†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 487 (497)
No countenance given to Justification by Works
from James 2: 14, &c.
††††††††† Because all, who ascribe our justification in one sense or other (all are not agreed in one and the same sense) unto our works, seek countenance unto the same from these words of James chapter 2, verse 14, and forward: notwithstanding that what was said concerning this passage, in the foregoing chapter, might be sufficient, to discover the groundlessness of any such pretence, where it was shown, that the whole face of this place looked towards another airt, and had not the least aspect unto any such conclusion; Yet for a fuller vindication of this place from this too ordinary abuse and perversion, we shall examine every part thereof, and see, what ground there is, for any to allege the same, for confirmation of their particular opinions.
††††††††† The Papists generally say, that this place speaks of the second justification: But their opinion of a first and second justification is vain, having no ground in the word, and the whole of their fabric is sufficiently demolished by the Reformed, writing against them; so that we need not insist thereupon.
Others there are, who suppose that James is here showing, how justification is continued, and therefore say, though faith alone be the condition of justification, as begun; Yet unto the continuation thereof works are required, as the condition. But all that speak thus, and think that James pointed forth the condition of Justification as continued, must say, that those persons, who had this faith, whereof James speaks, were really justified, and that James doth presuppose them to be justified, and speaks to them and of them, as such: but then it must be granted, that the Popish faith, consisting in a mere assent unto the truth revealed, is justifying faith; and that that faith, which is no more true and saving faith, than that is true and Christian charity, which says to a brother or sister, that is naked and destitute of daily food, depart in peace, and gives not those things, which are needful to the body, is sufficient to bring one into a justified state;† and that dead faith, and a faith of the same nature and kind, with the faith of devils, and a faith, which a vain man, puffed up with a vain conceit and a fleshly mind may have, and a faith, that cannot and will not work with works, is a justifying faith: which if true, it will follow, that all men, who believe that God is, and devils also, who believe this, should be justified. But none, who understand the Gospel can think or speak thus. And therefore this place carries no show of proof, that works are the condition of justification, as continued.
††††††††† Nor can this place give any countenance to such, as say that faith and works together are the condition of justification, making no difference betwixt justification, as begun, and as continued. For (1.) Jamesí scope (as we manifested above) is not to clear up and explain the way, how justification is brought about, or to show, what are the causes, or conditions thereof: but to discover the vanity of that ground, whereupon some professors, who indulged their lusts, deceived themselves and supposed that they were in a state of justification, and salvation, notwithstanding they neglected all duties of holiness. (2.) James opposes a faith here unto works, a faith, which he called unprofitable, dead, &c., and doth not ascribe justification hereunto, as to a condition, in whole, or in part: But such, as speak thus, include faith and works, as making up one full and complete condition. (3.) The instances, which James here adduces, should not then serve his design, if his purpose was to prove faith and works to be the condition of justification; for Abraham was long justified before that particular act of obedience in offering up his son Isaac, was called for: And so was Rahab justified before she sent away the spies. (4.) This work, by which Abraham is said to have been justified, was a work, that seemed contrary unto the Moral Law: And therefore if this be urged, as a ground of justification by works, it will rather prove justification by other works, than by works commanded in the Moral Law of God. (5.) The works, mentioned in both instances, are outward external works, obvious to the eyes and ears of others: And hence it may as well be proved, that only external works, are required unto justification, and no other. And indeed, if it had been Jamesí design to prove justification by works, he had
named other works, than merely external, that he might have prevented a mistake.
††††††††† But more fully to discover the vanity of this supposition, let us see, what can be alleged from the several parts of this passage, for justification by works, from verse 14 it is said, Faith alone cannot save, but is unprofitable; but yet faith and works is profitable and will save. Answer: This makes nothing for justification by works; because it is denied, that whatever is requisite before salvation, is requisite also before justification, for if so, no man could be said to be justified, as long as he lived. But next, the faith, whereof James here speaks, avails not to salvation, because it is not of the right kind, and we say also, that this faith avails not to justification, because it is but mere empty profession, deceiving and puffing up, and it is but a faith, that a man says he has.
††††††††† From verses 15, 16, 17, it is said, As charitable wishes, joined with real acts of love and alms deeds is profitable, and no other charitable wishes; so faith with works, is available to justification, but not without them. Answer: These charitable wishes, not accompanied with alms deeds, as they are not profitable unto the indigent brother and sister, so they are far from that Christian charity, that is called for in the Gospel: and as that charity is not true, Christian and saving charity; so neither is the faith, (which he proves to be dead) a true, saving or justifying faith. Nor doth the Apostle say, that faith with works is available unto justification; but that that faith, which hath not works, is dead, and not available to prove and evidence, that the man that hath it, is in a safe and justified state.
††††††††† But the main ground of this apprehension is in verses 21, 22, 23, &c. for it is objected that it is expressly said, that Abraham was justified by works. Answer: That it is so said, we grant; but the difference is about the sense and meaning, in which it is said so. We have shown, that the meaning is, that by works Abraham was declared, proved and manifested to be a justified person, and one that had a true and lively faith; for it is added, that hereby the Scripture was fulfilled declaring him to have been justified by faith, or that he believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And this is it, which others have called justification before men, in opposition to justification before God, that is, a justification declared and manifested to the manís own conscience and to others, and not the justification before God in its causes. And this Mr. Baxter seems to have mistaken in his Aphorisms, when he argued against this justification before men, as if it had been merely a justification from menís accusation, and not the true justification before God, as evidenced and proved to men: And when we speak of justification in this sense, we do not make the world lawful judges of our righteousness before God, or in reference to the law of God, or say, that they are competent, or capable judges: But we only say, that by works of obedience, faith and justification by faith is evidenced. And whereas he says, that works are no certain medium, or evidence, whereby the world can know us to be righteous: for there is no outward work, which a hypocrite may not perform, and inward works they cannot discern: nor yet the principles from
which, nor the ends to which our works proceed and are intended. There is as much need of a divine heart searching knowledge, to discern the sincerity of works, as of faith itself. He may see, that all this will make as much against Christís saying, Matthew 5: 16, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven. And that in John 13: 35, By this shall all men know, that ye are my disciples: if ye love one another: And I Peter 2: 12, Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles Ėthey may by your good work, which they shall behold, glorify God, in the day of visitation. Nor is it to the purpose to say, that he was the justifier, who was also imputing righteousness, that is, God; for works of obedience may declare, that God hath imputed righteousness unto the person, and hath justified him; and this is all; we say that Abraham was in this sense justified by his works, that he was declared to be justified indeed before God, by his works.
††††††††† Some were pleased to express their sense of Jamesí words thus, that James speaks of works as justifying our faith, and not as justifying our persons, meaning only, that the Apostle did not consider works here, as the cause, or condition of persons being justified before God, but as the effect and evidence proving the manís faith to be sound and saving, and consequently the man thereby to have been justified: which sense is the same with what we have given: but Mr. Baxter says, it is as plain, as can be, that it is the person and not his faith, which is here said to be justified. Answer: The person, it is true, is said here to be justified, but not causatively, but declaratively, that is, it is not said, that by works his justification is effectuated, but that it is declared, and that because it is hereby declared, that the man is a true believer, and thus his faith is manifested to be of the right kind, which is all that was intended by that expression.
††††††††† Yet Mr. Baxter will not say, that works do effectually produce our justification (for faith doth not so.) But yet he will have both to justify, as conditions, or as parts of one condition: only he adds, that they (works) do not justify, as equal parts of the condition; for faith is the principal; but as the secondary less principal part of the condition. Answer: Yet, James hints at no such thing, but gives the preference to works: Yea excludes the faith, whereof he speaks; altogether from having any interest in justification, as being nothing but a dead carcass, a vain, fruitless and unprofitable thing, and so hath no kind of causality or procurement in justification. But he adds as a reason: 1. When it is said, we are justified by works, by implies more than an idle concomitance. Answer: I shall easily grant this, but withal say, that this will not give unto works any causality in justification; but only evince works to be an evidence of justification, as the cause is said to be manifested by the effect.
††††††††† He adds: 2. When the Apostle says, By works and not by faith only, he plainly makes them concomitant in procurement, or in that kind of causality, which they have. Especially seeing he says not, as he is commonly interpreted, not by faith, which is alone; but by faith only. Answer: Then hath fruitless, dead faith, which devils may have, a kind of causality in justification; which is expressly contrary to the scope and all reasoning of the
Apostle: And therefore the common interpretation must be admitted. But he adds: 3. Therefore he saith, that faith is dead being alone, because it is dead, as to the use and purpose of justifying; This appears from his comparison in the former verse 16, that this is the death he speaks of; and so works make faith alive, as to the attainment of its end of justification. Answer: If it be thus, how could he then say before, that faith was the principal part of the condition? Can that be the principal part of the condition, which is dead and useless without the other, and must be quickened, in order to its usefulness by the other: I would think, that the other looked rather like the principal part, and most considerable and necessary, seeing this were but a dead cipher without it. But the truth is, the Apostle, as is said, hath a far different design, and shows, that that faith, which they pretended unto, as sufficient to ground their conclusion of their justification, and hope of salvation, was no true saving faith at all, but a dead thing and so no works could make it of any use as to justification; because it behooved first to flow from another principle, even from a principle of saving grace; and then it would evidence and prove itself to be of the right kind, by good works, that would flow from it.
says he, When the Apostle says, that faith
did work in and with his works, it clearly aims at such a working in and
with, as makes them conjunct in the work of justifying. Answer: No such
matter; for the
Apostle is only there showing (as the whole context clears) that Abrahamís faith was another sort of faith, than that, whereupon they relied; even a faith that did prompt to the most difficult duties, when the call of God came, and so did work in and with his performances; but not in order to justification, for he was justified already, many years before this.
††††††††† He adds, And when he saith, that Faith was made perfect with works, it is not only a manifesting to be made perfect, but as the habit is perfected per congressum & procreationem; or and covenant when its conditions are performed. Answer: The whole of the context shows, that faith was only perfected purely, as to its manifestation, as by the like expression is clear in II Corinthians 12: 9, Colossians 4: 12, Matthew 5: 48. Nay, though it were granted, that faith were perfected by works as the end to which it tends, that would say nothing for the interest of faith in justification, but in salvation; let it be granted, that justification is perfected by faith without works, as marriage is by consent, without what he adds, and we have what we desire. That works are a condition of entering into covenant, or of the covenant, in order to justification, as required before justification, is still denied. He says further elsewhere, against Mr. Cartwright, p. 212, that by works faith was made perfect, as it hath naturam medii viz. conditionis to the continuation and consummation of justification. Answer: That the continuation of justification hath other media or conditions, than the beginning hath, is not yet made apparent: far less can any such thing be drawn from this passage to countenance the same, the Apostleís scope not being to speak to any such thing; nor can it be supposed, that he looks on such, whose proud conceits he was here depressing, as already
justified, as to the beginning of justification, seeing a dead faith, (which was all the faith they had) is no condition of justification at all. And as to consummation of justification (as he speaks) Abrahamís faith was not yet perfected, neither could be before his death. He adds finally, that obedience perfects faith, as it is part of that necessary matter (not necessary, at the first moment of believing, but necessary afterward, when he is called to it) whereby he is to be justified against the charge of non-performance of the new covenant condition, even against the accusation of being an unbeliever or hypocrite. Answer: If obedience perfects faith thus, it is only as evidencing and proving the man a true believer, and no hypocrite, or one that hath only a mere profession; which is the thing we say. If it be looked on as the condition of the covenant, and so as the ground of justifying the man from the charge of non-performance of that condition, it stands only for itself, and for its own part, and cannot be said upon that account, to perfect faith; as when both abstaining from murder, and from stealing is called for; the abstaining from stealing cannot be said to perfect the other, though it ground a manís justification from the charge of stealing. And therefore by this assertion, faith can as well be said to perfect works, as works be said to perfect faith.
††††††††† Mr. Baxter gives this ground of agreement betwixt Paul and James; that Paul is about this question, What is the righteousness, which we must plead, against the accusation of the Law? or by which we are justified as the proper righteousness of that Law? And this he well concludes is neither works, nor faith: But the righteousness which is by faith, that is, Christís righteousness. Answer: Paul speaks to this question, how sinners come to be justified before God, and therefore clears up the matter of justification, in all its causes; and not only shows what that righteousness is, which must be pleaded against the accusation of the law; but also what way we come to be partakers of that righteousness in order to our being justified before God, to wit, by faith, without the deeds of the law. If faith be not that righteousness, why did Mr. Baxter say that in Romans 4, where it is said that faith is imputed unto righteousness, faith is taken for our act, and not for the object of faith, or Christís righteousness laid hold on by faith. But now, what question does James handle? His question is, says Mr. Baxter, What is the condition of our justification by this righteousness of Christ, whether faith only, or works also? Answer: And doth not Paul also speak to this question, when he says, we are justified by faith? Will not Mr. Baxter grant, that faith is the condition of our justification by this righteousness? If James then handles this question, there shall be no agreement betwixt him and Paul, but a manifest contradiction, for Paul says that we are justified by faith without deed of the law, that is upon condition of faith, as Mr. Baxter will grant, and James says, that we are justified not by faith only, but by works, as the condition: and here is a perfect contradiction, both speaking ad idem and the one saying we are justified by faith without works, and the other saying by faith and works. What the true question is, whereof James speaks, we have shown above; and thereby manifested a clear harmony betwixt the Apostles, and left no ground of suspicion of any contradiction.
††††††††† He says next, that Paul doth either in express words, or in the sense, and scope of his speech, exclude only the works of the law, that is, the fulfilling of the conditions of the law ourselves. But never the fulfilling of the Gospel conditions, that we may have part in Christ. Answer: Whether the works of the law, which Paul excludes, be so to be understood, or not, we have seen above: only I say, now, that both speak of the same law, that is, the Moral Law, and both consequently, speak of the same obedience, that is obedience to the same Law: And nothing can be alleged to prove that Paul means works as taken for the fulfilling of the covenant of the Law ourselves, and James means the same works as taken for the fulfilling of the conditions of the Gospel ourselves. And further, the faith that James speaks so much of, is none of the Gospel conditions of justification, for it is but a dead carcass, and an unprofitable thing. But his following words, saying, Indeed if a man should obey the commands of the Gospel with a legal intent that obedience should be but legal show that by the works of the law he means something in opposition to the commands of the Gospel, wherein he joins with Socinians. But we own no commands of the Gospel, but such as are enjoined by the Law of God, even the Moral Law, of which James speaks expressly, verses 10 and 11.
††††††††† He tells us 3rdly for clearing of this agreement, that Paul doth by the word Faith especially direct our thoughts to Christ believed in: for to be justified by Christ, and to be justified by receiving Christ, is with him all one. Answer: This is all very true, and sure, he must also say, that to be justified by Christ, and to be justified by works, is not all one, for all obedience or works is not receiving of Christ. But now, what doth James direct us to by the word Faith, which he mentions? Doth he not direct our thoughts to Christ believed in? If not, it cannot be justifying faith he speaks of, as Mr. Baxter supposes. If yes, why doth he add works more than Paul doth? Shall Paulís directing our thoughts to Christ believed in, exclude works, and James directing our thoughts the same way include them? Where then is the agreement?
††††††††† But 4thly he adds, that when Paul †doth mention faith, as the condition, he always implies obedience to Christ. Answer: It is denied, that he implies obedience, as the condition of justification: And Mr. Baxter himself will grant this, I suppose, as to justification begun, or as to our first justification as he speaks, in replying to Mr. Cartwright: which is enough for us, for we know no second justification, distinct from the first, whereof either of the Apostles do speak. And I like not that which he adds, saying, He (i.e. Paul) implies obedience in requiring faith, as truly, as he that subjects himself to a Prince, doth imply future obedience, in his engagement to obey: for this makes justifying faith a plain engagement to obey. And thus to be justified by faith is to be justified by a formal engagement to obey, and a formal engagement to obey, is a receiving of Christ: for to be justified by faith, and to be justified by receiving Christ is all one.
††††††††† Mr. Baxter in his Catholic Theol. part 2, n. 365, gives us five particulars of justification by works, that James stands for, and that he accounts
undeniable by anything but prejudice, ignorance, and siding peevishness. So that it must be unquestionable, that James speaks of all those particulars, and that he speaks of justification by works, in no other sense, the contrary whereof we have seen already: Yet let us see what these particular respects are, wherein (as he says) works are not excluded from being conditions of our justification, or the matter of it.
††††††††† 1. He says that faith itself, which is our act, and an act of obedience to God, and is the fiducial accepting belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for the benefits of the Covenant, is the condition of our first covenant right to these benefits. Answer: To speak of saving faith in its full latitude, or of that faith, whereby the Covenant is first made up, as such, is not to the present purpose; but of faith only, or of its acting, in order to justification: and as to this, he himself lately told us, that Paul by the word Faith doth especially direct our thoughts to Christ believed in: so that faith in this matter is not considered as our work, or as an act of obedience in us, and as our personal righteousness; but as the mean, hand, or instrument laying hold on Christ and his righteousness. And if this be the meaning of James, when he says, we are justified by works, that, we are justified by faith, we shall not contend, as to the thing; though we conceive James handles another purpose, as is said.
††††††††† 2. Saith he, That this faith is not actual obedience to Christ, as Christ (at first, but only to God, as God.) But it is the soulís subjection to Christ, as Christ, which is our covenant consent, to our future obedience, and virtually, though not actually, contains our future obedience in it. Answer: This upon the matter, is but the same with the former, and needs no further answer, as to our present question, concerning the meaning of James, when he says we are justified by works; for if this faith be not actual obedience, James doth not mean actual obedience by the word works, but only that faith, which is a consent o future obedience. But what the faith is, whereby we are justified, and what is its peculiar acting, in order to justification, we have shown elsewhere. And to distinguish betwixt obedience to Christ, as Christ, and to God as God, is to be unnecessarily critical: and by Mr. Baxter we see, that all the after obedience of believers is obedience to God, as God, though their first faith be said to be a fiducial accepting belief in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and this be said virtually to contain after obedience, which therefore must be obedience, to God Father, Son and Holy Ghost: And their first faith is no obedience to Christ, as Christ, though Christ, as Christ call and invite, yea and command sinners to come unto him, and believe in him.
††††††††† 3. He says, That there is somewhat of love-consent or willingness, of desire, of hope, of repentance, which goes to make up this moral work of faith, as it is the condition, even our first Christianity itself. Answer: All this somewhat of love, consent, &c. which necessarily attends faith (for that they make up this moral work of faith, as integral parts hereof, I see no ground to assert) only show the true nature and genius of that faith, whereby we are justified, for it is nowhere said, that we are justified by love,
hope, or repentance (as for consent or willingness and desire, they are included in faith.) But all this yet says nothing for the interest of works (as it is pleaded) in our justification: And if James means no other thing by works he shall give little ground to any to assert justification by works, as is done this day, by too many.
††††††††† 4. He says, that as the making of a covenant, is for the performing of it; and subjection is for obedience; marriage for conjugal duties; so our said first covenanting faith is for our future faith, hope, comfort, and grateful obedience and holiness. And these are the secondary parts of the condition of salvation. And so are the secondary parts of our justificationís condition, as continued, or not lost and consummate. For to justify us is to justify our right to impunity and glory. Answer: (1.) How different faith as justifying, or in its acting in order to justification, is from this covenant making, subjection and marriage, as explained and applied to this purpose by Mr. Baxter, is elsewhere shown. (2.) That these graces are required in order to salvation, we grant, and shall not stand to call then secondary parts of the condition of salvation, as to its possession. But (3.) we are here speaking of justification, and not of salvation, which two differ, as we conceive, much more being required to the one, in case persons live after their first faith, than to the other. (4.) We have shown elsewhere, that justification, as continued hath the same conditions, that justification as begun hath; and of loosing justification we read not in the Scriptures, nor yet consummate justification: these are Mr. Baxterís new notions, with which we are not satisfied. (5.) Our right to impunity and glory is had by Christ alone, when we are possessed of his surety-righteousness, through faith; and thus are justified by faith: And how justification is a justification of that right, Mr. Baxter would do well to explain.
††††††††† In the last place he says, That our own performance of the condition of the free gift of impunity and glory, by the new covenant, purchased by Christís righteousness is the thing to be tried and judged in Godís judgment. And therefore we must so far be then justified from the charge of not performing that condition of being infidels, unsanctified, impenitent, hypocrites, apostates; and so of having no part in Christ and the free gift, even by our personal, evangelical faith, holiness, repentance, sincerity and perseverance. Answer: Then, it seems, James speaks only of works, in order to final salvation, or our justification; at the day of judgment, and not in order to our justification here, when first brought out of nature into the state of grace: And if so, what ground can any hence have, to infer our present justification to be by works, unless they think, that whatever is required antecedent unto our final salvation, is required also antecedent to our first justification? which I know Mr. Baxter will not say. And if this be all that James says, why did not Mr. Baxter give this as a ground of reconciling James with Paul, that James speaks of works, in order to final salvation, but Paul, excludes them, in reference to justification? This would have had greater agreement with what the Orthodox say, than to tell us of works being the secondary parts of the condition of our justification, and that James includes
them as such, when he says, we are justified by works, and not by faith only.