Gospel Obedience is not the Condition of Justification
††††††††† Though, as we heard, Mr. Baxter himself will not say, that Gospel Obedience is the condition of Justification; yet he recommends a book for us to peruse, to the end we may receive much light in the knowledge of the Gospel, I mean the Discourse of the Two Covenants formerly mentioned, wherein this is asserted with great confidence. And though this be sufficiently confuted by what is said, yet we shall in short take some notice of the grounds of this manís confidence, and give some remarks upon what he says.
††††††††† He tells us, page 132, that the sense, in which the Apostle did assert it, (i.e. Justification by faith without the works of the Law) was, that faith justifies without works, antecedent to believing (This is what Bellarmine and other Papists say) and without works, as the works of a literal observation of Mosesí law, which was opposed by the Jews to faith. This is but his fiction, and its grounds may come to be considered afterward. But what is this faith? It is a Faith (saith he) that hath repentance, regeneration and sincere obedience in a holy life for its inseparable effects. Then (1.) this faith is not fruit of regeneration, because regeneration is an effect of it. (2.) Then upon a manís sincere believing, he cannot be said to have passed from death to life, and be freed from condemnation, nay not until all the effects of faith be produced. And this
he expresses more clearly within a line or two, calling regeneration and new obedience parts of the condition; thus making men able to regenerate themselves, with some help of the Spirit, according to his former doctrine.
††††††††† Passing his inveighing, page 134 and forward, against the orthodox doctrine, concerning justification by faith alone; and loading it with Socinian reproaches,† wherein he reveals more acquaintance with Popish, Socinian, and Arminian principles and consequences, than with the Gospel doctrine, either in theory or practice, I proceed to examine his grounds, which he lays down, chapter 7 page 140 and 141, and prosecutes to the end of that chapter. His grounds are ten in number.
††††††††† The first is that works of evangelical obedience are never in Scripture opposed to Godís grace in reference to justification and salvation. Answer: (1.) Here we have the fundamental error of his whole discourse hinted to us; when he puts justification and salvation together, making all that is antecedently required unto salvation, to be also antecedently required unto justification; or he must acknowledge no justification, until salvation come; (2.) A perfect contradiction to this ground of his we have in Ephesians 2: 8, 9, 10, for 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, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them. Here grace is opposed to works, to good works, unto which we are created in Christ Jesus, and in which we are to walk, and that in reference to the salvation, that is in justification. The man was so wise for his own unhallowed ends, as never once to take notice of this place. He cannot but grant, that works and grace are opposed to each other: but he gives us a very skeptic evasion, telling us that then by works we are to understand either works antecedent to conversion, or as they are denied (I think he would have said deemed, or some such thing) to merit, at the hands of God; or the works of the law of Moses, as erroneously contended for by the Jews; or the works of the law as typical and as opposed to things typified; or the works of the law, as the law is in its rigor opposed to the milder economy of the Gospel. And yet all this will not help the matter, for Paul tells us that even Abraham was not justified by his works, but by faith, in opposition to works, Romans 4: 1, 2, 3. And Abrahamís works here excluded from justification, can be reduced to none of these heads of works here mentioned. They were not works antecedent to conversion; for in opposition to these it is said, his faith was reckoned unto him for righteousness, long after his conversion. Nor did the holy father dream of any merit in his works, nor were these the works of the law in any of the senses mentioned; for faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness, even when he was uncircumcised. Romans 4: 9, 10, 11, &c.
††††††††† He takes notice of Titus 3: 5, not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us: but gives us, page 143, this gloss. This change of their condition was not effected, or so much as begun among them by any reformation of their own, till the Gospel came to work it (which is meant by the appearing of the kindness and love of God, verse 4, and is of like import with chapter 2, verses 11 and 12.) Answer: By what law or reason he restrains that appearing
of the kindness, and love of God, mentioned in verse 4, to the Gospel, I know not. (2.) And though the Gospel were here understood, that would not help the matter; for the text says, that after this did appear, he saved them (that is justified in the first place, as we see in verse 7) according to his mercy, and not by works of righteousness. (3.) These works are called works of righteousness; but no works of their own, before conversion, can be so called: can the works of such as are foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving diverse lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another, be called works of righteousness? And yet such were these, before the kindness and love of God reached them, as verse 3 shows. He thinks the same answer may be given to II Timothy 1: 9. And so we think, the same reply may suffice.
††††††††† His second ground is, page 144, Paul, in speaking against justification by works, gives sufficient caution not to be understood thereby to speak against evangelical obedience in the case. That is, not to speak against justification by evangelic works; which were to say, he took much pains for nothing; for if he had but said, that the ceremonial law was abrogated, he had sufficiently confuted justification by the ceremonies, if that had been all the law he had meant. But how does this man prove, what he here alleges? He adduces Romans 3: 31. But I wonder how did the Apostle, by his doctrine, establish the ceremonial law? In the spirit of it (says he) in as much as in preaching Justification in the Gospel way, he preached in plain precepts, the necessity of that spiritual purity unto salvation, which was but darkly taught by the ceremonial law. Answer: (1.) Then this man supposes that he is establishing the ceremonial law, by his doctrine in this book; for he thinks, that therein he is preaching up Justification in the Gospel way. (2.) Neither did the ceremonial law more darkly, nor the Gospel in more plain terms, preach the necessity of spiritual purity, as the condition of justification: So that this author begs what he cannot prove. (3.) But that this is the moral law, has been frequently shown above; as also it has been shown, how and what way it was established, by the doctrine of justification without works; so that we need not regard his saying; that by the doctrine of justification by faith, they establish the moral law, both in the letter and spirit of it, in teaching the necessity of evangelical obedience to it, after a more spiritual and forcible manner, than had been taught before. For this says nothing for their pleading for obedience to this law, as a condition of justification; which is the thing he should have said: And if he knows not, how justification without works of the moral law, can consist with necessity of obedience to the moral law, upon Gospel grounds, he is ignorant of the Gospel, and hath been more educated in the school of Socinus, than in the orthodox church.
††††††††† He cites to the same purpose, Romans 10: 4, and tells us that Christ was the end of the law in his doctrine, having taught that righteousness of living, which the law itself taught, but in a more excellent spiritual, and effectual manner. Which is a very Socinian like gloss, but no way suiting the words, nor the scope of the Apostle, as the very reading of them may evince, and the following
words, verses 7, 8, 9, 10, may put beyond all question. His citing thereafter, page 146, Romans 7: 4 and Galatians 2: 19, 20, is to no purpose. For in neither of these, nor anywhere else, doth he cry up holiness, performed in any manner whatsoever, as a condition of justification; and this our author should show, or he does nothing: for we are not against the necessity of holiness, but see more sure, more comfortable, more heart quieting, more divine, and more Gospel-like grounds, whereupon to press holiness, than any he discovers in all his book, or can, according to his principles.
††††††††† His third ground, page 147, is that regeneration or the new creature, as including evangelical obedience, is opposed to works of the law, in the business of manís justification, as well as faith is, and as well as the grace of God itself is. And this he thinks to prove from Galatians 6: 15, as Schlightingius the Socinian did before him, cont Meysner p. 148. But one thing is to be proved, to wit, that the Apostle is speaking this, in order to justification, and so contradicting all the former dispute he had; which neither reason, nor religion will allow us to think, nor do the words, nor any circumstance of the words, nor anything of the scope, or of the thread of the Apostleís discourse give the least countenance hereunto.
††††††††† His fourth ground, page 148, is also from Schlightingius ubi supra. †Evangelical obedience as well as faith, and together with faith, is opposed to the works of the law, in reference to justification and salvation, Galatians 5: 6. Answer: He supposes here, that circumcision is the same with works of the law, while as these that were crying it up at that time, took it only for a privilege, which might be kept together with Christianity; and therefore the Apostle told them, verse 3, which they did not take notice of, that by their taking of that badge of circumcision, they made themselves debtors to do the whole law. (2.) All that is required in reference to salvation, is not required in reference to justification. (3.) Faith working by love denotes the right and lively faith, which only is justifying and saving, but brings not in all evangelic obedience under love, as sharing with faith, in the same prerogative of justification, as was shown above.
††††††††† His fifth ground, page 149, is that evangelical obedience alone is opposed to the works of the law, in reference to justification. And this he confirms by I Corinthians 7: 19, borrowing it from Schlightingius the Socinian, where only two things are wanting to make this passage a confirmation of his assertion. One is, that by circumcision is meant the keeping of the law, and what shall then be understood of uncircumcision? The other is that the Apostle is speaking this in reference to justification, contrary to the whole context.
††††††††† His sixth ground, ibid. is that faith itself is an act of evangelical obedience. Unto which we need say nothing here, having said so much above, to show, that faith in the matter of justification is not considered as an act of Gospel obedience, but as an instrument, laying hold on the righteousness of Christ, the Cautioner.
††††††††† His seventh ground is, page 152, that by Gospel obedience Christians come to have a right to salvation, Revelation 22: 14. e)cousi/a liberty (as it is translated in I Corinthians
8: 9) power or privilege, as it would seem to import in I Corinthians 9: 18 and elsewhere, is no proper right; for all that can be called proper right, the saints have through the purchase of Jesus Christ; his blood and his blood alone, hath bought the inheritance to us: and hereby we see the true tendency of the manís doctrine, even to give us heaven as that, which we have bought with our labor and obedience; that is, to give us heaven by a new Covenant of Works, which Christ hath procured to be made with us. But this right, is but a liberty to take possession of the crown of life purchased by Christ, and promised, at the end of the journey, in the way, wherein the Lord hath appointed us to walk towards the possession thereof: And can only prove, what we do not deny, to wit, the necessity of holiness, in order to the actual enjoyment of life: But what saith this unto justification? He will not have us put any difference betwixt them, alleging that such as do are more curious and nice in distinguishing, than Paul was. And why so? Paul calls Justification, the Justification of life, Romans 5: 18. Therefore Justification and glorification is one and the same, and have every way the same conditions. Answer: It follows not. He cites next Romans 8: 30, which clearly makes them distinct. What more? He (i.e. Paul) proves that men shall be justified by faith, because it is written, the just shall live by faith, Galatians 3: 11, and with him to be justified and blessed are all one, Galatians 3: 8, 9, Romans 4: 7, 8, 9. Answer: What that from Galatians 3: 11 can be made to prove by him, I know not. And as for the next, it will prove as much, that is, just nothing. He might as well infer, that poverty in spirit, morning, meekness, hungering, and thirsting after righteousness, mercifulness, purity in heart, peace-making, and suffering of persecution, were all the same with glory, because of what is said in Matthew 5: 3 Ė 11. Yet he proceeds at this rate, and tells us, page 154, that Paul uses righteousness, or justification and life, as synonymous terms, Galatians 3: 21. Answer: As if justification were not a state of life, unless it were the same with glory. We have shown above, what a life it is. And (says he) justification and condemnation are put in direct opposition to each other, Romans 5: 18 and 8: 33, 34. What then? In short (says he) salvation as well as justification is promised to believing, John 3: 16, Acts 3: 3, Hebrews 10: 39, and therefore both must be the immediate effect of faith, Answer: He himself answers all this, by adding if we take salvation, as begun here in this life, as the Scripture represents it to be, John 5: 24, I John 3: 14 and 5: 12. He would further prove it from James 2: 14. As if in one chapter the Apostle could not speak, both of justification and salvation, unless he would make them both one thing: But though there be a life begun in justification, that shall at length end in glory, we see no ground to say, for all that he hath brought forth, that they are so the same, as to require the same previous conditions: How profitable soever Mr. Baxter accounts this treatise to be, yet I cannot think, that he shall approve of this, which yet is the main design of his book.
††††††††† His eighth ground is, page 156, that the promise of forgiveness is sometimes made unto evangelical obedience. This he goes about to prove from I John 1: 7. Where the Apostle is showing the advantages that such have, as have
fellowship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, evidenced by their walking in the light, as is clear from verse 6, and this in particular, that as they will be daily failing, so they will have ready access to the blood of Christ, to get all their sins cleansed away. Neither is the Apostle here speaking of the first pardon granted, when persons are translated into a state of justification, but he is speaking of such, as are already in that state. He cites next to this purpose I Peter 1: 2, and adds they were not elected to the benefit of being sprinkled with the blood of Christ, without obedience, making that a condition of being sprinkled with the blood of Christ, which the Apostle mentions, as a distinct medium, to which they were elected, in reference to eternal life, the supreme end, as to them: and he might as well say, they were not elected to the benefit of obedience without being sprinkled with the blood of Christ: and that too aggress more with the truth.
††††††††† His ninth ground, page 157, is that to forgive injuries is an act of evangelical obedience to that precept in Matthew 11: 25. And yet without this, men cannot be pardoned, and so not justified, Mark 11: 25, Matthew 6: 15 and 18: 35. Answer: Though men cannot be pardoned without this, it will not follow, that therefore it is a part of the condition of justification: but only proves, that this must be present, as an evidence of their acting faith on Jesus Christ, in truth and reality, in order to pardon: And these passages are explications of the fifth petition of the Lordís prayer, the sense whereof is well given in our Larger Catechism ß 194, in these words, which we are the rather emboldened to ask and encouraged to expect, when we have this testimony in ourselves, that we from the heart forgive others their offenses.
††††††††† His tenth and last ground is that repentance is an act of evangelical obedience, Acts 17: 30, and yet pardon of sin, which is essential to justification, is not to be obtained without it, Luke 13: 3, 5. Answer: Of repentance we have said enough above in chapter 25. I wonder how he can to this end cite Luke 13: 3, 5, where no mention is made of remission of sins; but perishing threatened to all that will not repent.
††††††††† I shall not here meddle with his misrepresentation of our doctrine in the following pages, nor with the grounds and reasons of the preference he gives unto his way, seeing by all that he speaks, he betrays utter ignorance of the Gospel truth, which we own, and of its true tendency to promote Gospel holiness, beyond any other way, whatsoever, hatched by Papists and Socinians, that may be little or nothing beholden to Jesus Christ for grace here, or for glory hereafter. And his insinuation, as if we did not press repentance and holiness, is little to his credit, or to the credit of the cause he maintains, seeing the contrary is so well known, to say no more.
††††††††† Nor shall I insist on the grounds he lays down, to overturn the whole argument of the Apostle in this matter, seeing they are, upon the matter, the same, that others have laid down, and have been before spoken to: for from a tedious discourse concerning the mistaken apprehensions of the Jews, about the law and the works thereof, in order to justification, to very little purpose, he infers, page 117, that doubtless Paulís denial of justification
and salvation to be by the Law, is to be understood in the very same sense, in which the incredulous Jews, against whom he disputed, did hold these to be attainable thereby: Forgetting withal, that what Paul wrote, was dictated by the Spirit, and so that for the use of the Church unto the end of the world; surely, if no other works were here understood, than this author will have here understood, it could be of little use to the Gospel churches, after the subject of the question, the ceremonial law, itself is taken away; and had it not been a shorter and most effectual way to have confuted the Jewsí error here, simply to have proven (as he doth elsewhere) the abolishing of that law? Besides, we find many things spoken of this law, against justification by obedience to which the Apostle disputes, that cannot agree to the ceremonial law, as hath been several times touched. But let us hear what the true question was. We must understand him (says he) to deny a freedom from the eternal punishment to be attainable by legal sacrifices: and also to deny that the promise of eternal life was made upon condition of literal circumcision, and a literal observation of the Mosaic Law. answer: If this had been all to what purpose, I pray, did the Apostle labor so much to prove, that not only the Jews, but that the Gentiles also were under sin, Romans 1 and 2? The Gentiles were not, nor were yet to be, under the law of ceremonies. (2.) How could the Apostle infer, that by the deeds of the law, there should be no flesh justified, from his proving, that both Jews and Gentiles were guilty of the breach of the moral law, whereby every mouth was stopped, and all the world become guilty before God, Romans 3: 10 Ė 20? (3.) Did only the law of ceremonies give the knowledge of sin? He himself proves the contrary, page 57. (4.) Did the curse only belong to the ceremonial law? or did Christ only become a curse in reference to the breaches of that? Galatians 3: 10.
††††††††† He will not so much as yield, page 119, that Paul doth, on the bye, deny justification by other works: And that merely because it would destroy his fabric of a Judaical Socinian justification: though he pretend, that thereby the Apostleís doctrine would be made inconsistent, not only with the faith of holy men of old, but also with his own doctrine: but neither did the holy men of old express the condition of justification (which he confounds with the condition of covenant mercy) by loving God and keeping his commandments; nor doth Paul speak any such thing, as we have seen, whatever he with Socinians and Arminians say.
††††††††† He gives us another character (which also we heard from others before) of the works, by which Paul denied men were justified, calling them such works, which were apt to occasion boasting, Ephesians 2: 9, Romans 4: 2. But thus he quite perverts both the sense of the words, scope and arguing of the Apostle, for the Apostle clears that it is by grace we are saved: and not by works, upon this very account, that if we were saved or justified upon the account of any of our works, man should boast, Ephesians 2: 9. Not of works; why? lest any man should boast, manifestly declaring that all works were laid aside, in this matter, and that for this end, that no man should have any occasion of boasting: and this is not spoken, as every one may see, to qualify, or specify the works
that are excluded; these words carry nothing of a restriction in them. The same is clear also in Romans 4: 2. If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, shall the meaning be, Abraham was not justified by such works, as give ground of gloriation? If so, then the meaning lies not in the words, but the words do expressly cross and contradict that sense, unless we shall suppose them to have no sense: to speak nothing of the following verse 3, where believing is mentioned, and not another sort of works, to wit, such as give no ground or occasion of boasting, which, in this case of justification, no man can describe unto us, or tell us what they are.
††††††††† He tells us, page 122, that the meaning of these words in Romans 3: 28, Therefore we conclude &c. is nothing more but this, viz. that a man is justified in the Gospel way. But not only is that in the general included; but that Gospel way is particularly expressed to be by faith without deeds of the law: and consequently his Popish and Socinian way is diametrically opposite to the Gospel way.
††††††††† He goes about to explain to us, page 124, &c. what is meant by their own righteousness, that is so frequently set in opposition to the righteousness of God, and tells us, that it was so called upon a three-fold account. 1. Because they sought the pardon of their sins by their own sacrifices, Answer: And why not also by their works of obedience? Surely, neither Abraham, nor David sought for pardon upon any such account, and they renounced other works than these. Is that all the righteousness Paul renounces in Philippians 3: 9? Was he then occupied about sacrifices? Something else is surely understood, I Corinthians 4: 4.
††††††††† 2. Because (says he) they did not think regeneration, or supernatural grace necessary to the obtaining of it. Answer: And truly, all the regeneration and supernatural grace which he thinks necessary is but what a Pelagian, Jesuit, and Arminian will think necessary, and no more, as we saw above. But doth he think that Abraham or David had any such apprehensions? And yet even their works are excluded from justification. Was that the righteousness that Paul called his own, Philippians 3: 9? I think for shame he will not say it. And what does Paul mean to say, I Corinthians 4: 4, I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified. This surely, must include works done by supernatural grace, and after regeneration.
††††††††† 3. Saith he, Because it was a way of seeking to be justified of their own devising, and not of Godís appointing. Answer: This is very true, but it is not the whole truth in this matter: and his way is of the same nature, no more consistent with the Gospel method of justification, through the righteousness of God by faith, than theirs is; for the imputed righteousness of Christ he rejects with contempt: true justification he is ignorant of; he knows no faith, but what is Popish and Socinian, His new covenant is but a new edition of the old. His regeneration is Pelagian. His good works are but works flowing from a principle of nature, aided with a common divine assistance.
††††††††† Let us now in end hear, what is the result of all his discourse. It is to show, that they were the works of the law, as exclusive of faith in Christ, and his death: and not those, which are the immediate effects of faith in Christ, in his death and in
his doctrine. But the Gospel tells us, that in the matter of justification, all the works of the law, are exclusive of faith in Christ, even Abrahamís works, Davidís works, and Paulís works; and therefore they were all laid aside, and justification was only looked for through faith.
††††††††† Thus we have seen, what a Gospel this is, which Mr. Baxter recommends to us, the consideration whereof may move some to say Ė
Noscitur ex socio, qui non dignoscitur ex se.