Lecture 12. Faith viewed relatively to Rites and Works

{274} I NOW proceed to show that though we are justified, as St. Paul says, by faith, and, as our Articles and Homilies say, by faith only, nevertheless we are justified, as St. James says, by works; and to show in what sense this latter doctrine is true, and that, not only in the case of works of righteousness, but also of ritual services, such as Baptism, as St. Paul and St. Peter teach. Of course I do not forget St. Paul's declaration that "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law," but he does not thereby assert that justification is independent of the deeds of the Gospel, as a few remarks will suffice to show.

Now, I say at first sight it is no contradiction of St. Paul to assert that we are justified by faith with evangelical works, unless St. James contradicts him also. Those who object to the doctrine of justification through good works, must first object to St James's Epistle, which they sometimes have done; on the other hand, the temper of Christian reverence which will lead the disciple of St. Paul to submit to St. James, is also a spirit of charity towards those who speak with St. James, from a fear lest in condemning them it should resist an Apostle. With those then who judge severely of the maintainers {275} of justification by works, I would expostulate thus:—Why be so bent upon forcing two inspired teachers into a real and formal discordance of doctrine? If you could prove ever so cogently that when St. Paul said, "deeds of the Law," he meant to include Christian works, you would not have advanced one step towards interpreting St. James, or impairing his authority; you would have only plunged into a more serious perplexity. Difficult if it be to account for St. Paul insisting on faith, and St. James at a later date insisting on works, surely it is a greater difficulty when it is insisted on that St. Paul excludes the very works which St. James includes. Is our Gospel like the pretended revelation of the Arabian impostor, a variable rule, the latter portion contradicting the former? Let men speak out then: what is their latent theory, which is sufficient to reconcile their minds to this primā facie difficulty, and inspirits them, under cover of a presumed contrariety in Scripture, to move forward against Catholic and Apostolic truth?

I believe the latent view to be this: that the Scripture question was settled once for all three centuries since, when the words of both the Holy Apostles were harmonized and merged in the formula of "justification by faith only;" which henceforth, in spite of the supposed liberty of private judgment, is practically a dogma to Protestants, as the canons of the Tridentine Council are binding on the faith of Roman Catholics; and further, that because our Articles and Homilies contain the phrase "by faith only," therefore they must mean by that phrase all that the Protestant schools have meant by it. But surely, while we accept fully this form of speech, as {276} has been done in the foregoing Lectures, we may reasonably maintain that an assent to the doctrine that faith alone justifies, does not at all preclude the doctrine of works justifying also. If indeed I said that works justify in the same sense as faith only justifies, this would be a contradiction in terms; but faith only may justify in one sense, good works in another,—and this is all that I here maintain. After all, does not Christ only justify? How is it that the doctrine of faith justifying does not interfere with our Lord's being the sole justifier? It will of course be replied that our Lord is the meritorious cause, and faith the means; that faith justifies in a different and subordinate sense. As then Christ alone justifies, in the sense in which He justifies, yet faith also justifies us in its own sense, so works, whether moral or ritual, may justify us in their own respective senses, though in the sense in which faith justifies, it only justifies. The only question is what is that sense in which works justify, so as not to interfere with faith only justifying? It may indeed turn out on inquiry, that the sense alleged will not hold, either as being unscriptural or for any other reason; but, whether so or not, at any rate the apparent inconsistency of language should not startle men; nor should they so promptly condemn those who, though they do not use their language, use St. James's. Indeed, is not this argument, as has been suggested already, the very weapon of the Arians in their warfare against the Son of God? They said, Christ is not God, because the Father is called the "Only God." {277}


I might seem just now to grant that St. Paul's words, at first sight, countenanced the extreme Protestant view of them; but this was not at all my meaning. The truth is, we put a particular sense upon those words, from having heard it again and again assigned to them, and thus every other interpretation comes to seem unnatural. The state of the case is as follows:—The Jews sought to be justified by works done in their own unaided strength, by the Law of Nature, as it was set before them in the Mosaic Covenant; and the Apostle shows them a more excellent way. He proposes to them the Law of Faith, and says that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law; moreover, that in thus teaching, so far from making the Law void through faith, He establishes it. He means then to speak to the Jews as follows:—"Throw yourselves on God's mercy, surrender yourselves to Him; the Law in which you pride yourselves, holy as it is in itself, has been to you but an occasion of sin. You are in bondage; you have no real sanctity, no high aims, no inward growth, no power of pleasing God. Instead of having done anything good, you have everything to be forgiven. You must begin over again; you must begin in a new way, by faith; faith only, nothing short of faith, can help you on to a justifying obedience. But faith is fully equal to enabling you to fulfil the Law. Far then from invalidating the Law by the doctrine of faith, I establish it." Now I do not ask whether there is no other possible interpretation of his words besides this (though I do think this the only natural one), but whether, at least, it is not natural, {278} whatever becomes of others; and then, whether it is not perfectly consistent with St. James's doctrine. It concerns those who are dissatisfied with it to assign one equally unexceptionable in itself, equally consistent with the rest of Scripture.

Justification comes through the Sacraments; is received by faith; consists in God's inward presence; and lives in obedience. Let us take some parallel cases.

Supposing one saw a Pagan or Mahometan at his devotions, or doing works of charity, and were to say, "Alas! your prayers and works will profit you nothing; you must believe on Christ; which will stand you in stead of all that you now do;" would any one suppose it to be meant that Christians said no prayers, or gave no alms? or only that prayers and alms, when separate from Christ, were but dead and vain?

Again: Scripture says that "the prayer of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord;" does this prove that the prayer of the righteous is an abomination also?

Again: when Almighty God says by the prophet, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice," does this mean that the Jews were thenceforth to leave off their sacrifices, or that sacrifices were useless unless they also showed mercy?

Again: when our Lord censures the "long robes" of the Pharisees, does He censure such garments as are worn at present by His ministers in Church?

Again: when St. Paul declares that the Jewish Sabbath is abolished, does this prove there is no Christian Sabbath, or Lord's day?

This then is a mode of arguing, which would carry us {279} much further than we dare to go. It does not follow that works done in faith do not justify, because works done without faith do not justify; that works done in the Holy Ghost, and ordinances which are His instruments, do not justify, because carnal works and dead rites do not justify. There is nothing in the text I have quoted to exclude the Works and Sacraments of faith; all that can be said is that they are not mentioned. St. Paul is urging upon his brethren the one way to salvation, which, as it is Christ Himself in God's sight, so it is faith on our part. He tells them they must be justified on a new principle; new, that is, as being used under the Gospel for higher purposes than heretofore, and because publicly recognized as the one saving principle. He guides them to heaven along a path by which alone they can ascend the mountain of the Lord, and which is called the way of faith, not that it does not lie through hope and charity too, but faith is the name designating the track. The principle of faith directed and sanctified their services: did it follow from this that it was (what is called) substantive, and could stand by itself, instead of being a quality or mode of obedience? or that obedience itself, or what St. James calls works, could not be that substance? If we refuse, not to modify, but even to complete one text of Scripture by another,—if we will not admit the second, merely because we prefer an interpretation of the first which contradicts it,—if we will not hold two doctrines at once, merely because the text that declares the one does not also declare the other,—if we will not say with St. James that works of faith justify, merely because St. Paul says that faith justifies and {280} works without faith do not justify,—if we will demand that the whole of the Gospel should be brought out into form in a single text,—then surely we ought to hold that Baptism is sufficient for salvation, because St. Peter says it "saves us,"—or hope sufficient, because St. Paul says "we are saved by hope,"—or that only love is the means of forgiveness because our Lord says, "Her sins are forgiven, for she loved much,"—or that faith does not save, because St. James asks, "Can faith save him?"—or that keeping the commandments is the whole Gospel, because St. Paul says it has superseded circumcision. Nothing surely is more suitable than to explain justifying faith to be a principle of action, a characteristic of obedience, a sanctifying power, if by doing so we reconcile St. Paul with St. James, and moreover observe the while the very same rule of interpretation which we apply to Scripture generally.


Thus much at first view of the subject; now let us take separately the two parts into which it divides, gospel ordinances and gospel works; and show in each case more distinctly their relation to faith.

1. It is objected, then, that under the Gospel, Ordinances are of little account, and that to insist on them is to bring the Church into bondage; that if Baptism convey regeneration, or the Apostolical Succession be the warrant for the Ministry, or Imposition of hands be a spiritual benefit, or Consecration be required for giving and receiving the Eucharist, or its Celebration involve a sacrifice, in a word, if outward signs are necessary means {281} of gospel grace, then St. Paul's statement does not hold that we are "justified by faith without the deeds of the Law."

Now, I observe, that this argument, on the face of it, proves too much; it proves that Christian rites should altogether be superseded as well as Jewish. Faith superseded circumcision; it did not supersede Baptism; there is then, on the face of the matter, some difference between Jewish and Christian Ordinances; and if the latter be necessary under the Gospel and the former not, perhaps they are necessary for some certain purpose, and perhaps that purpose is justification. Whether they are or not is another matter; but certainly the text in question is not inconsistent with such a doctrine, or else is inconsistent with much more. If faith is compatible with their use, it may be compatible with their virtue.

But here it may be urged that, specious as this mode of arguing may be, it does not touch the real reluctance of religious persons to believe in the power of Sacraments under the Gospel, or the grounds of their considering such belief unscriptural; that, as every one knows, there are explanations of the sacred text, which, however specious, are felt to be evasions; and that the interpretation proposed is utterly subversive of St. Paul's doctrine, and uncongenial with his spirit. No one can doubt, it may be said, that by the doctrine of Faith he meant to magnify God's grace, to preach Christ's Cross, to inculcate its all-sufficiency for pardon and renewal, and our dependence on the aid of the Holy Spirit for the will and the power to accept these blessings; that, on the other hand, to say that Sacraments are the means of {282} justification, obscures the free grace of the Gospel, and is "putting a yoke on the necks of the disciples." Now certainly, this argument, in its place, demands attention; I say in its place, lest I should seem to allow of its being used, after the fashion of these later centuries, as a "leading idea" of the Christian Dispensation, and a short and easy way into a comprehensive view of it. No; we must abandon all such methods, if we would enter in at the strait and lowly gate of the Holy Jerusalem; bowing our heads and bending our eyes to the earth, not thinking to command the city, or letting the eye range over its parts, or flattering ourselves we can "mount up with eagles' wings," before we have first "waited on the Lord." Philosophizing upon the inspired text is a very poor method of interpreting it, though it be allowable under due limitations, after gaining its meaning in a legitimate way. With this caution, I proceed to consider the objection which has been stated.


I say then, that fully allowing, or rather maintaining that the scope of St. Paul's words is to show the nothingness of man and the all-sufficiency of Christ, and that this is the proper meaning of the doctrine of justification by faith, yet so far is the Catholic doctrine concerning Sacraments from interfering with this undeniable truth, that I might apply the Apostle's words, and say, "Do we make void faith through the Sacraments? yea, we establish faith." The proof of this is simple.

I allow then that faith exalts the grace of God; this is its office and charge; accordingly, whatever furthers {283} this object, co-operates with the Gospel doctrine of faith; whatever interferes with this object, contradicts the doctrine. Salvation by faith only is but another way of saying salvation by grace only. Again, it is intended to humble man, and to remind him that nothing he can do of himself can please God; so that "by faith" means, "not by works of ours." If then the Sacraments obscure the doctrine of free grace, and tempt men to rest upon their own doings, then they make void the doctrine of faith; if not, then they do not; if they magnify God and humble man, then they even subserve it. This was the evil tendency of the Jewish rites when Christ came, that they interfered between Christ and the soul. They were dark bodies, eclipsing the glorious Vision which faith was charged to receive. Now I would say, that the Sacraments have a directly reverse tendency, and subserve the object aimed at by the doctrine of faith, as fully as the Jewish ordinances counteracted it. If this be so, the doctrine of justification by Sacraments is altogether consistent, or rather coincident with St. Paul's doctrine, when he says, that we are justified by faith without the deeds of the Law.

Upon Adam's fall, the light of God's countenance was withdrawn from the earth, and His presence from the souls of men; nor was the forfeited blessing restored but by the death of Christ. The veil which hung before the Holy of Holies, was a type of the awful "covering" which was "cast over all people;" and, when the Atoning Sacrifice was made, it rent in twain. Henceforth, heaven was opened again upon man, not on rare occasions, or in the instance of high Saints only, but upon all who believe. {284} Such being the state of things before Christ came and such the state after, the Law which was before could not be the means of life, because life as yet was not; it was not wrought out, it was not created; it began to be in Christ, the Word Incarnate. The Law could not justify, because, whatever special favour might be shown here and there by anticipation, Gospel justification was not yet purchased in behalf of all who sought it. God justified Abraham, and He glorified Elijah; but He had not yet promised heaven to the obedient, nor acceptance to the believing. He wrought first in the few what He offered afterwards to all; and even in those extraordinary instances, He acted immediately from Himself, not through the Jewish Law as His instrument. Abraham was not justified through circumcision, nor Elijah raised by virtue of the Temple. Judaism had no life, no spirit in its ordinances, to connect earth and heaven.

Accordingly, the ceremonies of the Law, though given by God, were wrought out by man; I mean, as has been explained before, they were men's acts, not God's acts. They were done towards God, in order (if so be) to approach that which was not yet accorded; and thus were tokens, not of the presence of grace, but of its absence. Sacrifices and purifications, circumcision and the sabbath, could not take away sins, could not justify. Visible things are but means of grace at best; and they were not so much, before grace was purchased. They were attempts in a bad case towards what was needed; they were the humble and anxious representation of nature, making dumb signs for the things it needed, as we provide pictures and statues when we have not the originals. {285} Such was human nature in its best estate before Christ came; its worst was when it mistook the tatters of its poverty for the garments of righteousness, and, as in our Lord's age, prided itself on what it was and what it did, because its own,—its sacrifices, ceremonies, birth-place, and ancestry,—as if these could stand instead of that justification which it needed. This was that reliance on the works of the Law, which St. Paul denounces, a reliance utterly incompatible of course with the doctrine of free grace, and, in consequence, of faith.


This then was the condition of the Jews; they had been told to approach God with works, which could not justify, as if they could; and the carnal-minded among them mistook the semblance for the reality. But when Christ came, suffered, and ascended on high, then at length the promised grace was poured out abundantly, nay, for all higher purposes, far more so than on Adam upon his creation. What, therefore, to the Jews was impossible even to the last, is to us imparted from the first. They might not even end where we begin. They wrought towards justification, and we from it. They wrought without the presence of Christ, and we with it. They came to God with rites, He comes to us in Sacraments.

Now supposing, when any one desired and prayed for the gospel gifts, they were conveyed to him through the visible intervention of an Angel, would that Angel's presence be a memento of free grace, or a temptation to self-righteousness? Or did Naaman's bathing in Jordan naturally lead to self-trust and a practical forgetfulness {286} of God's power? Did the necessity of coming to the Apostles for a cure inculcate the law of works or of faith? But it may be answered that such appointments are capable of being used in a superstitious dependence. Angels may be worshipped; Apostles venerated, as if they were not "also men." Let me then put the question in another shape,—does the possibility of the abuse destroy the natural and direct meaning of the appointment? Was not the Brazen Serpent worshipped in a corrupt age? yet our Lord still appeals to its legitimate meaning as a token of God's free grace. If the ordinance of the Brazen Serpent, which had been abused, still conveyed the doctrine coupled with it by Christ Himself, of "everlasting life" to those that "believe," surely Baptism, which had not been abused, might in St. Paul's mind be deemed consistent with the doctrine of justification "by faith without deeds of the Law;" surely he might discard those deeds without meaning to include Baptism among them. St. Peter teaches us the same lesson after curing the lame man; he and St. John had been the visible means of the cure; "all the people ran together unto them greatly wondering." If there be a tendency anywhere superstitiously to rest in the outward part of Baptism or of the Lord's Supper, or in their circumstances, or in other Christian rites, with that "amazement" which the Jews felt towards the Apostles, why must we deny their instrumentality in order to our giving glory to God? why is it not enough with St. Peter, to lead the mind, not from, but through the earthly organ to the true Author of the miracle, not denying a subordinate truth in order to enforce a higher? {287} "Ye men of Israel," he says, "why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?" And surely, what St. Peter proclaimed by word of mouth, that the Sacraments proclaim from the first by their symbolical meaning and their simplicity. Nay, and independent of this, surely what is professedly a channel of mercy, is an emblem of that mercy; what conveys a gift, speaks of a gift. Under the Law, God was in "clouds and darkness;" in heaven, "the Lord God will lighten" the Temple face to face; but under the Gospel, He is as upon the Mount of Transfiguration, in "a bright cloud over-shadowing" us; and as well may such a cloud be said to obscure the sun which gilds it, as Sacraments to obscure that grace which makes them what they are. Hence Baptism was even called of old the Sacrament of faith, as being, on the part of the recipient, only an expression by act of what in words would be "I believe and I come." And what is meeting together for prayer but an act of faith and nothing more? What the Jews by journeying up to Jerusalem were wont, not to receive, but to ask, is brought home to us, almost to our very doors, not in promise merely, but in substance; according to our Saviour's condescending words, "If any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." And all this is "without money and without price;" expensive sacrifices were required of the Jews, and intricate rules prescribed; but the Gospel rites are so simple, that the world despises them for their very simplicity.

In a Jewish ordinance, then, man worked and God {288} accepted; in a Christian, God speaks the word, and man kneels down and is saved. Such is the relation between Faith and Sacraments;—in considering which I have taken "faith" in the sense in which the objection uses it, not in its proper sense of submission to what is unseen, but as trust founded upon that submission; and it appears, that while the Sacraments are an exercise of submission, they are also a lesson of trust. Faith is inculcated in their outward sign, and required for their inward grace; and is as little disparaged by the Catholic doctrine concerning them, as Christ Himself by the doctrine of faith.


2. Now let us proceed to the second part of the subject, the relation between Faith and Works, which, though quite distinct from the former, may be conveniently considered in connection with it.

St. Paul says that we are "justified by faith without the deeds of the Law;" and St. James, "not by faith only but by works;" are these statements inconsistent? Now, as I said before, to condemn works without faith is surely quite consistent with condemning faith without works. St. James says, we are justified by works, not by faith only; St. Paul implies, by faith, not by works only. St. Paul says, that works are not available before faith; St. James, that they are available after faith. And now I will make this clearer.

(1.) St. Paul says, we are justified without works; what works? "works of," or done under, "the Law," the Law of Moses, through which the Law of Nature spoke {289} in the ears of the Jews. But St. James speaks of works done under what he calls "the royal Law," "the Law of liberty," which we learn from St. Paul is "the Law of the Spirit of Life," for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;" in other words, the Law of God, as written on the heart by the Holy Ghost. St. Paul speaks of works done under the letter, St. James of works done under the Spirit. This is surely an important difference in the works respectively mentioned.

Or, to state the same thing differently: St. James speaks, not of mere works, but of works of faith, of good and acceptable works. I do not suppose that any one will dispute this, and therefore shall take it for granted. St. James then says, we are justified, not by faith only, but by good works. Now St. Paul is not speaking at all of good works, but of works done in the flesh and of themselves "deserving God's wrath and damnation." He says, "without works;" he does not say without good works; whereas St. James is speaking of good works solely. St. Paul speaks of "works done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of His Spirit;" St. James of "good works which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification." Faith surely may justify without such works as, according to our Article, "have the nature of sin," and yet not justify without such as "are pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ."

Now in proof of this distinction it is enough to observe, that St. Paul never calls those works which he says do not justify "good works," but simply "works,"—"works of the Law,"—"deeds of the Law,"—"works not in righteousness,"—"dead works;" what have these to {290} do with works or fruits of the Spirit? Of these latter also St. Paul elsewhere speaks, and by a remarkable contrast he calls them again and again "good works." For instance, "By grace are ye saved through faith, … not of works, lest any man should boast; for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." This surely is a most pointed intimation that the works which do not justify are not good, or, in other words, are works before justification. As to works after, which are good, whether they justify or not, he does not decide so expressly as St. James, the error which he had to resist leading him another way. He only says, against the Judaizing teachers, that our works must begin, continue, and end in faith. But to proceed; he speaks elsewhere of "abounding in every good work," of being "fruitful in every good work," of being "adorned with good works," of being "well reported of for good works," "diligently following every good work," of "the good works of some being open beforehand," of being "rich in good works," of being "prepared unto every good work," of being "throughly furnished unto all good works," of being "unto every good work reprobate," of being "a pattern of good works," of being "zealous of good works," of being "ready to every good work," of being "careful to maintain good works," of "provoking unto love and to good works," and of being "made perfect in every good work." [2 Cor. ix. 8. Eph. ii. 10. Col. i. 10. 2 Thess. ii. 17. 1 Tim. ii. 10; v. 10, 25; vi. 18. 2 Tim. ii. 21; iii. 17. Tit. i. 16; ii. 7, 14; iii. 8, 14. Heb. x. 24; xiii. 21.] Now surely this is very remarkable. St. James, though he means good works, drops the epithet, and only says {291} works. Why does not St. Paul the same? why is he always careful to add the word good, except that he had also to do with a sort of works with which St. James had not to do,—that the word works was already appropriated by him to those of the Law, and therefore that the epithet good was necessary, lest deeds done in the Spirit should be confused with them [Note 1]?

St. Paul, then, by speaking of faith as justifying without works, means without corrupt and counterfeit works, not without good works. And he does not deny what St. James affirms, that we are justified in good works.


Such has ever been the Catholic mode of reconciling the two Apostles together, and certainly without doing violence to the text of St Paul. But now, before proceeding, let us for a moment inquire, on the other hand, what attempts have been made on the side of Protestant writers to reduce the language used by St. James to a Lutheran sense.

"By works," says St. James, "a man is justified, and not by faith only." Now, let me ask, what texts do their opponents shrink from as they from this? do they even attempt to explain it? or if so, is it not by some harsh and unnatural interpretation? Next, do they not proceed, as if distrusting their own interpretation, to pronounce the text difficult, and so to dispose of it? yet who can honestly say that it is in itself difficult? rather, can words be plainer, were it not that they are forced into connection with a theory of the sixteenth century; and {292} then certainly they become as thick darkness, "as a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed." [Isaiah xxix. 11.] If St. James is difficult, is St. Paul plain? will any one say that St. Paul is plainer than St. James? Is it St. James in whose Epistles are "some things hard to be understood?" What then is this resolute shutting of the eyes to an inspired Apostle, but the very spirit which leads the Socinian to blot out from certain texts, as far as his faith is concerned, the divinity of Christ? If we may pass over "By works a man is justified, and not by faith only," why may we not also, "I and My Father are One"? Can we fairly call it self-will to refuse the witness of the latter text, while we arbitrarily take on ourselves to assign or deny a sense to the former? What is meant by maintaining the duty of a man's drawing his Creed from Scripture for himself, and yet telling him it is a deadly heresy to say, just what St. James says, and what St. Paul (to say the least) does not deny? But in truth, after all, men do not make up their mind from Scripture, though they profess to do so; they go by what they consider their inward experience. They fancy they have reasons in their own spiritual history for concluding that God has taught them the doctrine of justification without good works; and by these they go. They cannot get themselves to throw their minds upon Scripture; they argue from Scripture only to convince others, but you may defeat them again and again, without moving or distressing them; they are above you, for they do not depend on {293} Scripture for their faith at all, but on what has taken place within them [Note 2]. But to return:—


(2.) A clearer view of faith and works will be gained by considering that faith is a habit of the soul: now a habit is a something permanent, which affects the character; it is a something in the mind which develops itself through acts of the mind, and disposes the mind to move in this way, not in that. We do not know what it is in itself, we only know it in its results; relatively to us, it exists only in its results. We witness certain deeds, a certain conduct, we hear certain principles professed, all consistent with each other, and we refer them to something in the mind as the one cause of what is outwardly so uniform. When we speak of a bountiful man, we mean a man who thinks and does bountifully; and if we were to say that God will reward bountifulness, we should mean bountiful acts. In like manner then, when we speak of a believer, we mean a man who thinks and does,—that is, of a mind that acts,—believingly; and when we say that God justifies by faith on our part, we mean by acts of whatever kind, deeds, works, done in faith.

It will be replied that this is true indeed, but that the acts in which faith shows itself are not actions, deeds, {294} works, but good feelings, thoughts, aspirations, and the like. Let it be so; let us so take it for argument's sake. The acts then in which faith shows itself are to be considered, not as deeds or services, but what are popularly called spiritual desires, and a willingness to renounce self and adhere to Christ. Let us suppose this; even then, it seems, some manifestations are required. So much is this felt by the persons against whom I am arguing, that they consider baptized infants cannot be regenerate, because they show no signs of regeneration; a poor reason truly, for habits may exist without showing themselves to us, and, for what we know, God may bestow on infants in Baptism the element of justifying faith, though by reason of their tender age it be latent and undeveloped, as the Lutherans themselves have before now maintained (though now, such is the course of error, they rather deny them regeneration than attribute to them faith); however, this insisting upon signs and tokens at least proves how strongly the persons in question hold that faith cannot exist without its manifestations. They do certainly think both that faith only justifies, and yet that faith does not justify, does not exist, except in certain manifestations. Now supposing St. James had spoken thus: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and has no experience of the love of Christ, no spiritual-mindedness, no renewed taste, and holy affections? can faith save him? If he has no knowledge of his sin and deadness, if he has not brought himself to renounce his own merit and fly for safety to the appointed refuge for sinners, what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it be not truly warm and experimental, {295} is dead ... Ye see then, my brethren, that a man is justified by having a renewed and converted heart, and not by faith only." I say, supposing St. James had thus spoken, would they have found any repugnance between his doctrine and St. Paul's? would they have denied the Epistle to be genuine, or maintained it was difficult, or gone into this or that rival extravagance of interpretation in order to cripple an Apostle into Lutheranism? No, surely, they would have taken its words as they stand, and thought them a powerful argument in behalf of what they miscall "spiritual religion." As then they would not have declined the inspired message, had it said that faith without a change of heart was dead, not justifying, why should there be any insuperable difficulty, any contradiction to St. Paul, in its saying that good works are necessary concomitants of the faith that justifies, as they themselves make spiritual emotions to be?—that its life is like the life of other graces, of benevolence, or zeal, or courage, not good feelings only, but services or works? What contradiction indeed is there between St. Paul and St. James but one of their own making, arising from their assumption that faith, unlike benevolence or courage, manifests itself or lives, not in deeds, but in passive impressions?


(3.) And that this assumption, contrary as it is to philosophy, is contrary also to revealed truth, is plain, from this one circumstance, which should be carefully noticed:—that whereas St. Paul says we are justified by faith, and St. James by works, yet St. Paul's illustrations {296} of justification by faith are taken from occasions, not on which men felt anything unusual, but when they did something unusual. St. Paul, instancing justifying faith, does not say, Abraham said he was "dust and ashes," (which he did say), and so was justified; Moses desired to see God's glory, and so was justified; David, as his Psalms show, was full of holy aspirations, and so was justified;—no, but Abraham and the Patriarchs, Moses and the Prophets, David and the Confessors, did strong deeds of righteousness: they not only "confessed they were strangers and pilgrims upon earth," but they "obeyed;" they "went out," they "chose affliction with the people of God:" they "stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, waxed valiant in fight; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth; they had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonment; they were tortured, they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword;"—these are the acts of justifying faith, these are its life, and no one can deny that they are deliberate and completed works; so that, if faith be justifying, it justifies in and by acts, and not when divested of them.

(4.) But this is not all; St. Paul uses the same instances as St. James. He says, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac;" and St. James, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?" St. Paul, "By faith, the harlot Rahab perished not with them that were disobedient, when she had received the spies with peace;" St. James, "Likewise also was not Rahab the {297} harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?" Do not these parallels show that faith is practically identical with the works of faith, and that when it justifies, it is as existing in works? And farther, the Apostles are so coincident in expression, as to lead forcibly to the notion, which obtained in the early Church, that St. James was alluding to St. Paul's words, and fixing their sense by an inspired comment. Nor yet is this all; as if with a wish to show us how to harmonize his teaching with St. Paul's, he uses words, which exactly express and sanction the very mode of reconciliation which I have been enforcing. "Seest thou," he says, "how faith wrought with his (Abraham's) works, and by works was faith made perfect?" Thus works are the limit and completion of faith, which gives them a direction and gains from them a substance. He adds to the same purport: "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also;" action is the very life of a habit.


(5.) The same doctrine is contained all through Scripture; in which God's mercies are again and again promised to works, sometimes of one kind, sometimes of another, though in all cases as acts and representatives of faith. For instance, Solomon speaks of alms-giving as justifying: "By mercy and truth iniquity is purged." So does Daniel, saying to Nebuchadnezzar, "Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thy iniquities by showing mercy to the poor." Our Lord also, "Rather give alms of such things as ye have, and behold all things are {298} clean unto you." And St. James, "mercy rejoiceth against judgment." [Prov. xvi. 6. Dan. iv. 27. Luke xi. 41. James ii. 13.]

In the Prophet Isaiah justification is ascribed to good works generally. He proclaims the gracious message that, "though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow," and "though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Here is an evangelical promise; why then is there nothing about justifying faith? why, but that faith is signified and is secured by other requisites, by good works? Accordingly the Prophet thus introduces the message of pardon:—"Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." In like manner, Ezekiel: "If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he shall not die; none of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him." [Isa. i. 16-18. Ezek. xxxiii. 15, 16.] Here again the promise must be evangelical; for under the Jewish Law there were no "statutes of life."

Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, was justified by an act of zeal: "Then stood up Phinehas and executed judgment, and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore." [Ps. cvi. 30, 31.]

Zacharias and Elizabeth were "both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances {299} of the Lord blameless." [Luke i. 6.] Words cannot be stronger to express the justification of these holy persons, than that they were "blameless and righteous before God;" yet this gift is not coupled with faith, but with acts of obedience paid to the special and particular commandments of God.

In like manner St. John teaches, that "walking in the light" justifies us: "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." [1 John i. 7; iii. 7.]

To these may be added particular texts in the Gospels, such as Christ's warning to the two brethren of the consequences of becoming His disciples; His bidding us count the cost of following Him, and to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and come after Him; moreover in His going into the wilderness, whither the multitudes had to seek Him at the price of privation and suffering.

(6.) And as works are acts of faith, so the mental act of faith is a difficult work. Thus our Saviour says to the father of the demoniac, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth;" and he answers, "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief." In like manner St. Paul speaks of Abraham "staggering not at the promise of God through unbelief, but being strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded what He had promised He was able also to perform." "And therefore," he adds, "it was imputed to him for righteousness." {300}


(7.) Lastly, leaving Scripture, I will quote a passage from Luther, in which he will be found to corroborate by his testimony what has been said; not willingly as the extract itself shows, but in consequence of the stress of texts urged against him. I take him, then, for what he says, not for what he does not say:—

"[Note 3] It is usual with us," he says, "to view faith, sometimes apart from its work, sometimes with it. For as an artist speaks variously of his materials, and a gardener of a tree, as in bearing or not, so also the Holy Ghost speaks variously in Scripture concerning faith; at one time of what may be called abstract faith, faith as such: at another of concrete faith, faith in composition, or embodied. Faith, as such, or abstract, is meant, when Scripture speaks of justification, as such, or of the justified. (Vid. Rom. and Gal.) But when it speaks of rewards and works, then it speaks of faith in composition, concrete or embodied. For instance: 'Faith which worketh by love;' 'This do and thou shalt live;' 'If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;' 'Whoso doeth these things, shall live in them;' 'Cease to do evil, learn to do well.' In these and similar texts, which occur without number, in which mention is made {301} of doing, believing doings are always meant; as, when it says, 'This do and thou shalt live,' it means, 'First see that thou art believing, that thy reason is right and thy will good, that thou hast faith in Christ; that being secured, work.'" Then he proceeds:—"How is it wonderful, that to that embodied faith, that is, faith working, as was Abel's, in other words, to believing works, are annexed merits and rewards? Why should not Scripture speak thus variously of faith, considering it so speaks even of Christ, God and man; sometimes of His entire Person, sometimes of one or other of His two natures, the Divine or human? When it speaks of one or other of these, it speaks of Christ in the abstract; when of the Divine made one with the human in one Person, of Christ as if in composition and incarnate. There is a well-known rule in the Schools concerning the 'communicatio idiomatum,' when the attributes of His divinity are ascribed to his humanity, as is frequent in Scripture; for instance, in Luke ii. the Angel calls the infant born of the Virgin Mary, 'the Saviour' of men, and 'the Lord' both of Angels and men, and in the preceding chapter, 'the Son of God.' Hence I may say with literal truth, That Infant who is lying in a manger and in the Virgin's bosom, created heaven and earth, and is the Lord of Angels … As it is truly said, Jesus the Son of Mary created all things, so is justification ascribed to faith incarnate or to believing deeds."


Such, then, is justifying faith; why the gift of justifying has been bestowed upon it, and what its connection {302} is with hope, love, and universal holiness, has been discussed in former Lectures; here I am speaking of its relation to works, and I say that, viewed as justifying, it lives in them. It is not (as it were) a shadow or phantom, which flits about without voice or power, but it is faith developed into height and depth and breadth, as if in a bodily form, not as a picture but as an image, with a right side and a left, a without and a within; not a mere impression or sudden gleam of light upon the soul, not knowledge, or emotion, or conviction, which ends with itself, but the beginning of that which is eternal, the operation of the Indwelling Power which acts from within us outwards and round about us, works in us mightily, so intimately with our will as to be in a true sense one with it; pours itself out into our whole mind, runs over into our thoughts, desires, feelings, purposes, attempts, and works, combines them all together into one, makes the whole man its one instrument, and justifies him into one holy and gracious ministry, one embodied lifelong act of faith, one "sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is his reasonable service." Such is faith, springing up out of the immortal seed of love, and ever budding forth in new blossoms and maturing new fruit, existing indeed in feelings but passing on into acts, into victories of whatever kind over self, being the power of the will over the whole soul for Christ's sake, constraining the reason to accept mysteries, the heart to acquiesce in suffering, the hand to work, the feet to run, the voice to bear witness, as the case may be. These acts we sometimes call labours, sometimes endurances, sometimes confessions, sometimes devotions, sometimes {303} services; but they are all instances of self-command, arising from Faith seeing the invisible world, and Love choosing it.

It seems, then, that whereas Faith on our part fitly corresponds, or is the correlative, as it is called, to grace on God's part, Sacraments are but the manifestation of grace, and good works are but the manifestation of faith; so that, whether we say we are justified by faith, or by works or by Sacraments, all these but mean this one doctrine, that we are justified by grace, which is given through Sacraments, impetrated by faith, manifested in works.

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1. Bull, Harm. ii. 12, § 3.
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2. A candid writer has confessed this:—"It is difficult," says Milton, "to conjecture the purpose of Providence in committing the writings of the New Testament to such uncertain and variable guardianship, unless it were to teach us, by this very circumstance, that the Spirit which is given to us is a more certain guide than Scripture, whom therefore it is our duty to follow."—Christian Doctrine, i. 30.
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3. Deinde hoc modo etiam distinguere solemus fidem, quod fides aliquando accipiatur extra opus, aliquando cum opere. Ut enim artifex varie de sua materia, et hortulanus de arbore vel nuda vel gestante fructum loquitur, ita et Spiritus Sanctus in Scriptura varie de fide loquitur, jam de fide (ut sic dicam) abstracta vel absoluta, jam de fide concreta, composita, seu incarnata, etc. etc.—In Gal. iii. 10. Vid. also f. 347 (1 and 2) Gerh. de Justif. p. 570.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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