By works, which Paul excludes, is not meant the
merit of works.
††††††††† There is one other evasion, thought upon to shift by all the Apostleís arguings, and yet to maintain the interest of works, as the cause and ground of justification before God, to wit: That Paul only disputes against a groundless conceit of merit in works; not against the works themselves, but against a Pharisaical sense of merit and worth in their works, whereby they conceived and conceited, that thereby they could satisfy for their sins, and buy and purchase to themselves Justification and salvation. But against this evasion, we have these things to say.
††††††††† 1. By merit here must either be understood, that which is called meritum ex condigno, that is, that merit, which arises from the due proportion of worth, that one thing hath unto another, in the balance of equity and justice. And whoever imagines this merit in their works, must dream of an intrinsic worth in their works, which God, if he does according to justice, cannot but reward with eternal life: or that which is called meritum ex congruo, which flows not from any inward condignity in the work, but from a promise or covenant, and so it is meritum ex pacto, whereby the reward is not absolutely of grace, but of debt, because of a congruity in the thing, in respect of the promise and compact made. Our adversary cannot understand this last, when they say, that Paul disputes against merit, because they themselves own it, when they make works the condition of the covenant, and God to have promised justification and life unto our works. Neither are they shy of the word merit itself, as we saw lately from Mr. Baxter. But now, that Paul is not disputing against the merit of works, in the first sense, is manifest from these. (1.) The very works required of Adam in the first covenant, had not in them this intrinsic worth and merit ex condigno, and so the Apostle shall be disputing against that, which never was, nor never will be, nay, nor cannot be. (2.) Then the Apostle says nothing to disprove justification by the old covenant of works made with Adam, but establishes that, which who can believe? (3.) No man, that is right in his wits, can imagine such a thing. And shall we think that the Apostle is disputing against that, which none, but such as are transported with mere ignorance and vanity, will own, or stand to, in their more sedate and composed thoughts. (4.) Even the most proud and vain person, that is, will join the free mercy of God, with all the conceit of merit they have; but this merit ex condigno leaves no imaginable room for the free mercy of God, in less, or more. (5.) Paul disputes
not against the merit ex congruo, as separated from the works themselves, whereupon it is founded. As the following argument will evince. Therefore far less doth he dispute only against the fond and foolish conceit of the merit ex condigno.
†††††††† 2. It is strange, that the Apostle should dispute against that, which he doth never once mention, in his dispute, or in his conclusions. He everywhere mentions works and the law, and the works of the law; but nowhere does he mention this merit of works, as the thing he disputes against, as abstracted and distinguished from the works themselves.
††††††††† 3. And that place, which they think, gives some countenance unto their imaginations, viz. Romans 4: 4, Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt, is directly against them: for, there the Apostle shows that works are excluded, and all works (for there is no distinction made) are excluded; because, then the reward should be of debt: showing, that if works have any place, in the matter of justification, debt must have place also; but because debt hath no place, but grace (which two are inconsistent and incompatible) therefore all works are excluded. And to think, that the meaning of the Apostle is, now to him, that worketh, with a conceit of merit, attending his work, the reward is reckoned of debt, is to add to the word of God, to pervert the Apostleís argument, and to contradict the scope and cohesion of the words; as hath been shown elsewhere, can any hence infer a restriction of works to such only as make the reward of debt: for then the reward might be reckoned to him, that worketh, and yet be reckoned of grace and not of debt, and thus the Apostleís argument, should be manifestly false, and a plain paralogism: which were wickedness and blasphemy to assert.
††††††††† 4. The Apostle excludes, in as plain terms, as can be, all the works of the Law: but even such works, as are performed without this fond and groundless conceit of merit, are works of the Law, being required and commanded by the Law. Yea the Law never commanded any works with this conceit of merit: And therefore by this opinion none of the works of the Law are excluded.
††††††††† 5. Adam was obliged to give perfect obedience to the Law, without the least thought of meriting ex condigno thereby: And if no merit or works with a conceit of merit be now excluded, but the merit ex condigno, then is the covenant of works established by the Gospel. Nay thus, our imperfect works, are made to merit as well ex congruo & ex pacto, justification and life, as Adamís perfect and sinless obedience could have done.
††††††††† 6. The man that hath works, without this conceit of merit, cannot be called an ungodly man, no more than Adam could have been called so, while he stood in his integrity: but the justification under the Gospel is of the ungodly, God justifieth the ungodly, Romans 4: 5. Nor can the worker without this conceit of meriting, be said to be one that worketh not, but believeth on him, that justifieth the ungodly: as is manifest.
††††††††† 7. Either the Apostle establishes works of justification by them, and only condemns the apprehension of merit in our works: or he excludes all
works, in which men may conceit some merit to be. If the first be said, then I conceive, the Apostle would have once mentioned the Law and the works of the Law; for with our adversaries these are separable, and from the one the other cannot be inferred: but we see not the least appearance of any such thing in all the Apostleís arguings. And if the last be said, we have all we desire, for thus all works shall be excluded, because men can and ignorant persons too oft do imagine and conceit a merit in what they do, though not that merit, which is ex condigno, yet that which is ex congruo.
††††††††† 8. If the Apostle disputes not against works, but against a conceit of merit in works, why doth he not oppose works without this conceit unto this conceit, or to works with this conceit? Why doth he always oppose faith unto works, and say, we are justified by faith without deeds of the law? Are works the same with conceit of merit, or with works having this conceit adjoined? And is faith the same with works, or with works without this conceit of merit? Then Adam should have been justified by faith, if he had stood in his state of innocency; for he should have been justified by works without this conceit. But what palpable and manifest perverting of the Scripture and of the works thereof, is this? To take this liberty of expounding the words of the Scripture, is plainly to make nothing of the Scripture, but what we please.
††††††††† 9. Are there no mediums to prove, that there is no merit in our works in reference to justification and salvation, but such as the Apostle here uses, to exclude works from this interest? If this had been all, which the Apostle had intended, his saying with Christ, Luke 17: 19, So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things, which are commanded you, say we are unprofitable servants; we have done that, which was our duty to do, had sufficiently confuted that mistake: but the long series of arguments, with their variety, which the Apostle here uses, manifestly declare, there was some other thing in his eye; and he leveled at some other mark, even that, which he plainly declares, in his repeated conclusions, viz. that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ, without the works of the Law.
††††††††† 10. Gospel justification is of grace, and therefore is not of works: Romans 4: 4, Ephesians 2: 9, 10. And the Apostle clears the consequence, because all works have a ground of merit with them, and make the reward of debt and give ground to the worker to boast and to glory before men: though not before God: for upon these grounds doth the Apostle reject all works, in this affair; as we see in Romans 3: 27 and 4: 2. Now to say, that the Apostle rejects only such works, as men conceit to be meritorious for their intrinsic worth, and not other works, that merit only ex pacto; is to destroy the Apostleís arguments, and to enervate all his discourse; for even works meritorious ex congruo, or ex pacto, will give ground of boasting before men, and make the reward of debt, as we know it would have been, if Adamís covenant had stood: but whatever works lay the foundation of due debt, they stand in opposition to the way of grace; for grace and debt are not compatible.
††††††††† 11. If any were puffed up with this conceit of the merit of their works, ex condigno, it could be none other than the proud, fantastic Pharisees; nor is there any ground to suspect any other. And if so, why, may we suppose, would the Apostle state a needless controversy concerning all both Jews and Gentiles, when none of the Gentiles, and few, if any of the Jews, were concerned therein? And why, may we enquire, would the Apostle so laboriously prove both Jews and Gentiles to be guilty of sin? and why doth he speak of them all, without exception, seeing the question did only concern a few, and a very few, and such, as are never once named in all the dispute? These things look not very probable like.
††††††††† 12. Can we think, that the Galatians, who were seduced by false teachers, to adjoin to their Christianity, the practice of some Jewish ceremonies, were also carried away with this absurd fancy, that there was a meritoriousness ex condigno, in all their works? Though there be ground to imagine such a thing; yet we see the Apostle follows the same dispute against them, that he did, in writing to the Romans, of which no reason could be assigned if this merit was all, he disputed down.
††††††††† 13. We find it said of the Jews, Romans 9: 31, that they followed after the Law of Righteousness; because (verse 32) it was not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. Now neither were these works of the Law, nor that Law of Righteousness which they were following after, a mere irrational conceit and groundless fancy of a merit in what they did, or of an intrinsic worth, meriting ex condigno the reward they expected. But a groundless apprehension, that their works themselves were their way of attaining unto life, and therefore they followed that way of works, and would not take the way of faith, but stumbled at the stumbling stone.
††††††††† 14. Then, according to this interpretation, works performed without this conceit of merit, must be Godís righteousness, as works together with this conceit of merit must be our own: for these two are opposite, Romans 10: 3. But there is no ground to imagine that our works performed without this fond conceit of merit in them, are the righteousness, for these are not Christ, or his righteousness: And it is added in verse 4, for explication of the righteousness of God, for Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness, to everyone that believeth.
††††††††† 15. The righteousness of the Law is, that the man, which doth these things shall live by them, Romans 10: 5, Galatians 3: 12, Leviticus 18: 5. So that this righteousness consists in manís own doing: and not in a mere irrational apprehension of a merit in what he doth: So that it is not this groundless fancy, that the Apostle is disputing against, but this righteousness, which is of the Law, because he is laboring to establish by his doctrine, the righteousness of faith, which is opposite to and inconsistent with the righteousness of the Law. And this righteousness of faith is not our own personal righteousness, or obedience performed to the Law without this apprehension and conceit of merit, as is clear from verses 8, 9, 10 , 11, following, and from the whole Gospel.
††††††††† 16. If this be all that the Apostle is disputing down, to wit, justification by works, which we conceit to be meritorious, and not all justification by works, why did the Apostle adduce the instance of Abraham, and insist so much upon it, as he doth (Romans 4)? Shall we think, that Abraham, that holy Patriarch and friend of God, did obey with any such conceit of intrinsic worth in his obedience? Was he infected with that leaven of Pharisaical pride? And if not, where is the consequence of the Apostleís arguing from his practice? Is it a good consequence to say, Abraham was not justified by works performed in sincerity, without pharisaical pride and conceit of merits; therefore we cannot be justified by works, which we conceit to have merit in them: but by such works we can and must be justified, when we conceit no merit in them, but a simple merit ex congruo, or ex pacto? The like may be said of David, who had no conceit of merit in his works, and yet expected not to be justified by them, but looked for free pardon, and for justification through imputed righteousness, Romans 4: 6, 7, 8.
††††††††† 17. If the Apostle had been establishing justification by woks performed without such a fond conceit of merit in them; what ground was there for that objection which he preoccupied Romans 6: 1 saying, Shall we sin, that grace may abound? The urging of justification by works, could give no show or apparent ground for this. Neither can any such purpose be in the least seen and observed, in all the answer at large prosecuted in chapters 6 and 7, which is given hereunto. There is not the least hint given of his rectifying of the misapprehensions, that any might have about works, as if they were or could be supposed to be meritorious ex condigno: Nor is there the least ground of surmise laid down, of their being meritorious of justification or of life eternal ex congruo, or ex pacto: but all things sound the contrary way: and life eternal is expressly said to be the free gift of God.
††††††††† 18. Then all that Paul meant, when he desired to be found of his judge, not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, was that he desired not to be found puffed up with a pharisaical conceit of the perfection and merit of his works, as meriting his justification and life ex condigno, by their intrinsic value and worth. But no such thing appears in Philippians 3: 9, where he utterly renounces his own righteousness, which is of the law; that is, a righteousness consisting in his obedience and conformity to the law: for in opposition to this, he desires to be found in that righteousness, which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness, which is of God by faith; and this is some other thing, than his own works, performed without that pharisaical opinion.
††††††††† 19. We are saved by grace, through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast, Ephesians 2: 8, 9, and consequently not of any works, seeing all works give ground of boasting. And he meant such works, unto which we are created in Christ Jesus, as his workmanship: and which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them, verse 10. Now these works are certainly done without any vain conceit of merit: and yet we see, that by these works we are not brought into a state of salvation.
††††††††† 20. The Apostle excludes works of righteousness, which we have done, as opposed to mercy and grace, Titus 3: 5, 7. Now grace stands in opposition to all works, even to works performed without this conceit of merit, as we see in Romans 11: 6, else we must say, that the Apostle there grants election to be for foreseen works, performed without a conceit of merit, and nothing must be called works, but what is done with a Pharisaical conceit of merit and intrinsic worth in them, which is absurd.