for the Communion of the Sick; which instructs us that faith, so far from superseding, is to represent {231} the Eucharist, only when, from whatever cause, it cannot be obtained. It continues on and pleads in God's sight the sick person's former reception of it.

Faith, then, considered as an instrument, is always secondary to the Sacraments. The most extreme case, in which it seems to supersede them, is found, not in our own, but in the Ancient Church; in which the faith of persons, dying in the state of Catechumens, was held to avail to their reception on death into that kingdom, of which Baptism is the ordinary gate. How different is the spirit of such a guarded exception, from the doctrine now in esteem, that faith, ipso facto, justifies, the Sacraments merely confirming and sealing what is complete without them!


Let us proceed to Scripture, which will be found distinctly to declare the same general doctrine. And here I cannot desire a more cogent argument than is furnished by the account of St. Paul's conversion, who surely, if any one, would have received justification, not in Baptism, but before it; I mean at the time of Christ's appearance to him, or during his three days' fasting and prayer. Faith surely would have been immediately justifying in his case, if in any; yet, so far from it, Ananias, after pointedly referring to his having seen "that Just One," who is also "the justifier of him that believeth," still bade him be baptized "and wash away {232} his sins." The Apostle himself teaches the same doctrine to the Galatians, when, after discoursing at large concerning faith as justifying, and that as a very observable and important truth, he ends thus: "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus; for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." That is, ye are God's children by faith, because ye have put on Christ in Baptism. Putting on Christ by Baptism has brought you into the condition of being God's children by faith. Or, in other words, Faith justifies, because Baptism has justified. Again, he says to the Hebrews, "Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having been sprinkled in heart from an evil conscience, and having been washed in body with pure water." Why is this cleansing of the conscience, and baptismal washing mentioned, except as a warrant in order to drawing near in assurance of faith? To the same purport is St. Peter's teaching, that God "hath begotten us again unto a lively hope," and "to an inheritance incorruptible," and that they who are thus chosen "are kept by the power of God through faith." [Acts xxii. 14, 16. Gal. iii. 26, 27. Heb. x. 22. 1 Pet i. 3-5. [Note 5]] Lively faith comes after regeneration, not before it.

In these passages faith is made a permanent or sustaining means, and not the beginning of justification; with which agree others, which speak of our faith as securing our state of favour. For instance, "By faith ye stand." Again: "Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith." Again: "I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also {233} ye have received, and wherein ye stand." And again: "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace, wherein we stand." Once more: "Yet a little while and He that cometh will arrive, and will not tarry; now the just shall live by faith, but if he draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him."

These passages also prove that only faith has this sustaining power, from the circumstance that while it is so repeatedly ascribed to faith, and that absolutely and without contrast, it is not ascribed to other graces. If by "standing" be meant, as I conceive, being in a justified state, faith surely, and not any other grace, is that which operates in keeping us in it. Why it does so, is altogether a distinct question, and one perhaps which we cannot adequately determine. But, whatever be God's inscrutable reasons for thus connecting faith immediately with His evangelical gifts, so has He done.

Moreover, it will be observed that the greatest and most sacred gifts are again and again ascribed to faith, and not to other graces; as if there certainly were some special connection between those gifts and faith, though we may be unable to define what it is. For instance, the forgiveness of sins:—"Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past." The presence of the Spirit:—"That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Sanctification:—"Purifying their hearts by faith." Perseverance:—"Who are kept by the power of God through faith." The resurrection of the body:—"He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." Eternal life:—"That { 234} whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." The Body and Blood of Christ:—"I am the Bread of Life; he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst." Or, as all God's ineffable gifts may be compendiously stated in one word, justification:—"That He might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." [Rom. iii. 25, 26. Gal. iii. 14. Acts xv. 9. 1 Pet. i. 5. John xi. 25; iii. 16; vi. 35.]

And here a strong confirmatory argument is afforded by Christ's conduct, when on earth, to those who came to Him to be healed. What faith was in the "days of the Son of Man" for temporal blessings, such surely is it now under the ministration of the Spirit for heavenly. So strict, then, it would seem, was the necessity of faith as a mean of receiving His bounty, that when the sick person did not or could not show it, it was exacted of the parties who brought him. Our Lord said to the woman with an issue of blood, who touched His garment, "Thy faith hath made thee whole;" to the blind men, "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" and "according to your faith, be it unto you;" to the woman of Canaan, "O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt." Seeing the faith of those who let down the paralytic through the roof, He said to the sick man, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee;" in His own country, "He did not many mighty things, because of their unbelief;" nay, "He could do there no mighty works, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them." In like manner, St. Paul at Lystra, "stedfastly beholding" the cripple, "and perceiving he had faith to be healed, {235} said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet." And St. Peter also, fastening his eyes upon "the lame man at the Beautiful gate," and saying, "Look on us," "took him by the right hand, and lifted him up;" and in consequence, he says presently, that Christ's "Name, through faith in His Name, hath made this man strong." Moreover, our Lord lays down on several occasions this broad doctrine: "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth;" [Matt. ix. 22, 28, 29; xiii. 58; xv. 28; xvii. 20; xxi. 22. Mark ii. 5; vi. 5; ix. 23. Acts iii. 4, 7, 16; xiv. 9, 10.] "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." Our Lord's words seem to have become proverbial, for St. Paul speaks of faith "removing mountains." [1 Cor. xiii. 2.] Surely, it is not without the purpose of a permanent lesson in the Church, that the inspired word has thus uniformly recorded this connection between faith and the gifts of the Gospel; surely, what is true of its visible miracles, is true also of its invisible, which still remain to us. It is not love nor humility which has the special office of co-operating with God's outward signs, with the divine "breathing" and "touching," with the divinely tempered "clay," or the divine word, but faith. And let it be observed that this assignment of a particular office or a special blessing to a certain grace, is quite according to the analogy of Scripture; so that, even could we see no reasons at all for it, it need not surprise us, that the reception {236} of God's grace should be a prerogative of Faith. Thus, "the pure in heart" "shall see God;" and "the meek" "shall inherit the earth."

On all accounts, then, from the instances, statements, and analogy of Scripture, we may safely conclude that there is a certain extraordinary and singular sympathy between faith and the grant of Gospel privileges, such as to constitute it, in a true sense, an instrument of receiving them, that is, of justification, which includes them all;—in a true sense, which is to be determined by that same Scripture, and not by antecedent arguments, as if the definition of faith implied it, or the condition of man required it (man being unequal to works, or faith being "apprehensive," or trusting to our own merits being perilous and uncertain, or comfort being thus secured to us),—not clashing with other truths, such as the instrumentality of the Sacraments,—nor superseding conditions, such as repentance and obedience,—nor inconsistent with the priority of love to faith, at least implicitly, both in order of nature and of time [Note 6].


While then we reserve to Baptism our new birth, and to the Eucharist the hidden springs of the new life, and to Love what may be called its plastic power, and to Obedience its being the atmosphere in which faith breathes, still the divinely appointed or (in other words) {237} the mysterious virtue of Faith remains. It alone coalesces with the Sacraments, brings them into effect, dissolves (as it were) what is outward and material in them, and through them unites the soul to God [Note 7]. It alone, while it develops, also sanctifies in God's sight all other graces,—like salt or incense on sacrifices, which neither buys the victim, nor supersedes it, but recommends it to God's acceptance. Such is justifying faith, justifying not the ungodly, but the just, whom God has justified when ungodly; justifying him under God, and under God's means; justifying the just, as being the faith of the justified, who through Baptism first were justified, when as yet they were unjust. And hence the Gospel is called "the law of faith," and discipleship "the obedience of faith;" for though faith is the principle of all religion, yet under the Gospel it has a special office, and that with an evident fitness so far as it is formally assigned it, though we dare not antecedently decide how far it is so.

It may indeed be objected to this doctrine that faith, thus restricted in its office, is after all only a higher kind of condition, or what is called sine qua non, in justification, instead of a positive instrument; that, whereas the Sacraments convey the gift, faith has but the negative office of not impeding its bestowal, and this office any other grace has equally, for, if love, or purity, or repentance {238} were absent, the Sacraments would not savingly operate, and that it is unmeaning to make faith more than a condition and less than an immediate and proper instrument. But I would reply that this is but to indulge in the same antecedent sort of reasoning as before. What do we know of the instruments, means, qualifications, and conditions of salvation? What do we know of the real efficacy of anything we do? What of the mode in which prayer operates? What of the means through which actions change the character? What of the sense in which Adam's sin is our sin? Let us not think God's system narrow, because we are ignorant. Let us believe, if His word so intimates, that faith has an office for which we have not a word, as not having a definite idea; that, without its being that on which solely and immediately God grants His heavenly gifts, still there is some connection between it and them, more than ordinary;—as, to take a parallel instance, gaining blessings for the Church is associated by our Lord and His Apostles with perseverance in prayer.


It may be said, however, that there are passages of Scripture which distinctly speak of faith as justifying, not after, but before Baptism. Such are the following: "Being justified by faith we have peace with God," Baptism not being named; or, where both are mentioned, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;" or, in the way of precept, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved;"—and how can these be reconciled with the doctrine which I have been maintaining? {239}

Now if this objection is worth anything, its force must lie in this; that, not in laying down principles, as the first of these (for in such passages truth is stated in an abstract way), but in precepts and directions, as in the last, faith is pointed out as the instrument of justification apart from Baptism. The first of these texts then may be at once dismissed from the discussion; the last may fairly be urged, but nothing will follow from it. The words "Believe, and thou shalt be saved," as little negative the use of a divine instrument, (such as Baptism), intervening between faith and its reward, as the Centurion's faith, such as was not in Israel, dispensed with our Lord's speaking the word that his servant might be healed. The jailor to whom St. Paul spoke was baptized forthwith; if St. Paul's silence about Baptism be an argument against its instrumental power, it would be an argument also against its administration; that is, the objection proves too much. Texts, then, in which Baptism is not mentioned, prove nothing, so long as there are texts in which it is mentioned; else the omission of faith in St. Peter's exhortation on another occasion to "repent and be baptized," is a valid argument against the necessity of faith. And as to the second of the three passages quoted, in which faith comes first and Baptism follows, such passages as little prove that faith and not Baptism is the true instrument of grace, as our Saviour's call to "repent and believe the Gospel" shows that repentance justifies, and not faith. Such texts, then, as the three instanced, neither prove the one doctrine nor its opposite: they may be taken either way. The state of the case is this: there are texts which speak of Baptism as the beginning {240} of a state of grace; are there any which so speak of faith? The new birth is an act, an initiatory act, forgiveness is an act; but justification is a state, being in God's favour is a state. It is nothing to the purpose then to show that faith is connected in Scripture with justification, or with God's favour. How is it connected with the new birth, with the washing away of sin? this is the question. Now Baptism is an act, an initiatory act and nothing beyond, and therefore a fit attendant on an inward initiatory act, such as regeneration; whereas faith, though an act, is something beyond an act, it is an abiding habit, and therefore more fitly constituted to attend upon an abiding state. And next, I repeat, the act of justifying is expressly ascribed to Baptism as an immediate means; is it anywhere ascribed to faith? Ananias bids St. Paul be baptized and wash away his sins; but we are told in the text I have already quoted, "By faith ye stand." Are we anywhere said to rise up by faith, as well as to stand? Is faith ever said to wash away sins, as Baptism is? to effect our new birth, as Baptism is? to begin that new life, which doubtless it sustains, to gain what it certainly holds? The silence of Scripture on this point is the more remarkable from the circumstance that so many high gifts—sanctification, eternal life, and resurrection of the body—are connected in Scripture with faith; all but the new birth; all but the first step, and this is in other passages said to be through Baptism.

But it may be replied, that in matter of fact faith does come before Baptism; men are not baptized till they believe; whatever then be the office of faith, it has {241} that office independently of Baptism; and if it be an instrument of justification, it is not made so by Baptism. I answer, that though faith comes before Baptism, yet before Baptism it is not the instrument of justification, but only one out of a number of qualifications necessary for being justified. Nothing is said in Scripture of faith before Baptism, that is not said of repentance, or of the resolve to lead a new life, which also are necessary conditions, together with faith, in order to Baptism; but before Baptism, it, as well as they, is without "availing" power, without life in the sight of God, as regards our justification. After all these preparatives (as they may be called), not in and through them, comes Gospel grace, meeting, not co-operating with them, by a distinct process and with an interval. "As many as received Him," says the Evangelist, "to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." Their faith was their coming; is coming the instrument of a beggar's receiving alms, or rather a necessary previous step? is it the same as the hand that takes, or the hand that gives? Those who believe, says St. John, are thereupon born of God; yet he does not say, "as many as had faith in Him, they, ipso facto, were born again," but "as many as received Him, they received power to be born again." There was an intervening step in the process; that step was reception into His Church or Kingdom. Faith then must not be called the new birth, till Scripture is proved to say so; and this is why we hear so much in Protestant schools and congregations of "apprehending," "applying," "appropriating," "interesting oneself in" Christ by faith; words not in {242} Scripture, and instead of Scripture terms which cannot be found.

But it may be urged in answer to this, that to consider faith first as a condition, and then as the instrument of justification, and Baptism as the means of changing it from the one to the other, is an arbitrary and unnatural view of the subject; that, in fact, it is the same fault which in another connection I charged on those who give two senses to the word righteous, in order to obviate a difficulty in the way of their particular theory. But the answer is obvious; I objected to giving two senses to the word righteous as being unreasonable; but I do not assign two senses to the word "faith," but two offices. What is there unreasonable in holding that, whereas all we have and all we are is exalted by Baptism, the office of faith is exalted also? that, while faith is renewed in knowledge, upon Christ being revealed as an Object, it should also be renewed in power, upon Christ being imparted as a Spirit? that, as it is variously exercised in the Law and the Gospel, so it should be variously endowed also? that, when it has changed its character, it should also change its function? Surely it is not at all strange that faith, when a grace, should do more than faith when but a human virtue; when lively, than when it "willed" without "performing." Rather it is strange that faith, before Baptism, like the jailor's, full of terror and disquiet, or that of his household, vague and dull-minded,—that feeble, sickly, wayward, fitful, inoperative faith, should be taken even as a condition, except that a man "is accepted according to that he hath, not according to {243} that he hath not;" that the principle of faith is capable of great things, though it be nothing till Christ regenerate it; and that when it comes for Baptism, it is on the point of being rid of itself and hid in Him. It comes to the Fount of life to be made alive, as the dry bones in the Prophet's vision were brought together in preparation for the Breath of God to quicken them; and He who "makes all things new," and takes into Him, and assimilates unto Him, all that is "in heaven and earth," as He makes sinners righteous, their persons "pleasant," their works "acceptable," and their alms, instead of a mere "memorial," a "sweet-smelling sacrifice," so also by His presence, converts what is a condition of obtaining favour into the means of holding and enjoying it.

The faith then of the justified continues and preserves his justification; the faith of the sinner prepares the way for his justification. From the first it is a condition, and afterwards it is an instrument, its office varying in importance with its character.—However, there is a point of view in which both its character and its office are the same always, and its relation towards justification one and the same. With some notice of this I shall conclude.


Unless, indeed, it were substantially the same habit of mind under all circumstances, it would not be called faith; and so far as it is the same habit, it always has the same office, of which one especial characteristic is this, that it magnifies the grace of God, and is a sort of {244} witness of its freeness and largeness. In consequence it is a symbol of the nature and mode of our justification, and of its history; and hence is said by Protestant divines to "justify alone," that our minds may be affected with a due sense of our inability to do any good thing of ourselves. This is Melanchthon's view, in which he is followed by parts of our Homilies;—and now to explain it [Note 8].

I say, then, that when Melanchthon and his school speak of faith only justifying, they neither say with Luther that it is the primary instrument (which it is not), nor with our Homilies, that it is an instrument after Baptism (which it is), but with parts of our first book of Homilies, that it is an emblem or image of the free grace of our redemption. To say we are justified by faith only was in that Reformer's mouth a lively mode of speech (he calls it figurative), for saying that we are justified neither by faith nor by works, but by God only. I do not deny that such a figure has something {245} refined about it, but it served effectually to exculpate the doctrine, which he had received from Luther, from the charge of superseding good works, as showing that really and practically it had nothing to do either with faith or works, but with grace. And since when thus explained it was most true, and was a protest against errors, which then were said to be widely spread in the Church, it was adopted by our Reformers, without abandoning the modified instrumental sense of it as above commented on.

A few illustrations will bring out its meaning. We speak of "the Throne," or "the Crown," when we mean the King. "The rights of the Crown" is a phrase, absurd, if analyzed literally, but intelligible as a figure. Such, according to Melanchthon, is justification by faith only.

Again: faith is the tenure on which we enjoy the gifts which Christ has merited for us; as one who had served his country might receive from it large possessions for his children on the condition of some yearly acknowledgment on their part, the presentation of a banner or the like, worthless in itself, but, under the circumstances, a memorial both of his claims and of his dependence on his country for the fulfilment of them. We might speak of their holding their estates by such acknowledgment, without meaning more than that it was the sole symbol, not in any sense the sole condition of enjoying them, or the original means of gaining them.

Again: our Lord commits to St. Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and gives him the name of rock, or foundation. This does not exclude the other Apostles {246} from holding the keys and being foundations also: indeed they are expressly so called. He is not sole among them, or the channel through whom they are Christ's Apostles. Why, then, is he singled out by our Lord? Protestants answer that he is a specimen of what all the Apostles are, and a type and symbol of them all. His name expresses what all of them, including himself, really are,—foundations. In like manner, according to the explanation before us, faith is said to justify, not that it really does justify more than any other grace; but it has this peculiarity, that it signifies, in its very nature, that nothing of ours justifies us, or it typifies the freeness of our justification. Faith heralds forth divine grace, and its name is a sort of representation of it, as opposed to works. Hence it may well be honoured above the other graces, and placed nearer Christ than the rest, as if it were distinct from them, and before them, and above them, though it be not. It is suitably said to justify us, for the very reason that it says itself that it does not justify, if one may so speak; as a sort of reward made to it. In so determining, the Reformers are not laying down a practical direction how to proceed in order to be justified, what is required of us for justification, but a large abstract principle or doctrine ever to be held and cherished, viz. that in ourselves we deserve eternal ruin, and are saved by Christ's mercy, and that not through faith only, but through faith and all other graces.


Now about this interpretation of the doctrine I will only say, first, that nothing can be more scriptural than {247} the sense thus elicited from it; next, that it is more suited to the Schools, than to the taste of a people like the English at the present day; but, lastly, that if our Reformers have chosen thus to express what is in itself true, and to transmit it to us, it is right to maintain it, as Bishop Bull has incidentally done in his instructive Harmony of St. Paul with St. James.

Let us then now turn to the first book of Homilies; which will be found clearly to teach, not with Luther that faith is solitary at the time when it first justifies, but with Melanchthon that, whereas it never is solitary, it is but said to be the sole justifier, and that with a view to inculcate another doctrine not said, viz. that all is of grace.

"This sentence, that we be justified by faith only, is not so meant by them," the Fathers, "that the said justifying faith is alone in man, without true repentance, hope, charity, dread and the fear of God, at any time or season." Again, in a passage which has been already cited, we are told, "Faith doth not shut out repentance, love, dread and the fear of God, to be joined with faith in every one that is justified, but it shutteth them out from the office of justifying."

What is the office here spoken of? not the office of conveying, but of symbolizing justification. For instance: "As great and godly a virtue as the lively faith is, yet it putteth us from itself, and remitteth or appointeth us unto Christ, for to have only by Him remission of our sins or justification. So that our faith in Christ (as it were) saith unto us that, 'It is not I that take away your sins, but it is Christ only, and to Him only I send {248} you for that purpose, forsaking therein all your good virtues, words, thoughts, and works, and only putting your trust in Christ.'" It is plain that, according to this Homily, "faith only" does not apprehend, apply, or appropriate Christ's merits; it does but preach them; and thus surely conveys a "most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort."

The formula, then, "justification by faith only," on this interpretation, is not a practical rule, but an abstract principle. Accordingly, it will be observed, the Homilies do not attempt to explain it literally, but declare it to be a sentence, saying, or form of speech, one too, which, when drawn out, assumes quite a new shape, as far as its letter is concerned.

For instance: "This saying, that we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works, is spoken for to take away clearly all merit of our works, as being unable to deserve our justification at God's hands;" let it be observed, the drift of "the saying," is given, not an interpretation. The writer proceeds, "and thereby most plainly to express the weakness of man and the goodness of God; the great infirmity of ourselves, and the might and power of God; the imperfectness of our own works, and the most abundant grace of our Saviour Christ; and thereby wholly to ascribe the merit and deserving of our justification unto Christ only, and His most precious blood-shedding" [Note 9] Can words be clearer to prove that faith is {249} considered to justify not as an instrument, but as a symbol? it is to do nothing, but it is to "say," to "express," to "ascribe," to warn, to bring good tidings.

In like manner, in the third part of the same Homily: "The very true meaning of this proposition or saying, We be justified by faith only (according to the meaning of the old ancient authors) is this, We put our faith in Christ, that we be justified by Him only." [Note 10] Justification {250} by faith only is here said to be a saying; consider how astonished and pained we should be, were the doctrine of the Atonement or of Christ's divinity insisted upon merely as a proposition, saying, or form of speaking.

This last-mentioned title is actually given it in another passage:—"This form of speaking use we, in the humbling of ourselves to God, and to give all the glory to our Saviour Christ, who is best worthy to have it."


Enough has now been said upon the symbolical office of faith. If more were needed, it might be further observed that such a view of it is congenial to the tone of thought which the Reformers discover in other matters. As they considered prayers as lectures, Absolutions as declarations, the Eucharistic Commemoration as a visible memento, Mystical Rites as edifying exhibitions (which they certainly are also), so they regarded faith as the symbol of justification. Of course this is not the highest view of the doctrine; and our own Homilies, in another portion of the Book, go on to the higher, according to which it is an instrument, as has been shown. Well would it have been if all Protestant writers had done the same; but others, following out the view which was more peculiarly their patrimony as Protestants, have ended in {251} the notion, that justification is the feeling of satisfaction which belief in God's mercy inspires, and nothing more.

To sum up what has been said:—the question has been in what sense faith only justifies, for that it is necessary to our justification, all parties allow. I answer, it justifies only, in two ways, as the only inward instrument, and as the only symbol. Viewed as an instrument, it unites the soul to Christ through the Sacraments; viewed as a symbol it shows forth the doctrine of free grace. Hence it is the instrument of justification after Baptism; it is a symbol both before and after [Note 11].

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1. Sermon of Salvation, Part 1.
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2. [Catholics hold that, not faith only, but faith, hope, and charity, are the ''sustaining cause" of justification. "Fides, nisi ad eam spes accedat et charitas, neque unit perfecte cum Christo, neque corporis ejus vivum membrum efficit."—Concil. Trid. Sess. vi. 7.]
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3. "Thus much we must be sure to hold, that in the Supper of the Lord there is no vain ceremony, no bare sign, no untrue figure of a thing absent … Thus much more the faithful see, hear, and know; the favourable mercies of God sealed, the satisfaction by Christ towards us confirmed, and the remission of sin established … Take, then, this lesson, O thou that art desirous of this Table, of Emissenus, a godly Father, that when thou goest up to the reverend Communion, to be satisfied with spiritual meat, then look up with faith upon the Holy Body and Blood of thy God, then marvel with reverence, then touch it with thy mind, then receive it with the hand of thy heart, and then take it fully with thy inward man."—Sermon concerning the Sacrament, Part I.
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4. "That faith is a necessary instrument in all these Holy Ceremonies, we may thus assure ourselves, for that, as St. Paul saith, 'without faith it is impossible to please God.' When a great number of the Israelites were overthrown in the wilderness, Moses, Aaron, and Phineas, did eat manna, and pleased God," etc.—Ibid. And so the 28th Article. "The mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith."
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5. Vide also Acts x. 47.
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6. [Catholics hold that, whereas faith, as a disposing condition, is prior to justification, love or charitas is posterior to it. It is a pia affectio and a bona voluntas, not charitas, which precedes faith. On the "pia affectio," vid. the next Lecture.]
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7. [Deixas anoneta tes nomikes hierourgias ta eide, hupischneitai ton hamartematon ten aphesin; en dia tou panagiou baptismatos edoresato; 'Ego eimi ho exaleiphon tas hamartias, k.t.l.] (Is. xlii. 25), [ou gar de di ergon axiepainon, alla dia mones pisteos ton mustikon tetuchekamei agathon].—Theod. Adv. Gent. viii. p. 892.
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8. "Cum dicitur, Fide justificamur, non aliud dicitur, quam quod propter Filium Dei accipiamus remissionem peccatorum et reputemur justi ... Intelligatur ergo propositio correlative, Fide sumus justi, id est, per misericordiam propter Filium Dei sumus justi seu accepti."—Melanchth. Loc. Theol. de voc. Fidei (f. 199, 2).

"In ecclesiis nostris dicitur, Fide sola justificamur, quod sic intelligimus et declaramus, Gratis propter solum Mediatorem, non propter nostram contritionem, seu alia nostra merita, donamur remissione peccatorum et reconciliatione."—Confess. Eccl. Saxon. (ibid. f. 126).

"Sancti patres sępe dicunt, nos per misericordiam salvari. Quoties igitur fit mentio misericordię, sciendum est quod fides ibi requiratur, quę promissionem misericordię accipit. Et rursus quoties nos de fide loquimur intelligi volumus objectum, scilicet misericordiam promissam."—Apol. Confess. August. de Justif. (ibid. f. 64).
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9. Sermon of Salvation, part ii.

In like manner, ''Justification is the office of God only, and is not a thing which we render unto Him, but which we receive of Him; not which we give to Him, but which we take of Him, by His free mercy, and by the only merits of His most dearly beloved Son, our only Redeemer, Saviour, and Justifier, Jesus Christ; so that the true understanding of this doctrine, we be justified freely by faith without works, or that we be justified by faith in Christ only, is not, that this our own act to believe in Christ, or this our faith in Christ, which is within us, doth justify us,"—let it be observed, we are told what the words do not mean,—in what sense it is not true that faith justifies, viz. not by having any real merit; it would have been natural then to have gone on to say in what sense faith does justify. Instead, however, of thus closing with the words, and sifting their meaning, well understanding they are the emblem of a principle, not a literal statement, the writer continues:—"but the true understanding and meaning thereof is, that although we have faith, hope, charity, repentance, dread and fear of God within us, and do never so many good works thereunto, yet we must renounce the merit of all our said virtues, of faith, hope, charity, and all our other virtues and good deeds which we either have done, shall do, or can do, as things that be far too weak and insufficient, and imperfect, to deserve remission of our sins, and our justification; and therefore we must trust only in God's mercy, and that Sacrifice which our High Priest and Saviour, Christ Jesus, the Son of God, once offered for us upon the Cross." It must be recollected that Melanchthon (vide note, supra, p. 181) calls justification by faith, "Paulina figura."
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10. Again: "Because faith doth directly send us to Christ for remission of our sins, and that by faith given us of God we embrace the promise of God's mercy and of the remission of sins (which thing none other of our virtues or works properly doth), therefore Scripture useth to say, that faith without work's doth justify." Here is the reason for saying "faith only," and not "love only," or "obedience only," because faith directly "sendeth us to," or preaches "Christ." Observe, too, that still, as in the former cases, the Homily does not so much affirm that faith only does justify, "but is said to justify." Elsewhere faith is compared to the Baptist, who "did put the people from him, and appointed them unto Christ." Was St. John an instrument, or only a preacher? "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance," etc.
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11. The reader will find several statements contained in this and in the 4th and 6th Lectures, more or less confirmed by Waterland (on Justification, Works, vol. ix.)
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